“You want to kill her, but also you feel sorry for her and can’t help but love her.” Emily Fairn, 24, is talking about the incorrigibly mischievous drug addict she plays in Liverpool-set, multiple Bafta-nominated BBC drama series The Responder, who makes life difficult for the well-intentioned but flawed cop protagonist, played by Martin Freeman. “I like playing the duality in someone.”

This was the first professional role for Liverpool-born Fairn, who graduated from Guildhall in 2020 into a locked-down world where productions had ground to a halt during the pandemic. Creator Tony Schumacher, director Tim Mielants and executive producer Freeman rolled the dice on the inexperienced Fairn — impressed by her refreshing take on the pivotal role. “Drug addicts are painted a certain way a lot of the time,” she says. “I wasn’t like, ‘Woe is me.’ She doesn’t care, and she’s just having the best time ever.”

Fairn’s career paused until The Responder aired in early 2022 (“no‑one had seen it, or knew how big my part was”) but since then she has been working “pretty back-to-back”. Those roles include BFI-backed feature Chuck Chuck Baby, written and directed by Janis Pugh; BBC series Rain Dogs; the next season of Sky One political thriller Cobra; and the ‘Demon 79’ episode in Black Mirror’s latest season for Netflix. There is also the Oliver Hermanus-directed period drama series Mary & George, in which she plays the maid to an aristocrat (Julianne Moore) pushing her son (Nicholas Galitzine) to win the roving eye of English monarch James I (Tony Curran). Fairn is currently on stage in London with Lucas Hedges and Mike Faist in Brokeback Mountain, running until mid-August, and in September will start shooting season two of The Responder.

While playing “very different people” so far, Fairn spots some commonality with often-vulnerable characters “in gritty or sad circumstances, but using humour as a coping mechanism”. Having discovered as a teenager at London’s National Youth Theatre that she wanted “to live here, and do this forever”, she is doing exactly that. “It does blow my mind,” she says. “All I ever wanted was to do this full time, and make enough money to pay my rent. I’ve been to the Baftas. I’m acting in the West End. I can’t believe this is my life.”

Contact: Joshua Woodford, Hamilton Hodell