Ellie Kendrick finally got a chance to strip off Meera Reed’s rabbit skins (“pretty impractical on summer days”) for a couple of indie films that she shot back to back during her Game of Thrones hiatus. In the comedy Whisky Galore!, she plays Catriona, a young Scottish woman during World War II whose town has gone dry during the rations and has to get creative to get the “water of life.” After all, she is planning her wedding. And in the drama The Levelling, she plays Clover, a modern-day veterinarian-dairy farmer whose family has suffered multiple tragedies. Kendrick chatted with about doing her whisky homework, her phobia of cows, and her budding career as a playwright.

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I’m just quoting you back to you, but “since when did whisky cure rheumatoid arthritis“?

[Laughs] That’s from a play I wrote! That’s very well-found! I’m impressed. I have to say, Whisky Galore!, the original [1949] film, came first—it was an old family favorite, the black-and-white version. Then I later wrote a play with, yes, a whisky-drinking Scottish grandmother, and that was before I was cast in the new Whisky Galore!. So there’s been a strain of Scottishness and whisky-drinking throughout my upbringing.

Are you a big whisky drinker?

I wasn’t before. I would occasionally have an American bourbon in a whiskey sour, and that was the extent of my whisky-drinking knowledge. And I thought it was all quite strong. But as soon as we were on set—we were filming in northeast Scotland, in the Speyside area, which is whisky country—we became…very adept in our whisky knowledge. I’d love to say I was daring enough to give it a go on set, but it was after hours and on weekends. [Laughs] Sean Biggerstaff, who plays one of the characters in the film, he was a bit of a whisky buff, so he guided us. We even went to a whisky distillery, the Glenfarclas distillery! They still make it with the old-fashioned methods. It’s a good beginner whisky—it’s a bit nicer, kind of sweeter, light and golden, not too heavy.

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Now my friends are like, “Why are you suddenly drinking whisky at every bar we go to?” For a while, I could pretend I had gone to some kind of whisky university, and was fully versed in all the ways of whisky, but sadly, my friends realized it was all a fraud. [Laughs] I’m going to sound like such an alcoholic! [Laughs] I love it. But part of the reason I stopped drinking so much whisky is that it’s an absolute killer the next day. Lots of rest and re-hydration is the only way forward. It’s amazing that the town in the movie, that they managed to get through all the business they did, with the amount of whisky they drank.

There’s this stereotype that it’s a man’s drink, that women don’t drink whiskey. I have several girlfriends who do, and one of them was just laughing about a taste test that she had to do at work, because some guy was marketing a “smoother,” blended brand for the ladies.

Yes, I absolutely agree with you. There’s a weird gender gap, because of the idea that it’s supposedly a tough drink, or a rough drink, or more than a woman can handle. And my experience is quite the opposite.

Naomi Battrick and Ellie Kendrick in ‘Whisky Galore!’

Arrow Films

What was it like learning the Scottish dances, such as the Eightsome Reel?

Most of our cast were Scottish, so they had learned it from when they were very young, and they were all pros—which was very frustrating for me! I’ve already got two left feet as it is, and I kept thinking, “If I take one false step, we’re all going to go tumbling like dominoes.” Luckily I had an excellent dancing partner, but I danced so hard that my feet were bruised afterwards! It was a certainly interesting counterpoint to the axe-fight choreography on Game of Thrones. It’s always fun to push your body in a way that it’s not used to moving, and both of those roles require me to do that. You’re jolted out of your natural rhythms and patterns.

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