Rose Williams of Mrs Harris Goes to Paris on Dior and jewellery

Rose Williams of Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, Sanditon and a Screen Star of Tomorrow discusses when she first read the script for the new film and her love of all things Dior and coloured jewellery

By Jessica Bumpus

Rose Williams, star of Sanditon and a Screen International Screen Star of Tomorrow (2019), remembers exactly where she was when she read the script for Mrs Harris Goes to Paris.

“On my friend’s sofa,” she shares over the phone. “It was like this golden shining story that touched my heart and so in tune to my personal interest. And I felt this really strong feeling like ‘Oh god, this would be absolute heaven!’” In it, she plays Pamela Penrose, an aspiring actress, who is, she says, “more looking towards Diana Dors and Jayne Mansfield instead of Marilyn [Monroe].”

“We liked the idea her pretending to be posher than she actually is,” says Williams. “And her look is a bit haphazard.” For the part, she had her locks transformed from “a drab mix of different dyes that had grown out during lockdown” to blonde. “It was very, very fun to be reminded of the blonde bombshells at the early dawn of Hollywood,” she says. The role was also the perfect match for her. Before pursuing a career in acting, she had been dead set on a career in fashion. “I really wanted to go to Central Saint Martins,” she says. “That was my big goal. I want to go and do womenswear at Central Saint Martins, that is absolutely what I have to do.”

Rose Williams for Rocks Summer 2022
Rose Williams wears Toga wool top, Omnēque earrings, Boodles ring, Boucheron ring, Pomellato rings, Dior ring and Stephen Webster rings
Rose Williams for Rocks Summer 2022
Rose Williams wears Pauline Dujancourt knitted skirt (worn as top), Stephen Webster earrings set and Dior choker

Williams, who was born in Ealing and grew up in Surrey, was raised in a home she describes as encouraging creativity. She drew from an early age, painted during her teens and was really interested in fashion and animation. “I felt like fashion design could combine all of my interests and that’s what I wanted to do.”

But a different pathway lay ahead for her. After her GCSEs, she did a part-time art and design course at University of the Creative Arts (UCA) for a year and went to work at Dover Street Market – which she “totally” loved, she says. “It opened up my world to different career paths that I’d never have thought of in a million years.” Rather “reluctantly” she helped her mother, a costume designer, on an ITV entertainment show and realised she “quite enjoyed handling the clothes in that way.” It also exposed her, she explains, “to that world of showbiz, quote unquote. So that was my inspiration to just go for it.”

She did exactly that, in a perfect balance of blind naivety and laser-sharp focus. She got headshots, cold-called and asked for advice – oblivious to how it all worked and with no formal training. “Had I known more, I wouldn’t have been so bold,” she says. But it’s that kind of determination that makes star power.

Rose Williams for Rocks Summer 2022
Rose Williams wears Prada mules, Cartier ring, Omnēque earrings, Boodles ring, Boucheron ring, Pomellato rings, Dior ring set and Stephen Webster rings

Williams tracks back her breakthrough role as being in Reign, in which she played Claude de Valois. Her first leading role was as Charlotte Heywood in the popular period drama Sanditon, which is based on Jane Austen’s incomplete novel of the same title. Williams’ CV also boasts Seth Green’s directorial debut Changeland, Sky One’s Sean-Bean-starring Curfew, The Power, an independent horror film and That Dirty Black Bag – a darker take on a Western with Dominic Cooper and Douglas Both. It was an experience and role she enjoyed – especially the toughness of the character. It’s something she is keen to continue doing.

Rose Williams for Rocks Summer 2022
Rose Williams wears Toga knitted dress and Ara Vartanian earrings set

Mrs Harris Goes To Paris, she says, is one of her highlights, especially working with Lesley Manville, who plays the titular role. “I’ve looked up to her for years,” she explains. “She’s absolutely an amazing actress and such a gorgeous character as Mrs Harris.”

The costume element, set in the 1950s, was also a real perk. “The whole thing felt like a real treat. Jenny Beavan [who] designed the costumes is iconic,” says Williams. “I was really excited when I heard she was doing the film.”

Rose Williams for Rocks Summer 2022
Rose Williams wears Omnēque earrings, Boodles necklace set, Pomellato necklace set and bracelet and Boucheron ring

Williams is also a big fan of the Dior brand under its current creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. “[it’s] amazing that there’s a woman fronting the brand given that it’s a brand so famous in honouring and adoring the woman’s silhouette.” For her, it’s the classic shapes, the jackets and peplums and powerful silhouettes that speak. “I always just adore – ever since I was a child – those silhouettes, they exude a power but also a femininity.” Whenever she gets to wear the pieces, she confesses to having her own Mrs Harris Goes To Paris moment.

When we speak, it’s a mid-June day and she is “gently” working on a script project. She emphasises the word “gently”, explaining that she is in the process of brainstorming, looking at structure. “I’m trying something different,” she says, pointing out that she is also one of those people, an Aquarius, who just has to multitask. “I’m the type of person that needs 100 things going on at once.” That said, in her downtime, she is trying work out more of a routine for herself. Filming, she describes, is like stepping into a wormhole. “And it’s this intense shooting star ride of experience, of hard work.” To temper this, Williams is currently working on her flat to make it more cosy and a place of respite.

Rose Williams for Rocks Summer 2022
Rose Williams wears Toga knitted dress, Omnēque earrings, Boodles necklace set, Pomellato necklace set and bracelet and Boucheron ring

Working on a script, though, has given her some time to reflect on the past 10 years which she feels is like “a kind of chapter within itself.” And embarking on something new, she says: “I feel like that 18-year-old girl but having had 10 years of experience.” In the future, she says she’d like to play roles that “explore the pendulum on the other side of life and the complexities of what true feminine strength can look like.” And I wonder if this might appear in her writing. She mulls this over. “As I grow as a woman, I’ll unlock parts of myself that will ignite ideas and connections to stories about powerful women. So that feels like it’s entwined, my personal life and my career. I would like to explore like that feminine strength through story, and I don’t know how it will look yet but that’s my that’s my goal.”

Rose Williams for Rocks Summer 2022
Rose Williams wears Prada satin dress, Piaget earrings, Boodles necklace set and Cartier ring

Of course, there is one other aspect of acting beyond that of creating and playing roles: dressing up on the red carpet and photo shoots. On set of the Something About Rocks shoot, Williams said she loved all of the sparkly things. And day to day she is a real hoops girl, and opts for collected costume jewellery and pieces she has bought from her travels as opposed to diamonds. On rotation at the moment is a silver snake ring and a silver ring with a moonstone in it. As she gets older, she notes she has a preference for silver instead of gold. And, as a reward to herself for some upcoming shooting, plans to treat herself to a Comme des Garcons Champion ring. “I’ve always wanted one for years.” All in all, it rather sounds like she deserves one.

Rose Williams for Rocks Summer 2022
Rose Williams wears Christian Dior lace top, Van Cleef & Arpels earrings and Stephen Webster/ Fuli Gemstones ring

Story by Jessica Bumpus, Photography by Mafalda Silva, Styling by Caitlin Moriarty, Make up by Sunao Takahashi, Hair by Maki Tanaka, Nails by Chisato Yamamoto at Caren Agency, Photography Assistant Edward Emberson

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