Interview: The Undeniable Radiance of Eve Austin

May 4, 2024

Text: Jeremy Whitaker

Although a computer screen and the Atlantic Ocean separated me from UK-based actress Eve Austin, our conversation felt like the kind you have with an old friend. 

Austin is the type of person who brings a certain warmth to the things around her. That’s likely why her presence is undeniable in her role as Jeannie Keefe in the BBC’s This Town, a series based on the actual events of a boiling-over Birmingham and how they coincide with the development of Ska music. 

This Town is a series that has rhythm. The actual music, which required the actress to learn the keyboard, is second only to the riveting characters, who all seem to stomp their way into each other's hearts and that of viewers. 

From chatting about Vivienne Westwood to the thrill of stage acting, Eve’s radiant appreciation for her craft is clear. 

Read the Full Interview Below: 

JEREMYWHITAKER: Eve, I'm so excited to talk with you because I am obsessed with your style. I gave your Instagram such a stalk. Can we talk about fashion for a second?

EVEAUSTIN: I would love to do that.

JW: Who are your style influences? The first thing that drew my attention on your Instagram is an outfit that you called the "bimboification" of Vivienne Westwood.

EA: Vivienne is my absolute hero. She actually came to see me in a play once and she sat in the front row and the whole time I was like, "I can see Vivienne Westwood, she looks amazing." One of the actors got so nervous because there was a scene where he had to throw water and he threw it on her because he was like, “It's Vivienne Westwood.” Other than her, my style icon is one of my best mates, Tula. She has always exclusively worn vintage clothing. Years ago, I used to be like, I would never. Then I moved in with her and was like you are so fabulous that I'm just going to do everything you do.

JW: I came around to vintage clothing later in life as well. I didn't see the appeal and then I was like, wait, clothing that's environmentally sustainable and has a story... yup.

EA: Just the way that they fit. Obviously, you aren't always going to be able to find your size, but when you do, the quality of how they made clothes and the details, the buttons, and things. I am really obsessed now with vintage clothes. I kind of only exclusively wear vintage.

JW: As someone who loves fashion, does it play a huge part in preparing for a role?

EA: Oh my God, for sure. I never feel like I've totally found my character until I am on set and in the costume. Luckily with This Town, we had an absolute genius costume designer, Molly Rowe. As soon as I met her, she was like, “Right, we're going to do this together. This is very collaborative.” She had a big emphasis on, "I have these ideas, but I want you to feel comfortable." There were a few things I probably wouldn't wear, and she was like, pow. Then she'd bring in a thousand other options.

A big thing for me is the shoes and finding the walk. Now, when I'm watching This Town, I'm like, oh my God, why am I walking like this? It feels like absolutely marching everywhere, but it is a really fun way to find somebody else.

JW: That's a little detail we're going to have to watch for, the Eve stomp.

EA: All my friends who've watched it have been like, "What the hell are you doing walking around? You don't walk like that."

JW: She’s probably in a pair of Doc Martens, they're very stomp-stomp.

EA: And Jeanie, she's tough and she's got this reputation to uphold. So I was like, she has to walk with confidence. She has to stomp around Birmingham.

JW: People can say what they say, but I think it's going to deliver. Style-wise what's your go-to?

EA: I love a big pair of boots always. I'm like five foot. It really helps to have big boots and a big coat. I just think that both things, no matter how you're feeling body-wise, will just make you feel really fabulous. The louder, the better for me. I love an accessory. So lots of earrings, lots of gloves. I don't focus so much on the outfit. It's more like everything else around the outfit.

JW: For me, it's always in the shoes. I have too many pairs of shoes and then I don't have a single pair of pants that I can wear with them.

EA: No socks, 50 pairs of boots.

JW: Exactly. To talk a little bit about This Town, tell me about your character Jeannie. She's a stomper, number one.

EA: Jeannie calls herself the official delegate of her estate. We meet her in the midst of a riot that she's been involved in. I like to think she's very political. She’s had to build a very tough exterior, and we learn throughout the series she has some quite bad situations going on in her personal life. She has a very brashy, kind of outward projection into the world, and I think she's the type of person that you'd be quite scared of if you didn't know. Then, because we had this intimate scene with her dancing early on, you very quickly realize that she's a very kind and very considered person, and she ends up sort of acting as this guardian angel for Dante's character throughout the series. He gets himself into quite a lot of difficult situations and she'll often be there to sort of rectify that. I really love Jeannie because I think it gave me a chance to play somebody that we might judge on first meeting and actually kind of reminds you that not everyone is who they might project themselves to be.

JW: I think there's something to be said about people with a cold exterior. I feel like often in my life, it just takes a little bit of love to crack them, and then it's this beautiful little onion situation.

EA: I mean everybody is so layered. Nobody is who you think they are from the first meeting. Some people take longer to warm up than others, and I think there's something about Dante that makes [Jeannie] warm up very quickly. I think he's a very unique person and he's a very safe person, and so she breaks down those barriers very quickly with him. It plays out into one of my favorite relationships I've ever been able to play. This very platonic, but very deep love for a female and a male character, I think it is quite rare on television that somebody doesn't end it being this big romance.

JW: In preparing for the role, did you learn how to play the piano? Did you already know?

EA: No, I absolutely didn't know. I also didn't know that I would be playing the keyboard until the read through and then it came up in one of the scripts and I was like, “Oh fuck. That's new.” I'm not at all musically talented, but I had an amazing piano teacher up in North London who I would see a couple times a week. The emphasis was solely on learning the five songs that the band plays, and that is where we got to. I never did anything else. I didn't progress further.

JW: You're not playing a sonata every day now.

EA: I dunno what those kids are called when they literally just take to something straight away, but I'm the opposite of that. I kind of regress as time goes.

