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Charlotte Cornwell
answers  your questions for the
Rock Follies Website

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Bob asks:-

 Q -"I would like to ask you if you could have imagined that Rock Follies would become a cult subject still popular after all this time, or did you treat the project as 'just another job' at the time. I would have thought it may have been a big break for you and the other actors on the show."

A - I always had the feeling that what we were involved with was either going to be a very special thing, or it was going to disappear down the tubes - I never felt there would be any in-between. As far as 'cults' go- their very nature makes them unpredictable.

I had been at the Bristol Old Vic for three and a half years and done a play at Greenwich, a few TV's and a David Mercer film with Tony Hopkins so, I knew that if things went well for the show it would be a 'big' break for me. Immediately after the second series was finished I chose to go to the Royal Shakespeare Company which I have never regretted. However, I wonder if my career would have been at all different if I had hung out for TV and film work - who knows? Who cares!

Q - "When a show like RF has made such an impression on so many people, it makes the fans want to follow the actors in all their future roles, so we still all today want to know what you and the others are working on etc."

A - I have worked in theatre at the National Theatre as a leading actress on and off since 1984, worked a few times in the West End (pressure!!!) and also played the small but most enjoyable gigs - Hampstead Theatre, Donmar etc. I've done a fair bit of TV, but not a lot I'm thrilled about, and a few movies - 'The Krays' was probably the most enjoyable to make. 5 am make-up calls for all the latex for ageing! And the director, Peter Medak, was a crazy Hungarian and great to work with; he made that most English of movies 'The Ruling Class' with Peter O'toole which always amazed me!Having just finished a new Dusty Hughes play at the Donmar last May, I did a bit on an amazing BBC film, directed by the very special Antonia Bird, called 'Care' - about the appalling case of widespread sexual abuse in Welsh child-care homes. It was the kind of work that any actor would be proud to be a part of. Immediately after filming that I moved here to California. It's like starting all over again, and after 30 years, that's a bit scary! But the sunshine is soooooooo great and I wanted an adventure to launch me into the next part of my life. Doing a geographic was very scary, but I've had it with England for a while. And change is growth.

Q - "Are you still friends with Julie and Rula and would you like to see the series repeated for a whole new audience?"

5.jpg (16160 bytes)A - Ru and I have known each other since drama school days in the late '60's. She remains one of a handful of cherished friends. She is warm, caring, loyal and a great laugh! She doesn't work nearly as much as she should, but that's the story for most actresses the other side of 40! I don't hear from Julie any more, so I have no idea what she's up to. Yes, I would love to see the show aired again. With so many re-runs of '70's shows, I have no idea why no-one has done it. Want to start a campaign?

Adam has a bet with someone !!

Q - "I had a bet with someone that you were on 'Queer as Folk'... am I right?

A - Sorry, but you're a loser! I worked with one of the stars - Craig - at the Donmar last year. That's the nearest I got!

Malcolm has a great question

Q - Was the the audition for Rock Follies anything like the audition for Broadway Annie?

charlotte9.jpg (14304 bytes)A - The producers tried out endless combinations of trios. I had seven auditions in all, until the three of us were told we'd got it one Saturday morning in a rehearsal room in Ladbroke Grove! The day before, my agent called me to say the only problem the producers had with me was that I wasn't "pretty enough". Great, eh? What other profession was quite as blatantly sexist, and continues to be, particularly TV and films. Women over 40 are not thought of as the fascinating, beautiful, funny, sexy people we are. And I can tell you, that as an insecure 24 year-old, hung up on her body image, long nose, and red hair, that was a real confidence builder, I don't think! I've never forgotten it, only now I understand the broader politics. So yes, life immitated art, or was it vice-versa?

Q – Rock Follies was such a ground-breaking piece of television broadcasting. How did you feel to be part of it?

A - I recently showed the 12 episodes to my daughter and I was amazed at how little it has dated. Sure, the clothes etc. are of their period, but it's still witty and intelligent, and there are ground-breaking things in it, not just technically, but the musical set ups were like early pop videos, and the sound must have given Abba a few ideas in their early years! I felt great nostalgia for the time and proud to have been a part of it all. And to have worked with the brilliant and much missed Ian Charlson, with Tim Curry, Bob Hoskins, Derek Thompson, Little Nel, Ru, Julie, Andy Mackay, Howard and also the late, greatly missed - 'it's fantastic'! - Andrew Brown, is something I consider myself very fortunate to have done. Tim is a wonderful friend here in the US - we've been able to re-new our friendship - and I'm so very grateful for that. Another friendship renewed has been with the lovely James Warwick, who moved here in the early '90's and is fast becoming a very successful theatre director on the east coast. So, the experience has greatly enriched my life in ways I could not have imagined at the time.

