Given she once planned to study biology or medicine at university (before settling on psychology), it is no surprise Safia Oakley-Green’s take on acting has a medical influence. “With characters, you have to draw on your own experiences at the beginning,” she says. “But then it’s like an IV drip — once the character’s got enough of your own experience inside it, it can be its own thing.”

One of the London-born, Derby­shire-raised actress’s most recent IV-dripped characters appears in the upcoming Paramount+ adaptation of CJ Tudor novel The Burning Girls, starring Samantha Morton as a vicar who uncovers dark secrets in her seemingly sleepy new parish. Oakley-Green describes her experience working with director Charles Martin, whose credits include Marcella and His Dark Materials, as “fun and immersive. He’d say, ‘You guys just play with the dialogue, improv, figure it out.’ I’ve never had that experience, where it’s been so actor-led.”

Cutting her teeth in short films (including Requiem with Bella Ramsey) after training at The Tele­vision Workshop in Nottingham, Oakley-Green has had a supporting role in Disney+ superpower sitcom Extraordinary, and in the coming year can be seen in the second season of Sky Max sci-fi The Lazarus Project.

Her film debut — in the lead role, no less — is Andrew Cumming’s The Origin, an independent prehistoric horror that premiered at BFI London Film Festival 2022 and earned her a Bifa for best breakthrough performance. As a Stone Age girl facing a primeval threat in a bleak land, Oakley-Green worked entirely on location in the windswept Scottish Highlands, and spoke in a made-up language. “It was hard, and I looked like rubbish at the end of it,” she laughs, “but I loved it.”

Now she is waiting for the film’s UK cinema release, and also has her degree to finish — but when time comes to follow up on her breakthrough, she namechecks the careers of Hayley Squires and Frances McDormand. “Like them, I don’t want to be an actor who’s worried about the way they look in every take. I want to look like I’ve been ugly crying. I want to look real, to feel human.”

Contact: Kate Morrison, B-Side Management