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15 October 2014

Agyness Deyn gives electrifying performance in Electricity

Model turned actor Agyness Deyn has been wowing audiences - and critics - with her portrayal of epilepsy in the new film Electricity. Following the film's premiere at the BFI Film Festival, Agyness tells Epilepsy Society  how she was both inspired and humbled by her character Lily O'Connor.

'The moment I read the script of Electricity, I fell in love with Lily,' says Agyness Deyn. 'In spite of her constant seizures, she is such a strong woman . She is vulnerable, rebellious and creative all  at the same time. I find it  really inspiring to see strong women who overcome obstacles such as epilepsy. It is so empowering. It just makes you feel you can do anything.'

Agyness's first leading role

Lily is Agyness's first leading film role since she  turned her back on the catwalks of London, Paris, New York and beyond. She admits that inhabiting Lily's character six days a week for seven weeks of filming was exhausting and humbling.

'I was determined to make Lily's character as real as possible,' she continues. ' I wanted to portray her epilepsy with integrity and truth but that also meant living through what many people with the condition experience every day of their lives.

'As Lily, I could never relax. I had to be on constant guard in case of a seizure. I always had to carry a bag with me with fresh underwear, tights and shoes in case Lily lost bladder control during a seizure. I threw myself into the role 110 per cent - I was often covered in cuts and bruises from Lily's seizures but I see that as collateral damage. That was the pay off for getting the part right.'

Epilepsy Society advises on film

Agyness turned to Epilepsy Society to help research epilepsy and ensure that she represented Lily's seizures and their impact  in a convincing manner. And she spent time with a leading neurologist to understand the effect of seizures on the brain and the body. But she was also able to draw on her own personal experience of epilepsy.

A close friend of Agyness has epilepsy and the actor says their friendship helped inform her portrayal of Lily. 'I have always been deeply affected by watching someone I care about go through the mental and physical challenges of epilepsy.

'Watching from the sidelines, I have always felt helpless at how my friend's epilepsy affected her, particularly when she was going through a change of medication. You can't just give a cup of tea to someone who has had a seizure and say "that will make you better". All I could do was support her.'

Electricity will be launched nationwide from 5 December 2014.

'For me, the real test of the film will be when my friend sees it,' says Agyness. 'If she likes it, then I will know I got it right.'

You can read the full interview with Agyness Deyn in the next issue of Epilepsy Review.

Read blogs, interviews, our storify for the launch and watch the official UK trailer.