Ruth Wilson: How I Got Here

The actress on her career highlights, managing feelings of failure and being motivated by fear

"I have a restless mind, I think I'm searching always," Ruth Wilson tells us, when we ask what motivates her. For someone who is open about how shy she was growing up, it's perhaps surprising to find that fear is a driving force for the actress - particularly when it comes to her career choices.

"I love learning," she explains, in the latest episode of our video series, How I Got Here. "I love not knowing something - well, maybe I don't like not knowing something, but the desire to know something drives me on. To learn about a person, or challenge myself, or put myself in situations that I've never dealt with before. Fear drives me... and not knowing."

ruth wilson
Alexi Lubomirski

To an outsider, Wilson - who describes herself as a "professional pretender" - appears to have navigated the entertainment industry with ease, moving seamlessly between theatre, television and film and taking on a variety of compelling, interesting roles. This month she returns to the West End to perform Jean Cocteau’s 1930 monologue play The Human Voice, starring as a young woman who speaks to her lover on the telephone one last time. She would seem, by any account, to be 'successful', but she says that concept is "so subjective", and something that has to be defined by each individual.

"The closer you get to what your value or meaning of success is, the closer you'll get to achieving it," she says. "It could be in the idea of your sense of self, I suppose. Acceptance of who you are, an ease with yourself, finding peace - whether that's in your relationship or in your work. That for me is success and that's really a lifetime of work. So I'm not there yet, but I will be."

london, england   march 22 ruth wilson poses following the press night performance of the human voice at the harold pinter theatre on march 22, 2022 in london, england photo by david m benettdave benettgetty images
Ruth Wilson at the press night for ’The Human Voice’ at the Harold Pinter Theatre
David M. BenettGetty Images

She pauses, before continuing: "But in terms of work I think success is fickle, it's fleeting; it's conditioned by what other people think success is. So really you have to come down to your own personal form of success, and that can take many forms. When I feel really inspired by the people that I'm working with, that feels like a form of success, in a way."

In our exclusive video above, Wilson discusses her career highlights, managing feelings of failure, and why she always does what's not expected of her.

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