Charly Clive plays Marnie, an eccentric Scottish girl who moves to London in the quest for a better understanding of her identity and sexuality, in the new Channel 4 comedy drama titled Pure. In recent months, Pure has been hailed as the go-to TV series if you’re curious about sex and mental health. It is a pioneering project that tackles the stigma surrounding a type of mental illness called pure OCD. With scenes drenched in dark humour, the show creates a lively, easily-relatable depiction of what it’s like to go through everyday life questioning how much of an effect compulsively recurring thoughts can have on how you see yourself and what you do.
Clive was cast for the role at the age of 25, just after debuting her first ever sketch comedy show titled Britney at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe. We sat down with her to talk about career goals, inspiration and most importantly, about acting tricks for making it through nude scenes where out of thirty people, you’re the only one with a dress on.
Leila Kozma: How did you land this role? Have you ever worked in television before?
Charly Clive: I was doing a show in Edinburgh titled Britney, and we had a crowdfunding video online. Somebody went to see the show and recommended us to the producers, and then the producers saw our video. Off the back of that I got an email asking if I wanted to audition, and I did. Other than that, I never worked in television before, just stage work, so it was a brand new landscape, a whole new world. It was very exciting, but for the first week it was also very frightening.
LK: Why was it frightening? Which were the trickiest scenes?
CC: The trickiest scenes to act are the big, intrusive thought scenes, with lots of nudity or people simulating sex around me. I had to continue, even though it’s not really happening but I can kind of see it. Those scenes are very layered. Also, when you’re the only one there who’s not naked, you start to feel like the odd one out, which is a weird position to be in.
Another thing that was tricky about the show was that we really, really wanted to get it right. It was important to make sure that anyone who watched it who had OCD, or knew anyone who had OCD, would feel well-represented. That was something that I really struggled with. I hope I managed to make it feel authentic for someone watching it who has it.
LK: Did you do any research prior to the shooting?
CC: The show is loosely based on a memoir, also titled “Pure,” by Rose Cartwright. It’s about her struggle with OCD. A super-important part of my research was reading the book and re-reading it and going back to it whenever I needed to get back into the world of the disorder and how it manifests itself in real life. I spoke with Rose a lot about it, and she was very open with me and let me ask her a lot of probing questions about the disorder. There’s actually not that much I thought that’d be about it online, especially not from the perspective of a young woman. There’s a lot of facts and figures, but not much testimonial.
Ever since the show has come out, a lot of people have reached out to me who really related to the character of Marnie; young men or women who have suffered from this disease and who have managed to live with it. They found that the show handled it responsibly, and those stories have been especially heart-warming.
LK: It’s great that you provide people a representation they can relate to. The show can serve as a conversation starter that can get people to open up and be more honest about their struggles. It helps to tackle the stigma as well.
CC: It’s a lot more easier for people to talk about something that’s going on with them when they have a reference point. It’s nice that people can link their own experiences to Pure, so that it’s easier for them in a conversation to just say, “Oh, if you watched the show you might understand what I’m talking about.”
LK: Could you tell us a bit about BRITNEY?
CC: In the beginning of 2016 I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, a benign pituitary adenoma about the size of the golf ball. It was a huge shock. It threw me and my family into a bit of a tail spin. My best friend Ellen moved in with me for the whole of the process, which was quite a long time. Ellen said that since we’re both constantly trying to make jokes about it, we should write those down and make it into a stage show. And so we did. And it was actually really cathartic thing for both of us to write. For me, because I managed to put a comedy filter on some unpleasant memories; for Ellen, because she lived through it voluntarily. She was there to help me through it, so it gave her something to work towards that wasn’t just about me. She was able to have a project she could put herself into. We managed to make up for the time we lost during the experience.
And then we took it to Edinburgh, and people responded really, really well to it which was really lovely for us. We’re very happy with how it turned out. I’m so glad that somebody saw it and recommended me for the part in Pure, because if it hadn’t been for the experience of doing Britney then it wouldn’t have happened. It turned out to be a really good thing that started out as a seriously bad one.
LK: How do you see yourself in the future? Would you rather pursue a career in television or in comedy?
CC: Both! I’m trying to grab everything with two hands at the moment. I’d like to do more work in television, in comedy, stage work – anything really. I’m passionate about acting and writing. I’m hoping I can do both and maybe find ways to make those two worlds collide a bit.
LK: If you had to choose one project to do in the future, what would that be?
CC: I’d want to be the female Indiana Jones.