British Vogue - 11.2019

(Nancy Kaufman) #1

hen Ella Balinska’s newly hired LA publicist
emails to change the location of our interview
from a smart restaurant in Chelsea to a sad-
sack Cineworld on the Fulham Road, I think
there must be some mistake. A down-at-heel, sticky-carpeted
multiplex with a lingering smell of popcorn? It doesn’t feel like
a venue for an inaugural Vogue interview with one of the new
Charlie’s Angels triumvirate. But this neighbourhood cinema
in south-west London has particular significance for Balinska.
Growing up with her mother – model and chef Lorraine
Pascale – around the corner in Battersea, it was the backdrop
to her childhood and adolescence, where she would sneak
into films with 15 certificates: “I remember watching the
movie, so anxious the police were going to come and get me.”
It was the place where she was “the small kid with big dreams”.
To say that the 23-year-old sitting in front of me is excited
by the prospect of soon seeing herself up on these screens
would be an understatement. Sipping on a Starbucks, her
enthusiasm and energy – the type that only the young and
uncynical possess – ricochets off
the walls. “It’s so strange thinking
that it’s going to be here,” she says,
her huge brown eyes, framed by
big geeky specs, opening wide in
amazement. “I’ll bring the whole
gang. There’s only one chance to
get your debut, because that’s
what it is. It’ll be so fun,” she says,
her goofy laugh and mile-a-
minute chatter pinging around
as fellow customers tap away on
their laptops, unaware of the
future A-list star in their midst.
As debuts go, starring
alongside Kristen Stewart
and Naomi Scott in Elizabeth
Banks’s reboot of the iconic
Charlie’s Angels franchise is
pretty good going. Balinska
plays machine gun-toting, ex-
MI6 Jane Kano, in a feminist-
friendly update that sees the
Townsend Agency upgraded
to a global intelligence service.
It’s quite an upgrade for Balinska,
too: last year she was topping up her acting work (namely, a
part in Sky teen drama The Athena and a turn in Casualty)
with shifts on the floor of Selfridges’ shoe department.
She only gave up her double life shortly before Banks cast
her, and has since found herself in a peculiar state of fame
limbo. “I was in that Joe & The Juice the other day,” she says,
pointing through the window, “about to get myself a nice
sandwich and a smoothie, and the guy goes, ‘Oh my God, I
think I recognise you.’ Now bear in mind, I’ve just come from
LA,” she says, laughing. “I was like, ‘Really?’ And he was like,
‘Yeah – you served me in Selfridges!’”
If Balinska’s whirlwind year has given her a crash course in
the La La life – she’s already had the ultimate in exclusive
invites, to the Met Ball (“the most incredible costume party”),
and was the toast of Paris Couture in January – she seems
entirely unfazed. We meet the morning after a dinner hosted
by Cartier, every scrap of the previous evening’s glamour
vanished from her make-up free face. Her outfit, a well-worn
tee and skinny black jeans “nicked from the production”, is as
casual as they come. Despite growing up with a mother who
was a fixture in the fashion world (her parents divorced in 2000

but she remains close to her Polish musician father, Count
Kaz Balinski-Jundzill), she “didn’t bring it home. My mum
kept me at the right distance from it all. Enough that I wasn’t
razzle dazzled by it, but enough that I wasn’t bored by it.”
She thrived at her all-girls school in Dulwich and “loved
extracurricular” sports, putting those endless legs to use gaining
a reputation as a talented athlete. There’s still something of
the games captain in her demeanour, I think. “I’d always be
coaching the younger years’ javelin at lunchtime, or I was
captain of the netball team, or playing hockey on Wednesday
lunch. I just loved being active.”
But it was always about acting. Her aspirations started
young, her confidence growing with each lead role she bagged
in school plays. By sixth form, after a stint in the National
Youth Theatre, Balinska knew it was her vocation, and she
was soon accepted into the Guildford School of Acting. That’s
when things got “real-real”.
With its high-octane fight scenes, her role as Kano feels
tailor-made for her. She’s the “muscle of the group”, as Banks
says. “She’s all business, she gets
it done.” Stewart, meanwhile,
is “the hard-partying one”, and
Scott is “the heart of the three”.
At drama school, Ella took a
unit in stage combat and “fell
in love with it as it combined
my sport background with
acting. I joined the Academy
of Performance Combat and
went nuts, did pretty much
every course they had.”
Even though this Charlie’s
Angels puts women in charge
(the trailer opens with Stewart’s
line, “I think women can do
anything”), there’s no denying
that past instalments have felt
retrogressive. I ask if there are
any gratuitous shots of, say, the
leads in swimwear? “We don’t
go swimming, so there are no
bikinis,” Balinska shoots back.
She’s adamant that the story is
up to date. “Now, women being
strong, smart and confident
with their body image is sexy. People say, ‘Why Charlie’s
Angels? Why now?’ I can’t wait for them to see what we’ve
done with it for 2019.”
Are they all friends for life? “Absolutely,” Balinska says
sincerely. “Those guys have my heart. I love them to pieces.
On and off screen we were supporting each other.” Obviously
the three of them – Ella and “Nay and K” – have a group chat,
and last saw each other in LA just before Balinska came back
to London. Having finished filming on her next feature –
a horror from the team behind Get Out and BlacKkKlansman

  • she is living between the two cities, adjusting to her new
    Hollywood life, and making sure she “says hello to the gang”
    in the shoe department “every single time I come home”.
    “Everyone hears of this sudden moment happening,”
    Balinska says, still disbelieving of her circumstances. “Normally
    it’s a career build, but to go from zero to a hundred doesn’t
    really happen that often. It shows how the industry is changing
    and opening up to new actors. Who am I to say, but it’s
    lovely when someone who really fits the role is cast. Hopefully
    everyone will think that.” n
    Charlie’s Angels is in cinemas on 29 November


11-19-WellCraig.indd 188 09/09/2019 13:15

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