link above to BBC interview, and below, to radio interview with BBC Wiltshire
and click on link below for interview with the Bradford Telegraph and Argus
The interview below is from Outpost Skaro
THE MARY TAMM INTERVIEW
in conversation with Eddie
Mary Tamm is Whovian Royalty. In 1978 Season 16 took an unusual step away from the Gothic excesses of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era with a series of linking stories known collectively as The Key To Time. Given to the Doctor as a bona fide "assistant" - as apposed to "companions" Sarah and Leela, by The White Guardian, Time Lady Romanadvoratrelunar was haughty, clever, brave and naïve, and, it seemed, more than a match for the reluctant Doctor, and, of course played by the spectacular Mary Tamm who first appeared on screen in a sleek one piece white dress and feather boa raising more than the temperature for a thousand pre-pubescent fanboys and dads alike. But Romana was more than glamour and looks and Mary Tamm's one season in the TARDIS has stayed in the memory and is thought of, for the most part, with great affection.
This slightly palpitating fanboy managed to spend a little time in her company and spoke of Brookie, Dirty Gertie and of course, something called Doctor Who… what follows was mostly a blur…
You're a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art… what made you want to be an actor? Is it in your family?
Well, to be honest, I have no idea why I wanted to become an actor. I was playing in the street with a little girl and she announced that she was going to be an actress when she grew up, and I thought, wow, maybe I could be one too, and that was that! I was about six at the time......mind you; my mother was an opera singer, so she influenced me in all things cultural, as you will find out when you read my book!
You began in rep in Birmingham, is this correct? How scary is that first step out onto stage? Do you prefer stage to tv work?
Yeah, I did, but I was more excited than scared, as I was fulfilling a lifelong ambition, remember. Stage was my passion, and I only fell into films and TV by accident. I still love it, but now prefer working between the two mediums of theatre and celluloid.
You've appeared in a few seminal tv programmes over your career - Coronation Street, The Likely Lads, The Odessa File, Brookside… the list is huge… with regards to joining an established cast, which you sort of did with Doctor Who too, is it a different approach than say starting from the beginning of a series?
Hmmmm, vastly different- it is terrifying, frankly, to join a British Institution, whereas when you start a series from the beginning, you have a role in its creation. With something like Who, or Corrie, you are confronted with rigid parameters which you have to fit into.
I understand when you were first offered the role of Doctor Who you turned it down, not wanting to be another "damsel in distress"… how did the producers convince you?
It was not so much the producers as the director and my agent- there is a long story about this question which is answered in the book.
Quick word on the genius of Mr Tom Baker - what's he like to work with? I get reports of everything from genius to infuriating and perhaps everything in between.
You said it! Tom and I got on very well, eventually, after a rocky start - I still meet him from time to time, and we always have a great laugh together.
How did you approach the role of Romana? Again we hear that time wasn't particularly of the essence. Some others have said "simply say the lines and turn up", but your Romana always seemed to have a keen wit behind her.
I guess with my classical training and theatre experience, I was able to approach the role intelligently. I was the first companion to have an established career behind her, apart from Louise (Jamieson, aka Leela - ed), who also trained at RADA; some people say we stand out for this reason.
You were of course put in some wonderful costumes in the role. Did you have a favourite? The striking white robes for The Ribos Operation spring to mind. I'm not sure why…
I helped to design the costume for The Androids of Tara, so this one is my favourite. Over the years I have received more compliments about this costume than any other, although the white dress is copied most by fans that turn up in various versions of it at conventions!
As a serious, proper and established actor, how different is Doctor Who to work in? Some suggest its melodrama, but Tom says that if you don't take it seriously you lose the audience. Did you take his lead?
Tom took the part very seriously, as did I - he is a consummate professional, and you cannot be anything else to make the part, and therefore the series work - to not take your work seriously is a complete disaster for an actor. Tom was being flippant when he said that, I am sure!
