Forget the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, the only VIP events that bring Aberdeenshire actress Rose Leslie any joy are the early morning ones she spends with her little boy at playgroup.
In a refreshingly open and honest interview with the glossy fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar, Rose shines a light on the all too often hidden struggles of parenthood, addiction, mental health and work.
Moving from New York to London has clearly been the breath of fresh air that the Game of Thrones actress and her husband Kit Harington – who was her co-star in the hit TV series – needed following the birth of their beautiful baby boy in February last year.
“It’s a glorious thing,” she told Harper’s Bazaar about the London playgroups, “to be in that shared space with new mums, willing to open up about the trials and tribulations, and be like, ‘Yes, I’m actually finding it quite tough.’
“When my son was born, the narrative seemed to be that you’re automatically going to be enamoured with this little person.
“But why should that be the case when you have never experienced having a child? Why should it come innately?
“There’s an element of me saying, ‘Hey, buddy, we’re here now. It’s amazing. But I’ve got to get to know you, and forge the relationship that’s going to see us through our lifetime.”
Like many new mums, Rose was exhausted when she returned to her day job with the added pressure of having to express breast milk daily.
But Kit took on sole parenting duties with pride, allowing Rose to focus on her intense filming schedule.
“He wore the Baby Björn (baby carrier) loud and proud,” she told the magazine.
“And there were many satisfying moments; we had an understanding that, when our son cried in the middle of the night, it was on Kit to go and look after him, as I would have to wake up early to work –it was kind of glorious.”
From New York to London
After the hustle and bustle that comes with living in New York, the family are enjoying their new life in London and have also bought a second property in rural Suffolk where they will decant after Kit finishes his run as Henry V at the Donmar Warehouse.
“We’re going to make a home, try to make friends,” Rose said.
“We’re just going to use our son!” she joked. “In London, we’re firing on all cylinders, and when we get to the countryside, we can just turn it all off.”
‘I’ve learned a lot about addiction’
It’s no surprise that the couple seek solace in the tranquil countryside.
Over the years, they have had to cope with deeply personal issues becoming public knowledge.
Of her husband’s past struggles with alcohol and depression, which he has overcome, Rose told the publication: “I’ve learnt a lot about addiction and it’s something Kit is forever going to be aware of, but it’s on him whether he chooses to drink again.
“No amount of nannying is going to be able to stop him from doing what he decides to do… I don’t choose to put that pressure on myself.
“The responsibility of his behaviour is on him. It’s not on me to guard him from it.”
Bravely speaking out about Kit’s past struggles with addiction and the support he received is sure to chime with many other families who are in similar situations.
“The AA community has provided such a loving space for him to feel heard, to make sure he’s not alone,” she told the magazine.
“But if it weren’t for rehab, he would be in a very different headspace right now.”
Asked how she is coping herself, Rose says: “I’m doing well. This was in 2019, so we’re now several years into his sobriety.”
With the hit TV series Game of Thrones attracting 44.2 million viewers globally it goes some way to illustrate the dizzying level of fame that Rose and Kit have had to navigate through over the past few years.
Proving that she wasn’t just a one-hit wonder, Rose went on to take Hollywood by storm, starring in three seasons of the prime-time, Emmy Award-winning drama The Good Fight, as well as in Kenneth Branagh’s sumptuous adaptation of Death on the Nile this year.
But it was while filming Vigil, the 2021 BBC drama about a murder on a submarine, while six-months pregnant, that was a turning point for Rose.
In preparation for a scene where her character is thrown against the wall and beaten up by intruders, she insisted on fully rehearsing and doing only two takes, giving it everything she could, after which her stunt double would take over, in order to protect her baby.
Since the birth of their baby boy (the couple are keeping the name private), the couple have settled into family life south of the border.
Love for Aberdeenshire
But Rose says her heart will always remain in her native Aberdeenshire.
“Nothing quite captures the peace in my soul the way that the Scottish countryside does,” she says. “I associate family, love and security with the landscape.
“But the idea that the castle was very quaint and idyllic isn’t the truth. It was draughty and cold. We really did stay in about three rooms in the entire house, because one had a fire, one had the only radiator that functioned, and the other was probably the kitchen.”
It’s her upbringing in the 15th Century Lickleyhead Castle in Aberdeenshire that has attracted a lot of press headlines.
