You’ll See Why CHANEL Is Placing Its Bets on This Up-and-Coming Actor

Aisling Franciosi is a name you’ll want to remember. Trust us.

When we first sit down with Aisling Franciosi at the Andaz Wall Street, we’re most struck by her willingness to, well…talk. It sounds ridiculous, especially in the context of an interview—after all, isn’t that the point?—but hear us out. Anyone who’s cracked open an archive issue of a glossy monthly (even the prestige titles) is familiar with the well-worn clichés of the celebrity profile. We open with what they ordered at lunch (so relatable!), followed by some benign activity engineered by a celebrity publicist, and finally come away with…not much at all.

So when Franciosi is not just down, but eager to speak on not just preparing for her role in The Nightingale—a period drama that tells the (admittedly harrowing) story of an Irish convict, Clare, who experiences sexual violence at the hands of British soldiers and enacts revenge—but also the conversation the film has sparked, color us impressed. It’s hardly breezy fashion interview fodder, but Franciosi is nonetheless eager to dig deep in discussing the complexities of her role and the responsibility she felt in telling Clare’s story.

And then there’s everything else. From her take on the CHANEL woman (hint: it’s not what you think) to recommendations for her latest favorite reads (the house’s autumn/winter 2019 Haute Couture collection is inspired by literary Paris) to the spots you might just find her at in the city (she recently moved to New York), we came away with a stacked reading list and a renewed perspective on some especially tricky territory.

Her process in developing her character in The Nightingale:

“I got the role and was looking at nine months before it actually shot, and that made me anxious. Retrospectively, it was a blessing, because you don’t often get that much time to prepare for a role. For a role like that of Clare, you really do need tons of time to be able to properly research all of the subject matters like sexual violence, violence against women, racially motivated violence, let that really sink in and feel like it’s a character, as opposed to going through the script and painting by numbers.

“I got to meet real victims, and also social workers working with women in centers for domestic abuse. After meeting these amazing women, it gave me a whole other well of empathy to pull from because they were so generous in sharing their stories with me.”

Why collaborating closely with the director was so important:

“Jennifer [Kent] is just a really smart and very sensitive director. She took care of us every step of the way, but also pushed us, because she knew we all wanted to tell a story, and if we were going to tell it, we wanted to tell it right. That did sometimes require her to be relentless and tough with us, but we were all happy to [do] that because we all wanted to give it the most authentic feeling it could have.

“It was the most challenging thing I think I’ve ever done, but also the most satisfying, too. I’m so proud of the film, like what we did, how we did it, why we told it the way that we did.”

On the response online since the film’s debut:

“I’m so happy to have been a part of a film that’s sparked think pieces and debate. I don’t need to be a part of something that’s universally liked, but I like to be a part of something that I can feel is actually sparking an emotional response and a conversational response, too.

“You need to allow two sides to have a conversation, especially when the subject matters are so complex and messy. It was also an incredible reminder that art can spark such different reactions in people that have had a similar experience. It’s just powerful, how what sometimes is just branded as entertainment can also be a very important part of the human experience.”

Why it was important to the film’s story to include more violent scenes:

“For us, it was important that if we were going to show violence on screen, that you should really, actually show what it is. I think we’re so desensitized to violence. Frequently, it’s either set in a distant land or made-up world, or they cut away, so you’re allowed to disengage. We wanted to really focus on what it actually means to be so violent to another human and the emotional damage that [it] can do.

“I understand the impulse to watch stuff to disengage. Our lives are so busy and frantic that I understand wanting to watch TV for entertainment’s sake, but I would say if it sparks interesting conversations and makes us feel things, then that’s a really great reminder of how important empathy is. You don’t have to like it to learn from it.”

What she’s currently listening to (she was the film’s “resident DJ” while on set):

“I’ve been listening to Foy Vance a lot, actually. I don’t know how I’d describe him; he sounds like he’s got a mix of folk and country, but with a bluesy voice. I also listen to Christine and the Queens, she’s someone who I think kind of fits CHANEL, in that she’s this really cool, French, stylish woman who has all the stereotypical things that we idolize about French women, but is also super quirky, cool, and edgy.”

The literary characters she’d love to play:

“I really love the lead character in Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. It’s set in New York in the late ’20s, early ’30s. I’d love to play a character in that time, with the economic upturns and downturns, but also things like prohibition and the art world and literary world becoming a movement. One of my favorite books that I read recently is called The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch, and it’s actually a biography, but written so beautifully that it doesn’t feel that way. It’s so literary and poetic. If I could play any character that just so boldly captured her boldness and fearlessness, and show what it is to be a woman and a human in all its messy authenticity and beauty and hardship. It’s the most powerful book I’ve read in a long time.”

How she describes the ultimate CHANEL woman:

“One of the words I would use is sexy...but that’s because what I find sexy is someone unashamedly themselves. My eye is always drawn to someone who seems really comfortable in their own skin, and I think that CHANEL empowers that. It’s quite independent and pragmatic, with this twist on the feminine. I guess it means that it can be for any woman. It so wholly encapsulates all the different kinds of feminine beings that there are, that you can work with it for whatever you feel is right for you.”

Her first memory with the French fashion house:

“I went to the Venice Film Festival for Nightingale, and they had a CHANEL dinner. It was just a spectacular setting, and I was in the most amazing dress—the kind you put on and go, ‘I’m never going to get to wear something like this again.’ It just felt quintessentially CHANEL.”

Where she would take a visitor while in NYC (she just moved last year):

“I would take them for a stroll in the West Village, because I feel like that speaks to the iconic idea of the town houses. I really love the Lower East Side and the East Village, because I feel like it’s also classic but in a totally different way. This is the thing about New York! There’s so many different boroughs, and each has a clear own identity and feeling to it. There’s a restaurant in the Meatpacking District called the Wild Son; it’s got a great vibe, and their one-dollar oysters at happy hour, great margaritas.

“I know my brother would love the bar in the Carlyle just because it’s so classic and old-school. [And I love the] dramatic view of the skyline from the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, because you get that crazy view at night. To be honest, I need to do more exploring of Queens, Harlem, and the Bronx. I’m very much in the honeymoon phase, and I have so much more to see.”


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