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Mike asked via the guestbook

Q - What are the Little Ladies doing now? Are they Little Grannies?

A - Ru has a daughter, Lara, who's training to be a nurse, and I have a daughter, Nancy, who is just about to go to university to read History. She's the sunshine of my life.

Meg asks:-

Q - You were my favorite Little Lady because your character combined creativity with intellect, a difficult thing to do, but wonderful if it can be achieved. I just adored Anna. I think your two boyfriends the first year also suggested that Anna had both a creative
charlotte10.jpg (18826 bytes)and intellectual side, and I really loved both your boyfriends. I was so unhappy when they didn't come back the second year! I was especially unhappy with the loss of Derek, my favorite male character. And what I want to know is this--what became of the actor who played Derek? Why was he written out of the show?

A- I don't think Derek could survive once the women were on the road to fame and fortune. I don't think the story could have gone where it went. That's my opinion - I have no idea why Howard Schumann wrote the character out. And I don't know where Huggins is today!

Q - I was very happy with the outcome for your character, and especially enjoyed her breakdown, which I think did terrifically well. What I would like to know is if you yourself were happy with what happened to Anna. And do you have any sense of what happened to her in the years to come?

A - I was perfectly happy to go along with whatever Howard wanted to write. I have enormous respect for writers, and value the opportunity to collaborate with good ones.

Q - Is there any possibility of a Rock Follies reunion show, gathering as many cast members as possible?

A - None. Unless, of course, the series was re-run and a huge success. In that case, who knows what ideas the profit-focused 'suits' at the TV companies would do?

Q - As an American, I get very, very little information about the Rock Follies, and I just know there must be interesting articles and commentary about them that I am missing. Are there any books or articles analyzing the whole Rock Follies phenomenon that you know about? And speaking of which, I also am unhappy that I didn't get to see your other series in which you also played a rock singer. I would love to have seen that!

A - Not as far as I know - Cary's website is the only focal point.

Q - I happen to be one of the few people who recorded Rock Follies on my old VCR back in the late seventies. As a result, it really is not of great quality, even though I think it holds up as a show extremely well. I still enjoy watching it. But I am wondering if there is any possibility of a professional videotape of the Rock Follies coming out, which I would love to buy.

A - It's not out on commercial video. Why? Again, no idea. Join the campaign to get it shown again on UK TV, and who knows what might happen!

HCA has a few questions for you.

"Firstly many thanks for agreeing to answer questions about your time on "Rock Follies" it is much appreciated. The series had an enormous impact on me when I was sixteen and I have just had the opportunity to view again at 40 ! Please could you let me know your views on the following ;

Q - Since you generated a #1 album why didn't the Little Ladies ever perform live?

4.jpg (18695 bytes)A - We simply didn't want to become a band, and that's what would have happened - at least that's what we felt. Julie looked like she was going to have a great solo singing career - she was obviously the talent in that department. Her "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" had been a hit in 124 countries and still remains the best version - eat your heart out Madonna! I wanted to go on to the RSC. Ru would probably have enjoyed a paddle in that direction - she was always up for anything that sounded like fun! But, personally, it wasn't where I felt my future lay.

Q - Do you know why such a successful series has never been repeated in the UK ?.

A - As I said earlier, I have no idea.The Pearson Group bought the show from Thames, and have just never let it go out again. The court case with Rock Bottom was settled, so there are no legal reasons why it can't be shown. Perhaps you could work with the earlier questioner on that campaign....!

Q - After "No Excuses" I don't think you ever sang for the public again. What was the reason ?

A - No reason - the opportunity just never came up again.

Q - The song "Little Ladies" is very strong. Why wasn't it included on the album ?

A - It's on the new CD I think. Andy and Howard worked on what went on the albums, so you'd have to ask them.

I hugely enjoyed your performance second time around. Your character was the most difficult to play, since Anna goes through the hardest emotional journey. Thank you. HCA

A - Thanks - I appreciate that thought.

And from the Webmisstress …

Q - How did you get involved in Rock Follies?

 A - My agent sent me for the audition, just as in any other gig, and the rest is history. Julie was always going to be in it. Ru's path was the same as mine.

