Get to Know Tom Jones Star Sophie Wilde
Australian actor Sophie Wilde is not just a Tom Jones star, playing beguilingly spirited heiress Sophia Western in the 2023 TV series on MASTERPIECE —she’s also a rising star and a newly minted People Magazine “One to Watch.” Now, discover intriguing facts about Sophie Wilde and get to know about the diehard romantic period drama fan whose journey to Tom Jones included formal training, certainly, but also playing dress-up and watching and rewatching old movies on VHS!
She's Not British…She's Australian!
Though she portrays a classic British heiress in Tom Jones, actor Sophie Wilde was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. “A lot of people think I’m British,” Wilde recounted. “I’ve talked to so many people who’ve been like, ‘Are you not British?’ and ‘Are you putting on an Australian accent?’ And I’m like, ‘No, that’s my actual voice.’ Her British accent, she revealed to Bustle, was the result of work with a dialect coach and close attention paid to British actors like Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You).
She Began Acting as a Young Child
Wilde’s passion for acting and her training had an early start. “It is genuinely the earliest thing I remember wanting to do, so when I was five, I started doing acting classes, holiday courses and short courses at NIDA [National Institute of Dramatic Art], which is a Julliard equivalent here, until high school.” That was followed by a performing arts high school for drama, and then a Bachelors in Fine Arts at NIDA. Wilde said, “It’s been this very consistent passion throughout my whole life.”
She Was Inspired by an Absolute Icon
It was one specific actress, a certain VHS box set, and one film in particular that lit the acting fire for Sophie Wilde, who revealed, “Audrey Hepburn’s the reason I wanted to be an actress. I had this VHS box set of Audrey Hepburn films when I was a kid that I would watch religiously. And I remember watching Roman Holiday and being like, ‘I want to do that. I want to be Audrey Hepburn.’ She’s the queen. She is the one who started it all.”
She's a Huge Period Drama Fan
Another of Wilde’s early passions is period drama. She confessed, “Again, since I was a kid, I’ve been slightly obsessed with period dramas.” One particular VHS Wilde had on frequent rewind/replay was the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice—the one with Colin Firth. “I was obsessed with it.” She and her friend dressed up as Jane and Lizzie Bennet for Book Week, an annual Australian celebration of books and authors where schoolkids dress up in costumes, when they were in year two (second grade). “I even have a photo somewhere!” she laughed. “I tell you, obsessed.” So it was “a dream come true” for Wilde to play Tom Jones heroine Sophia Western. “I’ve always wanted to do a period piece, so it’s been sort of a wish fulfillment in a way.”
In the 2023 Tom Jones, Sophia is the daughter of Squire Western’s late son, a plantation owner in Jamaica, and her enslaved mother, also deceased. So for Wilde, the question of this adaptation’s take on race and history was an interesting one. She said, “I think that’s what is really interesting about this adaptation—that it’s very much grounded in reality, and we don’t shy away from Sophia’s history. We don’t shy away from talking about race in the context of the times, which other other period pieces do. I think that there’s actually validity in that as well—there’s room for both of those takes, and sometimes it’s nice to just live in this fictionalized world where we don’t have to talk about race. But ours very much does, and I think that it’s really interesting.”
For Wilde, another period drama that enchanted her as a child ended up having important parallels to Tom Jones. “I remember when I was a kid watching Belle,” she described, “which I think is quite similar. And it was, to me, the most incredible thing I’d ever seen. It was the first time I’d seen a woman of color in a period piece where it was openly discussed. And so the fact that our adaptation does the same thing is really interesting, and feels very powerful and captivating.”
The Tom Jones Sisterhood Was Strong
Wilde raved about her costar Solly McLeod (House of the Dragon), who played true love Tom Jones, describing him as a talented and genuine actor and a total delight to be around—good fortune considering that they’d not had a chemistry read in the long road to casting the titular role. But it was the sisterhood on set from Pearl Mackie (Doctor Who, The Diplomat), who played Honor Newton, and Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso) who played Lady Bellaston, that also made Wilde’s Tom Jones experience truly remarkable.
“Pearl feels like she’s my older sister,” Wilde said, “which is so beautiful and kind of mirrors the relationship with Sophia and Honour in Tom Jones, although they bicker a lot more, and there’s slight moments of antagonism between the two. She’s such an amazing actress and such a great advocate for younger actors—she really has your back on a set. If you need some support, she’s willing to dive in and be that support for you. She very much felt like an older sister, and we’re still so close. I think she’s amazing.”
Similarly, Hannah Waddingham inspired both admiration and a sense of being cared for. “She’s so funny and so playful, and it was amazing to watch her work. She was always there and she’s always having fun, and similarly, I think she really cares about younger actors, making sure that everyone’s okay and constantly feeding everyone, getting little treats for everyone and stuff. She’s incredible.”
She's a Bookworm…Thanks to a Tom Jones Costar
Of all the talent on the Tom Jones set, Wilde admitted there was one cast member she was worried about fan-girling over: Shirley Henderson (Happy Valley, the Harry Potter films, the Bridget Jones films), who played Aunt Western. Wilde said, “I really had to restrain myself from being weird, because she’s Moaning Myrtle! I am such a big Harry Potter fan—Harry Potter is the reason I got into reading, and I’m a massive bookworm now. So to work with her was insane.”
She's a Diehard Romantic
After her work on Tom Jones plus a lifetime of period drama and Audrey Hepburn, Sophie Wilde considers herself a confirmed romantic. She laughed, reflecting, “I feel like growing up on period pieces has honestly warped my subconscious so that now I am a diehard romantic. I feel like there’s so much power in love, and that’s probably why I love period pieces. I also love the romance, and it makes my heart flood over when you see two characters on screen with all that longing and that chemistry and they finally get together.” And that extended to her experience both making and watching Tom Jones, as she reported, “I watched it and was like, ‘Oh, my heart!’”