February 7, 2002
TVEXPRESS INSIDE TELEVISION: INTERVIEW JEMMA REDGRAVE TELLS GAVIN DOCHERTY ABOUT THE ALBATROSS THAT ALMOST RUINED HER CONFIDENCE; IT’S IN THE BLOOD
SITTING in a London hotel, Jemma Redgrave (pictured), 36, has the twinkle in her eyes of a woman confident that anyone who wrote her off as a TV one-hit wonder will shortly be choking on a slice of humble pie, and it is with some justification that her latest TV offering, The Swap, is being flagged as one of ITV1’s big gun dramas of the winter ratings war against the BBC.
This is due in no small measure to the emotional punch she brings to the role of a London townhouse-dwelling wife and mother.
Battling to give her crumbling marriage one last try, she takes her workaholic husband (Michael Maloney) and young family off halfway round the world on one of those home swap holidays arranged over the Internet.
Things go horribly wrong when the apparently trustworthy academic whose idyllic Australian beach-front home they are temporarily occupying, turns out to be a raving psycho who proceeds to strip the fittings and terrorise everyone around their home back in England.
“The script was the draw for me, ” says Jemma, a theatre actress who became best known for playing ITV’s Victorian medic, Bramwell. “The very premise of the story and the director David Drury wanting to film it to create a sense of tension and menace got me hooked.”
The producers swear that, under the loopholes that exist in the law, everything that happens is completely possible, but for Redgrave there is only one thing that mattered – successfully turning in a performance that would make people sit up and take notice. After all, so many of us had become just a little bored with six seasons of that worthy, 19th-century quack, Dr Eleanor Bramwell, who finally bit the bullet in 1998.
With a mixed bag of so-sos (The Acid House) and no-nos (Fish) since, it was important for Redgrave to succeed – she does have the family reputation to uphold. In theatrical terms, it is some family: she is the daughter of Corin Redgrave and the niece of Vanessa Redgrave and Lynn Redgrave. Her cousins are Joely Richardson and Natasha Richardson. Natasha’s married to Liam Neeson.
Is it a help or an albatross? The Redgrave name, she says, might open doors – but also increases expectations.
“It isn’t something that I worry about anymore. When I started acting all those years ago, I was worried in case I embarrassed anybody. I don’t think I have. Every time you don’t embarrass people, you grow in confidence. But it’s all sink or swim, because if you weren’t any good you wouldn’t get any more jobs.”
Like us all, she just wants her work to be successful and to be appreciated. The Swap should provide the focus for both. “It would also be nice to think that a lot of people will watch it, ” she says with genuine modesty.
Daily Mail (London)
March 4, 1993, Thursday
THE RETIRING REDGRAVE
BYLINE: Katy Macdonald
AS A third-generation member of the famous thespian dynasty, Jemma Redgrave has acting in her blood. She is the daughter of Corin, niece of Vanessa and Lynn, granddaughter of the late Sir Michael, and cousin of Joely and Natasha.
Jemma, 28, has taken leading roles on stage in such classics as Cyrano de Bergerac and As You Like It, and played Alan Alda’s leading lady in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. From next week she stars in Anthony Burgess’ new version of the Russian comedy Chatsky at London’s Almeida Theatre.
Her parents split up during Jemma’s teenage years, with her mother Deirdre declaring that Corin, a member of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, was trying to turn her into ‘Mrs Lenin’. Jemma divided her time between both parents. Last year she married her barrister boyfriend Tim Owen, and they live in Kentish Town.
* YOUR FAVOURITE CLOTHES?
‘Apart from jeans I have an English Eccentrics shirt that I live in. It’s got acorns and wonderful swirling patterns. I bought it two years ago and walked out of the shop wearing it. I like Nicole Farhi’s jumpers since they last for ever and are one designer item you can buy conscience-free, whereas I couldn’t possibly buy one of her tiny T-shirts for £100, or whatever they cost. At Christmas I tried on a fantastic Vivienne Westwood bodice with extraordinary angels and a tight velvet shirt. I was tempted, but I didn’t have the guts to spend so much on something I wouldn’t wear very often.’
