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Tanya Moodie says her nurse mother inspired Empire of Light performance (exclusive)

The Motherland star plays NHS nurse Delia in the 1980s-set drama from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes

Watch: Tanya Moodie discusses her mum's influence on Empire of Light

Tanya Moodie says her mother's history working in the NHS helped to inspire her performance as a nurse in Sam Mendes drama Empire of Light.

The Motherland star plays Delia in the film — hard-working mum to Micheal Ward's character Stephen, who forms a surprising romance with cinema manager Hilary (Olivia Colman).

"I felt an extra layer of responsibility because my mother is a nurse," Moodie told Yahoo UK.

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She added: "My mother was the head nurse of the operating theatre, so she didn't have any front-facing responsibilities at all.

Tanya Moodie plays NHS nurse Delia in Empire of Light. (Searchlight Pictures)
Tanya Moodie plays NHS nurse Delia in Empire of Light. (Searchlight Pictures)

"She was always in the back wearing scrubs, so she had never had anything cute and sexy with a cinched waist to wear like Delia did. She was in the back specialising with a heart surgeon.

"There were always organs around. I remember going to visit her at work and she'd say 'here, play with this' and gave me a jar with an appendix in it once.

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"These are the kinds of things I had to play with as a child. This is why I am the way I am.

"In terms of that and everything that's happening with the NHS, my focus as an actor is to just be truthful and authentic. For me, that's the focus of my objective as the character."

Tanya Moodie said she wanted to bring authenticity to the role of Delia in Empire of Light. (Getty/Disney)
Tanya Moodie said she wanted to bring authenticity to the role of Delia in Empire of Light. (Getty/Disney)

This focus on authenticity went as far as questioning whether Delia would even have made it to the cinema which forms the epicentre of much of the movie's action.

Moodie said: "Sam was like 'does Delia come to the cinema?' and I was like: 'I don't have time, I'm working so much and Delia loves her job'.

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"Basically I decided that Delia occasionally dates. So if match.com or Tinder existed then, she would've been on it and had the occasional date.

"So she has gone on a date to that cinema to see something like Smokey and the Bandit."

Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman play cinema employees in Sam Mendes drama Empire of Light. (Searchlight Pictures)
Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman play cinema employees in Sam Mendes drama Empire of Light. (Searchlight Pictures)

Moodie, who has won plaudits for her Motherland role and stage work, said she relished getting the chance to work with rising star Ward on Empire of Light.

She said: "He could actually technically be my son, age-wise, and he reminded me of that sometimes. He'd be like: 'Set in 1981, in the olden days, back in ancient history. Did you ride a pterodactyl to school?'

"That kind of attitude. Listen, the 80s wasn't that long ago, and we had the best music.

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"He's lovely and he's very present as an artist. I've done my homework, that's all I need to do. I can look in his eyes, Sam says action and then we're away."

Empire of Light is in UK cinemas now.

Watch: Trailer for Empire of Light