Diothortoleguanidine. It’s a chemical found in glue. Amelia Eve told me this fact, sixteen years ago. Her father briefly made adhesives in a British Thermoplastics & Rubber factory, and he taught the word to Amelia and her sister when they were kids. In secondary school she told it to me, and today on a rainy July afternoon in Crystal Palace I’m saying it back to her to see if she remembers, which of course she does.  

“Oh my god! I haven’t heard that word in like a decade!” Laughing, she picks up her phone and tells me to say the word again while she records. Dio-thor-tolly-gwen-a-dean. “This is amazing! My dad would be so excited. No one else in the world knows that word!” 

I can’t remember the context of her telling it to me, and I have no idea why the word has lodged in my mind for 15 years while names, birthdays, meetings pass through with all the permanence of a mediocre first date. Some things just stick.   

We went to school together, Amelia and I, but lost touch after sixth form. To be honest, I was a little surprised when I heard about her lead role in The Haunting of Bly Manor; I didn’t remember her as being a massive drama kid, I had no idea she was even an actor, and you normally have some idea if a former schoolmate is succeeding in one of the cool industries. She just rematerialised in October 2020 with a quarter of a million Instagram followers and her face on the Netflix homepage.

Last summer, I met the photographer Kirk Truman for a coffee. He mentioned some acting talent that he’d been keen to shoot for us; Amelia’s name came up. How often do you get the chance to interview a former school friend? (Very rarely, I assume, unless you’re a journalist. Or a police officer.) So Kirk arranged the shoot, and a few weeks later, I head to Crystal Palace Park to see Amelia for the first time in more than a decade. 

It’s a wet and windy afternoon so naturally I leave my jacket at home. “How did you leave the house withOUT a jacket in this weather, ya narna?” messages Amelia. She then offers to bring me a jacket, which is very nice of her. She’s already a trailblazer: first interviewee I went to school with, first interviewee to lend me clothing, first interviewee to call me a narna. A kind soul, and shrewd judge of character.

Amelia Eve

The jacket is a massive green fleece and makes me feel like a Shetland farmer out to inspect his sheep. Amelia has dungarees with different colour legs – one black, one white – and oversized sunglasses. She looks like the lead singer of a particularly cool indie band. We agree the circumstances of our reunion are weird and go off to find dinosaurs in the park. 

The dinosaur sculptures in Crystal Palace Park were unveiled in 1854. There are 15 models in total, scattered across a small island on the edge of the lower lake. None of the models are now considered to be scientifically accurate: archaeology has evolved a lot over the past 170 years. (Unlike the dinosaurs.) The Iguanodons resemble oversized komodo dragons having a panic attack (they’re meant to be roaring); the Ichthyosaurus could be an evil dolphin; and the two Teleosaurus are basically crocodiles with extremely long snouts. Still – how many dinosaurs inhabit your local park?  

A squadron of ducks swim over in hope of breadcrumbs. Amelia is very taken by the ducks: “So fucking awesome!” We move on before she has the chance to name them all. She leads us along a narrow path between the trees. Where does it go? “Not sure!” She grins. “I like finding random paths.” 

Random paths are a speciality. In 2018, Amelia quit her job in the City to pursue acting full time and set up a dog-walking business with her sister. She has since starred in the award-winning Netflix miniseries The Haunting of Bly Manor, filmed several more projects, and The Fairy Dogmothers cater to canines across South London. (Not only walks but also training, daycare, sleepovers… They even sell branded merchandise. Fancy a waterproof Fairy Dogmothers gilet for the pooch?)   

She’s one of those people who goes all the way up to eleven. Full of charm and vitality, a kind of human Prozac; five minutes in her company would help the most jaded cynic to glimpse the sunlight through the leaves. Today, however, the leaves yield precious little sunlight but increasing drizzle – so we relocate to a bar on the Crystal Palace triangle and there she tells me the story of the past few years. It’s a pretty good one.  

Amelia Eve

She went to school in South London–  I knew that part and now so do you. Acting had always been the dream but it was a dream she rarely vocalised because she had no idea how to realise it. None of her family were actors – her mum works for the NHS, her dad was a furniture salesman. She didn’t apply for drama school, instead she followed her passion for language and studied English Literature at Royal Holloway. She thought she might teach. She had no desire to teach. She needed to get a sensible job. Acting wasn’t sensible. It was just a dream. 

“I was afraid that if I said it out loud and I didn’t do it, then it was more of a failure. Whereas if it’s just my thing that I’m keeping quiet that I really wanna do – even though I know that any other life would probably be a little bit smoother and more stable. I genuinely tried to do other things and I was just miserable. So miserable.” 

Why didn’t she pursue acting after school? “Why do you think? It felt like an impossible mountain to climb. And when you don’t know anyone in the industry it feels like it’s a million miles away.”   

