“I’m drawn to complex characters, characters that contradict themselves and don’t feel one note, because people aren’t,” says Marisa Abela, who stars as the late musician Amy Winehouse in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s upcoming biopic Back To Black, a role which offered her all that and more. “It’s the first time I feel my training at drama school has really come into play, because I’ve studied this character physically, vocally, emotionally, more intensely than I have before.”

Abela made her screen debut aged 11 in low-budget 2008 UK thriller Man In A Box, which shot in her hometown of Brighton. “It was two, three days’ filming, then I went back to school,” she says. “I remember being allowed into the cinema to watch my scenes, then quickly moved out for the scary bits.” She has never watched the whole film. Still, Abela continued to act — in every school play, for a theatre workshop and her drama A-level — but did not entertain it professionally.

“I was scared,” she says. “My mum [Caroline Gruber] is an actor, and I had seen it was a very difficult profession. The idea of doing a stable job felt like the smart thing to do.”

During an open day at University College London, where she was intending to study history, Abela walked past the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). “I peered in, and it looked amazing. I thought, maybe I should give it a go.” She did not win a place at the first attempt but made it second time around, scoring an agent in her final year, and roles in Sky’s Cobra and BBC/HBO banking drama Industry, before she had even graduated.

Season two of Industry, UK indie improv feature She Is Love and Netflix’s Rogue Agent followed. More recently, Abela shot a role opposite Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. “I’m a very little bit in the film, but it was exciting to be a part of something so huge.”

A week after she finished playing Winehouse, Abela was back in Cardiff shooting the third season of Industry. “I’m still coming down off Back To Black,” she reflects. “I’m in talks with a couple of people about different projects. [But] it’s an important step, the next one, so I don’t want to rush.”

Contact: Saskia Mulder, The Artists Partnership