British actress Felicity Jones is getting pretty familiar with the downsides of love, from playing half of a doomed long-distance relationship in “Like Crazy” to a 1920s bride locked in her bedroom alone with her cold feet in “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding.” With “the Invisible Woman,” she takes on Nelly Ternan, the muse and mistress of Charles Dickens (director and co-star Ralph Fiennes). But Jones swears she has a romantic comedy in her somewhere.
It’s remarkable how little Dickens and Ternan had to do to cause a scandal in the Victorian Era.
“Yes, it was a very different social situation from the one we’re in now. Particularly for Nelly, I felt there was a real conflict in her between her love for Dickens and wanting to be with him and not wanting to lose her social standing. She cared deeply about having her dignity, and her identity was rooted in a certain respectability. I think Nellie would have loved for Dickens to have married her and left his wife, but obviously because he’d built up this sort of reputation as “the family man,” that would have been completely contrary to his brand, so they were in a very difficult situation.”
How does the dynamic change when your co-star is also directing you?
There’s always an honesty between actors, I find, that you immediately develop because your characters are having to get on. You have an affinity for each other. And so that extended to the direction. Ralph was really honest with me, you know? He’d come up and say, “That was really bad. Can you do that again?” And I trusted his judgment.
Did you ever get to say that to him?
Yes, I would. “Ralph, it was much better, the last one.” (laughs) Next film, I’ll be directing him. He can be my mistress.
How does the approach to something like this compare to something as improvised and naturalistic as “Like Crazy”?
Completely different. With “Invisible Woman,” once we were on set we hardly changed a line of dialogue, which is not really what I’m used to, so it was a very different process. I appreciate both. “Invisible Woman” is a story told very much through the single, still, wide shot rather than the moving Steadicam. It’s a very different tone of film. And I like working with filmmakers who are pushing themselves and taking a risk, and I think both Drake Doremus and Ralph Fiennes, they’re very different directors but they’re both taking risks.
They’re both such great, sad examinations of relationships.
I promise I’m going to make a romantic comedy at some point. I don’t mean to make audiences sad. (laugh)