Tuesday 21 Apr 2009
The character of Layla immediately appealed to Sarah Alexander upon reading Debbie Horsfield's scripts.
She explains: "I think Debbie's writing is wonderful and I've always been a fan of hers. In particular I immediately connected with the character of Layla – she is not a straightforward woman.
"She's complex and approaches things in a curious way, always taking the long road to get to what she wants. Therefore she is very attractive to play as an actress."
Glamorous Layla arrives in the town where Esther and Michael Caddick live with their family, and manages to drive their seemingly unshakable marriage apart, as well as causing disruptions to the choir Michael conducts.
Sarah says of this side of Layla: "She is manipulative and that's how she functions. She can't help herself, it's how she operates to get things done – probably professionally as well as privately.
"I suppose it is calculating but she knows no other way, and in that respect you can forgive her because she never deliberately sets out to hurt anyone."
Layla's actions don't win her many friends, but Sarah believes that there are deep-rooted reasons for her behaviour.
"She is a damaged individual, she has demons. She is fragile and vulnerable and that's perhaps the reason why she behaves in the way she does. Ultimately she is desperate not to be alone, desperate to find a man and start a family."
The other element of the series that immediately struck Sarah was the music.
"The musical aspect of this piece is wonderful and innovative; I don't think there has been anything like it before. It is a very important aspect of the show and was just lovely to be a part of. The days where we came in and just sang would leave us happy and smiling – it was just fun."
Initially, the fact that Layla possesses a wonderful soprano voice which is the envy of the choir was daunting for Sarah.
"I thought, 'crikey, there's no way that my voice is up to the mark!', although in my head in the shower I'm Kiri Te Kanawa! When I went to meet everybody I made it very clear from the offset that I wasn't the sweet singing angel Layla is – and I gave my rendition of Mio Babino just to make sure everyone knew quite how dreadful I sounded!"
Luckily there was help at hand, from musical director Chris O'Hara and soprano Rachel Luxon.
"The production helpfully brought in the most beautiful voice of Rachel, and she became the voice of Layla. It was an acting challenge for me. I had to act as if I was producing the most exquisite sound the world has ever heard and in reality it was something very different! But I hope it worked and I think it has."
Despite her initial trepidation, Sarah was surprised at how much she enjoyed the singing aspect to the series.
"I don't think we realise how much fun singing is, being with a bunch of people and making music – there is something really beautiful about it."
She jokes: "I wouldn't mind joining a choir now, but they probably wouldn't have me!"