Oona Chaplin stars in The Crimson Field.
Oona Chaplin stars in The Crimson Field. Nick Briggs

Silver screen royalty Oona Chaplin has healing touch

FROM the blood-soaked fictional battlefields of Westeros to France, Oona Chaplin is a beautiful on-screen healer.

The actress, who is the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, is best known to Australian viewers as Robb Stark's ill-fated wife Talisa on fantasy drama Game of Thrones.

In the miniseries The Crimson Field, Chaplin plays a British nurse sent to a Normandy field hospital during the First World War.

"People must think I look like I can take care of them," Chaplin laughed.

"Sadly our training (for The Crimson Field) mainly consisted of how to make beds. I know how to do hospital corners like you wouldn't believe. When it comes to tourniquets, I'm not so sure."

With such an esteemed acting lineage, including her silent-film star grandfather and her mother Geraldine's starring role in the seminal 1965 film Doctor Zhivago, it's no surprise Chaplin pursued acting.

Oona Chaplin and Richard Madden in Game of Thrones.
Oona Chaplin and Richard Madden in Game of Thrones. Helen Sloan/HBO

While she did apply to study politics and broadcasting at university, her acceptance into London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art firmly set Chaplin's career path.

In The Crimson Field she plays Kitty Trevelyan, a young woman with a troubled past who volunteers at one of the busiest war hospitals in Northern France.

"My character's running away from her life. She has suffered a lot of trauma," she said.

A frontline field hospital seems like a strange place to escape the traumas of home.

"At least there people won't know who she is," Chaplin said.

"She carries a lot of shame and anguish. But once she gets there she discovers this wonderful gift she has, which is the gift of helping people.

 "In the beginning she's a bit of a stroppy cow but then she discovers she can help people. The main thing is she's forgotten how to be useful and she can be useful again by helping people."

With a bubbly, infectious energy that travels down the phone line, playing a "stroppy cow" was an acting challenge for Chaplin.

"She's not a people person and I love people, so it was really horrid to play Kitty," she said.

"She was so rude sometimes. I would have to keep a straight face until the end of the scene and then I'd run up to the other actress and apologise."

The well-travelled and trilingual actress, who grew up on her mother's film sets, reveals she has deep affection for Australia.

"It's the only country I've ever felt patriotic about," she said. "My best friend in the world, a writer from Melbourne, sent me the poem My Country. I love the Sunburnt Country.

"I've been to the Great Barrier Reef and swum with turtles on Lady Elliot Island...  I also went to Brisbane and Byron Bay. I can't wait to go back."

The Crimson Field airs Tuesdays at 8.30pm on BBC First.

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