* YOUR FAVOURITE SHOES?
‘A pair of old-fashioned plimsolls, which are very hard to get now. I’ve worn them to death and they’re full of holes, but I can’t find a replacement pair. Incredibly loud trainers are all that’s on offer in most shops. I have a pair of platform shoes, but they raise me to 5ft 10in – I’m 5ft 8in without them – making me feel terribly tall and intimidating. I bought my long suede boots from Russell & Bromley and I wear them with leggings and skirts. You have to be careful when you wear them with minis, though, otherwise you can look as if you’ve stepped out of the Starship Enterprise.’
Name of the game; INTERVIEW: JEMMA REDGRAVE
BYLINE: James Rampton
Actress Jemma Redgrave runs a mile when she hears the word “dynasty”. It’s not that she has a loathing of glitzy American soaps; it’s just that when your grandfather is Michael Redgrave, your father Corin Redgrave, your aunts Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, and your cousins Natasha and Joely Richardson, the word tends to attach itself to you like a barnacle to the bottom of an old boat.
So it is with no little feeling that Jemma Redgrave expresses her delight that she is finally being viewed as an actress in her own right, irrespective of her famous name.
All the same, she claims her name was never a passport to work. “Nobody ever seriously thinks you get a job because of your name, because if you can’t do it, you don’t work. They might trot you round the paddock, but they’re not going to put you in for the race if you’re not up to it.
“At drama school, I felt I was getting away with it, I felt outside things. I would have good attempts but I could always hear my own voice. Now I feel connected. I don’t care what other people think, because I feel I’ve established myself.”
And she’s right. Her performances in the title role of Bramwell on ITV, as Sir Oswald’s wife in Channel 4’s Mosley, and as the lover in The Buddha of Suburbia on BBC2 have placed her at the forefront of TV performers.
In all Redgrave’s roles, viewers are drawn to her warmth and humanity. One critic observed that what marked her out was “her sense of heart”. Think of the poignant look of hurt that crossed her face when her husband (Jonathan Cake) in Mosley had the gall to blame her for his serial philandering. “People say you are so lovable, and I am so interesting,” he sneered. “I will try to be more lovable, if you’ll try to be more interesting.”
Bramwell, showing in two World Cup-busting feature-length episodes this week, was the show that really made her. Created by the acclaimed writer Lucy Gannon, the character – a doctor battling against prejudice and scant resources in the East End of Victorian London is both feisty and fiery.
A tall, elegant figure in a blue dress and pale cardigan, Redgrave reckons that “the good thing about Eleanor is that she’s not ingratiating. People say to me, ‘God, I want to slap her sometimes.’ And so do I. I think, ‘calm down, and just count to 10’. She frequently puts her foot in it, and she’s not afraid to be bad-tempered. But a lot of people identify with her strength and her determination, and her will to forge a career for herself in a male-dominated profession. That strikes a chord even now. She’s headstrong, bloody-minded, passionate and difficult, but naive and vulnerable at the same time. It’s a good rich mixture.”
Viewers have also been attracted, Redgrave admits, by the often gory hospital scenes. “People are fascinated by Victorian medicine because it’s so gruesome. A hundred years ago, they were removing a woman’s ovaries for what is now called post-natal depression.”
This is all of a piece with the gritty feel which distinguishes Bramwell from the chocolate-box look of much costume drama. “It’s less well-pressed than a lot of other period drama. It looks cold in the same way that Persuasion did – people are crumpled and muddy. There is a sense in Bramwell of a time when there was no central heating. It was freezing in that hospital. Poverty was filthy and not glamorous in any way.”
For all Redgrave’s success over three series in Bramwell, it was Mosley that grabbed the most headlines. Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran’s drama copped a great deal of flak for supposedly glamorising the British fascist leader. “It was obvious the series was going to be a talking-point, but I had no idea it was going to be so controversial. People asked whether it should have been made. The answer is yes.
