Over the course of a 15-minute chat, the Sex Education and Barbie actor talks to Dazed about memes, Elizabeth I and being the face of Burberry Goddess fragrance
Emma Mackey is a hoot. And I don’t use that word lightly. I didn’t know what to expect when I took the opportunity to interview the British-French actress. I knew her best from her work as Maeve in Netflix’s Sex Education (which is coming to its last season), Physicist Barbie in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and as Emily Brontë in Frances O’Connor’s directorial debut Emily, but I didn’t know what she’d be like.
We only had 15 minutes but we laughed and joked all the way through. It almost felt like I was on a blind speed date (our cameras weren’t on). It was short and sweet, the kind of conversation that was always destined to be 15 minutes and not a second longer.
Mackey is the face of Burberry’s latest fragrance, Burberry Goddess, a unique gourmand aromatic fragrance led by a powerful trio of vanillas. Due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strikes (support the strikes!), we didn’t discuss any of Mackey’s past or present acting projects. But we were able to chat with Mackey about her collaboration with Burberry and hear her impersonate an ancient, yet iconic meme which may (or may not) awaken something deep within you.
Burberry describes you as ‘radiating confidence, strength and kindness’, and this is also the innate spirit of Burberry Goddess Eau de Parfum. Have you always been a self-assured person?
Emma Mackey: No, I haven’t always been a self-assured person, and I don’t think I am most of the time! I don’t think many of us are. But I think what’s helped me over the last few years has been my job. It teaches me a lot, and it keeps me curious. I meet fascinating, different people quite regularly, which helps keep the brain sharp. The more people I meet, the more I feel like I’ve chosen my people. I’ve chosen my friends and my family, and it’s a really good feeling to be bolstered by those people. So if you feel held by others, you’ll feel better about yourself.
With a title like Burberry Goddess, I have to ask: what does being a ‘goddess’ mean to you, and when do you most feel like one?
Emma Mackey: I think we could just scrap this question because honestly, I don’t know! It seems very hypercritical [to talk about being a ‘goddess’] because this is a perfume campaign, and it’s all very, you know… But the whole thing that attracted me to this project in the first place, believe it or not, was that it wasn’t showy. I didn’t wear a lot of make-up, my hair wasn’t done, and I wore a simple dress. It’s literally just me stripped bare and running. And that was an interesting concept to me. It was something quite different from what I’m used to. Even a couple of years ago, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do that.
That is so true. You’re running throughout the campaign, which is so sweaty and intense. Your stripped-back make-up, hair and fashion reflect the focus on your running and strength.
Emma Mackey: Yeah, I think it’s just quite refreshing in a way. I didn’t want it to be too over the top, even if I am running with lions, which is a bit ridiculous. But it feels quite pared back weirdly, in a good way.
As an actress, you’re accustomed to portraying characters. How does your experience in acting play a role in bringing this perfume to life?
Emma Mackey: Well, it was interesting because I had no lines. It was all action. I was conveying emotions through just my face and through my body movement and I trained for that, in a very athletic fashion, even though I’m not an athlete. I wish I were. I had to be taught the basics of running, taking care of my body, and warming up. And then we only had four days to shoot because we were filming in magic hour. So we only had 45 minutes for four days, and everything had to be in place, and it was really adrenaline-boosting. Everything had to be perfect, and it was like, go, go, go!
What should a good fragrance be able to do for you?
Emma Mackey: I don’t think it should be doing too much of the talking. If a perfume can melt down in your skin and feel like a part of you, that’s when you’ve hit the nail on the head. Everyone loves it when they get complimented on their smell. I think it’s a lovely thing. I think it makes you feel good. I like comforting smells. I will always try to find something familiar that feels like me, but that is a little unexpected, too. Perfume is kind of the only thing I wear. I don’t wear make-up or do anything to my hair. I don’t want to say I’m lazy, but it’s not really a habit of mine; sometimes, I make an effort, and sometimes I don’t. But perfume and moisturising are the only things I do every day.
If you went back in time, which historical figure would you give Burberry Goddess to?
Emma Mackey: It would have to be someone like Barbara Stanek. A great actress that I love. She’s got gumption, great character and personality. And a great voice. She’s just a wonder. So I’d hope she’d like a little spritz.
That’s a good one. I’d definitely give it to someone like Queen Elizabeth I, you know?
Emma Mackey: Oh, wow. We’re really going back in time, huh?
Oh, way back, babe. She didn’t shower very often, so I think she’d appreciate it.
Emma Mackey: She would, she would. They really stank back in the day, so that’s really smart.
Thank you. OK, next question. How would you describe the ideal scenario or setting for someone to wear Burberry Goddess?
Emma Mackey: OMG. Let me think about this. I don’t know if there’s a perfect setting. It should be a daily thing. It’s a spritz on your wrist. Wear it throughout the day. It softens into your skin. It’s a daytime or evening smell. It should feel timeless. It shouldn’t feel like there’s a specific place for it. But because I’m currently in Somerset and looking onto rolling fields of green, it’s sunny and gorgeous; I’d say pop yourself in a field and have a spray.
If Burberry Goddess was a meme, what would it be?
Emma Mackey: I have no idea! Gosh, I’m so out of the loop. What even are the memes these days? The only thing that I can think of is the Apparently Kid.
Emma Mackey: *proceeds to impersonate the Apparently Kid*: He says, ‘Apparently, I’ve never been on live television before.’ That was my reaction to being in a perfume campaign. ‘Apparently, I’ve never been in a perfume campaign before, and sometimes I watch the Powerball.’
I’m (shamefully) chronically online, but I’ve never heard of this meme before.
Emma Mackey: You’ve never seen that before? Are you kidding me? Google him right now. He’s like an old man in a child’s body.
OMG. It’s the little ginger boy.
Emma Mackey: Yes!
I love him. I remember him now. I wonder what he’s doing. How is he?
Emma Mackey: I think he has his own show now and is presenting. Anyway, that’s another story for another day. Maybe that’s not very Burberry Goddess, but that’s just my experience.