by Kensey Potter
photography by Daymion Mardel
Acting has always been a goal for Anastasia Griffith, whose turn on FX’s legal drama Damages as the troubled Katie Connor, has proven her to be one of the most exciting new faces to watch. Gorgeous and talented, Griffith has more than held her own alongside Hollywood veterans Glenn Close and Marcia Gay Harden in highly dramatic scenes that allow her to exercise her impressive skills.
Trained at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Griffith spent most of her time on the stage, doing theater performances. She later decided to experiment with a different direction and specialized in production, but found acting to be her true calling. “When I was in school, I was always passionate about acting,” she reflects, “I thought for a while I would get into production, but I realized that acting was my dream and I was fooling myself thinking I was satisfied without doing it.” Not that she has abandoned her interest in other facets of the industry, “I think it can go hand in hand, without having to do one or the other,” she says, noting that one day she would definitely consider returning behind the scenes.
It is precisely this dynamic approach to the field that Griffith also employs when preparing for a part. After her initial read-through, she thinks critically about the role and how she can strengthen and hone it to reveal the deeper issues at hand. “I try to read things through and see how it feels with me and then I’ll start layering with somebody’s second thoughts, or some emotional research I might have done about the character, so eventually I can come away with something that is a little deeper than on first reading,” she says thoughtfully. Television acting, tough, as she quickly points out, does not always provide her with the time to prepare so thoroughly, given that she and her costars receive their scripts sometimes only a day or two ahead of shooting. In these cases, Griffith relies on her intuition to drive the scenes. “It’s always interesting doing this job, and I do find that I have to be in the moment. It’s been a great lesson in just letting go a little bit and trusting instincts.”
Her ability to be both intuitive and methodical, has deeply affected her performance as Katie Connor, a role that Griffith has come to understand and identify with. “I like her character; she’s very elastic. She’s kind of messy, and she makes mistakes, she’s gullible, she’s vulnerable, she’s naïve, and these are not necessarily good qualities, but I empathize with her. I empathize maybe not with the decisions she makes, but why she makes them,” she says, adding that Katie’s highly dramatic life has taught her to let go, “You just have to trust yourself.”
It is this innate approach to the craft that Griffith learned through her experiences as a stage actress, a realm of acting that she recently revisited in her first live performance in nearly five years. Although she admits she was slightly nervous to return to the theater after such a long hiatus, she gushes, “Afterwards it was like the high of highs. You’re on a rollercoaster, there’s an energy. The actual technique is so different, but I feel like in both [film and theater], you can be living in the moment, but on stage that moment really comes and it goes forever and you can’t get it back.” Though she speaks so passionately about theater, she admits she would never be able to devote herself to just one realm of acting, saying that her ideal career would be one that “encompasses all of it.” Indeed, she cites fellow Brit Judi Dench, whose iconic resume includes theater, television, and film, as a major influence and inspiration. “Everything she does is so vibrant and alive,” she says of Dench.
Her dynamic approach toward the art of acting extends into other aspects of life as well. She credits having relations in both Ireland and the US to having a constant perspective on international affairs. Indeed, Griffith possesses strong views on the upcoming political election here in the States. “I’m a big Obama girl,” she says, citing health care issues as one of her main reasons for supporting the Democratic candidate. “The fact that if you get hit by a car and don’t have insurance, you still get treated is really important to me,” she says emphatically.
Whether discussing politics or acting, it is her willingness to invest herself completely into whatever she does that makes Griffith a rare breed. And it is with this sentiment that she surveys her career, “I do think that every role I’ve played has a piece of me – or a lot of me – in it,” she says, “I think you can own the role because part of it is yourself.”