Michelle Gayle talks to RTÉ Entertainment's John Byrne about starring in Son of a Preacher Man at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, working with Strictly's Craig Revel Horwood – and what makes EastEnders such an enduring success.
Most people do well to be any good at one thing. This is where Michelle Gayle stands out. Singer, actor, TV presenter, novelist and writer are just five of her attributes, although she's probably best known for her role as Hattie Tavernier in the BBC's long-running soap EastEnders.
That was back in the early 1990s though, and since then she's had a run of chart hits as a soul and R&B singer (you can hear her top five 1994 hit Sweetness, below), before embarking on a theatrical career, taking up writing and working on television.
The 47-year-old Londoner is currently starring in Son of a Preacher Man, a musical built around the songs associated with the late, great Dusty Springfield, which runs at Dublin's Bord Gais Energy Theatre May 22-26. It revolves around a fictitious Soho club in the Swinging Sixties, its clientele and enigmatic owner.
John Byrne: Hi Michelle! Let's get this straight from the start: Son of a Preacher Man is not about Dusty Springfield?
Michelle Gayle: It features her songs, clearly, but it’s actually about three people who are experiencing heartbreak and unrequited love. And we bond over that – and our love for Dusty Springfield songs.
It enables us to use Dusty Springfield songs, but use them as our characters, and how we’re feeling, as opposed to copying Dusty’s vocals which, I think, is nigh-on impossible.
But the songs are great – that’s also an undeniable fact – and we interpret the songs through our stories.
She became a legendary singer throughout the 1960s and '70s – but do you think anyone under 40 knows who Dusty was?
While a sizeable section of our audience is older and has experienced her, but you have under-30s and under-40s. Her songs have crossed over! If you think about it… It’s almost impossible to not have heard some of her songs, because they were that good. They get played all the time.
For yourself, it must be a huge benefit being an actor and a singer, because you can do gigs such as this?
Exactly. So that’s my good fortune, of that being my bread and butter for a long time, and being able to combine the two is a pleasure. Especially with the cast we have in Son of a Preacher Man, because this cast is so talented.
And a great number of them also play instruments, so they can sing, dance, act and play instruments. And we’re not talking about any old instruments. You’re not talking about a tambourine here. They can play cello, violin, trumpet. So they’re such a multi-talented cast, it really is a pleasure to work with them.
It's very much a feelgood show, isn't it?
Yes. It’s a rollercoaster, but by the end everyone’s up in their seat and just partying. And Dublin? Hmm! May be known for partying somewhat? Come up to Dublin, come out in Dublin, and enjoy it, because 99% of the audiences, by the end, are standing up and dancing, singing along and that’s the joy of it.
At this stage in your career, have you got a philosophy, a big plan, or do you take it as it comes?
I plot some things out in my head, because I write also. I kind of make plans for what I can do, so I can also write, but acting-wise you’re only as good as what you’re offered, aren’t you? So, you never know what you’re going to be offered.
But what I do get offered I definitely choose the things that challenge me, and get me to be with people I like – and also get me to be with people I want to work with, so I can learn – because you have to challenge yourself, and you have to keep learning, and keep pushing yourself.
And I really wanted to work with Craig Revel Horwood (Strictly Come Dancing's bad guy, who choreographed and directed Son of a Preacher Man) because I knew he would push me. And he has (laughs).
I believe he’s a tough taskmaster?
He is, but it is rewarding when he’s happy because you know that he’s squeezed the best out of you.
We can't let you go without mentioning EastEnders. It's a long time since you've been in the show, which has been on TV for over 30 years – what you reckon has kept it going?
I think that people love the characters, and they’ve fallen in love with the pub! And the set. So many of these things you associate with the show. They’ve even fallen in love with the drums at the end. Duh, duh, duh, duh-duh-deh-duh!
All these things are quite iconic now, aren’t they? They’re part of the tapestry of your life.
Son of a Preacher Man runs at the Board Gais Energy Theatre May 22-26. Tickets available from Ticketmaster
Kinks star planned collaboration with Dolores O’Riordan
Kinks' guitarist Dave Davies has revealed that himself and Dolores O'Riordan had planned to collaborate on music together before she died.
Davies was close friends with the late Cranberries star and he revealed they had discussed working together on a song called Home'before she died after drowning in the bath of a London hotel in January.
Quoted in The Observer, he recalled: "We had a mutual respect. We talked about writing together – I had an idea for a song called Home, about being home again, and she understood what I was trying to say.
"But we never sat down to do it, and that makes me really sad. She was very kind to me, too. We said we'd meet when she was next in London, and that was that."
Davies also praised her voice and said he admired her distinctive talent from the outset, when The Cranberries first appeared on the music scene in the early 1990s.
He said: "Dolores hadn't had a great time in her life. But the music that came out of her despite everything was incredible. I remember first hearing Zombie in the 1990s – that was the first time I was aware of her.
"Her voice caught me straight away. The way it went from this beautiful, soft whisper with this real Celtic vibe, to this huge rock voice, was fabulous, really unique. She didn't get enough credit for that."
