The Crimson Field’s Oona Chaplin on sex scenes, pet snakes and women’s liberation

"There’s still not a single country in the entire world where women are paid as much as men; it’s important to remember that we’re not quite done here"


Did you watch your grandfather Charlie’s films when you were young?


Yes, we watched them a lot because they’re great for kids. Even though they’re in black and white with real people, not 3D crazy monsters. I saw Limelight recently and wept like a baby; it captures perfectly what it’s like to be in this business.

Is it help or a hindrance having such a famous surname?

I see it as a blessing. Having a few generations in the business has given me a healthy perspective on it: not to take it too seriously, not to believe the hype.

Did you ever consider changing it?

Yes, but then my mother rightly said that a beautiful actress wouldn’t disfigure herself just to prove that she was hired for her acting talents, not her looks. If you work hard, no one can really say anything. And if they do, it’s just white noise. 

What’s the last drama you stayed in for?

House of Cards: series two was ludicrously over the top but brilliant.

What makes you blush?

Watching a sex scene in the presence of my parents! In real life, I’m more likely to go bright red when I forget a line than if I have to take my clothes off for a scene.

What makes you cry?

David Attenborough always brings a tear to my eye: I love the way he loves the world. I am a shameless hippie when it comes to nature. I’d really like a pet snake but I travel too much – it would be so relaxing having it crawl all over you. 

When do you reach for the remote?

Adverts. It’s a vicious, evil scheme.

Who would be your dream dinner date?

Definitely Gandhi. That man knew things – and he drank his own pee.

What drew you to the First World War drama The Crimson Field?

It’s in doing shows like this that you feel like you can change the world a little bit because hopefully people will be so horrified by what they see on the TV that they won’t want to engage in war any more. Also, it reminds us of the situation of women in the world. Women’s lib took a step forward in that period – yet there’s still not a single country in the entire world where women are paid as much as men; it’s important to remember that we’re not quite done here.

The doctors dub the nurses the “Very Adorable Darlings”. Would you have stood for that?

I’m terrible because I’ve got a big mouth so whenever I see something that’s a bit off I’m like, “Hey, what’s that?” Maybe you just have to laugh and call them a Very Adorable D***head back. What else can you do?

Do you see much condescension in your industry?

Completely – just think of the acting age of women versus men. But it’s important to keep a sense of humour about it.

Where do you call home?

I’m currently homeless; I have many keys to many places but none of them is mine. I’m looking for a country to call home.

The Crimson Field continues on Sunday at 9:00pm on BBC1.