Andrew Scott Goes From Hot Priest to Medieval Daddy in ‘Catherine Called Birdy’

in Catherine Called Birdy, Andrew Scott plays Lord Rollo, a man of supreme leisure who dresses like the founding father of medieval comfort. He swans around in silky robes over silkier caftans, lounging his days away on soft, fluffy poufs as he plots ways to marry off his teenage daughter (the titular Birdy, played by Bella Ramsey) to a wealthy suitor. The film, written and directed by Lena Dunham, was almost the most comfortable shoot of Scott’s life. But then, early on in the production, the actor fell down a flight of stairs and broke his foot.

“It’s amazing how much it fucks things up,” Scott laughingly recalls in a recent interview.

He’s lounging on a couch in a small, windowless room in a Manhattan studio, where he’s been dutifully shooting promotional material for birdy all day. But he seems bright and alive, his broken foot dele long since patched up. In a way, the injury may have helped him tap into the psyche of his character, an increasingly broke medieval lord whose sartorial and aesthetic tastes set him apart from the “draconian, macho atmosphere” of his realm, Scott says. There’s a sense of vulnerability alongside complex masculinity at work in this decidedly feminist film, aided by Scott’s tender rendering of Lord Rollo.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Scott chats candidly about tackling the role, what it was like working with Dunham, and how playing the instantly iconic Hot Priest in Fleabag has left an eternal stamp on his career.

Vanity Fair: What was the first thing that made you say yes to this project?

Andrew Scott: It was definitely Lena. I think girls is extraordinary. I remember seeing it and thinking, Wow. Such a singular voice. That’s the stuff you look for. A writer that’s not scared to put their autograph on something. Whatever she puts her mind to, she’s going to have a vision and she’s going to deliver a message.

Did you have a favorite girls character?

It was more the spirit of it. I remember that extraordinary scene where they break up—Lena’s character and Adam Driver’s character. It was such a sad, brilliant scene. And the fact that she did it at that age [is impressive].

Your character gets a memorable introduction from Birdy. She writes: “He’s often vain, usually drunk, and always greedy.” It’s her perspective, but there are those elements to him, which you tackle in a fun way. How did you approach a character who is so louche?

Oh, with absolute abandon. [Laughs] We talked about customs that he should be wearing. It was incredible working with [costume designer] Julian Day. Lord Rollo would be wearing Gucci now if he could. He likes to spend money, he’s interested in art. He’s just one of those straight men.

Going back to the customs, I was watching this thinking you must be so comfortable. You’re wearing robes on top of robes. Was this the most comfortable movie you’ve ever done?

It would’ve been, but, unfortunately, during the movie I fell down stairs and I broke my foot.

Oh god! I’m so sorry.

Yeah. I think it’s an exclusive. [Laughs] There were these very slippery mahogany stairs and I just fell and smashed my foot. So for a lot of the movie, I’m walking around with a big boot. I was very grateful for [the costumes] and that I wasn’t putting on a pair of skinny jeans or something.

Have you ever worked on a film where you had that kind of injury before? Or was this a first?

No, it was my first time that’s ever happened. It’s amazing how much it fucks things up.

Did you learn anything about yourself as an actor through working through that kind of challenge?

A little, I think. When you’re in pain, you feel so weirdly vulnerable. I had to take [the cast] off at times. You’re in crowds saying, “Please don’t stand on my foot, please, please, please.”

The first AD is like “Be careful around Andrew!”

Yeah. But we did ok. We managed it!

I’m curious what Lena is like on set. How does she give a note?

We did a lot of improvisation. She’ll come back and say, “I love that line!” Like all the best directors, you reward the good and you ignore the bad. [Laughs] She’s incredibly effusive and fun. She understands performing as well. You’re not required to do 75 takes of something with diminishing returns. You feel confident because she feels confident.

I noticed at TIFF that she said she turned you from “Hot Priest” to “Hot Medieval Dad.” I wanted to ask about the phenomenon of getting “hot” prefixed to your characters after playing Hot Priest on Fleabag. I imagine it’s flattering, but also strange. Does it happen a lot?

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