Bohemian Rhapsody sets new box office record
Bohemian Rhapsody has become the highest-grossing music biopic in cinema history after it generated more than $600m worldwide at the box office.
The Queen biopic is currently at $608.7m and has earned more money in the US than previous record holder, Straight Outta Compton, while also outperforming several recent musicals, such as last year's The Greatest Showman and 2008's Mamma Mia!
It's box office performance, according to Deadline, has been aided by singalong screenings, particularly in Asia and Latin America. The film is also faring well in terms of award nominations.
In the Golden Globes, the film has been nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama, while Rami Malek, who stars as frontman Freddie Mercury, has been nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.
Bohemian Rhapsody also received two nominations at the SAG (or Screen Actors Guild) Awards, with Malek once more nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, while the entire cast is nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Sandra Bullock wants more complex mothers in movies
Sandra Bullock – who plays a reluctant mother in dystopian horror Bird Box – reckons unconventional female roles needed to become more common.
In the film, Bullock fights an unseen monster which has decimated the world's population. Whoever sees it is driven to kill themselves, and those that survive use blindfolds when they go outside.
Bird Box charts Malorie (Bullock) as she leads her two children down a treacherous river path blindfolded to a place she hopes will keep them safe.
The actress said the complexities of motherhood had not yet been properly examined by the film industry, and that she hoped the Susanne Bier-directed film could go some way to correcting this.
She told the Press Association: "Something that I knew, I didn't necessarily learn it, the way motherhood has been represented on film needed to not just change, it needed to expand because the complexities of being a mum, I don't think, have not been fully represented cinematically.
"And Malorie is someone who is not a natural parent, or at least you think so. This is not someone who has a natural inclination to be mum, not the desire, the drive, or the want.
"And you go, 'This is not a good representation of a mother'. But you go, 'Is it really not?' Because she fights. She is using everything she knows and understands to save these little creatures' lives. Her fear is driving her.
"I learned that we need to start showing women in a more complex fashion when it comes to motherhood, the same we need to show men in a more complex fashion when it comes to those who are incredibly maternal and who are very demonstrative and loving and hopeful with their kids.
"It's happening all over the world but we are just not seeing enough of it on film."
Bullock, who has two adopted children, added that she had struggled with the film's portrayal of motherhood, which had left her feeling "hopeless".
She added that playing an apparently uncaring mother had made her feel uncomfortable but it had been important to shatter the "fairytale" idea that all women are natural mothers.
The 54-year-old said: "What was odd was that it was more uncomfortable for me to play Malorie in her flashbacks, when she is pregnant, when she is sort of disconnected from the idea of being a mum. I felt hopeless. I felt weak in a way.
"We have got to stop thinking about this idea, which comes from a very fairytale makeup, of what a family looks like, what a partnership looks like, what a mother looks like, what a father looks like.
"That's what I loved so much about this [film]. It was just people being there for each other, loving each other at the worst of times. You know, where they came from, what they look like or what their past was had no bearing on their current situation."
Bird Box will become available on Netflix on December 21.
Monopoly Pizza Is Here, and You Better Believe It Comes in a Takeout Box
Has a board game ever made you drool? . . . No? Well get ready, dear reader, because that's about to change now that Monopoly Pizza has arrived. In this tasty twist on the classic game, players buy pizza rather than properties, advancing around the board and snatching up as many toppings as they can – from pepperoni and spinach to mac and cheese and pineapple. Players must aim to assemble a color set that corresponds to a certain type of 'za, such as barbecue chicken or veggie lovers. At the end of the game, whoever collects the most slices is crowned victorious.
Of course, the game pieces are pizza-themed, with shiny silver tokens shaped like a chef, cheese grater, pie slicer, and more. Oh, and we almost forgot to mention a very vital detail: Monopoly Pizza comes packaged in a takeout box that looks like the real deal – except, y'know, it's not covered in pizza grease. Check out a few photos of the foodie-approved Hasbro game ahead, and be sure to preorder it on Amazon or Walmart before the other pizza-lovers of the world beat you to it.
Related: 16 Gifts For People (Seriously) Obsessed With Pizza
Kate Middleton’s Midi Dress Is as Chic as They Come – and You Need 1 in Your Life
Another day, another gorgeous outing from one of our favorite duchesses. After Meghan Markle's surprising appearance at the British Fashion Awards – where she wore a stunning Givenchy gown and gold heels by Tamara Mellon – it was Kate Middleton's turn to take our breath away. On Tuesday, the Duchess of Cambridge visited the Evelina London Children's hospital in London, of which she has just become patron.
For the occasion, she wore a beautiful polka-dot midi dress by L.K. Bennett, one of her go-to brands. Featuring a fitted waist, pussy-bow detail, and classic button-down design, it was incredibly elegant and feminine, and Kate accessorized it with suede pumps, the L.K. Bennett Dora clutch, and her chic Annoushka pearl earrings. Ahead, get a closer look at her latest ensemble, then shop her exact dress, as well as similar options.
Related: Kate Middleton's Festive Midi Skirt Will Have You Wishing It Were Christmas Already
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