By her mid-twenties, she was working in the City as an office manager. A good job but not the job for her. A promotion was promised, then delayed by six months. That proved to be the tipping point. “I went back to my desk, I printed out my resignation letter and handed it in the next day.” Ultimately, “the only thing that I’m going to be proud of me for doing is this thing that I’ve always wanted to do.” 

It was September 2017 and Amelia Eve had taken control of her life. 

Amelia Eve

She had no illusions about the challenges of her dream career. Fortunately she had another dream, one that could sustain her both financially and spiritually. She reached out to her sister about starting a dog-walking business together. Hayley only needed one walk to be convinced. “She was sat there with a massive grin on her face, like a six year old when they see Disneyworld for the first time. She was like, ‘This is amazing! This is feeding my soul!’” 

The Fairy Dogmothers officially began working their magic in January 2018. Amelia spent the next year building the business, and attending acting classes. In the summer of 2019, she auditioned for Bly Manor. Jamie the gardener was a major role, one that instantly captured Amelia when she read the script. “It said ‘She prefers plants to people.’ And I was like, I know this girl; I prefer dogs to people. Which is probably why I got it, to be honest – I very much related to the character.” 

One audition, two months to hear back. She was stuck at a traffic light with a car full of dogs when her agent phoned to say ‘Congratulations, you need to fly out to Canada next week to start filming.’ 

“I literally turned to my dogs and I was like ‘Aaah!’ and they were like ‘Woof, woof!’, and I was like, ‘Aaah!’” (Amelia doesn’t actually say “woof, woof”, she imitates some dogs barking, but “woof, woof” seemed the most accurate approximation when writing the noise down.) 

Amelia Eve

The show was released in October 2020, just in time for the second lockdown. Her Instagram followers shot up from a few hundred to a quarter of a million in a matter of days.  There was no premiere or launch party. Nobody recognised her in the street; nobody was allowed on the street. All promo was done virtually. “As soon as you put the phone down, it was like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t exist anymore.’ It was so weird. I’d go back to painting or thinking about my plants. So it was really odd. I don’t think I’ve had a normal journey.” 

Is there such a thing? “Well, exactly. There isn’t. I’m glad there isn’t. There’s no blueprint, there’s no formula. So you just make up your own journey and be at peace with it. So far I have had quite a limited body of work but it’s been jobs that I’m genuinely passionate about.” 

She followed Bly Manor with Leopard Skin and The Blind; the former a series, the latter a film. Leopard Skin was a sexy crime thriller, set on a Mexican beach but shot in the Dominican Republic. (Still on a beach, which is the important part.) Amelia played the free-spirited Maru; her co-star Carla Gugino had played the older version of Jamie in Bly Manor. Their shooting schedules hadn’t overlapped then; now they were working together in paradise. “We ate, we danced, we swam.”   

The Blind took her to Louisiana. Set in the 1960s, the film is a biopic of the Robertson family who made a fortune through their duck-hunting company Duck Commander (specialising in duck calls), and later appeared in their own reality TV show Duck Dynasty. Amelia played the matriarch Miss Kay as a young woman; the real-life version fed the cast a crawfish broil at the family home. (Perhaps duck soup would’ve been too on the beak.) 

Amelia Eve

Whether Miss Kay, Jamie or Maru, Amelia speaks about each character like they’re a real person; like she’s known them for years. “You should know them,” she says when I point this out. “You spend so much time with them, you unpick them, you pull them apart. You get to know them. Maru especially, I have a real soft spot for. She’s very underestimated.” 

With any project, says Amelia, “you have no control over how it’s edited, how it’s marketed, how it’s received by an audience. You have no control where the fuck it goes. The only thing I do have any control over is how I choose to experience the filming itself. I’m really proud of the experiences I’ve had. I made wonderful friends and I immersed myself entirely – not just in the character but in the world that I was in and the whole experience.”

Amelia has experienced several adventures in recent years. No doubt, she has a lifetime more ahead of her.

Here’s a funny thing: in writing this article, I naturally tried to research diothortoleguanidine and the internet yielded nothing. Guanidine exists – it’s a colourless solid; a strong base for plastics and explosives – but ‘diothortole’ returned zero results. I message Amelia for the correct spelling; she messaged her dad. “Diothortoleguanidine,” he replied. “Although all I can find is Guanidine. But because I was mixing the compound with toluene, I fused the words together for the adhesives purpose.” 

So, not only did Amelia Eve once teach me a glue chemical that I’ve never since forgotten, she taught me a glue chemical that doesn’t exist. The neurological real estate that damn word has taken up – I could have learned Italian or memorised the world’s capitals. Ah well. One day I’ll host a pub quiz and cause absolute bedlam.  

Amelia Eve

A couple of weeks after our interview, I go along for a dog walk. Amelia picks me up and we drive to a local park. Her driving is skilful and fast: my cup of coffee becomes a potential WMD whenever we pass over a speedbump. She alternates between singing along to the playlist and chiding the mistakes of other drivers. “Mate, you’re literally on the wrong side of the road!” (He literally was.) “I always talk to other drivers,” she grins. “It stops me from shouting at them.” 

