Annabelle Wallis has had a steady rise to fame and recognition since her breakthrough on Showtime’s hit show The Tudors a decade ago. The British-born, Portuguese-raised actress and activist made her mark on the golden age of dramatic television with starring roles in acclaimed series like Peaky Blinders and The Loudest Voice while also proving to be perfectly at home in Hollywood blockbusters like 2017’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
Hot off her fan-favorite starring role in James Wan’s Malignant, she now takes on the part of Sandra, a glitzy and unapologetic woman with a tangle of issues in the new Holiday piece Silent Night. Sandra and her lifelong friends gather for what they believe is their last day on Earth, as an apocalyptic event is set to strike on Christmas night. The film – the feature debut for writer and director Camille Griffin – is a sharp blend of dark comedy, moving drama, and commentary on the climate crisis, making it quite the balancing act for Wallis and the rest of the star cast, which includes Keira Knightley, Thomas Goode, Lucy Punch, Sope Disiru, Lily-Rose Depp, Rufus Jones, Kirby-Howell Baptiste, and Roman Griffin Davis.
We chatted with Wallis on how Silent Night was so refreshingly different for her career and what plans she has to keep her career exciting and unpredictable every step of the way.
How did you first get involved with Silent Night?
Annabelle Wallis: My agent shares an office with Keira Knightley’s agent, and she was attached. He sent me the script and said, “Read it. The director wants to meet with you.” I read it, I loved it, and then I met Camille, and you know, she is like, a real force. She was just very intelligent and charismatic. She understands film, and her references were just beautiful. I was really excited to collaborate with a female filmmaker that had such an extensive knowledge of film and I just knew she would go on to do great things. I wanted to be part of anything she was involved in.
Did she already have a full idea of what she was looking for or did this become more of a collaborative process?
Annabelle Wallis: Her vision was very much her own and unique, and she pitched all of us the tone and was very clear about it. I think that is sometimes so exciting to be around. Because not too many people know what they really, really want. They’re always open to it. She was very clear about it. She just took it so seriously and that was very exciting to be around.
This is quite the impressive cast, to say the least. Had you worked with any of them before?
Annabelle Wallis: I hadn’t worked with any of them before. I just adore them all. They’re so talented. I met a lot of them socially before. After the film, they’re definitely a lot of people that I’ll know for the rest of my life and I feel very grateful for that.
Sandra feels very different than most of your other roles. On the surface, she seems very vain and selfish. Did they have you in mind for this part already or was there something that drew you to Sandra?
Annabelle Wallis: It was actually Matthew Vaughn [one of the film’s producers] that was like, “Let’s talk to Annabelle Wallis.” I was so grateful because I play quite serious dramatic roles and I don’t often get comedies. Comedy is very hard to get right. And Sandra is an antihero. She is a disastrous kind of person who is dealing with so much, and it comes from such an honest place. You dislike her because she’s telling the truth. She’s in pain. She’s awkward. She’s not putting herself in a cage of conformity. She is who she is. It’s slightly uncomfortable and I think there’s bravery in that. I always want to make sure that I play characters that are as vastly different to the ones I’ve played before because as we know, pigeonholing is a real thing. So I want to be sure to try everything. Keeps it exciting.
I think both this and Malignant from earlier this year allowed you to kind of stretch into different territory and go bigger. Like you were saying, this is more of a comedic role.
Annabelle Wallis: You have to constantly fight to stay out of your box. I’ve had an interesting life and I have a well of experience that I would like to try, and that’s in all genres. I’m also at a phase in my life where I don’t really care what people think. I want to do the work that I feel excited by, and I want to work with good people, and I’m really thinking of my audience, you know, I really want people to go and escape. I just want people to have a good time. I want to do good work and I think with that mentality you naturally gravitate towards that. I need to continually stretch myself and then I’ll land where I need to land.
What’s it like to go from so many larger productions to something like Silent Night which is much more intimate and almost entirely character driven?
Annabelle Wallis: It’s wonderful. It’s so collaborative. It’s really a reminder of why you started in the first place. You get to rehearse together, you get to share a green room together, you get to make cups of tea, you get to, you know, have a cheeky drink at the end of the day, and it’s become such a family environment. Especially because you’re coming to do it for the right reasons. The intention is to do good work and to be part of something great and to support someone who is worthy of being supported. It’s so great. The bigger the project, the more isolated you become. There’s a wall to your crew, your caterer, to all the people. But on this, you’re in it with everyone. You’re carrying equipment, you’re changing in the bathroom – there’s no frills. I actually prefer that, to be honest.
This was one of the last things you filmed before the pandemic as well, correct?
Annabelle Wallis: I got one of the last flights back into America before I wasn’t allowed back. It was like “Oh, wrap! Okay, the world just locked down. Everyone has to run home. Quick.”
What was it like to have reshoots in the midst of everything?
Annabelle Wallis: We were lucky that we got most of it done. We only had like, a day of reshoots. It wasn’t a lot. We were very fortunate that we were lucky enough to have it done very safely and that we were allowed to shoot it and finish the film.
Was it strange to come back for that one day where like, the world had changed since the last time you saw these people?
Annabelle Wallis: Yes! It’s just such a different sense of gratitude that you’re allowed to work, that people are safe, that you are able to be together again. We had been in lockdown and then we were allowed this bubble to shoot in. It was quite emotional. After something like that you just value work and your loved ones in a very different way.
What helps you strike that balance in tone that the film is going for?
Annabelle Wallis: Rehearsal was great because you don’t know how other people are going to deliver. We had great discussions about the work in London before we actually shot which is very useful, and then you just play the truth. You make your choices and you follow the truth. That for me is how I do it. I try to really connect with something about the scene or the people and relate it to my life and come from that place. Therefore, I don’t think you can go wrong. Your audience can tell when you’re just trying to be honest, whether they like it or not.
If you knew the apocalypse was coming tomorrow, what would your least meal be?
Annabelle Wallis: Oh my god, I eat everything. I don’t have a favorite, I eat everything. I was just in Texas, and I had a lot of pancakes and barbecue and every heavy, gluttonous thing. So I would start there and then go all around the world and make sure I had like, a global table of all my favorite foods.