No matter how fans may feel about Outlander’s Laoghaire, we all can agree Nell Hudson’s performance added level of vulnerability to her. It wasn’t until she put her stamp on this often debated character, that many started to soften with an empathy for her. I was one of those people. For me, it turned me into a fan of the actress who gave me a new perspective of a character I thought I knew. I’d been reading about her for 20 plus years afterall. I started following Nell’s career and her social media, as one does in this world of interwebbing.
Needless to say, when Nell said she thought #TheLOVELANDERProject was a ‘lovely endeavour’ and she would happy to be a part of it, I was thrilled. (Since this isn’t about me, I will stop babbling to bring you the very bright and brilliant Nell)
Imagine, a blonde haired blue eyed wisp of a lass, enjoying picnics, riding her bike and swimming in rivers. A farm in the Midlands of England is where she called home. An incredibly idyllic childhood Nell tells me. Until, of course, she becomes a teenager. “Then I longed for excitement and couldn’t wait to get off the farm. Now, of course, I love going back.”
Nell, came into Outlander fans lives as the living breathing, Loaghaire MacKenzie, she even jokingly calls her Leghair, as many fans have been known to. This is an example of Nell’s own great sense of humour. It’s always interesting to get a better look from the person ‘playing’ the character…“Laoghaire is what happens when a broken heart never heals. Like all good villains, she’s a fallen angel. She didn’t start out bad, but circumstance has made it so.”
I wrote a blog on the Women of Outlander and there were fans that did identify with Loaghaire. I know that some think she is just horrible but I understand her. I certainly feel sorrier for her than dislike her. “Hmm…I feel sorry for Laoghaire too! A big part of playing her for me was the back-story of her not having a mother. I think this is the hole in the soul she tries to fill with love for Jamie. It’s deeply sad, when you think about it. As for me, I like to think I know a lost cause when I see one….“
That incredible insight should make it obvious that Nell is so much more than the time she spent on Outlander. I am sure you will see that as we go. I did ask her to recall some of her treasured memories from her time with on the show. “I remember going to the pub in Glasgow with all of the Season One cast (Cat, Sam, Duncan, Gary Lewis, Graham McTavish, Lotte Verbeek) and thinking “wow, I’ll never forget this!”. On Series Two I made great friends with the actor James Parris, who played Young Simon, and had so much fun hanging with him – we’re still good friends! And then Lauren Lyle came into my life and I’ll always love her. Then Sophie, oh my lord, she’s fab. Love her, too.“
As far as Lauren Lyle is concerned, the feeling is mutual. I was lucky enough to be included on a zoom party with her in June and asked her what her thoughts on Nell were. Lauren’s face softened, you know how I mean, when you talk of someone you absolutely adore. She fondly recalled her first days on set and how Nell truly took her under her wing. Lauren sticking to her like glue with her ‘show Ma’ gently guiding her along and making her feel safe and welcome.
As much as your acting, those real life connections do come through in your art. From what I have read about you, you chose to become an actress quite young, were you one of those little girls with the flair for putting on the show? “In hindsight, yes. I was constantly making my siblings act in little plays I’d written, with me – with me as the lead, of course!“
Of course, you are a natural leading lady! When did you officially transition from acting at home to making it your profession “It wasn’t until everyone was going off to university that I decided to pursue acting seriously. I had to give it a shot as there was nothing else I loved quite so much.” I think that takes a lot of courage. What advice would you give a girl, like yourself, who is off to start her life with a dream like yours? “To a young girl starting a career in the arts I would say work your butt off, it’s tough out there, and humility will get you nowhere. Be loud and your own biggest cheerleader.“
You have played many interesting roles since Outlander. One of them, Nancy Skerrett in Victoria. People LOVED Nancy, some didn’t even recognise you as the same person. They just couldn’t fathom how Nancy could be played by the same person who played Laoghaire. That is acting folks. Amazing, on the spot, damn fine ‘Nell’ acting!
Speaking of which, Nancy Skerrett’s life came to a tragic end. My heart – like many others, broke. Your death scene was just so incredibly SAD. “It was my first on-screen death! It was incredibly emotional for me, too. After playing Nancy for three years I had really fallen in love with her. It was, as you say, heartbreaking that she had to die just when she’d got her happy ending. I just had to be incredibly present in the moment for that scene – if I thought about it to much I might not have kept it together.“
But you did. I’m still mad at them for doing it. I had a long list of people that should have died over you. PFT! Anyway…If you could give Nancy Skerrett an alternative ending, what would it be? “That she and Francatelli lived happily ever after and had a ton of babies!”
That would have been lovely and I really would have watched ALL of that. We still do get to watch you outside of Outlander. In the Informer, Charlotte is a modern role, I loved it but it was a bit different seeing you in modern attire- acting. “It’s definitely less of a leap playing a modern part as you speak the same language. But period pieces are the opportunity to connect with humanity, whatever era people lived in the human experience remains the same.”
