Interview: Grace Truly Talks Book Club: The Next Chapter (Exclusive)

Completely immersing herself in the history of filmmaking, from acting to cinematography and vintage costume design, up-and-coming British actress, Grace Truly is garnering attention in Hollywood for versatile performance in the new romantic comedy sequel, ‘Book Club: The Next Chapter.’ The performer is making her American feature film acting debut in the follow-up to the hit 2018 movie, ‘Book Club,’ after she acted in several short films and in last year’s British historical drama sequel, ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era.’

Truly began her acting career after graduated with honors from BA Performance: Design & Practice at Central Saint Martins, UAL in London. She was inspired in part to pursue filmmaking as a career after she traveled with her family to the sets that her father, cinematographer Andrew Dunn, worked on throughout his career, including ‘Gosford Park,’ ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love,’ ‘The Butler,’ ‘Book Club’ and ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era.’ In her free time, she’s also an avid dressmaker and designer, which helps influence the way she thinks her characters would dress.

‘Book Club: The Next Chapter’ is based on characters created by filmmakers Bill Holderman and Erin Simms for the series’ original entry. Like its predecessor, the new movie was written and produced by the filmmakers. Holderman also returned to the director’s chair for the follow-up.

Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen reprise their roles of the franchise’s four protagonists – Diane, Vivian, Sharon and Carol – in the sequel. Craig T. Nelson, Andy Garcia and Don Johnson also reprise their characters in the new comedy, which also features series newcomers Truly and Giancarlo Giannini.

‘Book Club: The Next Chapter’ follows the four best friends as they take their book club to Italy for the fun girls trip they never had. But when things then go off the rails and secrets are revealed, their relaxing vacation turns into a once-in-a-lifetime cross-country adventure. Truly plays an assistant to a renowned Italian fashion designer, who helps Vivian shops for the perfect wedding dress.

Truly generously took the time earlier this week, the day after ‘Book Club: The Next Chapter,’ had its New York City premiere, to sit down at a Manhattan hotel for an exclusive interview. Among other things, the performer discussed how Holderman thought she would be a good fit for her role while he was writing the script, as he got to know her work while her father served as the cinematographer on the new movies’s predecessor. She also mentioned that the experience of filming her scene with Keaton, Fonda, Bergen and Steenburgen was a surreal and gratifying professional achievement.

Film Factual (FF): You play an assistant to a renowned Italian fashion designer, while Vivian (Jane Fonda) shops for the perfect wedding dress, in the new romantic comedy sequel, ‘Book Club: The Next Chapter.’ What was it about the script that convinced you to take on the role?

Grace Truly (GT): I saw the first film and really enjoyed it. Then when this part came up, I met with both Bill Holderman, who directed this film, as well as the first one, and Erin Simms, and they co-wrote this film.

When it came to writing this script, they thought of me, as they followed me on Instagram and were keeping track of my career. They obviously knew about my acting and work from what I posted on my account.

There’s also my interest in fashion – I make clothes. So my scene in the film is in this couture bridal shop. So when Bill and Erin were writing the film, they actually wrote the part with me in mind for it. So it was really nice! (Truly laughs.)

FF: Speaking of Bill, he helmed the follow-up after he made his feature film directorial debut on the original 2018 movie. He also co-wrote the script with Erin, like you mentioned. What was your collaboration with Bill throughout the production?

GT: He’s such an incredible person and so lovely. He’s also really kind and generous with his time. He made me feel really comfortable and at home. I was quite nervous to start with because I was working with those four iconic women, and he made that experience feel totally normal. Working with him made me feel as though I didn’t have to panic. He’s a great director.

FF: ‘Book Club: The Next Chapter’ features the returning ensemble cast from its predecessor, including its four main female leads, including Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, who you just mentioned. What was your experience working with the lead actresses throughout the production for the sequel?

GT: I think it’s the sort of stuff that dreams are made of. (Truly laughs.) This is my first speaking role in an American feature film, so being on set with Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen was – or even meeting them in any context would be – incredible.

But to think about acting in the scene with them, even now, is very surreal. But now that the film is coming out this week, and to know that my scene with them can be seen in theaters this weekend, is pretty wild.

FF: With ‘Book Club: The Next Chapter’ being a comedy, did you improv with your fellow actresses at all and add your own humor, or did you mainly stick to the script?

GT: I mainly stuck to the script. They did do some changes to things, obviously, when we were on set, like moving things to make things work in a different way. But for my part, I mostly stayed with what I was supposed to be doing. But the women have such a great rapport between them, so they had a bit of room for improv and comedic moments, which was really nice to see.