JW: I grew up playing piano and I was so good as a kid, and then we got a keyboard at my apartment, and I feel like I'm just an idiot, so I get it.

EA: It is really hard. Also, I have tiny hands. I do not have piano hands. I think if someone looked at me, they would be like, maybe the drums would've been better. I had a lot of assistance from a lot of people, which I was grateful for.

JW: It seems like a team effort within the cast here.

EA: Oh my God, totally. With music, I found so much of it is confidence. I think it's quite similar to acting in that way. It would be nerve-wracking to do these piano lessons and then we'd meet up at the studio and we would perform them together. Had that not been a lovely and safe, nurturing environment, I just don't think we would've been able to do it. I'd go up to the keys and my fingers would be like I can't do it. I'd be shaking. But luckily everyone was so supportive, and it never felt pressured.

JW: It feels very low pressure for how high pressure it probably was for you.

EA: Thank God because working under pressure is hell.

JW: I think everyone can agree on that.

EA: Absolutely. No one works back to the deadline, especially with creativity. It needs time to nourish in its own life,

JW: It needs to marinate.

EA: A stew is better five days after you've cooked it.

JW: What was your knowledge of Ska music going in? What kind of music do you like?

EA: I like all sorts. I'm not a music snob in any shape or form. I generally like everything that people have introduced me to, but I didn't know much about Ska at all. I did grow up with a lot of reggae, which is one of the bases of Ska music. So even though I hadn't really heard so much of it, when I did start to listen to it, it had a real sense of my home life because of the reggae undertones. It really helped us get in the zone for filming. Having such a strong musical element is something I think really helps create the world for the actors.

JW: I imagine that listening to Ska or any of the music from the show now really transports you back to filming.

EA: For sure. You must have a song that you listen to that reminds you of your first heartbreak. Songs, they're like smells. You smell it and you're like, oh my God, my granny's perfume. I think songs transport you back.

JW: What do you hope people are taking away from the show?

EA: First and foremost, we all really set out to make sure that people from Birmingham felt like their story was being reflected authentically. These are real people's lives, and it was a really difficult time that these people lived through. So I think as long as Brummies feel like we've done it justice, then I think we've done our job. The underlying theme is friendship, how important friendship is to young people, and how important connection is. This kind of idea that music connects people from all walks of life, I think is really beautiful, and something that we're not experiencing so much in a modern world. People don't go to as many live gigs, you don't meet up at the pub every night, that kind of thing. I think there's a lot of people that are quite lonely because of that, because we're just all in our rooms, myself included, on TikTok all night.

JW: It's interesting to reflect on a different time in music as well. I just watched this old video of Kurt Cobain reacting to how expensive Madonna tickets were, and she was selling them for something like $20. He was incredulous. But now, it's even less accessible. I feel like at the time of This Town, the 70s and 80s, music was accessible to everybody and it really brought everybody together.

EA: I agree. I think there was a lot more free gigs and stuff like that, whereas, like you say, now Taylor Swift had tickets for £400 or something. It's just wild. There's not many people I know that would ever be able to afford that kind of thing.

JW: Obviously, you are no stranger to television acting, but tell me about another role that sticks out to you in your career. I can't believe you were in You. That is the craziest show.

EA: Well, I did a play about five years ago that's written by Nottingham playwright Sophie Ellerby called "Lit." And I knew when I was doing it, and I still feel now, that might have been my job. It's set in Nottingham, which is where I'm from, and it's about a young girl who goes through the care system. It's about sexual abuse and abuse of power and womanhood. It was incredible. It was a very, very dark play, and I was on stage for the entire thing with no interval. So it was a lot. I would often come off stage and feel quite overwhelmed, but it was probably one of the most important stories I've ever had to tell. It's certainly a story that reflects a lot of my friends' experiences of growing up. I actually have a tattoo of the play.

JW: Is it the name of the play?

EA: I kind of get tattoos for every job, and I'm slowly starting to get a bit older and a bit more... I could have just got a ring.

JW: Yeah, a nice little diamond ring for every job.

EA: A pair of earrings perhaps. But no, I've destroyed my skin.

JW: I'm sure makeup artists love that. The stage seems like a significant challenge for actors.

EA: It is really different because you get a lot more control as an actor being on stage. You can feel how an audience is reacting to something almost immediately. If you're going amp up the comedy a little bit or amp up the drama, you can feel what people are wanting and respond in the moment. I think theater is a whole other skill, and I'm always so mesmerized by actors who can hold their own on stage because it is terrifying. It's truly terrifying.

JW: I will take your word for it. I could never do it.

EA: I've heard from so many actors who have pretty much exclusively done a lot of theater, that almost every single one has had a night on stage where they have had a full panic mid-scene. And it's just something that I think you have to go through. I haven't had it yet. I'm now like, oh God, when's my time?

JW: When is Eve's day coming?

EA: One of them was like, “I just walked off into the wings and I just had a talk with myself and came back out, apologized to the audience, and then carried on.”

JW: Wow. They've benefited from therapy. That is a level of self-respect that I need to achieve. What is next for you? Let's put it out there.

EA: What's next? That is the most scary question you can ever ask an actor. I would love to do some theater. I'd love to work at the Old Vic or the National in London. They're two of my favorite theaters. I'd love to work with the playwright that I spoke about, Sophie Ellerby again. In terms of film and television, I would die to do a comedy series. A long-running comedy series where you go back every year and everyone's just in love with each other.

JW: I think that that would suit you. So we're going to manifest that together.

EA: Let's manifest it. I've actually lit a lucky incense about that before, some witchcraft.

Full Credits:

Text: Jeremy Whitaker

Photographer: Lee Malone

Styling: Sarah Harrison

Makeup: Andriani Vasiliou

Hair: Lachlan Wignall