I love the relationship between Romana and the Doctor. First he's reluctant, then sometimes he's almost teacher-ish, but there's a mutual respect, he allows you to go off and have your own adventure, and, maybe, did I sense a little chemistry?
Oh very much so, we got on like a house on fire, as we both share a wicked sense of humour!
How was your other co-star, the fabulous K9, to work with?
Fabulous is the word - John Leeson was a star!
And you had some varied locations, from beautiful countryside to difficult swamps…?
Yes, some locations were very cold, damp and uncomfortable to be in, to be sure, but it is all part of the actor's life! You learn to live with it, and the nicer locations make up for it.
And at the end of that season you decided to leave? Was that a difficult decision? Romana was popular, had a great rapport with the Doctor, were you asked to stay? There's an apocryphal story that you were pregnant…
NOT TRUE! The story of my being pregnant is a myth, and I have recently edited my Wikipedia page to amend the falsehood. John Nathan Turner started it, and I was very cross with him about it, the naughty man! My daughter was born in November 1979! I decided to leave because the part was not up to what had been promised, and there was nowhere left to go with character.
Did you ever regret leaving? Romana MkII went on to great success with Lalla.
No, I had done my time, and had some very exciting film work soon after which left me with no regrets, or looking back.
You've returned to the role of Romana in the Big Finish Audios along with Lalla. How was that, working with "another" Romana. Famously, the Doctors were known for getting together during anniversaries etc, but never a companion…
Yes, well, it was weird, at first, and I felt strongly proprietorial about Romana, so it was strange to hear Lalla doing" my" part. She is so good in it, however, and we are such good pals that I soon got over it!
And of course now we have Elisabeth Sladen returning to Doctor Who and having her own spin-off show! With K9! Would you ever appear in the programme again?
Yes, I would love to appear in the programme again, I love the new show and Liz is great in the new spin off series. I could come back as Romana, or play a juicy villainess part!
What do you think of the new programme in general and its choice of Doctors… there's a lot more, um, kissing now…
Yes, I find that a little shocking - my view of Time Lords (and ladies) is that they are above that sort of thing, so it is a shame that any hanky panky is going on, in my view - as I said above, I love the new series - Sky TV approached me to do a news interview when the new doc was announced, and I had a few minutes to expand on my ideas as to how a Time Lord should behave, which was fun to do. I think David Tennant is incredible, and am looking forward to Matt's performance now.
A lot of actors complain of typecasting, especially the companions. Did you have any trouble with the direction casting directors wanted to take you after Who? Did you ever consider doing something radical, like Katy Manning did (she posed nude with a Dalek), to try and "break the mould" of a "Who Girl"? Perhaps a gritty drama or something far removed from the very glamorous image you have?
I had a varied and extensively character driven career before DW so was not really affected by any typecasting as such. A lot of people did not even know I had been in the programme, so I had a previous reputation to fall back on. I think, apart from Louise, that Who was the first and only claim to fame for many companions, which means that typecasting was more prevalent for them. I have broken the glamour mould in many stage productions, notably playing Mari Hoff in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, a drunken , over the hill mother from hell- about as far removed from Romana as you could imagine!
When looking at your body of work, both before and after Doctor Who, it strikes me as constant and very diverse… is this a conscious effort to remain "moving" as it were? It looks like there's hardly an established programme you haven't appeared in…
Yes, well I am a workaholic, and accept any job that come along, as opposed to choosing roles to fit in with a plan or image - I have no false ideas about stardom or how I am perceived - in other words, I am pretty down to earth and just consider myself as a jobbing actor - I am always grateful for work, no matter what it is!
What has been the highlight of your acting career?
I suppose Brookside was one, although I feel I have had many.....Brookie was good for me because the character was developed to become a highly dramatic part and the writers wrote very much for the actors, observing them in the studio and getting ideas for storylines from their (the actors') own lives and circumstances.
Do you ever get fed up with people constantly harking back to that one year of Who you did?
