Florence Pugh first hit the scene in 2014, where she played the charismatic and ill-fated Abbie in The Falling. Since then, she’s been in constant motion. In 2019, she starred in a Shakespeare adaptation and a wrestling flick back to back, which speaks to her incredible flexibility.
The variety of roles Pugh has performed suggests there may be a lot of things that you don’t know about the young actor. The logic behind her rapid ascent becomes obvious after considering her theatrical early life and her huge, multi-talented family.
Pugh’s most impressive attribute is her outspoken refusal to be molded, manipulated, coerced, or defined by anyone but herself. This gumption puts her in line with some of her mentors and contemporaries, the best British actresses of the modern era.
She’s only just begun, and it’s clear she’s not going anywhere any time soon.
In the biographical film Fighting With My Family, Pugh plays the lead role, Saraya-Jade "Paige" Bevis, a retired WWE wrestler and wrestling personality. In order to portray Paige accurately, she had to train in wrestling.
When preparing to film the famous Monday Night Raw match between Paige and AJ Jee, Pugh got to spar with the executive producer - none other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who plays himself in the movie. Pugh remarks:
I remember stepping in the ring and then suddenly Dwayne stepping in too, and it was like having a god behind me and protecting me. It was amazing. I remember he was teaching me how to make sure that I really sold a punch, and I remember looking around and looking at the Staple Center and looking at all the eyes on him and on me and realizing that this was a definite pinch me moment and how amazing that was.
Pugh is not here for any backhanded compliments.
In a primarily positive review of Fighting With My Family, The Evening Standard writer Charlotte O'Sullivan commented on Pugh's "chunky thighs" and how they compared to the real Paige's "significantly slimmer" ones. While O’Sullivan was trying to express a body positive sentiment, Pugh felt it was nonetheless inappropriate to compare the bodies of two different women in a public forum.
Pugh further rebuffed the statement by reminding the reviewer, “people have greater takeaways from the film than ‘the circumference of my hams.’”
Though her career began when she was a teenager, Pugh has been ‘theatrical’ her entire life. Her first performance was the role of Mary in her school’s annual nativity when she was six years old.
Pugh thought it would be more interesting if she put a personal spin on the character, so she gave the holy Mother a strong Yorkshire accent. Pugh remembers “hobbling on to the stage, [and] going ‘Ooh, me varicose veins!’ and everyone [peeing] themselves.”
Even then, Pugh understood a captive audience will listen and respond to everything she says, and her desire to give them a compelling show was very empowering. She still relates to this feeling as a professional actress.
When Pugh was first contacted for a potentially lucrative television role, she was ecstatic. It was her first time in America, and she flew out to Hollywood to shoot a pilot for a show called Studio City.
It seemed like it was going to be a career-defining moment for Pugh - until she got the role. She quickly realized Hollywood's true nature when they asked her to "be in... be ready" for the series, which was thinly veiled code for "lose weight".
Pugh didn't take the bait, and the pilot was never picked up. Just months later, she auditioned for Lady Macbeth, where she remembers being "applauded for having normal bum cheeks," which suggests sticking to her guns was worthwhile on both a personal and professional level.