The seat of the Leslie clan, through her mother’s line, she is descended from King Charles II – as is Kit Harington through his paternal grandmother.
Although it’s important for her son to know his family history, Rose says it’s more about instilling family values than anything else.
“It’s important that he’s aware of his ancestry in the way that it’s important for every family, but, for me, it’s more about instilling values – it’s not necessarily talking about Charles II,” she said.
The middle of five siblings, Rose loved to perform, leaving home at 18 to attend the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art and, at the age of 21, won a Scottish Bafta for a role in the 2009 television film New Town.
“It’s no coincidence that I’m a middle child and an actor,” she told the magazine.
“I struggled with finding words to express myself, to find the words in my mind. I struggle with being eloquent. A part of me recognises that and wishes to say other people’s words.”
Her big break came in the form of Ygritte, the formidably fierce warrior woman in the HBO TV series Game of Thrones that captured not only the nation’s hearts but also Kit’s, who played her on-screen lover Jon Snow.
Returning home to tie the knot
Returning to her ancestral Aberdeenshire to tie the knot with Kit put the little village of Kirkton of Rayne on the global map.
With guests including her Game of Thrones co-stars Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke, it’s no wonder fans travelled from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the couple before they walked down the aisle at Rayne Church.
“A cheer greeted the couple as they got into an old Land Rover Defender adorned with paper hearts and tin cans and headed to the reception at Miss Leslie’s historic family home, Wardhill Castle,” reported the Press and Journal at the time.
Tracey Leslie, who lived just feet from the church, told the P&J it was “totally unexpected” to have the nuptials unfolding so close to home.
“I think it’s pretty special having something as close by as this,” she said.
“Especially with them being so big, it’s nice they didn’t just go to some plush London hotel.
“It’s nice Rose has come back to her roots.”
She added: “They’ve kept it really simple and that’s what we’re about out here.”
Fiercely private, the couple shy away from all social media but are only too willing to put themselves forward when it comes to raising money for good causes.
Over the years, they have supported numerous charitable projects including the long-running Aberdeenshire charity raffle the Banchory Bangle in aid of Scotland’s national children’s charity Children 1st.
In a video for the charity, Rose said: “I’m here today to ask you to join me in supporting the Banchory Bangle fundraiser to help keep children safe and happy.”
She added: “Now more than ever they need your help to continue that lifeline support.”
The couple are also set to reunite on screen for the first time in seven years for the MS Society’s new charity campaign video to help raise vital funds for research into the condition.
Speaking at the MS Society’s Carols by Candlelight event in London back in 2019, Rose said: “The MS Society is very close to my heart, and the work they do is incredible.
“I want to support them in raising funds for MS research because we’re so close to finding real and long-lasting solutions to tackle this condition.”
The Time Traveler’s Wife
This month marks an exciting time for Rose as she appears back on our screens in the HBO adaption of Audrey Niffenegger’s bestselling novel The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Filming it while her son was just 10 weeks old was tough, said Rose.
“Going into Time Traveler’s, I felt mentally prepared.
“I was champing at the bit to do this gig, do it well, and felt I could balance it with our child.
“But I remember finding it very brutal, being wrenched away from him.
“There were parts of me that doubted whether I would be able to see it through for six months. It was so tough.”
Rose plays Clare, the spouse to Theo James’ Henry, who has a genetic condition that causes him to jump through time involuntarily, never knowing when he’s going to turn up in Clare’s life, nor at what age.
At times, said Rose, it felt as though she were in a play, with weeks of rehearsals, having to learn the quick, snappy dialogue and, crucially, to understand the subtle iterations of her own character, who ranges in age from 16 to 70.
“There were so many nuances in each line,” she said.
“Theo and I realised pretty early on that if you didn’t like what either of us were doing, it’s an issue, as the camera is either on versions of him or versions of me.”
It’s hard to believe that Rose was once just a little girl at primary school in Rayne, enjoying after-school adventures in the local countryside.
But it’s clear from this interview that despite all the fame and fortune that comes with being one of the world’s most sought-after actresses, she’s still that country-loving, adventure-seeking girl at heart.
The June issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK is available to buy on newsstands from 4 May or can be read online.
The Time Traveler’s Wife will be available from May 16 on Sky Atlantic and Now TV. Death on the Nile is on Disney+.