“Mosley was a despicable monster, but he was part of our particular history. It was because Mosley was charismatic, fantastically articulate and a brilliant speaker that he was so dangerous. You can’t help thinking, ‘what a waste that a man with such promise and talent should have thrown it away and espoused such an evil cause’.”
“It’s now a very febrile time in Europe,” Redgrave says. “There are fascist movements in Russia and the Balkans. We must look at people like Mosley and understand them, so we don’t repeat our mistakes.”
Despite her telly hits, for a long time Redgrave had the makings of a severe case of stage-fright. “I hadn’t been anywhere near the theatre for five years. I went to a first night a year ago, and I got a panic attack. I thought, ‘how can they possibly do it when they know Michael Coveney the Daily Mail theatre critic and Nicholas de Jongh from the Evening Standard are sitting out there sharpening their pencils?'”
All that changed when Peter Hall persuaded her to take the lead in his production of Major Barbara at the Piccadilly Theatre in London. “She’s such a surprising character,” Redgrave enthuses. “You have certain expectations and preconceptions about a Salvation Army major of the early Edwardian period. She subverts them with her humour and humanity.”
Earnest, passionate, engaged, Redgrave displays a commitment to her work that she says she learnt from her father. “He has huge integrity and believes that one should be serious about what one does. I’ll end up in “Luvvies” for this, but there is value and weight in what we do.
“Gombrich says that you respond to painting because there’s something familiar in it that you understand even if it’s abstract. It illuminates and you connect with it. So whether it’s painting, opera or theatre, it’s important that you don’t short-change people. If you don’t take something seriously, what’s the point in doing it?”
‘Bramwell’ is on Mon and Thur at 8pm on ITV.
LOAD-DATE: June 15, 1998
The Daily Telegraph (LONDON)
May 31, 2008 Saturday
MY PERFECT WEEKEND Country gatherings and card games are a winning hand for actress Jemma Redgrave
BYLINE: Interview by Yvonne Swann
A perfect weekend for me would be reminiscent of the weekends of my childhood. It would be just like the recent bank holiday when I stayed with friends in Norfolk with my husband [barrister Tim Owen] and our sons Gabriel, 14, and Alfie, eight. No weekend could be perfect if the children and my Labrador weren’t part of it.
The sun was shining and the Norfolk light in the mornings was magical, glowing on the views over the salt marshes towards the sea.
It was idyllic. There was a little boat and we sailed out on the ocean waves and watched the seals and wild birds at Blakeney Point. We went for long walks, read the papers and the dads played football with the boys.
That really is my ideal weekend: lots of children and games. As well as table tennis, card games with good friends is brilliant. You laugh so much, but it’s also seriously competitive.
We also like to play “First Lines” with the children. We find a book, read the blurb off the back jacket and everybody has to write down what they think the first line might be. You win if you pick the real first line out of everyone’s efforts and you win if your invented first line gets the most votes. It’s ridiculous fun and the sort of communal living among friends that I love.
We live in London and don’t get away to the country much at weekends, because my sons have a busy social and sporting life in the city. They love their football and cricket. Country breaks are very special to me.
As a child, I have very fond memories of being with my maternal grandparents, who lived in Shepperton, right on the Thames, in the grounds of a big house. There was always a dinghy nearby. My grandfather had been in the Navy and was a great sailor. I remember boating with him and in my mind it seems to have been forever summer there. We had a lot of freedom. We’d go off by ourselves and fish for pike. I also remember a lot of croquet in the grounds of the big house on summer evenings. It was lovely.
My paternal grandmother [actress Rachel Kempson, Lady Redgrave] had a cottage in Hampshire and I used to stay with her regularly. It was different again. She had a dog, which I adored, and those memories seem to be autumnal -all about bonfires and beautiful woods.
My mother [Deirdre Hamilton-Hill] had a vintage clothes stall in an antiques market in the King’s Road in London and took a stall in the Portobello Road to sell the leftovers. I used to go with her to the markets on Saturdays and was sometimes left in charge of the stall. As I had no idea what I was doing, I sold wonderful things for a pittance. At the time, I didn’t like the old clothes at all. Like most children, I was quite conservative and wanted a conventional life. I yearned for Marks & Spencer, not Victorian gowns. I’d love to have the whole stall now.
