Jessie Buckley in Wild Rose
Actress-musician Jessie Buckley stars in director Tom Harper’s musical drama, ‘Wild Rose.’

Rebelling against society’s expectations, in an effort to pursue life-long goals, is often considered to be an equally risky and rewarding experience. People are often encouraged to follow their dreams, as long as they’re realistic, and don’t interfere with the lives of their family members. But the relatable title protagonist in the new musical drama, ‘Wild Rose,’ who’s played by Jessie Buckley, aspires to leave her hometown of Glasgow to chase her ambition of becoming a famous country singer in Nashville. But along the way, she slowly realizes that challenging her sense of self, and discovering her true voice, may not be all that she expected, as her journey is also impacting her young children and mother.

‘Wild Rose,’ which was shot on location in both Glasgow and Nashville, is now playing in select American theaters, courtesy of Neon. The movie, which had its world premiere at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival, was directed by Tom Harper, and written by Nicole Taylor.

Beginning with the title character, Rose-Lynn (Buckley), being released from prison, where she served a year-long sentence from a drug charge, ‘Wild Rose’ follows the protagonist as she travels to the home of her mother, Marion (Julie Walters). Marion has been taking care of her daughter’s two young children while she was serving her sentence. While happy to see her kids, Rose-Lynn is still too selfish for motherhood, or to take responsibility for any of her actions in general.

In order to help her daughter assimilate back into society, Marion helps Lynn-Anne get job as a daily housekeeper for the wealthy and successful Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), who has two young children of her own. After hearing Rose-Lynn singing while working, Susannah and her children become her newest fans. So Susannah decides to finance Rose-Lynn’s voyage to Nashville by having her new housekeeper perform at her birthday party, and ask the guests to help pay for the trip, instead of offering her a birthday present. While Rose-Lynn is initially thrilled by Susannah’s unwavering support, the aspiring singer soon realizes that her mother may indeed be right about her needing to put her children’s needs above her own desires.

Buckley generously took the time recently to talk about starring and singing in ‘Wild Rose’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actress-musician discussed how she was drawn to playing Rose-Lynn in the drama because she had previously worked with Harper and enjoyed their collaboration, as well as the fact that the protagonist was represented as a strong-willed, courageous woman in the screenplay. The performer also divulged that she loved the experience of singing the songs for the soundtrack, as well as on set while she were shooting the movie.

The conversation began with Buckley explaining that she was interested in portraying the title character in ‘Wild Rose’ because she had worked with Harper on the 2016 television mini-series, ‘War & Peace.’ The film’s lead actress shared that “We were in the pub one night, and he told me had a script for ‘Country Music,’ which is what ‘Wild Rose’ was originally called. He said, ‘I only want to do it if you want to do it. Have a read and see what you think.'” Buckley then met Taylor, and “from thereon in, it started snowballing, and we began working together.”

When the performer read the script, she felt that Rose-Lynn “was this incredible, tenacious, bold and brave woman, and she just jumped out at me. I felt like I had met her before, within other people, as well as myself.” But at the same time, she also felt that the protagonist is so unique in certain ways that she hasn’t met anyone totally like her.

Buckley also admitted that the drama also felt in certain ways “like a prison-break film when I first read it. This woman was breaking down the four walls of what she was being told she was allowed to dream in. The struggle to want something more for yourself when you’re told that you can’t” was also a prevalent theme in the plot that the actress strongly identified with while she read the screenplay.

The actress then delved into the experience of working with Harmper again when they reunited to shoot ‘Wild Rose,’ after they previously worked together on ‘War and Peace.’ The actress shared that “It’s a dream come dream too meet somebody like Tom, and be partners in creative crime together,” she said with a hint of a laugh in her voice. “I think when you get to work with someone who knows you and what you’ve done, and that there’s also something more in, it becomes a trusting environment. You can let yourself be seen more. So I want to work with him for the rest of my life,” Buckley admitted.

Throughout the film, Rose-Lynn slowly discovers her true purpose in life after reuniting with her family is to take care of her children, and realizes that singing isn’t her sole purpose anymore after being released from prison. So she must learn how to balance her professional dreams with her personal duties. “I think that’s a human dilemma,” the performer also divulged. “Whether you’re a father or mother, or eight or 80, your dream to want something more for yourself is weighed down by the responsibilities of your relationships. That process is hard and complex.

“There are many times in many of our lives where there are crossroads of decisions that have to be made, in order to move forward. So I tried to be as honest about what that was like for Rose-Lynn as I could,” Buckley explained.

“In the beginning of the film, she’s a child herself. But she then goes on a journey within herself, in order to accept herself, and then in turn, accept everything around her, and who she is, including the fact that she is a mother. She does love her kids, even in the moments where she seems like she’s acting selfishly, and putting the blinders on to the children around her. I don’t think any of those moments are of consequences to her, because she’s aware of the effects,” but she doesn’t feel the need to change what she’s doing, the actress added. “I think you learn the most about yourself when you trip and fall, and have to get back up.”

Buckley then delved into what the experience of collaborating with her ‘Wild Rose’ co-stars, particularly Walters, in order to build the characters’ relationships. “Julie’s such an amazing actress and woman. So it was just easy to stand in front of her; she just fills you with so much,” the performer shared. “There’s so much unspoken stuff between Marion and Rose-Lynn, as they don’t really know how to connect. They’re also afraid of each other in a lot of ways, because they resemble parts of what they’re afraid of in themselves. But getting to work with Julie was such a privilege, and made the experience easy in ways.”

Buckley then delved into how she exclusively performed the soundtrack for ‘Wild Rose.’ She explained what the experience of singing the tracks for the soundtrack, as well as on set while she were shooting the movie, was like for her as a performer. “We filmed all the music live on the set. So getting to play with the band was great; I loved it! The musicians were incredible,” she declared. The experience of playing with them “changed my life in a lot of ways. Country music is such a simple form of storytelling, as it really supports stories that are within these characters. So when you’re singing them, you just let them come out.”

The actress-singer added that she supposes that “for Rose-Lynn, everything she can’t say in her real life, she says when she sings. So it was really exciting and freeing when we got into those scenes.”

Before its current official theatrical release, ‘Wild Rose’ played at such film festivals as the Toronto International Film Festival, SXSW and the Tribeca Film Festival. Buckley then delved into what her experience of bringing the drama on the film festival circuit was like. “I love going to festivals, because it’s so nice being part of a community of filmmakers. It was scary when we brought it to Toronto first,” she admitted.

Since the musical drama had its world premiere at the Canadian-based festival, the performer, along with her co-stars and the crew, didn’t know how it would be received. So when they received a warm reaction, they were overjoyed. “You always hope that you make a good film and that you’ve said something, but that response was an extra surprise. I’ve just loved sharing it at all of the festivals,” she divulged. On a sentimental note, she added, “I’m excited for a wide audience to see it. Hopefully, they’ll walk away feeling something.”

Photo ofJessie Buckley
Jessie Buckley
Job Title
Actress-singer in director Tom Harper's music drama, 'Wild Rose'

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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