Sometimes, but only a little - I am used to it now and accept , quite happily that DW is one of the great British institutions- so really, I am very proud to be a part of it, and always will be.
Did you know at the time you were joining a very loyal family?
No, I did not realise the extent of the fan's loyalty, but soon did when I visited the first few fan cons in the States, which I go into in great depth in the second book - i.e. volume two of my autobiography.
Is there any role you haven't yet taken and what like to? (Personally, I'd love to see you as Gertrude in Hamlet. It's made for you!)
Yes, Dirty Gertie is a great role, as is the Scottish queen and Jocasta- all parts I would love to do one day, plus Medea- I love the Greek plays- the women's parts are superb!
Do you have a message for all your fans out there in the world of Doctor Who?
Hi to all the loyal fans who have kept the show going and, more importantly, moving forward into a new millennium! Buy my book!
The 5-minute Interview: Mary Tamm, Actress
'I'm a raver on the quiet. I find that gay clubs
play the best music'
Published: 24 September 2007
Mary Tamm was Lady Romana in the 1978 'Doctor Who' series Key To Time.
She has since appeared in a string of television hits, and played Penny Crosby
in 'Brookside' from 1993 to 1996. Today, her Lady Romana can be seen again with
the DVD release of Doctor Who: Key To Time.
If I weren't talking to you right now I'd be ...
On my computer, probably defragmenting or something. I am a bit of a computer
nerd you see. I'm self-taught and fascinated by how they work.
A phrase I use far too often ...
"Can I get a discount on that?" or "Can I get it cheaper?" I even try it at
Harrods. There's no harm in asking.
I wish people would take more notice of ...
Recycling. I'm a bit of a green nut. I go to the supermarket with my own bags
and it drives me mad seeing people grabbing for the plastic. I have even said in
a loud voice, "I've brought my own bag." Some people look but I don't care. We
have to fight for the environment.
The most surprising thing that happened to me ...
Becoming a grandmother. I feel too young to be one. I feel like I am 16.
A common misconception of me is ...
People think I'm posh because of my accent. But I am from Braford and my real
accent is a Yorkshire one. When I went to acting school, that was one of the
first things I worked on. People are surprised that's where I come from.
I'm not a politician but if I were ...
I'd take a bribe any day. Coming from a family of refugees, you have a
different view on politics. But I would take a bribe and it wouldn't take much.
Just a discount really.
I'm good at ...
Yoga. I've been practising for four years and it's marvellous. I like that
you aren't in competition with anyone. I started it because of a bad back and I
can now stand on my head.
I'm bad at ...
Lying. People think actors are good liars but we are truthful. I am
constantly looking for the truth when acting. I can see instantly when I'm not
The ideal night out is ...
Clubbing. I love it. They say I'm too old but I'm always dragging the young
ones out. I'm a raver on the quiet. I find gay clubs are the best because they
play the best music.
In weak moments I ...
Spend too much money, usually at Poundland. I'll buy something because it's
cheap, even though I know I'll probably never wear it.
You know me as an actress but in another life I'd have been ...
An RSPCA inspector. I have two cats, which were both rescued. I actually
always wanted a snake.
The best age to be is ...
Two-and-three-quarters. That's my grandson's age and he's the best, so it
must be good.
In a nutshell, my philosophy is this ...
Keep your feet on the ground and reach for the stars.
THE FIVE MINUTE INTERVIEW - THE INDEPENDENT - SEP 24TH 2007
Theatreworld Internet Magazine:
Much of the appeal of Simon Gray's comedy thriller "Stage Struck" is concentrated in the central character, Robert, outstandingly portrayed by Alan Bates at the London premiere in November 1979 and now by Paul Nicholas in this current revival directed by Mark Piper.
When the curtain rises, Robert is in a jovial mood as he converses with neighbour Herman (Robert Fitch} who confides that he's having an affair with a married woman. Robert gives some light-hearted advice and then Herman leaves and does not reappear until much later in the play.
