Hackney to Hollywood

Acting Up

She’s bowled audiences over with her performance in Vikings, and now she’s got Hollywood sniffing at her door. But actress Maude Hirst won’t be moving to La La Land anytime soon because Hackney is where she was born and belongs


Born in the Homerton Hospital and raised near Victoria Park, actress Maude Hirst is clearly proud of her Hackney heritage. “I’m an East Londoner through and through,” she confirms. “It’s in my blood to be here and I think it will always be my home.”

The itinerant nature of the acting profession, however, means that Maude, 23, does regularly find herself abroad. And never more so than in recent years, where her acclaimed role as Helga in the hit TV series Vikings (currently showing on Amazon Prime) has meant filming for several months of the year in Ireland.

Then there’s the fact that she’s recently acquired representation in Los Angeles. “Vikings was originally filmed for American TV,” she explains. “So the following over there is much bigger than it is here. People really know the show and my character and that helped in getting an agent. It’s great being able to dip into that world and all the work opportunities that it offers, but I am always very happy to come home. Nothing beats being around friends and family.”

One gets the distinct impression that however starry Maude’s career becomes, she will always have her feet firmly planted on the ground. Perhaps that’s a consequence of having acted since childhood. “I got spotted by a casting director when I was around eight years old,” she says. “I was doing gymnastics and they were casting for a film about a young gymnast. After that I went for a few films, but my mum was apprehensive about pushing me too far in that direction, so she held me back a bit.”

Ah, yes, Maude’s mum sounds lovely and eminently sensible and another reason why Maude remains so level headed. “She was a single mum of three of us as well as being an artist. Our house was always full of writers, artists and actors, all these creative people. It was a wonderful environment to grow up in,” she reveals.

Her father, meanwhile, is Michael Hirst, an award-winning screenwriter, who also just happened to pen Vikings, as well as The Tudors, which Maude also appeared in. But Maude is keen to downplay the relationship, saying that she only got to know her father’s work later in life, although she will admit to having “creative genes.”

It was these genes that helped win her a much sought after scholarship to the Italia Conti Academy. But being a self confessed iconoclast – “I like to make my own path, doing things differently” – she left after the second year, got herself and agent and hasn’t looked back since.

As well as the acting, Maude is also a co-founder of Tuppence Films, an independent production company, based in East London, with the avowed intention of providing strong and inspiring roles for women. Indeed, she is currently working on a TV show, again rooted in the East. “It’s about millenials who are going into their 30s and how different it is for this generation than the previous, with the economic and political way the world is right now.”

It’s a project that’s clearly close to Maude’s heart and is keeping her busy until the next acting job comes along. “Having Tuppence Films means I can stay creative, producing and working on different collaborations,” she says. “Otherwise, as an actor between jobs, there’s a danger of becoming isolated and anxious. This keeps me sane. That and surrounding myself with the lovely network I’ve got here.”

For Maude, there really is no place like home.

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