Life Etc: The Q Interview - Haydn Gwynne
We first admired the actress Haydn Gwynne, 39, in 1989, in the television dramatisation of David Lodge's Nice Work. She has since been conspicuous in Drop the Dead Donkey and Peak Practice, while sustaining a varied stage career. She has two children, Orlando and Harry, and lives with her partner, Jason. She
returns to our TV screens on Monday week, playing Superintendent Susan Blake in Mersey Beat
From the doctor's surgery to walking the beat - you are becoming something of an expert on public services ...
I did spend some time shadowing police officers for Mersey Beat. What surprised me was that my knowledge of the police seemed to come exclusively from television. After I'd met them in the flesh, I came to see police officers more as ordinary people, doing a job. In many ways it's like working for any company - the same relationships, hierarchy and admin. The odd thing is that this is mixed in with the extremes of policing.
No wild car chases, then?
I have to tell you that spending the day in a panda car is no fun. Most officers go around in Vauxhall Astras.
You share some similarities with your character, Supt Susan Blake, in that you are both working mothers. How do the problems you face compare?
Time is the main one, or the lack of it. You don't have time to do the things you need to do, let alone take a tea break. Of course, there is always a price to pay in your personal life if you do her type of job while trying to raise a family, but she isn't falling apart. She's happily married - things may be difficult, but she copes.
You were a relatively late starter for an actress. What were you doing beforehand?
I spent five years living in Rome, teaching English and then lecturing at the University of Rome.
So why did you come back?
I'd put off the acting for a long time and felt it was time to come out of the closet. I realised my shameful secret was holding me back and decided to go for it before it was too late. Admitting I wanted to act came as 100 per cent relief.
What was the worst acting job you've ever had?
I had a part in Ziegfeld, the multi-million-pound disaster mega- musical. They kept pouring money in, so it went on and on. That was fairly traumatic. In retrospect, it toughened me up, but by the end of it I'd had enough and went off to the west coast of America. I hired a car and travelled around on my own, calling my agent from time to time. Eventually I came back to audition for Nice Work.
It takes some courage to travel alone.
It's not such a big deal. You can feel self-conscious when eating and I did feel a bit angsty before I set off, but you get over that. Once you are on the road it opens you up to a different kind of experience. You make more connections with people - it can be really rewarding and interesting.
Was America as you expected?
Previously, I had only been to New York. East coast Americans told me I would hate Californians, with their "have a nice day" attitude. In fact, I found it a relief. They fill your bags at the supermarket and take them to your car and none of it feels false. It was a shock coming back to an English pub where a request for a bag of peanuts is too much for the barman.
So when are you planning your next big trip?
At the moment I feel like I will be spending most of my holidays at Center Parcs. Once the children are grown up I intend to be an eccentric old lady, heading off on the travels I've always wanted to do.
You don't conform to most people's idea of a typical actress. Are you conscious of that?
People say I'm not a very actressy person, and I'm not quite sure what they mean. There's a lot of darling this and darling that in the profession, but I don't mind it. As in any industry, very few of the personalities fit the stereotype.
You once said you'd be happy never to do another love scene. Do you still feel the same way?
I was being a little facetious. Everyone wants to work, and if I got a good script that required a love scene I wouldn't rule it out. The reality is never quite as bad as you imagine it will be. Ingrid Kennedy
Copyright 2001 Independent Newspapers UK Limited
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.
Independent, The (London), Jul 8, 2001