This Agyness gets up to greet me dressed all in black and beige, mousy brown hair grown to her shoulders and a much warmer sparkle in her eyes. Her mum, Lorraine, is joining us, with Deyn bashfully explaining, "Now I live in Los Angeles I really miss my mum so much, so we’re spending as much time together as we can."
Having unofficially retired from modelling five years ago, Deyn is now set to make her real acting debut with a leading role in Bryn Higgin’s Electricity in which she plays a severely epileptic woman, Lily O’ Connor, who is searching for her long-lost brother. It’s the morning after the London Film Festival premiere and she’s finally allowing herself to be excited. "We filmed it 18 months ago, you don’t know what the reaction is going to be while you’re making it," she says in her Lancashire lilt. "Then, last night at the screening I had people coming up to me afterwards and saying, ‘I have epilepsy. Thank you for this film’."
Deyn went from working in a Rossendale chip shop during her teens to becoming the most in demand model in the world: the Cara Delevingne of the Noughties. She was on every red carpet, every guest list, in every ad campaign and then suddenly… nothing. The 31-year-old – who was born plain old Laura Hollins – has claimed, until now, not to have quit modelling altogether. But aside from the odd paparazzi shot of her food shopping in Los Angeles, where she lives with husband, Giovanni Ribisi (Phoebe Buffay’s brother Frank on Friends), Deyn had totally taken herself off the showbiz map.
The role of Lily is a tough one, particularly for Deyn, who has had no professional training as an actor, though has filmed a couple of very minor roles in indie movies. Portraying someone with epilepsy is something that took a lot of preparation. She desperately wanted (and had to) get it right. "To do that justice for the people who actually have it was important. I read a lot, I watched a lot of documentaries, YouTube clips," Deyn says. "I met this doctor – he’s a specialist in London. I basically camped out in his office. I was going there on his lunch breaks and he would go through footage with me and help me really understand it on an intellectual level but also an emotional level."
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