FINDING ELLA. Today’s SBJCT GIRL fills us in on the quest for inspiration, staying present, not having a five year plan, and why we all need to be seen. Oh, and why pockets are important. Shot here exclusively in CHANEL by SBJCT’s newest photographic muse HELENA CHRISTENSEN, get to know Ella Purnell.


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Erin Walsh Hello dear Ella. It’s clear from this photo shoot that you are clearly Helena Christensen’s long lost daughter. Glad to have reunited you! Tell me a little bit about your beginnings, how you got to HERE. Where are you from? How did you get started in acting?

Ella Purnell Hah! Now there’s a compliment!! I’m honoured!  I guess it all happened very organically. I was born and raised in East London, UK. I was a very creative kid. Always acting, singing, or dancing. I loved reading, making things, writing my own books, and playing piano. I did a German commercial for the sweet ‘Toffifee’ when I was 9, and then my first film when I was 12. It all sort of snowballed from there really. Balancing school and work became the norm. I hit 18 and went travelling for a few months, which helped me figure out some stuff as I made that awkward transition from child actor to working adult. I started becoming more passionate about the creative process behind my work. I started becoming more selective about my roles. And I started developing interests outside of acting; music, poetry, mental wellbeing, travel, feminism, writing, fashion. I took some time off. I jumped back in. And here we are, 2019!

EW What are your thoughts on the responsibility of being an artist? Do you see any greater significance to the calling? Is acting a vocation or an occupation for you?

EP That’s a really great question, and I’m so glad you asked it. It’s something I care a lot about, and have put a great amount of time and effort into figuring out. I do feel a responsibility; specifically to represent young women in the way we deserve. It’s not about writing a “strong female character”. It’s about writing an authentic, modern, and multi-dimensional character, who is also a woman. It’s really just about writing her real. I am no longer willing to be complicit in this industry. Don’t get me wrong; I love acting, I grew up in this world. I’m very grateful. But I’m also very aware of how damaging it can be in its lack of diversity and representation. I want to be more conscious with who I work with, and what I work on. I want to use any platform I have to bring awareness to issues that matter. I want to help people and be a part of positive change.

Clothing CHANEL Hat Courtesy of MVP PR



Clothing CHANEL Hat Courtesy of MVP PR

EW Where do you live these days?

EP These days I live out of a suitcase! I’m currently filming in New Mexico. Half my stuff is in LA and half my stuff is in London. My heart wants to be in New York, but for now I’ll just go wherever work takes me!


EW Tell me a bit about acting school and being a child actor. If you have children, will you allow them to act at a young age?

EP I never went to a real acting school as such. I did drama class in school. I did the school plays. I took some classes after school. I sat my drama exam at 18 and got a C. Acting was just always something I did. I don’t think I ever really stopped to question it until my mid-teens. On the one hand I wonder what my life would have been like without it. On the other hand I feel so lucky to have had the experiences I’ve had, and I’m grateful to be where I am. It kept me out of trouble mostly. It made me very organised. It also made me quite lonely at times. But it taught me so much, so quickly. I grew up very fast.  I wouldn’t stop my kids from acting if they really loved it. As long as they were doing it for the right reasons, and were fully aware of the risks, I would absolutely support them. I wouldn’t push them into anything either. They’re their own people to find their way as they will!








Clothing CHANEL Hat Courtesy of MVP PR

people watching on the subway in New York never gets old

EW What is your current source of inspiration?

EP Pinterest. I’m super late on the bandwagon, but I’m obsessed. Also, trains. I was filming in Edinburgh for a while and taking a lot of long train journeys between there and London. I love them. I get my best writing done on trains. Plus, people watching on the subway in New York never gets old.


EW What do you do when you don’t feel it? Like, if you are feeling particularly uninspired or not connected to a moment or role- do you have a bag of tricks you would like to share with us?

EP Music is a big trigger for me. I have tons of playlists dedicated to moods, characters, places, people, weather….. anything really.

EW Greatest collaborator thus far?

EP Gah. That’s a tough one.  I love working with Chanel. And I’ve always been such a huge fan of Tim Burton, working with him was pretty magical too. And of course, such an honour to be shot by Helena. That was a great day!


EW Dream collaborator?

EP I’ve always wanted to work with Wes Anderson. I love his movies. Or Helena Bonham-Carter. She’s my favourite actress so that’s a real dream of mine.

Clothing CHANEL Shoes Ella’s own Doc Martens Belt B-LOW the Belt

EW Is there a role for the arts in politics?

EP Absolutely! I think any public platform has a role in politics and activism. One of the purposes of art is so that people reflect on it, judge it, form opinions and beliefs on and around it. It’s tremendously important to both bring people together, and inspire them to form their unique and individual views. You see the link between art and politics in that way. So building on that, if we can write a commercially successful movie that will bring light to some underexposed great political or social injustice, that encourages people to go out and vote for change, why wouldn’t we? Artists are some of the greatest pioneers for change.


EW What do you intend your legacy to be?

EP Big question. So much to say. I think over anything, I want to be remembered as truthful.

 All Clothing CHANEL
All Clothing CHANEL

EW Anything creatively you are just itching to do?

EP I am writing a book about mental health at the moment. It’s full on. I’m so immersed and I love it.


EW Is there a 5 year plan in place, or is it more organic for you? As a young actress, do you feel pressure to put together a “Career” in a certain way?

EP It’s hard for young women, because people are so quick to label us. There’s this sort of silent expectation projected on us to be good and play nice and be liked. You’re constantly judged for how you look, pitted against other women, undermined and underestimated, and almost certainly you will be objectified. There’s definitely a pressure. I don’t have much of a five year plan. I’d like it to be organic. There’s so much I want to do. I want to release my music. I want to direct, write, produce. I want to learn another language. I want to get a dog. Not necessarily in that order.

EW In what ways are you an activist? And please don’t find this to be a leading question- you could even be an activist in your kitchen against dishes. I am curious to know what really gets you charged and what causes, ideas, missions you feel very passionate about.

EP I think I am an activist in most aspects of my life. I want to promote kindness. Happiness. Social and political responsibility. I want every single person in the world to feel heard, and seen. That’s the most important thing for me.

EW Favorite Lewks that you have worn?

EP Anything with pockets.


EW Least favorite lewk?

EP Anything without pockets?

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The solution, I think, is to be present in the moment.

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EW Go to song or album when you are feeling uninspired?

EP rumours – fleetwood mac  flow state – tash sultana  at last – etta james  when we all fall asleep, where do we go – Billie Eilish   literally anything by Shy Fx


EW Favorite restaurant?

EP Dirt Candy in New York. Or any Italian restaurant.


EW Favorite meal?

EP Can’t choose. Chicken Katsu Curry. Ramen. Pesto pasta. Steak Pies. Carbonara.


EW Charity you would like to call attention to?

EP Young Minds. UK’s leading mental health charity. I started working with them last year and am constantly blown away by what they do.


EW What (if anything) really scares you? and what do you do about it?

EP Lots of things scare me. Almost everything in fact. The scariest part is running out of time. The solution, I think, is to be present in the moment. I try to write down three things I am grateful for every day. It helps.

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EW Ella Purnell, Whats Your SBJCT?

EP If I could sum it up in 5 words?  Curiosity. Kindness. Sincerity. Courage. Love.

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