We gather from what Robert has said that he was in his younger days a first-rate stage manager in a provincial repertory company. But now he is content to keep house for his wife Anne, a successful West End actress, to whom he's been happily married for seven years. Or so he imagined, until tonight when Anne, arriving home from the theatre, tells him she wants him out of the house.
Delivering her lines with just the right angry and purposeful conviction, Mary Tamm convincingly portrays Anne's vigorous action and composed demeanour as she tells him how she'd always been aware of his infidelity. Her outburst comes as a shock to Robert, who tries to reason with her, but then her ruthless attitude prompts him into reviving some of his old thespian talents and he shows a determined resistance in marked contrast to the genial kindness shown earlier. There is a furious argument and the curtain falls on the first act with gunshots. .
Next comes one of the best parts of the play when Robert is visited by Widdecombe (Ray Lonnen) whom Anne had recommended to consult for treatment, having herself been to him for psychiatric analysis. The interest of the audience is held by the skill with which Robert induces Widdecombe to reveal his complex character, and he finally makes it apparent that he's not a genuine psychiatrist, and not only that but, more surprisingly, that - as his accent changes - he could be anything from a private detective to a small time crook.
But in this fascinating psychological drama, with its daring twists and turns, the main interest lies not so much in the characterisation as in the situation the characters create and there is certainly no lack of visual excitement, though one wonders why nobody throws a chair at Robert when he is threatening them with a gun or a knife.
Kind thanks to Graham Powner.
Reviewed by George Cranford for Theatreworld Internet Magazine.
Richmond Theatre London
Mixed Feelings is an intriguing new play by Eric Chappell. The two halves head in very different directions and the audience is kept guessing throughout. Despite the fact that it handles the sensitive subject of a man's re-entry into society after a sex change operation, there are no clichés and no awkward moments. The entire play revolves around Vernon, superbly played by Paul Nicholas. The first half sees him at home, just after his return to his wife Jan, played by Mary Tamm, and daughter Zoe, in British suburbia. He has been AWOL in Casablanca for six months and each person with whom he has contact has a different theory about his disappearance. His wife is convinced he had an affair, his best friend thinks that he was having a mid-life crisis and his boss believes that he suffered a nervous breakdown. The situations in which the truth is revealed to each person are witty and hilarious. Vernon spends the second half dressed in drag, which enables him to raise easy laughs but also some great one-liners.
The set by Michael Holt is very good - the entire play takes place in the front room of Vernon and Jans suburban semi, which gives it the feeling of a television sitcom. Hailing from the sitcom Just Good Friends Paul Nicholas is perfectly at home in this environment. His wife is a great counterbalance and she is played by Mary Tamm as a straight talking, no-nonsense women, who appears to take the revelations in her stride. Her poise and authority are key to ensuring that the play does not turn into a farce. The entire cast is in fact excellent, making the most of the imaginative and well-paced script and well directed by Jeremy Meadows. John Benfield plays Vernons best friend Eddie with energy, whilst Alan Granvilles interpretation of Fletcher, Vernon's prejudiced, racist, sexist boss, is sublime. Mixed Feelings is thought provoking and a joy to watch. It begs the question, what would you do if a key person in your life changed not just their appearance, but everything about themselves, including hobbies, partner, and their sex?
Mixed Feelings is in Richmond on the 10th of May until the 15th of May, 2004.
Richmond Theatre interview
A NEW comedy, Mixed Feelings by Eric Chappell arrives at Richmond Theatre next week.
Paul Nicholas leads the cast in a play about marital misunderstandings, a midlife crisis and the realisation that people are never quite what they seem.
Last week I spoke to playwright Eric Chappell - one of Britain's top comedy writers. His award-winning work includes 'Rising Damp', 'Only When I Laugh', 'The Bounder','Home to Roost' and 'Duty Free'.
