BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It took actress Daisy Haggard nine years after graduating from drama school to land a job acting. The British Haggard, who’s best known here for her uptight performance in “Episodes,” was rejected twice by drama school, but couldn’t give up.
“I never got into any school plays because I could never sight read,” she says in a drafty meeting room in a hotel here.
“So I was always the one who WASN’T in the play, crying when I found out I wasn’t in it. But I just always wanted to do it. And I’d make up terrible plays, which I performed for my family, which would very patiently watch them. My dad eventually would occasionally stand up and say, ‘This is terrible!’ But something just made me keep going back.”
Instead of reciting dialogue at drama school, Haggard was working in the Christmas decorations department at Harrods. “And all my friends were at uni(versity) making new friends. And I was packaging baubles and listening to Christmas music in July, and thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ … Having not gotten into drama school I thought there was nothing else I could do because I didn’t listen at school very well, because I was trying to make everybody laugh.”
Haggard has been writing comedy and trying to make everybody laugh since she was a kid, even though she suffered from symptoms of dyslexia. Finally the two endeavors collided when she and coauthor Laura Solon sold the BBC her sitcom, “Back to Life.”
After a successful run in the U.K., the series lands on American shores via Showtime on Sunday. Haggard plays an ex-con who returns to her home town after 18 years in prison and must resume her life.
Starting over again is not new to Haggard. “There were loads of times where I thought, ‘Oh, God it’s never going to happen,’” she sighs.(
“I’m 41, and you’re told if you haven’t made it by 35 then it’s all over. So it’s really lovely to have this moment in my career at this age,” says the actress who’s wearing a black sheath with a black lace cover-up.
“There was a moment when I had my first child and was walking around with leaky boobs — couldn’t get a job — my boobs kept leaking in interviews. My husband was on tour – he does all the music for the show – I remember thinking, ‘Oh, God, what am I going to do? I’ll have to go work in a pub.’ I didn’t want to quit, but I thought maybe it would quit me.”
She’s the youngest of six, with a film director dad who was adamantly opposed to her joining the showbiz work force. “He did everything he could to try and stop me and eventually gave in. And now he’s super proud,” she says pushing her ash-blonde hair off her shoulder.
Acting roles scarce, she landed a job as a receptionist in a gym. “I never did any exercise and got quite fat because I made everyone buy me chocolates,” she laughs. “I’d say, ‘Hello, Richard, it says on the screen that you should go buy me chocolates.’
“Some people left drama school, boom! I remember the day I left drama school I set my alarm for 9:59 thinking that my agent would phone me at 10 to tell me all the millions of jobs I was going to audition for and get. I think it was about a year later I got an audition. So I was working in gyms, babysitting. The first year I didn’t earn one penny from acting.”
She hung on at the gym for 10 years. “I quit it three or four times going, ‘Goodbye, I have my big break.’ They’d say, ‘Goodbye.’ And then, ‘Hello!’ I had years of that.”
Eight years ago she met and fell in love with musician Joe Wilson. “I married the best musician ever,” she flutters her hands above the table.
“He used to be an actor, and we met on an acting job years ago, but I don’t remember him. He gets annoyed at me for that. Then we met through friends and kept bumping into each other for a week – maybe he was stalking me. But we got together very quickly. We fell crazy in love and were engaged within four months, married a year to the day we met.”
They have two daughters, ages 1 and almost 5. Working and parenting has been a severe challenge, she admits. “I just had a baby when I wrote ‘Back to Life,’ so I had a baby next to me, or on my boobs sometimes, or a breast pump.”
Once filming began she orchestrated the schedule. “I really wanted to make bedtimes, and my children would come on the set, and so I would sometimes put them to bed and would do rewrites at three in the morning,” she says.
“I was so tired. Writing is really hard with kids, I’m not saying it isn’t, but when you’re acting you might be told you’ll be filming in South Africa, and then you’re just not around. At least with writing … I’d go off to a café for five hours and work and come home and do pickups. I could juggle it. It was hard for me, but for my children I was still visible.”
CELEBRITY DOCTORS ON CALL AGAIN
E’s bringing its celebrity plastic surgeons from “Botched” back for another season this week. Doctors Terry Dubrow and Paul Nassif host this often-bizarre series. While the surgeons seem authentic and well-meaning their patients often veer way off the normal spectrum. Dubrow admits that they don’t always accomplish what they set out to do. “There have been examples of patients who we didn’t necessarily improve them as much as we wanted to,” he says.
“There have been patients we’ve had who have had complications and we’ve done everything perfectly, and we’re still dealing with a few of those. But I think, surprisingly, when Paul first presented this show idea to me about doing botched plastic surgery where they’ve had 14 operations, I said, ‘What are you smoking? Are you crazy? We’re going to put on national television the 15th operation where the first 14 didn’t work?’ Even though we were revision specialists.
“We have a new entire level of skills that we now apply to these patients,” he says. Operations that are in textbooks that say, ‘Don’t try to fix this,’ I can fix in 20 minutes now, just because I’ve been given this amazing experience.”
ECKHART PORTRAYS WWII ACE
Aaron Eckhart has been cast as the dauntless Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle in the new film “Midway,” opening Friday. The movie re-examines the great battle of 1942 between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the American fleet, which marked a turning point in the Pacific conflict during World War II.
Eckhart, who rose to fame in films like “Thank You for Smoking” and “The Dark Knight,” reports his first paying gig as an actor was as part of the background in a beer commercial. But it earned enough in residuals to keep him going for four and a half years. His girlfriend and his job as a waiter also helped keep him afloat. Eckhart, who’s good at most everything he tries, says he was a terrible waiter at first.
“I didn’t know what capers were. I had to make tuna tartare in front of these people. I didn’t know anything about wine. I literally would have hot flashes before work. I would have nightmares. It was so tough. But I conquered that restaurant, and I became the head bartender, and I was good at the end,” he smiles.
He’s always been good at the end, though often unorthodox. “My report cards usually went: ‘Aaron is an excellent student when he applies himself.’ What happens is I go real hard at the beginning, I figure out what the teacher will and will not accept from me and where their weakness is and how I can exploit and manipulate them, and the whole second half of the year, it’s me exploiting those weaknesses and gliding through,” he says.
‘THE CROWN’ REIGNS IN SEASON 3
The queen sits uneasily on the throne as the third season of Netflix’s “The Crown” arrives Nov. 17. Olivia Colman plays Queen Elizabeth II as she moves through the hippie frenzy of the ‘60s, the Cold War, and new developments in technology in the period from 1964 to 1977.
Helena Bonham Carter joins the fray as the scrappy Princess Margaret. Bonham Carter has enjoyed a fruitful career with a dizzying array of character parts from a primate in “Planet of the Apes” to Queen Elizabeth in “The King’s Speech.”
But Bonham Carter doesn’t see herself as a hot commodity. “I don’t think my taste is particularly commercial. I don’t have the least idea about commerciality,” she says.
“But I think I’ll always accept parts with the same criteria that I always have: which is whether it offers something new to me, a different challenge, and if it’s a director that’s exciting to work with, the part or the writing. It’s always the same criterion,” she says.
But she thinks she’s changed considerably since she began. “Definitely as an actor I’ve learned a lot. I know more how to do it. I think I’ve learned reams just by doing it, and greater confidence. But then confidence can vanish in a second; it’s such a precarious thing. And as a person, I think I’ve changed hugely, but it’s very difficult to quantify if you’re in the middle. I think I’ve grown up a bit more, but I’ve been reluctant to grow up.
“It took me till 30 to move out from my parents’. I was definitely a bit of a Peter Pan. I didn’t really want to embrace adulthood. Also a factor was that I traveled so much, I needed to have a constant, something that was unchanging. I think it was quite sensible, maybe unorthodox, but I don’t think I’ve ever been orthodox.”
(Luaine Lee is a California-based correspondent who covers entertainment for Tribune News Service.)
©2019 Luaine Lee
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