The Wylde Interview: Katie Leung

Interview by David Newton / Portraits by Etienne Gilfillan

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She's come a long way from Harry Potter… and the journey is far from over. Actress Katie Leung sprang suddenly into the public's consciousness back in 2005 when she appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and, as his girlfriend Cho Chang, turned the cute eponymous boy-hero into a red-blooded male. Fast-forward thirteen years and the Scottish-born actor has amassed a powerful and diverse portfolio of roles in hard-hitting dramas. Coming up this month is the UK/Hong Kong-based crime thriller Strangers…

Wylde: Could you tell us about Strangers, which starts soon on ITV? 

Katie Leung: Strangers follows the journey of Jonah Mulray (played by the lovely John Simm), whose life is turned upside down after he is informed that his wife has been killed in a car accident while she was working in Hong Kong. Upon his arrival in the city to identify her body, he quickly discovers that the Hong Kong police may be hiding some truths behind her death and that his wife has been keeping a dark secret from him which begins to unravel as the story progresses.

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You’ve spent lot of time in Hong Kong, what was it like to go back there to film? 

I consider Hong Kong to be my second home as up until recently I would visit at least once a year. The last time I went before shooting Strangers was when I was filming the BBC series One Child where I played an adoptee who was struggling to rekindle with her birth mother in an alien place and culture. The series’ subject matter as well as the intensity of the shoot put me off going back for a while but once I found out I was going to film there for Strangers, especially playing such a contrasting role as Lau Chen who has been born and bred there, I became really excited about flying out there again.

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Did you get a chance to use your local knowledge to take the crew to some of your favourite hangouts/places?

I’ve met some incredible people on this job and feel very fortunate to have shared memories with them in one of my favourite locations in the world. It’s always a real joy to witness friends experiencing Hong Kong for the first time and inevitably fall in love with it. Hong Kong is forever changing and the number of great places to hang out are endless so yes, while I was able to take my mates out to some of my favourite bars, they also introduced me to some gems through their own exploration of the city.

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You've done quite a lot of theatre. What was your experience switching from film to theatre – when you did Wild Swans and, more recently, Snow in Midsummer at the RSC? 

I always find making the initial transition from film back to theatre slightly overwhelming because of the physical freedom being on a stage allows after having been confined to the edges of a lens for a period of time. But you learn to embrace and to own the space pretty quickly once rehearsals are underway. 

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Is there a genre of film you haven’t done yet that you’d love to do? 

Horror! It’s my favourite genre when it’s done right. I could definitely see myself doing the spooking.

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Who would you say is an actor/actress who has inspired you?

Michelle Yeoh in Tai Chi Master and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Winona Ryder in Girl Interrupted. Bjork in Dancer in the Dark. More recently Gaby Hoffman in Transparent.

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Is there a film/play/writer that inspired you to move into acting?

Richard Linklater’s trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. I already knew I wanted to act before discovering them but Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s performances are masterful. The connection they have between each other and their ability to recreate real life to such perfection pushes me to be better every time I watch them. 

Photographer's assistant: Paolo Navarino

Hair: Zoheb Jetha

Make-up: Danielle Deadman

Assistant to hair stylist: Lara Tunstall

Coats by COS / All other clothes and jewellery: Katie's own

Thanks to The King's Canary Salon and Exposure

Strangers starts Monday 10th September at 9pm on ITV