Rising star Poppy Gilbert, 23, told the Sunday People how the hitwoman in the Netflix thriller was inspired by fellow femme fatale Villanelle played by Jodie Comer in Killing Eve
Just three years out of drama school, Poppy Gilbert is slaying the competition as a psychopath called Barbie in Netflix thriller Stay Close.
The character is so scary that the flame-haired Brit’s friends and family are no longer certain they trust her!
Poppy, 23, told the Sunday People how the hitwoman was inspired by fellow femme fatale Villanelle played by Jodie Comer in Killing Eve and – less predictably – Britney Spears.
Stay Close was the most watched show on Netflix earlier this month and fans have called for Barbie and her sidekick Ken to have their own spin-off.
The eight-parter is the latest of 14 Harlan Coben thrillers to be adapted by Netflix. It stars Cush Jumbo as a suburban mum of three who gets drawn back into her secret dodgy past.
An old friend (Sarah Parish) warns her a violent ex – a down-on-his-luck photographer played by Richard Armitage – is after her.
Meanwhile, James Nesbitt is a detective hunting two men who vanished exactly 17 years apart.
Also in the mix are kooky contract killers Barbie and Ken (Hyoie O’Grady).
Poppy’s meteoric career has already included roles opposite heart-throbs Aidan Turner and Rufus Sewell – but she admits the feedback for Stay Close blew her away.
She jokes: “My mum is like, ‘We’re so pleased for you but do I trust my own child?’ Friends will say, ‘It’s so nice to see you… we think! We’re not really sure, you’re really scary’.
“I’ve had so many Instagram messages too. The kindness has been overwhelming.
“People have been signing off their messages from Poland, Argentina, Peru. I just think, ‘Wow!’ I can’t believe it.”
Poppy says of her character: “She is a mash up of many incredible women.
“I used lots of Jodie Comer. She has this masterful ability to pull you in and be genuine and honest and charming, and immediately flip.
“I really wanted to bring whatever I could of that to Barbie and of course the writers really helped.
“They gave us these sweet, charming lines, flipped on their head because next we’re using a soldering iron on somebody’s fingers.
“I’m also a huge Britney Spears fan. I grew up with her and love her very much. I tried to get some of that incredible performance value she has.
“I also watched a clip of Zendaya on an American talk show where she shows how she walks normally, compared to how she walks on the red carpet. Again it’s fierce and I wanted to steal some of that and channel it.
“I had a little notebook – it was all very Year Three at school. I’d cut and stick in lots of characters from books and films I’d draw from.
¬© Clive Barda 2016)
“I am also deeply obsessed with the true crime podcasts. But it’s important I’m pointing out here that we’re not glorifying serial killers. That’s not something I would want.
“There is a lot of air time given to glorifying to serial killers and I hope there is an element of surrealness to Barbie and Ken that pulls them out of reality. They exist on their own plane.”
One of her fondest days on set in Manchester was a fight scene with Cush.
“It sounds insane and we lost our minds that day but I had the loveliest time with Cush fighting together,” she smiles. “The stunt co-ordinator, Gordon, even gave us certificates because we’d been so keen to do it well for him.”
During the series, Barbie and Ken also set their sights on a lawyer played by Eddie Izzard.
“I learnt so much from her,” admits Poppy. “We filmed these very long days but Eddie was always so focused and so thorough with her research.”
Poppy was born in Stockholm in Sweden but grew up in various countries, including Britain, Hong Kong and Singapore, thanks to her adventurous parents, a TV producer mum and advertising man.
A relative introduced her to acting at 17 and, after numerous rejections, she got into London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Within a year of graduating, in 2019, Poppy had secured her first TV role, a cameo in Call The Midwife where she was cast as a pregnant woman called Lesley Pike.
“They really embrace new young actors and were so patient,” she recalls. “My first take, I shouted all the lines and the director was so gentle. He came up to me and said, ‘Your microphone is just here!”.
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In 2020 she was in the Agatha Christie mini-series The Pale Horse, also starring Rufus Sewell.
Last year she appeared alongside Poldark star Aidan Turner in the film Leonardo, playing one of the artist’s models. She says: “He was really interested in the technical aspect of how a set works and that is definitely something I also want to learn more about.”
In a few weeks she’ll star in a six part psychological thriller called Chloe, airing on Amazon Prime Video and the BBC, alongside another former Poldark star, Jack Farthing.
The series follows a woman called Becky who becomes obsessed with Poppy’s seemingly perfect character Chloe.
Poppy admits to having to pinch herself when she thinks of the parts she has already had.
But far from letting success to her head, she is using her spare time to study for a postgraduate diploma in law.
She started it after the first lockdown in a bid to know her rights better and be able to interpret contracts.
It’s clear that she is passionate about learning from those around her and she is not scared of making mistakes.
She says: “Of course I can get nervous but I think that’s all about becoming an adult. I’m thinking, ‘Am I doing this right?’
“I don’t know what the future will hold but I know I am blessed to be doing what I love.”
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