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Lorraine Cheshire What a Beautiful World This Will Be

Wythenshawe-born actress Lorraine Cheshire tells us about working with the likes of Maxine Peake, Caroline Aherne, and Terry Gilliam.

Read on, reading people. Read on for a glorious affirmation of life as an actor and good human being in these here times. Because when you speak to the actor Lorraine Cheshire, you will feel better, believe me.

So, like all actors you must have acted the goat at school? I naïvely ask. “Not at all; I was barely there. Did a lot of bunking off…” Something we share in common then. Good start.

Wythenshawe-born Lorraine came late to the acting party in 1992 at the age of 38 and graduated from drama school three hardworking years later. “Yeah, it was difficult with all the kids there, but after about a year I settled down and got on with it and got through it.”

Very brave thing to do – both feet, in the dark and blindfold… “My husband encouraged me, and said what do you want to do? I’d always been a bit of a drama queen – was brought up on Play for Today on the telly, so they were a big influence, but no actors in particular.” Click play below and you won’t be disappointed.

A Baptism of Fire

Eventually you have to get paid for your hard work. “Yes, the first paid job was as a social worker in the BBC series Cops. Like two episodes, I think. That was my very first job and I’ve kept the scripts. I keep everything,” she added – and so she should. “A real baptism of fire that was – the director had to tell me, ‘Lorraine, love, you don’t have to shout. We have a microphone!’ I was so embarrassed, but he said don’t worry; you learn as you go along. It was real learning on the job and that’s what acting is.”

I bring up the dirty subject of pay. As working class people, we’re brought up never to bring up the subject. So was Lorraine pleased with the pay check? “Oh, god, yeah. But you have to remember the rates don’t go up much unless you’re in that one percent in the top roles. I mean, it is good money, don’t get me wrong. Some people have to work a year for that money, but as an actor it’s lobster or beans on toast and it could all end tomorrow.” Keeping it real, Lorraine – you put the graft in, so get paid for it. Fair play.

Filming in Lockdown

Now, time for me to keep it real and ask about lockdown as an actor… “Well, most of us are in the same boat, really. Most actors are in and out of work anyway, so you’re just waiting. There’s no theatre. You just do a couple of auditions; maybe a couple of self-tapes. I finished Ackley Bridge in September, so I’m just waiting, like everyone else. The honest truth is I’m unemployed and waiting for the next job – same as it ever was.”

And as for lockdown filming? “Yeah, so it depends what it is. If you need background actors and loads of testing – in Ackley Bridge, we have a lot of school kids and testing – we were masked up until they said action, but you can be shut down at any time.”

I asked Lorraine to gaze into a fictional crystal ball and tell me what’s next for the acting profession – hey, she’s an actor, right? “Well, I think when we’re all vaccinated more things will reopen and more jobs will come, but it’s going to take time, you know. Maybe a year?” I just asked an impossible question.

A Quiet Pub in Stockport

Early Doors is an iconic piece of Northern comedy set in a quiet boozer – in Stockport, I believe. But let’s not quibble; it could be Prestwich or Ancoats or Burnage, and Lorraine graced it as one half of the most lovely sweet couple imaginable, Eddie and Joan. Now, I want to know more, Lorraine: how?

“Saturday morning I went to London to meet Craig Cash. I don’t think the character Joan was supposed to say anything or had any lines, but they wrote some anyway. Caroline Aherne was there as well, being so funny and sweet, and of course she’s from Wythenshawe as well. She said, ‘I don’t live there anymore ‘cause I’m rich and famous,’ and she didn’t even ask me to read the lines, just asked me, ‘Who’s your favourite film actress?’ and random questions like that.

“When I did read the lines, she grabbed me on the way out and said, ‘Job’s yours”. The producer came up and said, ‘It’s not really up to Caroline, but don’t worry’.” Then one of the great TV couples where born, Lorraine and Mark Benton, aka Eddie and Joan.

Maxine peake IMG 7043

Maxine Peake speaking at Manchester International Festival

Ged Camera

“Mark is my favourite TV husband, you know, and such a brilliant bloke. Just a dream casting. The whole thing was such a lovely job. We all keep in touch. Sadly Rodney Litchfield, who played old man Tommy, died recently. Craig sorted it out for just a few of us to be at the funeral. I went with Maxine Peake. Sad day, but funny also, as Rodney’s character in the show was a lonely old man, no family, no friends. On the day, it was packed with old friends. Typical Rodney, he had us on all those years!”

“Early Doors was a shining example of an ensemble piece, with writing, casting, direction and everyone pulling their weight to make it work; no stars as such, although with Maxine Peake, Chrissie Bottomley, and James McAvoy, not bad teammates, eh? And the important thing is they are still mates to this day.” Brings a tear to your shoulder.

Into the Imaginarium

Let’s talk about The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus; then I won’t have to type it again. Terry Gilliam – that must have been fun? “Well, I was paired up again with Mark Benton! So there was me, Mark and Moya Brady filming on London Bridge in December at night, freezing. Heath Ledger came on the set and created a big buzz. Terry asked if I wanted to go through some lines and then asked me, ‘Do you like QVC? I do, and buy lots of things from there,’ so a joy to work with, but completely nuts!”

If you look on IMDb, Lorraine is listed as Mum, which is very apt. It’s not really my kinda thing, The Imagi… whatever it’s called; too fantasy for me and quite the opposite of Lorraine Cheshire – she is proper, sorted, and a great actor. Well I feel better after that interview; hope you do too. Oh, before I forget, we did talk about that Tom Cruise lockdown meltdown, but it’s a secret.

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