Rebecca Ferguson on Making ‘Silo’ While Claustrophobic, Tom Cruise’s Booty Exercises and Telling Hugh Jackman to Put His Shirt Back On

Rebecca Ferguson doesn’t mind people knowing she’s claustrophobic. “Expose it!” she says. “I’m quite happy people know because if they listen, they’ll be like, ‘Okay, good to know, she’ll take the stairs when she comes.’”

The topic arose when Ferguson dropped by the Variety Awards Circuit Podcast and took the five flights of stairs up to the studio rather than get in an elevator. She is also, in her words, “a human Jason Bourne” of sorts – meaning she assesses her surroundings wherever she goes and registers such things as which way the doors swing. Today, she has already clocked that the doors to the room open inward, which means she won’t be able to kick it open if trapped. So instead, we’ve left a little ajar. She adds that this extends to every location: “Going to public loos – it’s an issue!”

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There is an upside, however. “I think about butt exercise,” she reveals. She recalls an incident where her “Mission Impossible” co-star Tom Cruise was walking upstairs and either he or his trainer kept saying to themselves: “Booty. Booty, booty, booty.”

The claustrophobia is a little ironic, considering that Ferguson is both executive producer and star of “Silo,” the Apple TV+ series set in a dystopian future where the outside world has become uninhabitable and humanity lives together in an underground silo. Ferguson says people bring this up all the time. “But it’s a location. It’s sets. I know my exits.” Listen below!

“Silo” premiered in May 2023, which makes it (and Ferguson) eligible for this year’s Emmy race. And it also helped cement her place as a bit of a sci-fi icon, along with her work as Lady Jessica in the “Dune” movies. Again, it’s a little ironic, as Ferguson doesn’t necessarily see herself as a fan of the genre, that she generally gravitates towards small indies. “When I say ‘indie,’ I mean when the director has the power over his own material,” she clarifies. “When you read a script and you think, ‘That is the film and no one’s going to change it.’”

But she keeps being drawn back to these worlds. “Obviously, it’s down to me what film I do and why I do it,” she says. “And the characters that I have fallen in love with have actually been a part of something bigger, whether sci-fi or futuristic or post-apocalyptic. And it’s kind of sticking. I don’t know if the characters are more compelling.”

Such is the case with Juliette Nichols, her character in “Silo,” who begins to question what life outside their contained existence might be. The character is, like many of Ferguson’s, a badass. “The word badass doesn’t mean that she is constantly out struggling and doing cool shit. It is decisions, it’s consequences, it’s rawness, it’s sadness. It’s constantly meeting something hard, and getting over it and finding a new solution. And that’s sort of the heart of the character.”

In her quest for answers, Juliette ruffles some feathers and catches the eye of those in power. While many people would be happy to follow the status quo, Ferguson says she relates to this aspect of the character. “I provoke. But I provoke out of curiosity, I don’t provoke to active something and be mean. I just question all the time,” she says. “Like, I’m married but not religious. I got married because it’s something fun to do. But the ring doesn’t hold me closer to my partner than if I didn’t have it. It was like, ‘Other people have done it, let’s try it!’ Not until death parts us – you know, if you mess up and I mess up, we move on.”

Ferguson has been touched by the popularity of the show, noting that even on the carpet for a “Mission Impossible” movie she’ll hear people shouting the name of the show. It’s one of several roles she’s recognized for – in fact, upon seeing her in person, there is a flicker of discomfort that one later realizes is because you’re looking at the diabolical Rose the Hat from the film version of Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep.” Even with so many iconic costars in her career, it’s an instinct Ferguson understands. “I still do it with actors, even though it’s my word. It takes two seconds for your brain to go – television, not real, move on.” Ask her jokingly if that means she was intimidated opposite Hugh Jackman, her costar in “The Greatest Showman,” and she jokes, “No, absolutely not. I’m like, ‘Hugh sit down. Put your shirt on. Stop it, Hugh.’”

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay, Emily Longeretta and Michael Schneider, who also produces, is your one-stop source for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives, discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines, and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.

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