MyAnna Buring on Downton Abbey, Ripper Street and playing strong women

"Fluffy roles don’t interest me. Playing the long-legged muse is boring and I don’t see people like that around me – I see 3D humans"

What do you wake up to?


Recently I’ve started playing Nick Grimshaw on Radio 1. He’s always referencing getting ready for school, so it makes me feel like a kid again.

What can’t you miss?

I do love a period drama. I’ve just done a big Peaky Blinders catch-up marathon and I’m utterly hooked.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which TV box set would you take for company?

Part of me says The Sopranos for the great storytelling, but it would have to be Absolutely Fabulous – to keep me laughing, despite the third-degree sunburn.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I don’t know why I think of it as guilty, but Miranda. I didn’t really get it, then I saw Miranda Hart in Call the Midwife and she broke my heart. I ended up watching Miranda repeats and it’s so inoffensively brilliant.

We saw you as Edna the maid in Downton Abbey, who tried to blackmail Tom. Will she be back?

I don’t know, but never say never with Downton. I was such a massive fan of the show that sitting down at the kitchen table opposite Mrs Hughes and Carson was surreal.

Did you expect Anna’s rape in Downton to provoke such controversy?

I think rape should always provoke a very strong reaction. It will be a sad state of affairs when it doesn’t.

What was your favourite show when you were growing up?

My family moved to the UK when I was 16, but before then, whenever we were in Britain, we watched Only Fools and Horses. Even now, whenever my mum comes to stay we have to watch it. I also have very nostalgic memories of cuddling up with my grandma and cousin watching Dallas.

With your Swedish roots, do you like dark Scandinavian dramas?

I thought The Bridge and The Killing were both really exciting television. In Britain, we’re becoming a lot more open to TV dramas that aren’t in English, which is indicative of our appetite for great storytelling.

Have you got your eye on a role in the next big Scandi thriller?

I’d always be open to something like that. Even though my English is probably better than my Swedish, I’ve spoken both languages all my life. It could have been useful in The Bridge, but I guess they just didn’t know about me then!

Long Susan, your character in Ripper Street, is well educated and runs a successful business. Are you drawn to strong women?

I’m committed to playing interesting characters. Fluffy roles don’t interest me. Playing the long-legged muse is boring and I don’t see people like that around me – I see 3D humans. It’s important that characters have vulnerability. Having said that, it’s dull if women are the only ones with a weakness or neurosis.

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?

I was standing in one of Long Susan’s glorious dresses at the end of filming the first series of Ripper Street. We were in the beautiful grounds of this building and I had one of those moments where I was living the dream that I’d had as a young student, when I wanted to be an actor. I had to pinch myself. 

Ripper Street continues on Monday at 9:00pm on BBC1