"I wrote this play about three years ago," he told me. "After working in television for many years it is great to be involved with live theatre. If a piece of mine is on the small screen and seen by millions I might get a
couple of phone calls. In the theatre I can sit in the audience and feel the buzz - and that is wonderful."
In this play Vernon (Paul Nicholas) has been married for years and he and his wife Jan are in a suburban rut. Vernon escapes from his marriage of inconvenience for six months and when he returns it emerges that somehow, he is a very different person. During one hilarious evening, Jan searches for answers, Vernon is in search of himself while their
friends are searching for a way to broach a delicate subject.
"When the production team decided they wanted to do this play," Eric Chappell continued, "I couldn't think who they would cast as Vernon - but Paul Nicholas is just great. He works with such restraint and manages to achieve tptal belie vafoility. I hadn't seen Mary Tamm working before - after all those years in the business I don't see much television - but she is just so good I think she should have a show of her own!
"I have worked out that I wrote 200 sitcoms and had had the money and the attention and I'm loving the fact that I have an opportunity to come back to theatre itself. I sometimes follow my plays around - I've been to Stockholm, Warsaw and Rome to watch performances. Obviously I don't understand a word - but at least I knefw what's going on and it's a grand excuse to visit different parts of the world!"
Theatre Royal, Plymouth
Tue 1st June - Sat 5th June
Getting in touch with his feminine side...
Hard to believe Paul Nicholas is heading toward sixty. He still looks the blond blue eyed charmer familiar from his role as Vince in the BBC comedy series Just Good Friends.
Women have always loved his boyish good looks and his non-threatening characters, well here he really gets in touch with his feminine side.
Just suspend belief and accept that he disappears from his family for six months and comes back as a woman.
A trip to Casablanca and a few hours under the surgeons knife and he is reborn as Verna.
Seems a bit extreme especially when he explains that he has always wanted to be a woman...to wear womens clothes and have men open doors for him/her. Sorry but there is a bit more to being a woman than that!
Takes more than a frock and lipstick darling!
The script tries to explain the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual but goes on to show Verna as only concerned with the superficialities of clothes and hair.
He/she is NOT gay, yet the play opens with music by Marc Almond and Freddie Mercury - two of the gayest icons I can think of!
Nicholas wears male clothes for the first half and beautifully captures certain gestures and postures in a truly feminine way, but donning the wig and skirt for the second half turned this into a ridiculous farce.
Some of his lines are very funny though and his description of the sex change surgery as "turning the sock outside in" did make me chuckle.
Mary Tamm as Jan the long suffering wife held this production together and for me and gave the best performance.
She also gets to voice the lines that Verna is not a real woman as she has never had periods! But Jan too has a bit of a secret...can you guess what it is yet?
Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat
LOUD HISSES AND BOOS GREET MARY TAMM WHEN SHE WINS THE FIRST round as Queen Rat in a strong performance from the green corner. She sets the pace for the whole show as the children get louder and louder. The comedy team continues the good work, led by Adam Daye as Sarah the Cook with Lee James as Captain Bullseye, Kip Barrs as his mate and Ken Joy's Idle Jack.
But after a rousing start, the dialogue goes flat as the cast dwells on in lengthy conversations on Dick's impending petty cash disaster. The show settles down again on voyage to Morocco with lively song and dance routines, the usual drill with mops and an excellent Twelve Days of Christmas.
Fenella Fielding calms down the delirium as a quiet and charming Fairy Bowbells and Matthew Harper is an imposing figure as Dick Whittington. He sings very well with his partner Anna Conway as Alice and her father is strongly played by Tony Leyton. Sharon Watson meows as the cat and Krystian Wharton is the bearded Emperor.
Corletts Characters cover the fascinating underwater scene and the Doris Holford Stage School provides the dancers. Presentation is colourful with attractive costumes and well built scenery.
