LOS ANGELES, July 29 (UPI) -- When musicians embark on acting careers, they can have vastly different levels of success. Cher has an Oscar and classics like Moonstruck, The Witches of Eastwick, Silkwood and Mermaids to her credit. Madonna has more Swept Aways and Shanghai Surprises than she has Desperately Seeking Susans or Evitas. Ice Cube is a hit from Boys N the Hood to his three franchises -- Barbershop, Ride Along and 21/22 Jump Street -- three and a half if you count xXx.
If Hollywood is tough on singers turned actors, the British are even tougher according to Paloma Faith. Now starring in the Epix original series Pennyworth, premiering Sunday, Faith likes to remind fans that her acting predates her music career. Her first credits were 2006 episodes of The Gil Mayo Mysteries and The Impressionists. Her 2007 film St. Trinian's predates her first single, "Stone Cold Sober," by two years.
"I started acting pretty much before I was doing music and then I just started to feel a little bit frustrated that those two things weren't going together," Faith said. "It's quite common in America for people to have a music and an acting career, but in the U.K. no one does it. No one's done it. It would be a first if I manage to achieve it. So I suddenly thought okay, my life's not hard enough. Let me make it harder."
Faith is putting acting first after her 2017 album The Architect. Pennyworth is the story of Alfred Pennyworth, most famous as an elderly butler to Bruce Wayne. Pennyworth shows Alfred (Jack Bannon) in his young action hero days, when he teamed up with Batman's dad Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge) in the swinging '60s. There were no Jokers or Penguins back then, but Alfred faces a formidable foe in Bet Sykes (Faith).
"Bet as a character, as an individual, has got a backstory," Faith said. "She has nuances. On some level, there's a lot to fear about her, but at the same time, you see her vulnerability. You see her need for touch, for human connections. She kind of doesn't really know how to have them because she's so ingrained in a world that's so dark."
"It's one thing playing a psychopath but it's another thing playing a psychopath that actually needs some love and that people like. I think that's in the writing."
You know Bet is the villain when she kidnaps Alfred's love Esme (Emma Corrin). Anything more will be revealed as the series goes on. Faith is very pleased with the material Gotham creator Bruno Heller is writing for her.
"I think the writer, Bruno, writes exceptionally well for women," Faith said.
"I think that he gives women a multi-layered depth that they deserve. And I think the relationship that men have with women, in some cases an inherent fear because in most people's cases they were raised by a woman," Faith said. "They're born of a woman. Your first experience of authority comes from a woman, majority, unless something bad happens to your mother. I feel like there's a lot of real psychological layers which are really interesting which are explored in things. Lots of things aren't explored in depth enough. I think a lot of the time women's roles in things are to be eye candy or superficially appealing but they don't have many layers."
Esme herself triggers some of Bet's inner needs. It actually hurts Bet's feelings when Esme escapes.
"I think her relationship with Esme is complex," Faith said. "I think she is torn between her duty and also she's very fond of her. It goes further into the show, this fondness. When a psychopath's fond of you, there's a thin line between fondness and weirdness."
That's not to say that Bet harbors romantic feelings towards Esme. Bet is an enigma.
"Sometimes I feel that about her and other times I feel that Bet's desire for connection with somebody is not necessarily based on her sexuality," Faith said. "I don't know how relevant her sexuality is. I think what's more relevant about Bet is the fact that she's very isolated and she doesn't really know how to be."
Revisiting London in the '60s makes Faith feel closer to home, not just to her country, but to her family.
"It's interesting because my mum's 72 so my mother's youth was in the '60s and I was raised having it drummed into me that this was the greatest era and she was so disappointed that I'd never experienced it and that London ruled the '60s," Faith said. "It was amazing and I feel excited because it's a manifestation of a darker version of what my mom has described to me. I've also, since being really young, embedded myself in retro and nostalgia they call it. I've never really been someone that's enjoyed the modern age."
One bonus to living the rock star life is that Faith can now adorn her home like the era for which she longs. That may have cinched the Pennyworth audition for her.
"My house looks like it's straight out of the '60s," Faith said. "That's why when I auditioned for this, I self-taped in my own home. They were like, 'Where did you find that set?' And I was like, 'That's my house.'"
Yet there is something modern about Pennyworth. At least, the villains like Bet Sykes hold their own against the evils of the modern world.
"Unfortunately, we live in a society where we're all kind of sick and twisted and we have access with the internet to so much stuff and we're a little desensitized," Faith said. "I feel like this isn't shy or tentative about that. There's a surface layer to it but then it pushes us to realize the levels of despicability humanity is capable of.
Faith is writing new music, but maintains that that will only come after she's finished with the first season of Pennyworth, or has even more acting roles under her belt.
"It's just still in the early days because I'm focusing on this and I want to focus on well as being an actress in my own right, not a singer/actress," Faith said. "I was an actress before a musician and I want to go back to that and show, and I think I do with this role have the chance to show that I'm capable of being somebody else."
Pennyworth premiered Sunday on Epix.