The Casino Theater in Manhattan, located on Broadway at West 39th Street, circa 1900.
The theater, built in 1882, was the first in New York to be lit entirely by electricity,
popularized the chorus line and introduced white audiences to
African-American shows. It originally seated approximately 875 people,
however the theatre was enlarged and rebuilt in 1905 after a fire, and
then seated 1,300. (1). It was demolished in 1930.
Photo by Detroit Photographic Company via shorpy.com
I’ve been reading that it was a trope of Victorian theater for vampires to be revived by moonlight, and I would seriously like to bring this back. Just think of all the scenes of gritty urban fantasy protagonists having to haul their undead friend’s body in their car out to a place with less light pollution so they could get back on their feet.
This is my translation of Newton Magazine’s interview “Rencontre avec Louise Brealey”. I’m fluent in both English and French, so I hope I did a good job. The interview itself had a very choppy feel at times, I think that’s what the interviewer was going for, or maybe things got lost in translation. In any case, I hope you enjoy it! :)
Meet Louise Brealey By Alie SUVELOR | March 19, 2014
She is nicknamed “Queen Brealey ” on the web and in reality she has the air of a queen. Initially a journalist and film critic, she took courage in both hands and faced her fear of failure by becoming an actress. Even if she still divides her time between acting and writing, she is best known as Molly Hooper in the Sherlock series, a relatable character, introduced as an enamoured, shy girl who developed into a strong quick-witted woman. A character who, thanks to the charisma and delivery of Brealey, has exceeded all expectations of the series’ creators and fans. Between filming Sherlock, Louise connects with her other passion, the stage (Miss Julie, Uncle Vanya , The Trojan Women , The Herd ) , writes her own pieces (Pope Joan in 2013) , and publishes essays on feminism and her theatre experiences on her blog.
She will also star in Delicious by Tammy Riley –Smith which will be screened in April at Cannes. An exciting encounter with an exciting person.
Before becoming an actress, you were a journalist for the magazine Wonderland. I did some really fun things at Wonderland, like my interview with the Pet Shop Boys. I still see myself as a journalist, even if the last article I wrote was about a year ago, however I am still asked to write quite often. I feel incredibly lucky to have this life path but acting and writing are two areas where you need to give a lot of yourself. When I finally became recognized as journalist, I also started to act and to do the two at the same time is quite difficult. I’m lucky because now I can choose what I want to write. I wrote a play, Pope Joan, last year, which took a lot of my time, and that is why I put journalism aside. My god, it was a long process, but so unique! It was really intense, and you must fight against your demons, every day you have to face your fears, ask yourself if you will be heard, all the concerns you may have about what you want transmit, all of this is very exhausting. Once the play was finished, I went to the Royal Court where there is a writing program that I followed once a week for several months. It was exactly what I needed after writing the play.
I wanted to write something creative and different for a long time. I do not mean to say that journalism isn’t creative, but I wanted to write something more personal and I was too scared to do it (as a journalist). It is the same for a career as an actress. I first worked as a journalist because I was too scared to take the plunge (into acting). Writing for film magazines I have met many people from the business and I spent my time observing them with envy. I finally said, “if I don’t do it (acting), I’ll end up old and bitter, regretting not having done it.” For me it was worse than exposing my fear of failure.
When did you know that acting was for you? I took acting classes in London at the time. I was in Cricklewood, a London suburb where all the houses look the same and I worked with Philippe Gaulier who teaches clown techniques. He is amazing and has taught me to laugh at myself and understand that the most important thing is to have fun on stage. I took classes at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York and when I came back, one of my friends who worked on One Man Two Guvnors told me “you must go see Philippe Gaulier.”
As I was leaving Philippe’s course with my friends, I received a phone call telling me I had won a role in a play at Royal Court. I had no agent at the time and I passed the audition because I previously performed in a play with the assistant director. After that phone call, I knew that everything would change if I did a good job, but if I froze, everything would stop. In retrospect, I would have liked to play that role differently. I was also cast in Casualty, which at the time made me cry because it was filming in Bristol, miles away from London, and my boyfriend at the time would stay behind in London. I had the impression that I was being punished. Today I feel ridiculous because thanks to Casualty I bought my apartment!
