Jessie Cave is an actress, comedian, and artist who's best known for playing Lavender Brown in 'Harry Potter.' Her day job is her doodle shop where she sells hand-drawn, personalised versions of what she post online. Her DIY comedy shows regularly sell out and she's debuting her new show 'Sunrise' this summer.
My day starts ridiculously early because I sleep with both of my babies. Well… they’re not babies anymore. My son Donnie is 3 and my daughter Margot is almost 2, and neither can sleep past 6 a.m. I learned pretty early on you can’t do much work with children around. When they were babies maybe, but now they don’t sleep so I’m basically on my feet the entire day. My mum is brilliant; she helps me most days. And, actually, up until a few weeks ago I was living with her and my sister. My partner Alfie and I split up when Margot was only 10 weeks old. Although things ended amicably, there are still plenty of challenges to being a single working mum.
At the moment, I’m writing my Edinburgh comedy show that I will bring back to the Soho Theatre for three weeks in November — it’s my longest run so I’m very excited. I want to tour around the U.K. with it too and take the babies with me. It’s been difficult to write around my busy days, but it’s something I’m passionate about. I’ve been on stage, in some form, for over a decade.
At the age of 20, I was cast as Lavender Brown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and the subsequent films. I’ve also acted for television, film, and even on the West End. However, two children and a busy schedule isn’t exactly the simplest balancing act. When I was younger, I used to take my time when writing something, but I’ve since learned time is a luxury and now I’m quite good at getting things done in short spans. Or I try to be… some weeks I get nothing done apart from changing the sheets and I’m OK with that.
So when I say I try to get work done, the truth is, some nights I just end up on the sofa, watching something truly awful on television.
At around 3 p.m., I pick up Donnie from nursery (he goes three days a week) and spend the two-hour windows before and after I give him dinner occupying him — generally it’s the park or something else equally fun and distracting. Then I get the both of them into bed and try to get some work done in the evenings.
Living with my mum and sister was great because I could just go out for a gig and have someone there to watch the kids. Now that I’m living on my own, things are a bit trickier again. They’re at such hyperactive ages, it’s hard not to feel exhausted after I’ve tucked them in. So when I say I try to get work done, the truth is, some nights I just end up on the sofa, watching something truly awful on television.
I think it’s so important to highlight non-conventional setups because so much of a woman’s life — especially in Britain — is bound by convention.
It’s hard not to end each day feeling like I should have done way more. But, actually, if I look back over the last four years — over the last 11 years really — I'm relatively happy with what I've accomplished.
Splitting up was quite intense... I guess it is still quite intense. Love is hard! But I think it ended up working out really well. Alfie and I have an amazing relationship. It’s not conventional by any stretch, but it works for us. I think it’s so important to highlight non-conventional setups because so much of a woman’s life — especially in Britain — is bound by convention. I want to remind people they don’t have to conform to a standard that doesn’t fit them in order to please someone else.
It’s interesting because we’re continually told we’re living in a brilliant time for women in which we have more opportunities than ever to live out our dreams, and yet when I actually speak to women my age, they seem stuck in this idea of doing things “the right way”. I just turned 31 and everything just seems to be about getting engaged, then married, and then having children. When someone does it differently, or breaks with that convention, it’s a bit unsettling for some people. I sometimes feel like women are in a catch 22.
I really thought Harry Potter would be my big break, but it actually wasn’t at all.
For me, I accidentally found myself never following tradition. My "romantic" situation allows me to focus on my career and the things I find interesting. Making my own work is one of the few things I can rely on. When I was first cast in Harry Potter I thought it would change my life… and it did, but it wasn’t immediate. It wasn’t like right, I am now an actress. We shot the film in 2007 but it didn’t come out until 2009 because we were in the middle of a recession. There were almost no films being made around that time and the few directors who were taking a chance had no idea who I was as the film hadn’t been released.
I really thought Harry Potter would be my big break, but it actually wasn’t at all. I was forced to rethink what I wanted to do. I didn’t dream about becoming an actress when I was a little girl, but I have always enjoyed drawing and writing — and my grandma was an artist... So I followed my instincts and scraped into art school.
I really want to thank Instagram sometimes. I f*cking love it.
I first realised drawing was more than a hobby when I was going through my first proper rejection. I thought my doodling would impress the guy I liked — show him I was funny. As it turned out, he actually didn’t give a sh*t. That was fine, though, as I had discovered something meaningful to me. Those doodles have actually become my livelihood now. They’re the only constant I’ve had over the past decade; I do them daily, and they’ve sort of become “my thing”. It’s crazy to think I only went and did art because the boy I fancied was doing it so I copied him. Now it’s something that not only completely empowers me, but also provides for me. I am so grateful every day that I can share a drawing and think that someone might like it, might relate to it — that it might make someone feel better. I really want to thank Instagram sometimes. I f*cking love it.
I’ve always come back to art. When I’m on an acting job, I spend every single moment when I’m not filming drawing. When Harry Potter didn’t become the lucky break I thought it would be, it was hard — especially as people still come up to me every day on the street because of it. But what it did teach me was work ethic… that things wouldn’t be just handed to me, and I’m so grateful for that. I’ve built a little business outside of acting because I know roles come and go, but my art is my constant.
Being a mum makes all these realisations more important. I want to make sure both my son and daughter experience success, but also work for it. I want to make sure they feel comfortable pursuing the things that interest them. I want to make sure they don’t feel like they “have to” get married by a certain age, or have kids — in any particular order. I want them to be able to speak openly and honestly about their lives or dreams without being embarrassed or feeling shame. I want them to see that life sometimes gets a little messy, and that’s OK, as they don’t need anyone to save them. And, most of all, I want them to learn these truths themselves. Life can be unexpected, but it’s what you make of it that counts.
This interview, as told to Charlotte Owen, has been edited for length and clarity.