Among the many things the pandemic has taught us is this: sometimes life doesn’t imitate art in the slightest, even if you’d like it to.

In February 2020, Tallulah Greive was one of a group of excited young actresses sitting in a Bath Street hotel bar ahead of a Glasgow Film Festival screening of the film in which they starred. I know, I was there. Our Ladies, directed by Michael Caton-Jones and based on Alan Warner’s 1998 novel The Sopranos, is set in 1996 and follows a group of Catholic schoolgirls travelling to Edinburgh for a choral competition.

Unsurprisingly, they have winching rather than warbling on their minds. Or, as Greive put it to me at the time, “they’re more interested in living their young lives to the fullest – getting drunk and seeing what places they can sneak into, and having a fun time with each other.”

Fast forward a year and a half and Our Ladies has twice been slated for release only to be pulled from the schedules due to the ongoing pandemic. As recently as March even Warner himself didn’t know when it would go in front of paying audiences.

Now there’s good news on that front. The film finally makes its theatrical bow this month and Greive, barely out of her teens when shooting began but now a 23-year-old industry veteran, is delighted.

“It’s a relief, but it feels so surreal in so many ways,” she says when we catch up 18 months on. “It has been almost three years since we made it so it’s been like this running joke with my friends – Tallulah has this film that she really loves and she has made so many close friends on but when will it come out?”

She appreciates the irony of the situation, though – that the life she has lived for much of the past 18 months is so at odds with the careless, heads-together camaraderie of Our Ladies’ raucous teenage choristers. The very thing the young cast portray on screen – young women discovering who they are and what they want and grabbing opportunities with whichever hand isn’t holding a drink or a cigarette – is the very thing she and her peers have been denied in their personal lives over the period of lockdown.

“I think that was the aspect [that struck me], that it was important to just be able to hug all your friends and have a great day out with them,” she says. “But we weren’t able to do that for such a long time. And it is different now. You have to book a lot more things in advance, there’s testing, there’s distancing. But even at Glasgow Film Festival, all of us were just piling into one hotel room at the end of the night and chatting into the wee hours of the morning. And we didn’t know that was the last time we’d be able to do that for such a long time.”

Her response to the isolation of lockdown was to gravitate towards films about exactly the sorts of friendships and situations Our Ladies explores. “I realise how many films I started watching about friendship groups. I watched a lot of films about friends because I was constantly on Zoom with people saying: ‘I miss you so much’.” One work she mentions is Sarah Gavron’s award-winning Rocks, which follows a multi-ethnic gang of schoolgirls in modern-day London. Appropriately, it aired on Netflix, the go-to entertainment portal for so many people over the last year or so.

In Our Ladies Greive plays Orla, also the film’s narrator. As it opens, she is recovering from cancer which may or may not have been cured by a visit to Lourdes. “She’s simultaneously the baby and the mum of the group,” is how Greive describes her character. “When we meet her I think she’s very much full of life and wants to live every day to the fullest. There’s something very joyous about her as a person.”


Also in the cast are Kate Dickie and David Hayman, while the roles of Orla’s partners-in-crime – Kylah, Finnoula, Manda and Chell – are taken by newcomers Marli Siu, Abigail Lawrie, Sally Messham and Rona Morison (pictured above). Eve Austin plays Kay, daughter of the local GP and a girl viewed with disdain by the group (spoiler alert: that changes big time =over the course of a hectic few hours).

For Scottish director Michael Caton-Jones, the film is a labour of love and one he has been wanting to make since the novel was published. “It was an offhand comment, but I’ve called it a love letter to my big sister and her pals,” he told The Skinny in an interview last year. “When I was growing up I thought these girls were brilliant. You know, they were on the razz and cocky and confident and full of life, and I wanted to make something like that about a period before smartphones and technology dictated the world.”

Offhand or not, it’s obviously a comment and an idea he communicated to his cast: a little brother’s love letter to his big sister is exactly how Greive describes the film. She has equally warms words for the production itself – “It was such a warm, wonderful set because he cares about that story so much,” she says – and for the script, a collaboration between Caton-Jones and the late Alan Sharp.

Hmmm. I tell her that watching Our Ladies I felt a certain unease about a middle-aged male director using his own script to make a film about schoolgirls “on the razz”. It’s not an unease Greive shares, however. “It’s one of the best scripts I’ve read about teenage girls, ever – and I’ve read a lot of them,” she says in response. It feels true to her then? “One hundred per cent. We all felt very comfortable with a lot of those scenes. They all came from a really organic place. It didn’t feel like any of it was being played for laughs or for sexual gratification. The main thing about these girls is that they are sexual but they’re not sexualised, and that’s so rare to read in a script where teenage girls are having sex … Nothing was gratuitous, it was all about the characters and what they were going through at that time. It’s so rare and it’s a joy to see it on screen.”

When Greive says she has read a lot of scripts about teenage girls, she isn’t exaggerating. Her route into acting came through youth theatre groups such as Edinburgh’s Strangetown, and she later worked with the National Youth Theatre for a summer. But her most eye-catching early role was as Lauren, big sister to the titular Millie in long-running CBBC show Millie Inbetween. She followed that with another CBBC comedy, Flatmates, playing the same character.