You are also very active in theater, you recently starred in Miss Julie. From your perspective, what is different in theater than in television, and which of these media do you prefer? They are two almost completely different experiences! I love the theater because it brings something essential and I cannot imagine an actress not doing stage time. But television also has its own magic and a certain kind of intimacy. There are things that you can transmit through TV that you could never do on stage.
Miss Julie was played in a very beautifully grand Victorian theater, and we had to push our voice while the audience was right next to us. It’s a rather strange sensation of having both to project your voice so that the audience in the back can hear you, while also communicating with the audience in the first row. It’s electrifying to be in the same room as the spectators, a lot of emotion comes out. For Miss Julie we rehearsed for two weeks before the presentation for the press, it was terrible. I felt that the stage was covered in banana peels, I was not ready at all! But in the end we had excellent reviews. Actors are thrill seekers, being scared makes me feel alive. This is like an extreme sport, doing something that you don’t think you can, it gives us chills.
How do you feel when you see yourself on the screen? I hate it. I do not think we should look at ourselves, it seems abnormal. We can all look in the mirror, but it’s pretty weird to see yourself from all angles. It’s still quite interesting as we don’t see ourselves as others see us, like in the Christmas episode on Sherlock (A Scandal in Belgravia ), when Sherlock humiliates my character Molly, I saw it and I thought “why did they choose this take? Damn, this is a terrible take! I’m not believable, I don’t believe myself for a second”, but of course that is the scene that made everyone fall in love with Molly.
As a self-proclaimed feminist, what do you think of the representation of women in Sherlock? It is wonderful. It is essentially the story of two men, something we cannot avoid, but I think, especially in the last season, we have all kinds of women. There’s Una Stubbs (Miss Hudson), who is unbelievable, and Amanda Abbington’s character (Mary Morstan), who as fantastic and incredibly natural as Amanda. She attracts sympathy and brings people together. And then there’s Molly, who has evolved and changed, and that’s what people do in real life. She has surpassed the expectations of everyone, I could not imagine such a reception from the public and the critics. There is something about Molly that women and young women watching Sherlock can identify with. A little bit like Watson, who serves as a reflection to the viewer into the world of Sherlock Holmes, Molly also has her own place. Molly shows us that yes, we can sometimes be foolish when we’re in love, and it does not matter, it’s not something to be ashamed of. I remember at the beginning some people said she was like a "doormat”. Some characters are doormats, and it does not bother me to play this role, but I always thought Molly was more than that and that she represented much more. What is interesting is that initially no one thought that Molly could be the one for Sherlock , it was like a joke, but despite us, despite me and despite the screenwriters, something happened in the last season and now we no longer laugh at the idea that yes, something could happen between them. It does not matter to me, but I think that it’s wonderful that Molly represents the power of the heart and the power of risk. She takes small risks, she sees. She sees the person who is buried under this eccentric character, infuriating, annoying and sometimes so rude. And that’s why her character works so well. I am very fortunate to portray her.
So you think your character’s popularity comes from the fact that the audience can identify with Molly? Yes. When I was little, from the time I was very young, I was certain that I represented the stereotypical face of a completely normal and ordinary person. I’ve surpassed that since then, but suddenly it’s pretty funny because something echoes inside me when people find themselves in Molly. It is also interesting because usually on television there are a lot of very glamorous, gorgeous women, and it’s pretty hard for the more natural or older women to evolve in this world.
