I could take or leave BBC America’s “The Hour,” about Brits who run a political news program in the 1950s. It’s a thinly-veiiled “Mad Men” knockoff with a bit of mystery swirled in. Yet, every time I see that actress Romola Garai is onscreen, I cannot look away. In addition to being naturally gorgeous and possessing a vintage ’50s wardrobe to die for, Garai plays producer Bel Rowley in the show’s leading female role. Think: Peggy and Joan rolled into one with a British accent.
I knew I recognized her from somewhere, but couldn’t place quite where until I read that she played older Briony in “Atonement” and the lead in “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.” Two, uh, very different roles. After the jump, a few more must-know details about Romola Garai:
- Her first name, Romola, is the female version of Romolo, an Italian boy’s name for the Latin word Romulus, who was the founder of Rome. Her last name, Garai, is Hungarian and pronounced “Garry.”
- The actress was born in Hong Kong and lived in Singapore, where her banker father worked. She moved to Wiltshire, England, in elementary school and London at age 16. Romola was discovered by a casting agent who attended one of her high school productions at City of London’s School for Girls. Her first role was playing Judi Dench’s younger self in “The Last Of The Blonde Bombshells.” Although Romola originally went to college hoping to become a journalist like her mother, she could not refuse to lure of acting. She acted in films and TV while earning an English degree. “I wanted a degree. It’s a terrible thing to admit, but sometimes I felt like just an actor,” she told London’s Guardian. “I’m a snob and I wanted a degree. I didn’t want to feel like someone’s slightly dumb girlfriend when I was at a dinner party with writers.”
- Like seemingly every British actress on Earth, Romola did her tour of duty in a Jane Austen flick. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for a 2009 adaptation of “Emma.” She’s also appeared in the films “I Capture The Castle,” “Rory O’Shea Was Here,” and “Vanity Fair.”
- Neither Romola or Diego Luna knew how to dance when they were cast in “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.” The pair spent 10 weeks training for eight hours a day before filming.
- She’s somewhat of a feminist. The actress told London’s Guardian newspaper, “I can only do something that my sister or my daughter, if I have one, could watch and feel positive about. That rules a lot out. I think one of the reasons I’ve done so much period work is because I feel so depressed by how society chooses to represent women in contemporary work.” Quite interesting.
In addition to “The Hour” on BBC America, you can also catch Romola Garai on the big screen in “One Day.” I’m psyched to see what else this brainy beauty has in store.