As with Our Ladies, Millie Inbetween capitalised on Greive’s talent for comedy, though it’s a talent she finds a little at odds with the po-faced teenager she once was. “Comedy was by accident, really. I never thought I was particularly funny. My younger sister was the really funny one in the house. For ages I didn’t have a sense of humour. Eventually, once I stopped taking my self so seriously around 15 or 16, I started to get funny.”

In fact the first film she auditioned for as a 13-year-old was production whose script she wasn’t even allowed to read because it was an 18 certificate. “A really dark drama,” is how she describes it. “It never got made, but if it had I would have started my career in a really different way. But comedy is essential for the time that we live in and it allows you to tackle a lot of dark stuff but in a way that feels accessible, and satire is really important. So I don’t mind if everything [in my career] continues to be comedy. But it was by accident that I fell into it.”

Greive was born in Perth (the other one) but raised in Edinburgh from the age of two by her Australian parents, who are both jazz musicians. Mother Becc is a singer, father Chris a trombone player. So was it a Bohemian childhood?

“Yeah, probably. I mean it’s that strange combination of a low income background but with a lot of art and music around all the time,” she says. “It was a really strange upbringing. I think only the children of other musicians seem to understand it, because you’d go home and there was always musicians in the front room practicing their thing and you’re constantly around people who are making their own work. For ages I thought it wasn’t cool. Now I think it’s fantastic, but when you’re a teenager you go: ‘I don’t want to be a musician’. I went: ‘I’m going to be an actor and that makes me very different from all of you’. I realise now it doesn’t.”

Home was an ex-council flat in Leith though Greive went to school out of catchment, attending Broughton High School whose alumni include musicians Shirley Manson, Martyn Bennett, Tommy Smith and Graham Hastings of Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers. She played double bass there, though not to a standard that made anyone think she would follow in her parents’ footsteps and pick up a career in music. She was never going to be the next Charlie Mingus.

She is still a proud Leither – “one hundred per cent,” she howls when I ask – but admits the area “was a strange mixture of things when I was growing up. There was a lot of these new restaurants popping up and a lot of art and culture popping up, but at the same time there was also the danger of getting kerb crawled if you walked along Leith Links at night. People pretend like it’s not like that anymore, which is really strange for me. But growing up I had a strong sense of community. We knew a lot of people in Leith and we still do. It’s just that now there’s a good bagel shop”

She had just moved to London when Our Ladies premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival. She came home to Edinburgh for lockdown (“I did a lot of walking and listening to podcasts”) but has since returned south. She now shares a flat with Our Ladies co-star Eve Austin.

She has returned to work too. A day of filming in London handed her a small role in Doug Liman’s heist caper Locked Down – yes, it’s set during lockdown – and a useful screen credit with its stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne Hathaway. An indie project she was meant to have been working on has been postponed but she’s hopeful it will go ahead soon (though she’s tight-lipped about the details). And last year she appeared as one of the leads in three-part Channel 5 thriller Penance alongside Neil Morrissey, Art Malik and fellow Scot Julie Graham. Filming for that took her to Dublin.

Work also restarted on the film she had just begun to shoot when we met at the Glasgow Film Festival in February 2020. And so, a week after Our Ladies opens on the big screen, her comic talents can be appreciated on the small one as well when Amazon Studios’ big budget musical Cinderella premieres on the streaming service.

Tucked in alongside another stellar cast – Pierce Brosnan, James Corden, Minnie Driver, Frozen’s Idina Menzel and Billy Porter as a genderless fairy Godparent – Greive plays Princess Gwen, the Royal Family’s brainy youngest child. Grammy-nominated Cuban-American singer Camile Cabello takes the title role and the film is written and directed by Kay Cannon, creator of the Pitch Perfect film series and a former writer on 30 Rock and New Girl. All in all, it’s a big deal.

“I think we were one of the first films to go back into production and we didn’t have a single Covid case,” Greive says proudly. “You got very used to being very careful around each other. You weren’t hugging anyone, you’re walking around with plexiglass panels, social distancing in rehearsals. Then in the take you really are doing things for the first time. But I think it’s a tribute to Kay’s comic timing and energy that it does feel so in-the-moment and quick and lively, even though the process of getting to that moment was so different.”


Tallulah Greive (left) as Princess Gwen in Cinderella, with Minnie Driver, Pierce Brosnan and Nicholas Galitzine

It’s another impressive credit for a young actress who is fast racking them up, through she has a novel approach to avoiding becoming starstruck.

“Ignorance is sometimes bliss when you’re working with people who have these incredibly packed CVs, these actors you’ve grown up watching,” she explains. “I have this feeling that if I Google someone too thoroughly before I work with them I then find it difficult to speak to them for a while because I’m like ‘Oh my God! You worked with this person?’ I find it better to learn about somebody through chatting to them and getting to know them and then you can say ‘I looked up that film you did, it looked amazing’. Then you get to know them through an organic process.”

Organic. It’s a word Tallulah Greive uses a lot. And if by that she means occurring naturally and growing slowly without recourse to artifice, then she has unwittingly stumbled on a pretty good personal description too.

Our Ladies is released on August 27; Cinderella is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from September 3