Q - Beth (Porter) commented that " the recordings of RF were one of the most creative experiences I've had as an actress." Do you feel the same way about Rock Follies? Did you have the chance to direct and mould the creative process?

6.jpg (12102 bytes)A - To be honest, at the time I often felt a bit straight-jacketed as "Anna". I think that's because I was quite a confused young woman, as she was, and I really didn't know who I was. The thought that I was like her was scary, but like it or not, there were things that were similar. I think my own unease with myself made me very clear that after the second series I would not have wanted to do any more. Obviously, all this is in retrospect, and after a great deal of painful work over the years to find out who I really am. I'm still working on that! The second series was easier, as Howard was by that time writing so much for us as individuals - Howard's creativity was the real engine of the show. Writers provide the bones on which actors hang the flesh.

Q - Prior to Rock Follies had you been a singer? How did you get into training for that aspect of the show? (apart from singing to a rubber duck!!)

A - I was a folk-singing hippie! Bob Dylan, Joan Baez etc. I never trained - a lot of people have noticed that over the years!

Q - Have you ever fancied being in a Girl Rock group in real life?

A - I don't believe there's an actor who hasn't fantasized about being a rock star, or a rock star who hasn't dreamed of acting. The common ground is the high of being on stage, live, in front of an audience. 'The buzz, cock'! But no, I'm a realist.

Q - Rock Follies transferred well to the States and became a cult show there as well. Did this surprise you since parts of it are very British (despite having an american writer)

A - I was surprised to have RF groupies outside the stage door in New York in 1992 when I opened in the RNT's production of 'Richard 111' with Ian Mckellen - he was a bit shocked, too!

 Q - If you could have chosen to be any of the Little Ladies who would it have be?

A - Dee.But probably because of the fab way Jules played her, and that amazing voice she brought to the character.

Q - The Internet Movie Data Base says that you are sister to the author John Le Carre. Is this true?

A - Yup, it's true. His real name is David Cornwell. He's the best brother a girl could have.

Q - What do you think of the internet?

A - A blast - I never realised just how diverse, glorious, genius, funny, creative, sad and f**ked-up the human race is! Now we all know the truth about ourselves - will we survive it?

Q – I’ve heard that a cause about which you feel passionate tis the mistreatment of Greyhounds. Can you tell us more about that?

charlotte1.jpg (10037 bytes)Animals are my church, if you like. Greyhounds are beautiful creatures, gentle and loving. The greyhound industry uses them like cans of meat - when they can't, or won't run they are disposed of. The lucky ones are put to sleep by vets - who should know better - but many thousands are abused, abandoned and/or killed, every year, in the most horrible ways imaginable.
Together with Annette Crosbie, I set up a campaigning organisation called 'Greyhounds UK'. Our mission is to bring in legislation that will force the industry to give a substantial portion of the money it makes on the backs of these dogs towards their welfare after their racing days are over. This is the BIGGEST animal abuse issue in the UK today, and if the public realised the horror behind the sport of greyhound racing I believe there would be the kind of outcry that there was over veal crating. But the press and media seem unwilling to really take the lid off; not surprising, when a group of  MP's in the H of C were given a dog by the industry called 'Parliamentarian'. He was injured, and had to be retired. He was eventually rehomed, after we started asking about his whereabouts! Maybe the problem is that so many of the tracks are in Labour constituencies, and the MP's don't want to cause any waves. But if drowning dogs with concrete blocks around their necks, or throwing them half conscious into an incinerator, or clubbing them over the head and cutting off their ears so they can't be identified by their ear-marks, doesn't deserve some attention, God knows what does.

Click here for Telegraph Article about 'Grehounds UK'

I cannot do justice to these beautiful animals in words - but to watch one of them running free across a moor or a field is the most beautiful experience I can think of. Or to feel one gently lean against your legs while you're doing the washing up, just to let you know they're there - how privileged we are to experience their gentle trust and affection.

Anyone wanting to take on a canine companion - PLEASE consider a greyhound.
The NCD (National Canine Defence League) have literally hundreds for adoption in their centres - give them a call. You will never regret it, believe me!

There you are - that's my passion (horses as well - but that's a whole other story!)

See also for more infomation about greyhounds

Copyright The Rock Follies Website 2001

Thank you very much Charlotte for talking to the Rock Follies Website. 
And thank you to everyone who submitted a question.

Rula Lenska Q & A            Beth Porter Q & A

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