When I was little, I saw a Play for Today on the BBC about a Jacobean village. Clothes arrived in the village full of plague-carrying fleas. The play marked me. I was absolutely convinced that some terrible disease was going to be shipped in with the old clothes when they arrived at our house. I’d skirt the walls in terror.
In later years, I grew close to my paternal grandfather, the actor Michael Redgrave, who was divorced from my Hampshire grandmother. He taught me to play canasta, which is where my love of cards comes from. My father [actor Corin Redgrave] taught me poker when I was 10 and I still like to play it at weekends.
My recent Norfolk weekend was entirely wonderful because it was closely linked to my childhood memories and to the days when my parents were still together. We’d all gather for heavenly weekends with lots of friends, grandparents and children. Could anything be better than that? I don’t think so.
Jemma Redgave is starring in the play The Cherry Orchard, by Anton Chekhov, at Chichester Festival Theatre until next Saturday.
LEADER; JEMMA’S SURVIVED THE CURSE OF CRAIG
December 6, 2003
ONE of the great things about the British film industry is the way it gives young, up-andcoming talents such as Craig Ferguson a chance to make a name for themselves – and then totally blow it.
I’ll Be There, is a particular case in point because not only is Ferguson making his directing debut but he was actually an actor whose career has been blighted by a string of roles in low-budget movies like The Big Tease and Modern Vampires. As the eight other people in the audience of my local cinema will testify on the night I went to see it, I’ll Be There was flat and characterless.
Then, to make things worse, he probably ruined any future movie career prospects for opera singer Charlotte Church. For the uninitiated, in the film she played knackered Eighties rock star Ferguson’s love child who arrives on the scene to halt his downward spiral.
Referring to my notes from that fateful screening, I see: “I’m willing to bet that the first shattered atom split more sedately than the audience rushing out of the auditorium today.”
Presumably, Ferguson also realised how rotten it was and gave up directing.
To my great relief, Jemma Redgrave (she of the great acting dynasty) actually agrees with me.
Let’s face it, she should know, she co-starred in the movie as Charlotte’s reformed groupie mother.
“It’s true, the film was a bomb, ” Jemma admitted. “But it wasn’t a stink bomb. That’s the distinction.
“I don’t give a damn, really. It would have been better for them and, of course, nice for me if it had been a success. But the experience was great. So it doesn’t really matter.”
Tragically, it does when your first film swiftly heads for the bargain basement DVDs bins at Woolies. Though Jemma thinks it would be unfair to drum the flick out of the Brownies altogether.
“It absolutely does what it says on the tin, ” she continued. “It’s charming and funny. The thing is that it’s Charlotte’s first film and I think she’s terrific in it, actually.
“She was very natural and brought a lot of warmth and humour to the part. I think, for a 16 year old in her first film part, she excelled. I couldn’t have done it at 16. I was hugely impressed by her.
“She’s also a delightful young woman. She has got that great Welsh work ethic thing. Hard working, intelligent, funny, sparky. And she sings.
IREMEMBER thinking I didn’t want to work for a while after that I had such a good experience.” You have to be careful what you wish for, don’t you, because Jemma didn’t work for a long while afterwards.
She is back on track now, though, and returns to television in the New Year in the company of another Scot, East Kilbride’s own John Hannah.They star together in ITV’s two-part thriller, Amnesia, in which she plays a marbles-scrambled cop who suspects her memory-scarred husband of having murdered his first wife. And know what? It’s very good.
Thanks to Dawn for this interview. We got more to come so stay tuned…
I added a new article from the Vortex Magazine which got a feature story on “UNIT: Encounters“.
Full scans are up here:
Scans > 2017 > Vortex Magazine – November 2017
Duet for One was scheduled to feature Jemma Redgrave who has unfortunately withdrawn due to ill health. The role of Stephanie Abrahams will now be played by Belinda Lang.
We wish her all the best – get well soon Jemma!