She’s bowled audiences over with her performance in Vikings, and now she has Hollywood sniffing at her door. But actress Maude Hirst won’t be moving to La La Land anytime soon, because Hackney’s where she was born and belongs
WORDS BY BETH LATHAM
Born in the Homerton Hospital and raised near Victoria Park, actress Maude Hirst is clearlyproud of her strong Hackney heritage. “I’m an East Londoner through and through,” she confirms. “It’s in my blood to be here and I think it will always be my home.”
The itinerant nature of the acting profession, however, means that Maude, 23, does regularly find herself abroad. And never more so than in recent years, where her acclaimed role as Helga in the hit TV series Vikings (currently showing on Amazon Prime) has meant filming in Ireland for several months.
Then there’s the fact that she’s recently acquired representation in Los Angeles. “Vikings was originally filmed for American TV,” she explains. “So the following over there is much bigger than it is here. People really know the show and my character and that helped in getting an agent. It’s great being able to dip into that world and all the work opportunities it offers, but I am always very happy to come home. Nothing beats being around friends and family.”
One gets the distinct impression that however starry Maude’s career becomes, she will always have her feet firmly planted on the ground. Perhaps that’s a consequence of having acted since childhood.
“I got spotted by a casting director when I was around eight years old,” she says. “I was doing gymnastics and they were casting for a film about a young gymnast. After that I went for a few films, but my mum was apprehensive about pushing me too far in that direction, so she held me back a bit.”
Ah, yes, Maude’s mum sounds lovely and eminently sensible and another reason why Maude remains so level-headed. “She was a single mum to three of us, as well as being an artist. Our house was always full of writers, artists and actors, all these really creative people. It was a wonderful environment to grow up in,” she reveals.
Her father, meanwhile, is Michael Hirst, an award-winning screenwriter, who also just happened to pen Vikings, as well as Henry VIII series The Tudors, which Maude also appeared in. But Maude is keen to downplay the relationship, saying that she only got to know her father’s work later in life, although she will admit to having “creative genes”.
It was these genes that helped win her a much sought-after scholarship to the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. But being a self-confessed iconoclast – “I like to make my own path, doing things differently” – she left after the second year, found herself an agent and hasn’t looked back since.
As well as the acting, Maude is also a co-founder of Tuppence Films, an independent production company, based in East London, with the avowed intention of providing strong and inspiring roles for women. Indeed, she is currently working on a TV show, again rooted in the East. “It’s about millennials who are going into their thirties and how different it is for this generation than the previous, with the way the world is economically and politically right now.”
It’s a project that’s clearly close to Maude’s heart and is keeping her busy until the next acting job comes along. “Having Tuppence Films means that I can stay creative, producing and working on different collaborations,” she says. “Otherwise, as an actor between jobs, there’s a danger of becoming isolated and feeling anxious. This keeps me sane. That and surrounding myself with the lovely network of friends and family I have round here.”
For Maude, there really is no place like home.
Maude’s Little Black Book
RESTAURANT: Vu-Viet, Victoria Park Road – best bargain lunch in East London.
COFFEE SHOP: Well Street Kitchen has great coffee and the most amazing bacon butty (best hangover cure EVER).
BOUTIQUE: Sublime in Victoria Park village is great for birthday gifts.
COCKTAIL BAR: B.Y.O.C East is a little hidden gem.
MARKET: Columbia Road flower market – I just love a bunch of fresh flowers.
PLACE TO CHILL OUT: London Fields. When the sun is shining it’s the greatest chilled day out with mates.
PLACE TO BAG A BARGAIN: Roman Road Market is where I’ve been shopping since I was a kid.
PLACE TO VISIT: Victoria Park and make sure you row a boat around the little lake.
BUILDING: The Hackney Empire is an intimate-sized theatre and community lead.
STREET: Beck Road reminds me of old East London.
OUT-OF-TOWN DAY TRIP: Thorpeness in Suffolk because seaside breaks are the best.