Her car was stolen a few months ago, right outside her flat. She started to be sent the parking tickets racked up by the thief, whose attitude towards lawbreaking was evidently ‘in for a penny…’ Attempts to bring these parking tickets to the attention of the police were ignored. An exasperated Amelia travelled to the location that kept recurring on the tickets. She discovered her car there and duly reappropriated it. 

There are eight dogs with us today, multiple breeds: Amelia makes me don a harness onto which numerous dog leads are attached. The dogs fan out around me as I walk. I feel like a sort of canine octopus, or a very underpowered superhero. Dogman. Dr Woof. The Barking Baron. We can work on the name.   

Yeah, it’s fantastic. Lying on the grass beneath a blue sky, surrounded by dogs. (Otis the cockapoo is my favourite, don’t tell the others.) Throwing a tennis ball into the sun and watching it be chased down by an extremely committed whirlwind of paws and tails. I understand why Hayley quit her job. As Amelia makes them all sit in a line for their biscuits, I’m drafting the resignation email in my head.  

The dogs are treated with great affection and zero tolerance for misbehaviour. When she pops into a shop for a coffee, the entire gang whimpers until she returns. She often practises scenes and screen tests on a walk. Sometimes she’ll do different accents. “They make really good scene partners,” she says. “You want a scene partner to be unpredictable – you don’t get more unpredictable than a dog!” 

Several of the Fairy Dogmothers are also actors. “It’s an industry that can be quite cold and lonely,” notes Amelia. “Especially when it’s all self-tapes and things like that. Dogs can add a lot of value to your heart, your soul. They offer so much.” Including a willing audience for that monologue you need to learn. Just don’t expect notes. 

Amelia Eve

How would the teenage Amelia, the one who dreamed of acting and spread misinformation about glue, how would she react to the adult incarnation? I imagine she’d be fairly chuffed? “She’d be very chuffed! She’d literally be like, ‘Get out! Get out, you’re lying!’ The thing is, if I told 16-year-old me that I was gonna get to do this, 16-year-old me would’ve probably had the balls to say it louder and sooner.” 

You probably appreciate your career more this way… She nods. “I truly believe that. Having it alongside the dog business, I find them a very humbling balance. It’s a beautiful balance.”

Amelia spent six months in Canada filming Bly Manor. She flew back to her flat in South London and waited at the top of the stairs to surprise her sister. Hayley promptly dragged her out on a dog walk. “I put some dog clothes on and went back to picking up someone else’s dog shit. You gotta keep that balance, man. You gotta know what’s important in the world.”

Acting “is wonderful and magical and I’m so blessed and grateful to have these experiences and do something I genuinely love doing. And I also feel blessed to have this other opportunity where I get to be reminded that there’s beauty to be found in the simple things.” 

Tell that to Hollywood. We intended to run this piece last summer, only for the SAG-AFTRA strike to kick off; Amelia isn’t a SAG member but she wanted to show solidarity and so we waited until the strike was resolved. When an interview spans 15 years, what difference is a few months? 

Another dog walk is arranged. There’s been minimal changeover, I’m happy to report: most of the OGs from July are still rolling about. Roxy (golden retriever), Bella (cocker spaniel), my boy Otis and the rest. Bella sports a blue Fairy Dogmothers gilet. T-shirts are also available but today isn’t T-shirt weather; I supply my own jacket this time. The walk takes us around a cemetery and then to a park café – the exact spot where a teenage Amelia worked at a fudge stand on Saturday mornings. I guess every journey brings you home eventually. 

What’s new? Professionally, not much: everyone has been on strike. Numerous scripts and auditions are now being smashed through. She attended a festival in November and discovered a natural affinity for aerial hoops, the kind that acrobats swing off. “If I wasn’t walking dogs or acting, I’d join the circus,” she muses. 

The lifestyle appeals to her. “The nomadness of it. Animals, you get to hang from things. Being in trees and hanging upside down. That’s my jam, right there. The circus ticks a lot of boxes.”  

Ten years’ time, where would you like to be? “Don’t ask those questions!” she says, laughing. “The reason why I opted out of the office world was because of questions like that! ‘Where are you going to be in five years?’ The joy of my job is that I don’t know, and the fact that I don’t know means the options are limitless.

“There isn’t a promotion at the end of the year, there isn’t a regular salary. However, it lifts the sky – because you could have nothing in five years or you could have everything. Sometimes, it’s worth that gamble – to be happy on a daily basis.” 

There’s no right or wrong way to live, provided you are happy and your happiness doesn’t hurt others. (MMA fighters get an exemption here.) Finding that happiness is hard; striving for it is harder still. Amelia Eve has done both. She’ll keep walking her own path, grateful, free, and surrounded by a lot of dogs. 

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