Arts Muse was delighted to have a chat with the actress, Andrea Gordon, who is soon to return as the troubled character, Bren Lee, on popular BBC series Doctors.
You play Bren Lee in BBC1 daytime drama Doctors, what made you want to play such a challenging role?
It was the chance to play against my stereotype of a blonde, middle class professional and portray a vulnerability that is raw and open. As an actress playing someone who is utterly uninhibited, throwing off the shackles of society’s expectations and saying and doing what you think, was great…. until the hangover of course. I felt for Bren, she has no defences – she’s uneducated, poor and has no self presentation skills – a shocking but real indictment of many people today who have been failed by the system.
How do you prepare for a role like Bren Lee?
I watched a lot of YouTube videos on alcoholism and Louis Theroux did a series about drinking which followed certain individuals, one of which hugely influenced my characterisation of Bren.
But I remember thinking the night before filming my first drunk scene for Bren ” oh no, this can look so rubbish if it’s not done right,” so many actors just slur their words and it’s not enough. We can’t drink on set for obvious reasons, tripping over cables and damaging the cameras being one!…So that evening I drank a couple of glasses of red wine in my hotel room and filmed my reactions- the trick I learnt for being drunk was to completely relax the whole body, alcohol is a depressant, then you try desperately hard to gain control of yourself, that’s what we all try to do so that we don’t look drunk!
The rest of my preparation for Bren lay in the fact that she deeply loves her children -its just herself she doesn’t love, therein lies the tragedy.
What inspired you to get involved with acting?
I wanted connection with others on a deeper level and found that old, magical gift of moving folk by portraying emotions in storytelling.
I find that solutions to difficult situations in life are often dealt with in plays, books and films and the soaps are brilliant at making us feel that we’re not alone in feeling what we feel or are being faced with. We are all social beings at the end of the day, sitting around our campfires, telling our stories.
You’ve been in the acting industry for over 25 years what has been your favourite role you’ve played.
Bren has to up there, but I also loved playing Lisa Niemi, because when drawing on a real person half the research is done for you -they are there, in real life, to look at and “inhabit”. Plus she was the soul mate of an icon of modern times – what’s not to love!
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There’s been many, but working right at the start of my career with another icon: Omar Sharif must be one, last of the Hollywood greats, a mega star – I learnt huge amounts from him about the art of screen acting, plus he was a wonderful human being, speaking 7 languages, he was a brilliant storyteller and had a generosity of spirit that was inspiring to be around.
What would you love to do next?
A big film with Anthony Hopkins or anything by Sally Wainwright (she writes some brilliant stuff for women) or utilise the dance training on Strictly Come Dancing!
What was it like playing Patrick Swayze’s wife Lisa Niemi in ‘Autopsy: The Last Hours Of…’
A responsibility… she was brave, beautiful and a talent in her own right. I play her when she and Patrick are facing a dreadful battle with pancreatic cancer, so it was harrowing to play, but their obvious devotion to each other was inspiring
Lisa is a huge animal lover as am I, they had a ranch with horses and dogs etc. but the two stallions we got to play the Swayze horses on their ranch, thought it might be fun to see who could knock me over first, and the dog would only put his head on Patrick (Martin Robert Smith) when a slice of ham lay there first – never work with children or animals? Well, that’s advice I’ve never taken!
We must have done something right though as Lisa Niemi tweeted me with some very nice feedback over last weekend when it aired in the States.
You’ve had roles in both film and television, what would do you prefer?
I think the mediums all have their attractions, theatre included. I love the great TV shows like Happy Valley, Scott and Bailey and recently Three Girls, but I have a deep love of film for the freedom and fantasy it can weave, I can lose myself in a film and it’s great….it’s all in the eyes- big connection !
I just wish we invested more into our film industry here, like the States, we’ve got all the necessary talent in front and behind the cameras!
You perform your own stand up comedy, what inspired you to get involved with the comedy circuit?
Stupidity! Sometimes I think so…. But I wanted to say things, make points from my female perspective and the roles weren’t being written to do so, at the same time I was invited to a comedy show and thought, I could never do that- the next day I kept thinking about it, this little voice kept saying ” go on coward, have a go, you can say all the things you’ve been thinking ” so I signed up for a comedy course – the snag is that you can say what you like but you have to be FUNNY.
But I love comedy, laughter is immediate and intimate, when you connect with another soul in laughter its much easier to make the point, their heart is open so it goes in deeper – I think that is an approximation of what T S Eliot said…
Also I’m stubborn I’d someone tells me something is difficult or not for me, I go, oh yeah, watch me!
Do you ever get nervous before standing up and performing your comedy in front of an audience?
Yes…There’s only you on the stage and it’s all down to what you say and how you say it – no laughter is very painful to hear.
That said the more you do the more addictive it gets and laughter apart from raising endorphins, raises your cheekbones too, much cheaper then a facelift!