Cush Jumbo: ‘He’s doing less screen time but being paid three times more? Er, no!’

Cush Jumbo: ‘He’s doing less screen time but being paid three times more? Er, no!’May 15, 2021

The Good Fight star went from relative obscurity in the UK to primetime in the US. Now she’s coming home on her own terms

Even virtually, Cush Jumbo’s energy enters the room before she does, which is at a run, with the force of someone just ejected from a cannon. “I don’t like being late, ugh, can you hear me?!” the actor and writer says, peering at the screen, smiling gamely and settling down in a chair. “As usual, my day has been scheduled back to back, no room for manoeuvre, so if anything goes wrong … I’ve literally just begged the doorman for his bottle of water out of his lunchbox.” Jumbo, who is filming in Manchester for a Netflix show called Stay Close, which she summarises as “glossy, very fast-moving, sometimes doesn’t make sense but you don’t care”, has ducked into a conference room straight from rehearsals, still in loose-fitting leisurewear and manic from work. “Hello!” she says, and exhales.

It is hard to think of a British actor who comes close in range, depth and sheer vitality to Jumbo who, at 35, is at the height of her powers. After training in classical theatre, she moved to the US to work on a series of juggernaut TV shows, before returning to Britain last year on the brink of superstardom. She has played DC Whelan, Brenda Blethyn’s detective sidekick in ITV’s Vera; Lucca Quinn, the whip-smart lawyer in the CBS legal drama The Good Wife and its follow-up, The Good Fight; and on stage, Mark Anthony in Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Julius Caesar, a role for which she earned an Olivier nomination. Her latest role, as a grieving mother in the BritBox original drama The Beast Must Die, puts her front and centre of an ensemble cast that includes Jared Harris and The Serpent’s Billy Howle. The six-part series is an entertaining and slightly cartoony whodunnit to which she brings a leavening intensity. “This was the first script I have ever been offered that had me in tears when I was reading it,” she says. “Knocked me off my feet. Things like this don’t land on my doorstep every day.”

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