Thursday 14 December 2017

'I might not be what you would expect to play this character' - Neve Campbell talks new House of Cards role and Scream legacy

House of Cards - Neve Campbell makes her debut
House of Cards - Neve Campbell makes her debut

With Nineties nostalgia seeping its way on to our TV screens in the form of TFI Friday, into fashion via our dungarees and plaid shirts and music thanks to the reunion of All Saints and a four-piece Spice Girls, it seems appropriate that Neve Campbell is making a comeback.

The Canadian, who trained as a dancer, made her breakthrough in Nineties teen drama Party Of Five, alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt and Matthew Fox, before landing the plum role of Sidney, a teen who is terrorised by a mysterious killer while she deals with the anniversary of her mother's death in the decade's horror hit, Scream.

Now, 20 years on from the iconic movie, the 42-year-old hasn't been away as such, but has been quietly working on smaller indie projects and US TV shows, and next up is a role in the acclaimed Netflix series, House Of Cards.

Looking back, the actress, who lived in London for a while but is now settled in Brooklyn with her three-year-old son, Caspian, acknowledges the debt she owes to Scream.

"It was incredible for my career, obviously," says Campbell, who starred alongside Courteney Cox and David Arquette in the franchise.

"It was the first lead I had in a film and it did really well. I think what's great is that the Scream films still stand up. People still love them today. There was a huge audience, we had great fun doing them and I made loads of friends."

Although the four movies - and in particular the first two - were huge box office successes and have been credited for reviving the horror genre at the time, the cast had little inkling of how well Scream would be received.

Such was its cultural value that it was spoofed in popular parody series Scary Movie, and last year MTV showed a spin-off TV series, with a second series earmarked for later this year.

"The first film was like summer camp," says Campbell. "We were all up in Santa Rosa in California, all of us were fairly new to the industry, all of us had worked but none of us were names yet.

"We had no expectations of what kind of success it would have. We simply all had a brilliant time."

However, when it comes to her next role, in the fourth series of the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning House Of Cards, she is fully aware of how high the stakes are.

Recently, leading man Kevin Spacey, who plays President Frank Underwood, unveiled his presidential portrait at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, where the national collection of presidential paintings is held (some are in the White House).

Leann Harvey, Campbell's character, is a driven, political strategist who soon finds herself immersed in Frank and his wife Claire's world, with Frank desperately trying to put together the pieces of his fractured marriage and increasingly fractured electorate in preparation for the upcoming presidential race.

"The initial challenge was just getting over being daunted by coming into this brilliant show," Campbell says. "But, you know, everyone was really welcoming and wonderful, and being on the set was a lot of fun."

So how does she handle her nerves?

"I think everyone has them, right? And luckily, I've been around long enough not to let them take me over. I just focus on the work and the character, and don't think too much about the outcome," she says.

But with her name being so heavily associated with Scream, she can appreciate that House Of Cards fans might be surprised by her casting.

"I suppose I might not be what you would expect to play this character," says Campbell, who also starred in 1996 horror The Craft. "And so for me as an actor, that's always fantastic, to be able to do something new and challenging and be seen in a different light."

Although her recent roles haven't matched the reach of Scream, she's been quietly toiling away, appearing in Mad Men (with her character earning the distinction as the only woman to be rebuffed by Don Draper) and writing and starring in 2003 romantic drama The Company.

"I suppose being brave enough to try and create a film is the biggest risk I've made," she says.

"Robert Altman directed it and, you know, to have an idea and see it through was a great experience for my confidence, and one of the most beautiful film-making experiences I've ever had."

She's currently developing more ideas with her partner, JJ Feild, adding that she "enjoys the process" of bringing a story to the screen.

Despite starting her career young, Campbell still finds much to enjoy in her profession as she settles into her 40s.

"I think you're constantly growing. I'm older, I'm a woman now, so the roles that are coming to me are, to me, more interesting, which is fun," she says. "You're constantly going to grow. I don't think you should ever get comfortable. It's good to challenge yourself."

House Of Cards returns to Netflix on Friday


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