HAVE you ever, I ask Holliday Grainger, flashed a pianist in real life?

“Flashed a what?” the woman sitting opposite me in a suite in a London hotel asks, sounding maybe ever so slightly horrified.

“A pianist,” I repeat.

“Oh, a pianist.” She looks relieved. “Have I ever flashed a pianist? Nope, I don’t think I ever have. I’ve never flashed a pianist.”

She pauses, has a think and then adds: “I might have flashed a guitarist.”

Holliday Grainger is a 31-year-old actress with cheekbones, a Manchester accent, a full-throated laugh and a career that has already has the kind of sustain The Pixies’ Joey Santiago regularly coaxes out of his Les Paul guitar.

You will have seen her plenty of times. In the BBC’s Sunday-night adaptation of Robert Galbraith’s (or, to cast aside the pseudonym, JK Rowling’s) Cormoran Strike detective thrillers perhaps, or the BBC’s most recent go at DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, opposite Richard Madden.

Or in The Borgias or Patrick Melrose or Bonnie & Clyde or Great Expectations. Or on the big screen in My Cousin Rachel or Tulip Fever.

In fact, she’s been on screens both big and small from the age of six, when she made her debut in Tim Firth’s 1994 sweet, silly, comedy drama All Quiet on the Preston Front.

And there’s no sign of her slowing down. This month alone she’s got two films in the cinema. Right now, you can catch her playing a mill girl called Lydia in 1950s small-minded small-town Scotland who falls in love with the local doctor, as played by Anna Paquin, in Tell It to the Bees.

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And soon she can be seen, front and centre, as Laura in Animals, an Irish-set adaptation of Emma Jane Unsworth’s novel of the same name in which she is best friends with Alia Shawkat’s Tyler (“she’s a phenomenal actress and a phenomenal human being. Her backbone is integrity,” Grainger says of the American star of Arrested Development and Search Party).

Despite the fact that they are set in different places and in very different times, both her new films are, as Grainger says, ultimately all about family and relationships and love and how women navigate all of those things “to get to a place,” she says, “where they can feel most themselves.”

One is a pretty, slow-burn, Caledonian take on The Go-Between filmed near Stirling. The other is a raucous, uninhibited Dublin take on the sometimes-messy lives of contemporary women. It involves drink, drugs and sex. The odd glass of whisky aside, Tell It to the Bees only really ticks the last box.

Grainger admits that she sees more of herself in Laura than Lydia. That’s partly because the novel of Animals is set in Manchester, which is where she grew up, and so, she recognised all the places it talked about.

But there’s a little bit more to it than that. “I knew a Laura. I knew a Tyler. I know this friendship, the dynamics of this friendship. I have experience of it at different levels within different friendships in my life and so in a way I guess I really related to Laura.

“I think I wanted to be her, or I wanted to hang out with her, more so than Lydia. But,” she adds, thinking of Tell It to the Bees, “It’s such a beautiful story.”

How much like Laura is she, though? We’ve already established that, unlike the character she plays, she hasn’t flashed a pianist. But let’s go through the rest of the list. Holliday, when was your last messy night? “Ooh, last weekend.”

OK, when it comes to alcohol, are you a lightweight or a heavyweight? “I’m kind of middleweight. Mid to heavy. I can drink.”

Have you ever, I have to ask, in real life had to put out pubic hair that’s caught fire? (Yes, this does happen in the movie.)

She laughs. “I love that I’m actually thinking about this. Have I? No. Fortunately not. I’ve never had to put out my pubes, but I have had to put out my eyelashes.”

There’s a supplementary question here that the film also raises at one point, I say. If angels existed would they have pubic hair?

“Angels? Of course, they would.”

Really? I reckon angels are probably sexless.

“Weren’t angels created in God’s image? Oh, no, it’s humans. Does God have pubes? He must do then.”

Anyway, she says, drawing our theological debate to a close, “If angels had pubes, they’d be fine and soft.”

Grainger has a history of turning up in period pieces. She has worn a corset more than is probably strictly healthy. But the great thing about her in Animals is how well she fits in the present day. Her portrayal of a living, breathing woman who sometimes drinks to excess (and now and again suffers as a result), who sometimes sleeps with people she shouldn’t, who menstruates, who is, in short, a human being is appropriately carnal in the widest sense of the word. As a line of dialogue has it, this is a film that remembers the body.