Management: Duggie Chapman for Sutton Theatres
Cast: Fenella Fielding, Mary Tamm, Adam Daye, Ken Joy, Matthew Harper,
---MARY AND DRIVING!!!-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Who's that high-speed girl? -
Times, The (London, England)
January 20, 1996
Author: Eithne Power
Mary Tamm began travelling in a Mini and ended up in the Tardis.
Eithne Power reports
Mary Tamm, half White Russian, half Estonian, born in Bradford, came into her own 17 years ago as Dr Who's dynamic assistant, Romana. Since then, she has worked constantly (most recently in Brookside), married a working Lloyd's name, sold houses to pay off Lloyd's and taken the Formula Ford drivers' course at Brands Hatch. It must have been all that travelling in time that gave her a taste for speed.
One of the reasons she gave it up was that she had absolutely no fear behind the wheel and was probably a bit reckless; she admits it never entered her head that she might get killed.
How did you learn to drive?
With a one-man driving school and a lot of pent-up longing in my mid-twenties. At home in Bradford we didn't have a car, and I was constantly standing at bus stops vowing, one day, one day I'll learn to drive and I'll be free.
What was your first car?
A green Mini that I bought for £200 from a friend of a friend of a friend who had a friend, a mechanic, who told me it was a sound machine even though it had four bald tyres that escaped my notice at the time. After that I had four more Minis in different colours before graduating to a Mercedes! The day after I passed my test, I drove on the motorway to Manchester in that first Mini, dripping blood after having had a tooth out. I drove with one hand, drugged to the eyeballs and mopped up the blood with the other.
What car do you drive now?
My husband's BMW, and my own wonderful little Triumph Acclaim. It's a great little runaround . I'm teaching my daughter, Lauren, to drive in it. We use a disused airfield, and we're extremely decorous!
Do you enjoy driving?
Does a fish enjoy swimming? I adore it, maybe because I came to it so late. As a girl, I was always sort of stuck. I haunted bus shelters. Now that I can go where I want when I want, I'm like Toad of Toad Hall. I sometimes feel incredibly happy driving in the country, Guns'n'Roses blasting away on the stereo or Carmina Burana. Carl Orff conjures up visions of men and horses and armour and stuff like that ... the simple pleasures of life.
What is your dream car?
An Aston Martin Volante. I like a car that goes from zero to 60 in three seconds. There's a kind of ecstasy when you're going at speed, it's probably to do with the urge to escape.
What is your most hated car?
The Ford Sierra. Every time someone cuts me up, it's inevitably a man in a Ford Sierra. The Sierra pretends to be sporty, but it just can't deliver.
What is your worst habit in a car?
Swearing at men in Ford Sierras and making absolutely hideous faces at myself in the driving mirror. I pull my lips right up over the gums so that I look like a lipless toothead. A jogger spotted me the other day at traffic lights and clutched his heart in terror. My facial aerobics make me feel good, but they're pretty horrible for onlookers.
What infuriates you most about other drivers?
People who dawdle around in the outside lane at 80, 90 or 100 - mostly they are driving Ford Sierras.
What is the most unusual thing you've done in your car?
I managed to park about 18cms from the kerb when the steering wheel came off in my hands on the A40 while I was going to a Dr Who rehearsal. I had to do everything simultaneously, brakes, handbrake, gears. I didn't panic. I'm good in a crisis; just as well, because I had a lot in those Minis.
Have you ever had points on your licence?
Yes, but not for speeding, as one might expect. I went over a double white line five years ago and got an endorsement.
What would you do if you became Secretary of State for Transport?
What they do in Amsterdam and fine everyone driving alone into the city centre. It seems to work there. And again, like in Holland, I'd introduce bicycle paths. I've got a bike myself, but knowing there are other drivers out there like me I am afraid to ride it.
What safety precautions do you take as a woman driver?
Most of the dangers I run I provoke myself by cutting other drivers up. But I always lock my doors and find that picking up the mobile phone sees them off quite quickly.
photo reproduced with kind permission from Ian Burgess