"It felt very familiar," she says of filming Love and Friendship, set in the 1790s and based on an unfinished Jane Austen novella. "It's back to what I originally started out doing because when I started acting if it wasn't Shakespeare or Chekhov or Henry James or some kind of period thing then I wasn't doing anything else."
The 42-year-old British actress, who is the daughter of the late comic actor Richard Beckinsale, is often described as "an English rose-type" by people who don't know her. Those who do have another description for her: "Ballsy."
She may look fragile and chocolate box-pretty but Kate Beckinsale is no shrinking violet. Her language has been known to make toughened Teamsters blush and she is unflinchingly outspoken about sex, bodily functions and other subjects not normally discussed so frankly by an Oxford-educated girl from one of the more genteel London suburbs.
In Love and Friendship she plays Lady Susan Vernon, who takes up temporary residence at her in-laws' estate and while there is determined to find a man for her daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) and herself, too.
"I went to a screening of the movie in San Francisco with a fairly seasoned crowd who had seen a lot of stuff but they were gasping in shock and horror at this woman from 1794," Kate tells me when we talk at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. "I thought that with the availability of Internet porn we're all so used to, the fact they were gasping over this several hundred years old woman's behaviour was not a bad sign for the human race."