What do you want to happen to Molly in season 4 of Sherlock? Before the filming of season 3 we did an interview, and I was asked the same question. I answered a shocking kiss would be quite funny, and that’s exactly what happened! I honestly have no expectations. I still cannot believe that I am part of this beautiful project. I watched the third episode of the last season and I’m always excited when I see my name on the screen. Acting, it’s a bit like playing snakes and ladders. I found myself on all sorts of ladders, and suddenly the one that looks small at first sight is one of those extendable ladders, but I never forget that it can break at any time. I have no idea what to expect, every season I fear that my character will be killed! Obviously I would be very sad because Sherlock occupies a very important place in my life, but playing Molly helped me communicate with other women on the subjects of confidence and feminism.
If you could play any other character Sherlock, which one would you play and why? Probably Moriarty. He is incredible. Andrew Scott is a genius. One of the reasons why the series is so successful, is that all the actors are brilliant, they are all wonderfully talented. Also thanks to the work of Mark Gatiss, of course, and the directors. They invented a new televisual language. It’s enough to watch the first episode and it takes your breath away, it is cinematic, and the screenplays are so good! I am very proud. The latest season is a little different, but it’s good that there’s an evolution, because we couldn’t do the same thing over and over. Do you have a funny anecdote from filming Sherlock? You should rephrase your question because this story is not so funny! In The Sign of Three, there is a scene where I stick a fork in Tom’s hand, Molly’s fiancé, at the wedding of John and Mary. If you look closely you can see the plastic fork flying across the room, it must’ve been the best take because that’s the one they chose. Poor Tom!
In Delicious, which will be screened at Cannes, you play a bulimic girl. How have you prepared for the role of Stella? I have talked back and forth with the director, who has gone through bulimia. It is important to do research but also to work on the script and what happens in a particular scene. It helps the viewer to think. We just talked in general about how I had to play her for it to be believable. But I have not researched the reasons why (one has an eating disorder), I think each person has their own story when it comes to bulimia. I have not had personal experiences with bulimia. Fortunately, I’ve always had a very healthy relationship with food but it’s quite moving to see how many people struggle continually with this disease. And it is getting worse, because of fashion magazines and the overuse of Photoshop. When I was younger, it made me very unhappy when I read fashion magazines and I saw all those girls with infinite legs, and when I heard about the “thigh gap" obsession, it disgusted me deeply. I posted a tweet about it, saying that I was hoping to go back in time and not worry about my “big” thighs. It’s wasted time.
I did not make the film because I told myself “oh, I would like to do something about eating disorders”. I did it because I loved the character and the people involved in this project. I was in great shape when we were shooting, because I just finished a play where I had to be naked. I also wrote an article on the experience of going on stage completely naked on my blog Yellow Paper.
What was really disturbing to me on Delicious, were the scenes of binge eating. It is so violent, and I’ve never had this view of food. It is self-harm and it’s horrible, especially when one hasn’t ever thought this way and didn’t live through it. It was really disturbing.
You recently filmed Frankenstein, where we find Mark Gatiss and Andrew Scott of Sherlock among the cast. You just see me for few seconds on screen, I have no scenes with them. The character of James McAvoy arrives at my table and flirts with me. I wear a gorgeous dress, which was custom made for me. They came to see me and said "Louise , you wanna come shoot this film with us? It’s a very small scene”. I got to wear a beautiful dress, and act with James McAvoy, it was great. Mark and Andrew are part of some of the most amazing people with whom I’ve had the chance to work.
Which cinematic legend would you like to work with? River Phoenix. I think he was one of the best of his generation. We can talk about River Phoenix the same way we talk about James Dean because he only made a handful of films, but each performance was amazing. His best films are not necessarily his popular films, he was nominated for an Oscar for Running On Empty. I remember when he died, it was so shocking. It’s strange to think that we would still be talking about him if he was not dead, he had so much more to give us and he died so early. I would have liked to see more of his work.
What kinds of roles and stimulate challenge you? Good roles! A role which requires travel is a great role to play. I was very fortunate to play Sonya in Uncle Vanya on stage, it is a role that every young actress would like to have the chance to play. I’d love play Sonya again in London, I feel like I’m not yet done with this role.