From looking out for Tom Hanks in the school canteen to becoming a famous actress in The Last Kingdom, Eliza Butterworth is loving life as she looks forward to spending Christmas in her home city of Lincoln.
The 28-year-old is probably best known for her role as Queen Aelswith of Wessex in The Last Kingdom, which started as a BBC series before moving onto Netflix.
Eliza initially thought it would be a small part in a couple of episodes, but she has been in the popular show throughout and earlier this year finished filming series five, which will air in early 2022.
She told The Lincolnite filming in Budapest in Hungary was amazing, including eight months between November 2020 and June this year, but she did miss home and is now back in Lincoln for her dad’s birthday (on December 16) and to spend Christmas with her family.
Eliza is looking forward to some exciting projects in the future and has aspirations of one day appearing in a film in Lincoln.
Although the television series will finish after it airs in 2022, there is a spin-off film being made as a Netflix Original called Seven Kings Must Die. Filming will begin in early 2022, but Eliza remained tight-lipped about whether or not she will be in it.
Reflecting on her career so far, she said: “It’s been mind-blowing because I never really expected to be involved in a show as awesome as The Last Kingdom. My career so far has struck me a lot as I never expected to do television let alone five seasons on Netflix.
“It was such a thrill to get to go there (to Hungary). Budapest is the most beautiful city with so much going on. The Hungarian people are wonderful and it’s just a really vibrant place to work.
“It’s heartbreaking to potentially say goodbye to it. I was honoured to be in The Last Kingdom family for all these years and feel lucky to have developed my character, and that the producers saw enough in me as an actor.
“I didn’t think the character would be big in any way, it was a small part in a couple of episodes, but flash forward five series and seven years later, it’s been mind-blowing.”
On playing the part of Lady Aelswith, she added: “Lady Aelswith is extremely intelligent, fierce, calculating, but very protective. I really love transformative characters. At drama school I was the youngest, but classed as like a ‘mother, evil battle axe’ and could carry powerful characters.
“I love being different to my natural self and find it much harder to play a character similar to me. I’m silly, goofy, sweet, warm and bubbly, I’m not very ferocious.
“I think working as a team on set is so valuable and important. Being in The Last Kingdom was such an ensemble job and everyone had their incredible parts to play. Getting to work with David Dawson was great and Alexander Dreymon taught me an abundance of incredible skills and made me really confident in front of a camera.”
Eliza’s Lancashire-born father and Italian-American mum from Iowa met in Nebraska when he was in the Royal Air Force. They later moved to a house in Skellingthorpe near Lincoln where Eliza spent most of her life and she is currently back there for Christmas.
Eliza attended Lincoln Minster School between the ages of 4-18. The teachers watched her develop and in year nine she said “a really wonderful teacher called Mr Thomson” put on a comedy review where Eliza performed Joyce Grenfell comedy monologue. However, at that point she didn’t think she’d end up working as an actress.
During her school years, the Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks was filmed in Lincoln. She said the cast and crew used the school canteen as a base, and ate there. Eliza and her fellow students would “all be on the look out for Tom Hanks.”
When she was 17, she worked with “two amazing teachers” from her school called Trudy Chappell and Jenny Wafer who she said “gave me the confidence to try out for drama school”.
Eliza did around 10 auditions at different schools before being given a recall by RADA, who describe themselves as “dedicated to world-leading training in the dramatic arts”. After a further four rounds of auditions she got into RADA, where she did a three-year bachelors degree.
In the third year the students were given agents who watched their first public performances and signed Eliza up for auditions.
Eliza, who now lives in London, was working in Debenhams after she graduated before going for an audition for The Last Kingdom in 2014. She got the part which propelled her on the road to stardom!
Before her big break in The Last Kingdom, Eliza played a character called Holly in one episode of DCI Banks, and Lucy Hamilton in WPC 56.
Last year she was left feeling starstruck after appearing alongside Colin Farrell and Stephen Graham in the BBC 2 series The North Water, in which Eliza plays Hester.
She said: “That was incredible. I got to be on a film set with Colin Farrell and watching him in any acting capacity was mind-blowing. I was totally star struck he is the kindest, most generous person ever.”
Most recently, Eliza starred on stage as Princess Eugenie, alongside Harry Enfield, in the production of The Windsors: End Game, which is based on the Channel 4 show The Windsors, at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. She said Harry Enfield was “sensational, and the most lovely fabulous, hilarious person.”
Looking ahead to the future, Eliza will be delving into some brand new projects that are completely different to The Last Kingdom, which she says will “stretch out my other acting skills”.
Although she wasn’t allowed to say much at this stage, one of the projects is a new television series that will allow her to “explore some more comedic aspects of my acting”.
She would also love to do a Shakespearian or classic production in the future, and work in America due to her American heritage, while starring in a film in Lincoln is a big dream.
Eliza said: “To continue my career in this trajectory would make me the luckiest person alive.”
Life as an actor is often hectic, but Eliza loves home comforts and returning to Lincoln to see family and friends.
Eliza, who enjoys baking, doing artwork, and singing, added: “I adore Lincoln. It is such a sweet, cosy and very caring city. It’s a small city and everything is connected, there is more of a homely feel about the place.
“London is awesome, but I always love it when I come back here. All of my friends are here too and it’s always refreshing to come back to Lincoln. I am very lucky to have such amazing friends.”
Eliza said she will be “glued to my family” during the festive break after being away for so long filming with The Last Kingdom. She will also attend Midnight Mass at Lincoln Cathedral with old school friends as she has never missed one since her childhood.
Whatever the future holds for Eliza, the Lincoln actress has certainly made the city proud with her achievements!