FF: Like you mentioned, your scene in the follow-up is set in the couture bridal shop, and your character works as an assistant to a renowned Italian fashion designer. Besides being an actress, you’re also an avid dressmaker, and design some of your own clothing. So what was your experience like getting to play a character who works in fashion in your first speaking role in an American movie?

GT: I couldn’t have dreamed of anything more, being on a film set with this incredible cast and crew and being surrounded by beautiful clothes in a beautiful old villa in Rome. (Truly laughs.) You can’t really make that stuff up.

When I was on set and waiting in the wings, I was looking at all of the dresses and fabrics, and how incredibly well-designed the space was. It was amazing that they had all of these gowns as background production design, and they were all exquisite. All of the clothes had high level of detail in them, which was really impressive.

FF: Speaking of shooting your scene in Rome, what was your experience like of being on location there?

GT: It was really wonderful. But it was also really hot at the time, but I was in a privileged positing working in that environment without the same intense requirements that the crew had. We shot the movie just after COVID, so everyone had to wear masks in the intense heat.

But Rome is a stunning place, obviously. There wasn’t an inch of it that wasn’t beautiful. So It was really an extraordinary experience to have.

FF: As an actress, do you enjoy traveling and getting to work in different locations?

GT: I love travelling. Coming to New York for this premiere has been amazing.

My father is a cinematographer. So I grew up traveling with him and being on location with him on film sets throughout my childhood.

So for me, it very much feels like second nature to have that experience of travelling as part of my life. So I feel very lucky to be able to continue that into my own career.

FF: Besides acting, are you also interested in pursuing writing and directing, as well?

GT: Yes, definitely. I knew I wanted to go into film, but there are so many avenues, especially when you have the exposure to filmmaking that I had growing up, with my father working as a cinematographer. So I struggled to choose just one thing.

I obviously love acting, I’m also pursuing writing. At the moment, I’m writing my first feature film script, which I also plan to direct. I’ve also done shorts in the past. There’s so much room for creativity in that space, so not exploring it seems too difficult. (Truly laughs.)

FF: Are you also interested in pursing costume design, and incorporating your interest of fashion, into your film work?

GT: Yes, definitely – I’m a very visual person. When I’m writing, I think in terms of what people may be wearing and how they look, and what the camera angles might be. It’s obviously an emotional process, but I also think in a technical way.

So with my love of fashion and sewing things, when I was younger I thought I might want to be a costume designer. Then I realized that I wouldn’t have enough room for other things. But I think every career path in film has so much inspiration.

FF: Has seeing your father work as a cinematographer throughout your life influenced the way you’re approaching writing your script, and how you’ll visually tell the story?

GT: Yes, I think so. It’s quite difficult to break down what I think naturally because of the way my brain was wired as a child. But I do think I see the story in my head, as well as the angles and perspectives. I’ve had dreams that completely change the camera angles. So I think my brain works in filmmaking terms.

FF: When you’re just starring in a movie like ‘Book Club: The Next Chapter,’ how do you prepare to play your character?

GT: In this case, I imagined that the character, who’s also called Grace, was basically an intern and just finished university in London. I went to Central Saint Martins, which is one of the best fashion schools in the world. I didn’t study fashion there, but it’s known for that. I found it to be pretty reasonable that somebody who studied at Central Saint Martins would go to Italy afterwards to work in a couture house.

I think for me, with acting, I need to really feel where that person’s coming from and understand why they’re in that space. I feel that it’s much more natural to try to be that person as much as possible, rather than just pretend. Obviously, it is all pretend, though. (Truly laughs.)

FF: Speaking about how you attended Central Saint Martins, how did your education influence your acting and overall career? Why did you decide to pursue an education there?

GT: After I finished high school, I took a year off and explored my own things. I always knew that I wanted to go to university, but I wasn’t quite sure what to study because there were so many things I wanted to do.

I then found this degree course at Central Saint Martins, which was called Performance: Design & Practice. It basically allowed me to not only learn acting, but it was also on film and on stage and live art. It also allowed me to learn every aspect not just in front of, but also behind, the camera and scenes.

It was basically very broad, which I wanted to do. I could basically make whatever I wanted, within reason, and push the limits of that without being told I couldn’t. So it really gave me the space to figure out what I most wanted to do and try it. I really couldn’t have wished for more from university.

FF: What was the experience like being able to attend the premiere for ‘Book Club: The Next Chapter’ here in New York?

GT: It was incredibly surreal, and I was very nervous. But I loved it, though. Seeing the film in its entirety for the first time in a cinema, and seeing me on screen, was really crazy. I obviously love dressing up, which was also wonderful.

Everyone was very kind to me and made me feel like I was in the right place and they wanted me there, which was nice – it’s great to be able to meet new people! I’m also curious see what happens next after the film comes out!

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