“People shit and eat, and they drink,” she says matter-of-factly. “We want to see the entirety of their experience.”

She gets to kiss two men in the movie (played by Fra Fee and Dermot Murphy). And Anna Paquin in Tell it to the Bees. Fess up, Holliday, which of them was the best kisser? She laughs. “It sounds like an actor-y answer, but I just don’t know, because when I’m in the moment I’m in the moment. Did Dermot and me kiss? Oh, yes, we did. There was a version where we weren’t going to, but it felt a bit weird. And way kinkier than it should be.”

What she loves most about Animals, she says, is its portrayal of the relationship between Laura and Tyler. “The book and the script are so non-judgemental. And I think that’s what allows it to be so complex. Because you can get all the flaws and insecurities of the two girls individually and within the friendship, and the controlling and manipulation and compassion and warmth. You see all those different colours

“And to have a female friendship- portrayed so richly on screen is quite rare and is really unrepresented compared to how important it is to so many people. Most women I know have very close female friendships. It’s one of the most important relationships I have in my life.”

The first thing I ask Holliday Grainger is how many times people sing Madonna at her on a daily basis? “Not often enough! Only about once a month. I sing it as my own theme tune.” I’ve only been in the room about 30 seconds and she starts singing to me: “Holiday, celebrate …”

Grainger was brought up in Manchester. In Didsbury, to be precise. (“Quite posh,” she says.) She spent her time doing ballet and horse riding and taekwondo. It’s only now she says that she’s beginning to realise how much her single mum did for her.

“When my mum was my age, she had a six-year-old daughter so not only was she working, she was chaperoning me on film sets. It’s hard enough doing my own work.’ You realise how many opportunities my mum has given me, and she made it look so easy.”

Since starting at six you could say she has never not acted. It has become a job of work now, she says. But that’s fine. “It’s not as carefree as it used to be when I was younger. But at the same time, it is more interesting.”

That’s down to the range and variety of roles she is getting now. The thing that slightly bothers her about acting is the sense that things can be out of your control. That and sometimes a sense of being infantilised, “especially when you’re followed to the toilet and timed.” She could do without that.

Do you feel grown up, Holliday? “I don’t. Is there a point where you are supposed to? I’m still getting there. Does grown-up come with independence? With financial security and making your own home? I suppose that helps make you feel a bit more grown up.”

You’ve ticked all those boxes? “I guess so.”

To quote Animals again, is 30 hurty? Maybe a little, she says. “I’m coming around to it now. There’s a novelty to turning 30. And then you realise you’re in your thirties. ‘Oh shit.’

“People do treat you differently,” she adds. “I’m no longer the little girl. Or maybe it’s come with the #timesup movement and awareness of equality. That coincided with me turning 30.”

Because of that, things are shifting in her profession, she thinks. Are they shifting fast enough, though? “You do sometimes think, ‘Is this just a fad?’ Is this just a conversation point and it will be brushed over and we’ll move on? But I don’t think so. We’re seeing way more diversity and equality on film sets now.

“I think where there is gender equality within roles on film sets that will lead to more empathy and a more inclusive working environment.”

As it is, she says: “I think it’s been a wake-up call to people to remind them that being blind to it isn’t an option. Everyone has to be active in disallowing it.”

A few other things I learn about Holliday Grainger. These days she divides her time between London and Manchester. She’d like a pet. “I always get a pang of jealousy when I see people with dogs.” Filming Tell It to the Bees she drank all the diet Irn Bru in the fridge in her apartment (previously she hadn’t even known it existed) and the odd glass of Edinburgh Gin. She can do a good Scottish accent, she says, but she’s not sure it’s the sexiest accent. “Depends who’s talking. Irish is up there.”

She does yoga and lifts weights. She can crack her little fingers and is good at climbing trees. She is veggie-stroke-vegan and thinks Cate Blanchett, who she acted with in Kenneth Branagh’s 2015 take on Cinderella is amazing. “She’s beautiful, talented and makes it all look easy.”

As for herself? If any directors are reading, she’d quite like to do an action movie. “I really enjoy the action scenes. I like to be physical. Stunt driving is great, so, maybe something more of that.

“I’m probably just about ready to step back into a corset again. It’s been enough years. But I haven’t done enough comedy and I think that’s quite difficult and I think you should always do what you’re scared of.”

It’s hard to imagine she’s scared of anything.

Tell It to the Bees is in cinemas now. Animals goes on general release on August 2.