Kelly Reilly’s Second Act

The British actress hits her stride on screen.

Photography by Ward Ivan Rafik Styled by Vanessa Chow

Kelly Reilly is not one to be seen sitting front row or hitting every premiere in town wearing the season’s latest looks. “The red carpet stuff can be a bit awkward for me,” says the 37-year-old New York–based actress. “I feel the joy of my work when I’m inside a role. Then I just want to go home and pull weeds out of my garden.” Reilly has barely had time for such mundane tasks since leaving her childhood home in suburban Surrey, England, at 16 to pursue acting. She had a strong career on the British stage before venturing into movies and TV. This past spring, 
she played a bipolar neurologist in the ABC dramatic series Black Box 
and is now starring in John Michael McDonagh’s darkly comical 
movie Calvary as Fiona, the troubled daughter of a priest (Brendan Gleeson) who receives a death threat from a member of his parish. 
“The film is about a human being who is trying to see the best in humanity even when there’s every reason not to,” says Reilly, who knows something about keeping the faith after 20 years in a fickle business. “Every year my job is a surprise. It’s constantly invigorating—and sometimes it’s heartbreaking.”