In the inspirational sports dramedy Fighting with My Family, English actress Lena Headey plays Julia Knight, a former professional wrestler in the English independent circuit and the mother of two grown children, son Zak (Jack Lowden) and daughter Raya, AKA Paige (Florence Pugh), who are hoping their commitment to the sport of pro wrestling will land them an audition with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The film is based on a true story.
Headey, who is best known for playing Cersei Lannister on HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones, talked to the Current last week about the Knight family, her familiarity with wrestling before making the film and why she thinks the WWE has such a huge fan base.
Fighting with My Family opens at theaters across San Antonio on February 22.
It’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen you in a feature film. You’ve been doing a lot of voice work and, of course, been busy with Game of Thrones. What was it like getting back on a movie set?
It was pretty much the same as any set. Game of Thrones is still probably bigger than any movie that I’ve ever been on.
What resonated with you about this family?
The Knight family is authentically themselves. What you see is what you get. There’s no hidden nonsense of any kind. They’re amazingly alive and upfront. I think the film’s message, if there is one, is about being proud of who you are and achieving what you set out to do – your passion. The support of your family to do that is vital.
Did you get that support as an actress growing up?
Yeah, I mean, where I come from, it’s not like everybody goes, “Yay! You’re going to be a successful actress!” But I had the support I needed. I have proud parents, which is nice.
Did you get to meet Paige’s mother during this process?
No, but I watched a lot of interviews with her and documentaries and I talked to [director] Stephen [Merchant] who had met her a few times. I didn’t want to do a caricature of her. I wanted to play the real woman and hoped that she was proud of it. She Instagrammed me and she was very happy.
Is the world of professional wrestling something you were at all familiar with before making the film?
My brother was a huge fan of the WWE when he was growing up. It’s never been my bag. I grew up with English wrestling. My dad would take me to matches. Once I was there, I loved it.
Were you able to get into the ring at all and see if you had the skill to drop kick someone in the face?
Yes, I did, and it was my pleasure. I’m a very physical actor, so I feel comfortable doing that. I love when I get any opportunity to do that.
Is it evident to you today why professional wrestling has such a huge fan base?
I think it’s because it treads the line of entertainment. It doesn’t ever get to the point of violence that is shocking or upsetting. There’s theater involved in it. We all love good versus evil. It’s in us all.
As an actress, do you consider professional wrestling more of a sport of more of a theatrical performance?
I think it’s both. I mean, it’s incredibly physical. Even the little bit of fighting that we did in this movie was really painful and really hard work. It’s tough. Their bodies go through so much. The wrestlers in England that we met love it. They live for it. It’s inspiring.
When someone like the Rock is able to cross over and find success in wrestling and acting, what do you think?
I think it’s great. He’s highly popular for a reason. You kind of fall in love with it. His charisma is undeniable.
Because you’ve given so much of your career to playing someone as vindictive as Cersei, is it easy to let someone like her go when you take on other roles? How do you live with Cersei?
I don’t. I leave her there.
Every time you received a script during the last seven seasons, were you worried that you’d be killed off, since, basically, no one is safe in that franchise?
Yeah, of course. We were all terrified. We used to flip to the back of every script to see if we were dead.