Friday, 13 May 2011
Beth Chalmers Interview
How did you come to be involved with Big Finish?
I was working on a radio series with Peter Davison called Rigor Mortis and we got on really well. He mentioned my name to David Richardson for the spin off series Graceless that I wasn’t right for but he remembered me when it came to casting Time Reef.
Having worked with various Doctors what do you think their different strengths are?
They are all so different. I really like Sylvester’s preoccupation – well all of the Doctor’s feel as if they are preoccupied but he always feels like he is on the edge of something really exciting. Its great to chase around after him waiting to see what he will come out with next! Paul gives a very different performance; you can almost feel him swishing his cloak in the sound booth! He’s a far more dramatic actor and plays his Doctor with a degree of arrogance. Peter plays the part with more vulnerability. And with Colin – his Doctor is definitely in charge! You know with his stories that his Doctor is there and he is running things!
You have had a prolific number of appearances in Big Finish stories - do you have a favourite?
I really enjoyed playing the Lady Vuyoki (from Time Reef) – she was a lady in a jar who loved being fawned over so naturally that was wonderful! Its great to play snooty characters because I get to be a bitch! Its much more fun to be mean than to be a good guy.
Tell us about Raine, the new companion to the 7th Doctor. What type of character is she and how does she differ from Ace? Do you see Raine becoming a permanent fixture with the Doctor? Would you be keen to come back for more stories? How did you find playing both Raine and her mother? How did you approach the characters differently, and were there common traits that you used to play both of them?
Ken Bentley and David Richardson were going to hold auditions for the part of Raine but when they read the character spec they thought ‘Its Beth, isn’t it’ Usually you are fighting for a part so it is lovely to be considered without having to audition. Raine is a girl who can take care of herself; she’s a self-made middle class safe cracker who hasn’t come from a very privileged background and has had to haul herself up to the position she is in. Her father is a real London geezer and she refuses to be like him. She has the best job in the world – a safe cracker, which is wonderfully cool and romantic. When I was first playing Raine I wasn’t nervous because to be it was just another character from Big Finish – I even thought the title of the story was called ‘The Lost Stories’ but as soon as I looked into it and realised that this was quite a big deal now I am really feeling the excitement. I would really like to do some more and expand the character.
In one of the stories I was playing both Raine and her mother but I played her with an East European accent so she didn’t sound anything like her daughter. She is a very different woman, very seasoned and softer. I didn’t play the two characters together – it was before Raine was born…I got play a character giving birth to another character I was playing!
We’ve done a handful of stories and I’m quite hesitant to say but I think from discussion I have had that there will be some more.
You have played some very unusual characters, primitives, alien queens and children - do you find these roles a challenge?
I enjoy it massively! Most of my career has been playing different voices so this is my kind of territory. It is nice to play somebody like Raine, though, to get a part to follow through. When most of the parts are little character bits it is nice to take a character on a journey.
Can you tell us something of your career away from Doctor Who?
I have worked on lots of cartoons, Little Red Tractor, The Famous Five and I have been doing some recording for Disney. I’ve got one eye on the telephone waiting for Hollywood to call. I would love to do more telly work – I have worked on People Like Us and played a small part in the Miranda Christmas special. My career started with audio work, I won the Carlton Hobbs award whilst at drama school and had six months of playing loads of parts in BBC rep. It was a wonderful time and I got to play against some excellent actors like Stephen Fry and Tamsin Greig. I have done some theatre work, a play in Chichester called Arcadia and An Ideal Husband. I worked with Penelope Keith – wonderful woman – in Agatha Raisin on audio. I have also worked on The Wright Stuff on the radio for 10 years reading extracts.
Do you ever fancy taking the leap from actress to director ala Lisa Bowerman?
No it doesn’t really appeal. I have written some comedy scripts with my writing partner Amy Schindler and I sat there as a writer watching the fantastic cast (including David Mitchell) bringing our work to life and wanting desperately to be involved! I could imagine directing for Big Finish would be the same, wanting to get amongst the actors and take part! Amy and I have some writing projects in development at the moment.
What can we expect from you in the future?
You never know what is around the corner. My cartoons are all out this year and hopefully I will get to play Raine some more and I am involved in the War hammer series for Big Finish as well. If I could say that in a year’s time that I am still working that would be brilliant! Its one of the most frightening and exciting parts of being an actor that you never know what is coming around the corner. Lets say more of the same…hopefully doing voice over, audio, stage and TV work wont all dry up at once!
What are the benefits of working on audio?
You work in your booth and whilst the actors are all around you you don’t really see them, it is a much more intimate experience doing audio. Its important that you don’t exaggerate, that you find other ways of showing what is happening, you need to express yourself very clearly. Playing so many different parts is very liberating.
How would you sum up your overall experience of working with Big Finish?
I love it, they are such nice people! I wish it was a little bit nearer to reach but there are some people that have to go much further than me. I really love that they just crack on with it; there is just the right amount of faff. You do get as much goes as you need but I have had experiences of actors in other work I have done going on for endless takes to try and get their characters motivation right – with Big Finish (and I am the worst for asking why my character is doing things – Ken Bentley has a brilliant way of asking back ‘Why do you think you are doing it?’ and making me think about the character) you do get as many goes as you need but its very fluid, like a well oiled machine. The writer is usually on hand if anything goes wrong and you can’t be too self indulgent, which is nice and we just get on with it. Oh and the catering is extraordinary!