I can imagine as an actor with such a wide range, you would have people you would love to work with…who is on your list? “Oooh….I would love to work with (British Director) Mike Leigh, he really immerses his actors in their roles. Joanna Hogg is incredible. Lena Waithe. Taika Waititi. There are so many!“
With your versatile talent, I’d love to see you in one so, if you could choose a bio-pic to star in, who would you choose to play? “I’d bloody love to do a music biopic as it would be so fun to play a singer. I love singing and did it professionally for a while but was too stage-shy to perform as myself – so I could do it if I was pretending to be someone else! I always got told I look like Joni Mitchell growing up, and I love her music, so maybe her. Debbie Harry would be incredible, too.”
YES! Joni Mitchell is Canadian so ummm. Yeah. And Debbie Harry (Blondie) bc dang, look at you! Plus you can sing, Imma start 2 petitions. #NellForJoni #NellForDebbie
Nell doesn’t have to say many words for you to realize, she is a writer at heart. The way she answers the questions have a melody.
It shouldn’t be a big surprise to us that you have recently finished writing your own novel. “I have indeed! I’m really excited about it. It’s early days but I’m hoping to get it published. I come from a line of writers: my grandfather was Cyril Connolly (a noted critic and author of his day) and my Mum is Cressida Connolly, a best-selling fiction writer.”
That certainly shows it not only runs in the family but that the talent extends as the generations go on. Do you have an interest in writing other creative ventures? “Absolutely. I have a few script projects saved on my laptop. I’m concentrating on the novel, for now, but I would love to develop some screen work over time.”
What is about writing, that you are attracted to, do you think? “Writing for me is in many ways the antithesis to acting – I’m the one in charge for once! It’s complete escapism. If I feel like inhabiting a certain world I just write about it and I’m there. I think creativity is an energy and it has to come out somehow – for me it can be writing, writing songs, acting, drawing (badly), dancing…anything ! I couldn’t live without creative flow.“
I identify with this on a very deep level. Escapism is something I need – it is a part of my mental wellness, my therapy. You have been very honest with your own mental health and wellness. You share on your IG openly your struggles and victories. I find it incredibly encouraging for public figures, especially young women such as yourself having the courage to speak up about such personal issues. “Thank you so much for your support. It’s scary sharing that stuff because a small part of me knows that it could put off potential employers. And then I think, screw that. I’ve NEVER let my mental health affect my work, ever. And if someone judged me for talking about it then I might not want to work with them. I went through a period of depression in my early twenties and took medication for it, and I have anxiety, too. I don’t take any medication anymore, but it definitely helped me at the time. I’ve battled disordered eating in the past, too, which I think is important to talk about as I know so many actresses, and women, who have been through it. These days I’ve found that yoga and meditation, as well as a great support system of friends and family, are all I need. But emotions are like the weather, sometimes it’s grey, but it will pass.“
I always wish I could go back and kick myself in the ass to listen to my inner voice, earlier than I did. If you could give “little Nell” some advice, what would it be? “Awww this question is so moving, always. I would say speak to a doctor – would have saved a lot of time if I’d gone sooner. I would have said baby girl just DO.NOT.BOTHER. with the eating disorder. Please listen to me it’s a huge waste of time. And I would have said you will be ok, I love you.“
I do wish we all could learn to love ourselves fully earlier in our lives. Much like we allow pets to love us, like your pup, Maggie – who might have the BEST ears on Instagram. “Haha aw, thank you, I’ll pass that on to her. I found her on a farm in Abergavenny, Wales. I’d always wanted a dog and it just felt like the right time to get one. She chose me. I knew I was going to call my dog Maggie, and on our first meeting I called that name to her, and she came running. So I knew it was meant to be.”
We can tell she brings you a lot of happiness. What else brings you joy? “I sound very Goop-y but I really do love yoga. Swimming in the sea, reading a great book. My main vice is going out for supper – I love eating out and trying new restaurants. But obviously I can’t do a lot of that at the moment. At least I’m saving money.”
OK, we are talking about food now, so it’s the perfect segway for my final question. The ABOotlanders have invited you to a fancy dinner and offered you a) Moose Droppings b) Beaver Tails c) Prairie Oysters d) Taber Corn. What do you choose. I have no idea what you’re talking about but Taber Corn sounds like the safest answer.
That’s what I like about Nell the most. She is “what you see is what you get” and at the same time, not at all basic. I am very grateful she gave us a peak into her life by being gracious enough to answer my questions by being featured in the Lovelander project.
Thank you again, Nell. MUCH LOVE!
ABOotlander L🖤ve – Previous Interviews – Julia LeBlanc/VideoQueen Summer & Ginger from Outlander Podcast CastDr.Joe Abernathy/Wil Johnson CastAdrienne-Marie/Suzette Beth Wesson/@PixieTwit Connie Verzak@ConnieBV Karmen @OutLandAnatomy Jane @RRankinFans CastSera-Lys McArthur /Johiehon CastCarmen Moore /Wahkatiiosta CastKikkiFleming/ Lesley