In the past year, Carey Mulligan has turned 30 and given birth to her first child, daughter Evelyn with her husband, musician Marcus Mumford. And she's also had two of the strongest roles of her career, playing resilient women in a new film version of Far From the Madding Crowd and the voting rights drama Suffragette.

She likes taking long gaps between films, mainly because so few roles grab her attention. "I don't find a large amount to work with," she admits. "The majority of things that come along are accessories like girlfriends and wives - so dull and not real, not much to sink your teeth into."

Suffragette immediately grabbed her attention, highlighting a little-known period of British history. "I had no idea they were beaten, imprisoned, blew up bridges, went on hunger strikes," she says. "We have a very muted picture of happy women with banners marching down the street!"

Carey Mulligan stars as Maud WattsCarey Mulligan stars as Maud Watts

Gender equality is an important topic for Mulligan, and she's happy that Suffragette addresses an issue that is especially hot in Hollywood right now. "I think one of the reasons you make a film like this is to spark conversations," she says. "Obviously there are sensitivities around the issue, but I think the discourse is great. That's something we should encourage and not try to curb."

Mulligan has gone on the record supporting Jennifer Lawrence for her comments about the pay gap between men and women in the movies, and she's optimistic that the discussion will lead to greater equality. "There's lot of films this year that have great roles for women," she says. "If you look at people like Jennifer, who make billions at the box office, you kind of have to think a studio is going to sit up and take notice that women sell tickets. Essentially, that's what it's all about. It's all about money."

And taking a leaf from her Suffragette character, Mulligan is willing to take a proactive role to change the system. "The way to get better stories on screen," she says, "is to self-generate and find projects to make for yourself or other women, something I can get interested in and involved in, instead of spending a lot of time waiting for projects to come along produced by the industry."

Watch the trailer for Suffragette here: