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Interview on Houston PBS Station KUHT (2003)

Host:
Ernie Manouse

Broadcast by:
KUHT-TV, Houston, Texas

"[??]" is used to indicate uncertain transcription phrases.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Part One

EM: "As a very special treat to public television viewers, we are so happy [to say] if you're a fan of our British programming, Are You Being Served, EastEnders, then our guest here today is no surprise to you.. She is Wendy Richard."

WR : "Thank you."

EM: "I wanted to know: Are You Being Served? became popular in the United States after it had ended its run pretty much in Britain, correct?"

WR: "Ah, I don't know . . . I think it was actually still on in England, because we didn't finish until . . . '84, I think it was, because I went straight from Are You Being Served? into EastEnders. It was either '83 or '84. And then we did two more follow-up series in . . . '91 and '92. We called it Grace and Favour, but I believe here in the States it's known as Are You Being Served Again!"

EM: "Right, the sequel show. And there was also a movie?"

WR: "Yes, yes . . . "

EM: "Do you ever think to yourself: 'Wow, in some ways my life somehow stalls during these years', because it continually replays and replays?"

WR: "Yes. I get so much fan mail -- and emails -- from America; mainly for Are You Being Served?, and quite a few for EastEnders as well, because I think more PBS stations put out Are You Being Served? than they do EastEnders."

EM: "Is there a particular time in the run of Are You Being Served? that stands out as a special time for you?"

WR: "Well, I enjoyed my entire twelve years and then the following two set-ups of Are You Being Served?, because we were all so close, we were like one big family, because I'd worked with just about everyone else before on other projects anyway. So we all knew each other."

EM: "Can you work on a program like that that's so much fun to watch, if there isn't harmony within the cast? Can it be done?"

WR: "I don't know, because I've never experienced anything else, so I wouldn't know. But I was watching a program on cable TV at home in London and they were interviewing -- I won't say who it was -- a group of actors from a very popular American sitcom, and they all seemed to have to go into huddles and work out each others' psyches, and whatever you call it. And I thought 'Oh, please, I couldn't be doing with all that'. I mean, you're a bunch of actors, you're very fortunate to be working -- we all are -- and your scripts are right and your situation's right. Just get on with it, and enjoy it."

EM: "Why do you think it is that this show endures?"

WR: "Well, you've got the cream of light entertainment there, haven't you? But you see, with David Croft -- I think you also get Dad's Army in America as well, I'm not sure -- but you see, David Croft, such a brilliant man, who set up Dad's Army, Are You Being Served?, Grace and Favour, so many of the top BBC light entertainment programs. Whatever he does just turns to gold anyway."

EM: "Is there some secret to making comedy work on television?

WR (with a hint of a smile and no hesitation): "Play it for truth. Don't over-act. I can't bear that when I see things where people are overacting; it makes me wince. Play it for truth, is what David Croft used to tell us, because his stuff was so well-written. You play it for truth, and the laughs will come."

EM: "People come up to you all the time, who know you from these shows, know you from Are You Being Served?. What do you commonly get asked? What is something that you want to have a chance to answer?"

WR: "I don't know. . . The lovely thing is that they are pleased to see you, and then they always ask first of all after Molly Sugden -- who's 81 this July, if people want to send her a birthday card -- and still going strong, and John Inman. They always ask after him. At this moment in time, he is in Australia doing a play, otherwise he'd be here with me today."

EM: "We're happy you're here with us. Thank you so much for coming in. Wendy Richard."

WR: "Thank you."

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Part 2

EM: "To have a single hit program in this world of television of ours is very rare. To have two hit programs is almost unheard of. Our guest with us today has done that amazing feat. It's Wendy Richard. Hello, there!"

WR: "Hi!"

EM: "So, you come off Are You Being Served? and go immediately into EastEnders and how many years now have you been with them?"

WR: "I've been in EastEnders since Day One, which is nearly 19 years now."

EM: "Incredible. How do you keep it fresh for yourself?"

WR: "Well, Pauline's life . . . poor Pauline taken so many twists and turns, you know, but I'm very fond of her because she has been very good to me. And so you look forward to each script, to coming in, to wait and see if her fortune's going to change any."

EM: "All too often, you hear of people who are in long situations in a particular show, who start to feel they want to move on, to leave it and go. I would think the opposite: the longer you're in a story, the more you can do with the character, the more elements that are revealed to you. How do you feel about it?"

WR: "Yes, I tend to agree with you. I think some of them think -- actually, it sounds rather unkind -- I've heard some of them say, Oh, I'm going to go off; you know, they all want to go to Hollywood and -- I've been there -- and some of them have done well that have been in EastEnders and left, and others . . . I feel very sorry for them, since they haven't been heard of again since. It depends: see, with a lot of people, especially when we first started EastEnders, some of them, it was their very first job; they hadn't done anything else. Whereas, I have a pretty good track record work-wise. So I think you'd be foolish [to leave] if . . . if you're good with your character, if you know your character as well as I do -- nobody knows Pauline as well as I do. And I fight tooth and nail: 'no, she wouldn't say this; she wouldn't say that', and I wouldn't have her house changed and the pictures have to be the same..."

EM: "And they let you do that? They work with you on that?"

WR: "Yes. I think it's very important to keep that strong sense of continuity. Because the viewers notice these things."

EM: "One other thing I do want to know about that: do you ever get caught up in the storylines like the viewers do? Curious what's going to happen next? Or is so much revealed to you that you kind of know where everything's going?"

WR: "Well, no, I never like to know too much, because some stories get leaked, and I think well, if I don't know, I can't get the blame for it. But, no, you do want to know. Has it got a proper end, a proper start, a middle and an ending? You have to make sure for yourself, but unless I can believe in what I'm saying, then I'm afraid I can't say it very well. I just can't do it. It has to have, for me, an element of truth. And I can believe in someone like Pauline."

EM: "Thank you for the work you've been doing, and the element of truth you bring to do. Let's hope there's no ending in sight for a long time for EastEnders."

WR: "Thank you so much."

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Part 3

EM: "From two classic shows, EastEnders and Are You Being Served?, we have one classic actress. We're very pleased to have with us Wendy Richard. Hello, there!"

WR: "Hi."

EM: "I was asking you this before, and I was curious to hear your answer. If you've done a comedy for so long, and then you went into a drama, how different is that experience? And is there one that's more rewarding than the other, as an actress?"

WR: "Well, they're both rewarding. I mean, Shirley Brahms was very good to me in one way, although I didn't realize it -- there was one time, when we were working on that show, and I said something in rehearsal, I said 'I'm the sex symbol', and John Inman said to me: 'No, you're not, I am!' and I believed him! But now, it's only just now that I've realized though from the fan mail I get . . . But believe you me they do know what I look like now and it is not what I looked like then. But with EastEnders, it did come as a bit of a shock, because when you're used to doing light entertainment, when we did have an amusing line, I would pause waiting for the laugh, and of course there would be no laugh because there was no audience. And you sort of have to realize that you have to get on with it; bash on through it."

EM: "As an actress, is it hard to make that shift? Or do you approach it the same way basically?"

WR: "Well, I like to think I approach any of the jobs I do in a professional way. Except we have a grueling schedule on EastEnders; it's not like any other program. We can work up to a 12-hour day; sometimes, five or six days a week. And EastEnders does take over your life, you know, because . . . In a way, I'm fortunate: I have no family; other members of the cast obviously are married, and have children, what have you. So EastEnders is my life, and . . . my sole concentration is on my work."

EM: "Do you like it when people recognize you as the character, as opposed to recognizing you as the actress you are?"

WR: "Well, kiddies -- most of my fan mail comes from children -- they address me as Pauline, which is understandable. But then an awful lot of people, they do know my name is Wendy, and it's very nice when people greet you, because they do genuinely seem pleased to see you."

EM: "Well, we're pleased to see you; thank you so much for joining us. And whatever name they know you under, we know you as Wendy. Thank you so much for coming."

WR: "Thank you!"

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

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