British Actresses You Should Know: Florence Pugh

Florence Pugh with Timothee Chalamet in the 2019 film Little Women (Photo credit courtesy of Columbia Pictures)
Florence Pugh with Timothee Chalamet in the 2019 film Little Women (Photo credit courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Personally, I always find the task of profiling talented British actors and actresses an enjoyable assignment. However, when I encounter a young person of extraordinary potential, it’s a joy to bring that gifted performer to people’s attention,

Florence Pugh is precisely one of those actresses. In fact, she's a performer you’ll likely be watching for years to come. At just 24 years of age, this Oxford-born actress with the self-professed "weirdly low voice" has been showered with accolades. Since 2017, the awards she’s been nominated for and won tell the story of her work.  From her 2018 BAFTA EE Rising Star nomination to being named 2019’s Chopard Trophy winner at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Pugh's performances have been described as brave, breakthrough and revelatory.

She’s also has an entertaining presence on social media. Just this this morning I watched her successfully make peanut butter ice cream on Instagram. But I digress. Let’s start from the beginning of Miss Pugh’s CV:

The Falling (2014). Pugh's debut role (which happened to be the result of her first audition at the age of 17) was in the dramatic thriller The Falling.

Set in 1969, Florence plays Abbie, a morally daring student at a strict girls’ academy, who mysteriously starts collapsing at school. This precipitates a fainting epidemic among the girls including Abbie’s best friend Lydia (Game of ThronesMaisie Williams).

 

Lady Macbeth (2016). Pugh’s first starring role came two years later in the mid-19th century period drama Lady Macbeth. She plays Katherine; a young bride married off to an older man of some property.

The marriage is loveless and the husband abusive, so the new lady of the house starts to rebel in some very scandalous ways.  Her lethal performance earned Florence a BAFTA nomination and a British Independent Film Award for Best Actress.

With her star on the rise, Florence next played two royal characters (one fictional and one historical) and a undercover actress in 2018.

King Lear (2018). Amazon’s TV movie version of the classic Shakespearean tragedy is set this time in a dystopian future London. Pugh portrays the ill-fated Cordelia, sole honest daughter of the aging king, opposite a stellar cast that includes Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Anthony Hopkins as the titular monarch. 

 

The Outlaw King (2018). This Netflix Original film depicts the true David vs. Goliath story of how the 14th century Scottish 'Outlaw King' Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) overcame the occupying English army.

Pugh portrays Robert's wife, noblewoman Elizabeth de Burgh.  She was praised for bringing determination, poise and boldness to a role that could have easily been a bland portrayal of a loyal and loving wife. 

 

The Little Drummer Girl (2018). Based on the John le Carré novel of the same name, AMC’s The Little Drummer Girl mini-series stars Miss Pugh as Charlie, a politically left-leaning actress who agrees to go undercover for the Israelis by posing as a Palestinian terrorist sympathizer.

Despite her apparent sophistication, Charlie becomes obsessed with her character and naively starts to blur her performance with the truth. The series also features Michael Shannon and Alexander Skarsgård.

If 2018 was the year Florence made a splash, 2019 was certainly her breakthrough year. You don’t have to take my word for it; she was nominated for nine different “breakout” or “breakthrough" acting awards for the three very different and complicated performances she offered audiences in 2019.

Fighting with My Family (2019). Pugh demonstrated her comedy chops in this film about a real-life family of quirky, small-time professional wrestlers from Norwich, England. When siblings Zak (Jack Lowden) and Pugh’s character, Saraya, score an audition with the WWE in London, only Saraya is selected for training.

Setting out with a new stage name and a dream, Paige heads to America with her family’s expectations weighing mightily on her mind. Pugh embodies Paige’s steely determination to become a winner while simultaneously struggling with loneliness and self-doubt.

 

Midsommar (2019). In probably her most exhausting role to date, Pugh starred as Dani, a college student reeling from a recent family tragedy. In a half-hearted effort to salvage their relationship, her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) invites her to join him on a trip to Sweden for a midsummer festival.

Lo and behold what begins as an idyllic retreat rapidly turns into a series of increasingly unsettling and violent rituals carried out by a pagan cult. Her emotional journey from haunting grief to elation has won Florence much critical acclaim.

 

Little Women (2019). Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the beloved Louisa May Alcott classic introduced us to an Amy March that audiences actually liked, portayed by none other than Florence Pugh. Sure, Amy’s  still the spoiled, vain March sister. With maturity, however, she develops a combination of confidence and practically that none of her siblings can match.

Her performance in this very impressive supporting role has earned Miss Pugh her first Oscar and BAFTA nominations and the clip below demonstrates why.

 

And what’s on the horizon for this gifted young performer? She’s just joining the MCU, of course!

Pugh will appear as the sister assassin Yelena Belova to Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff in Marvel’s Black Widow  set for a theatrical release in May, 2020.

Have you experienced the amazing talent that is Florence Pugh? If so, do you have a favorite role? Let’s discuss in the comments.