April 15, 2001, Sunday
Pg. 10, 11
INTERVIEW: I'M PLAYING QUEEN VICTORIA AND I CAN'T BELIEVE MY LUCK;
TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT THE FACE ON THE RIGHT, YOU'RE ABOUT TO SEE A LOT MORE
By Annie Leask
Victoria Hamilton puts her hands to her face to cover her flushing
cheeks. Yep, she's embarrassed. Not by talk of sex or nudity (we'll come to
that later), but by my congratulating her on landing not one but two plum TV
roles - a coup for any actress, let alone one who's usually more comfortable
treading the boards.
"I know, I know, it's bonkers isn't it?," she laughs, her high colour
"Things are going so well I am waiting for some bad luck, but I don't
mind that feeling - I hope it means I am keeping my feet on the ground."
The two roles in question are as a mother-of-two in The Savages, the
much -awaited new comedy from Men Behaving Badly creator Simon Nye which
starts on April 24, and as the lead in Victoria and Albert - BBC1's major
new drama to mark the 100th anniversary of the monarch's death.
Judging by Victoria's CV - she's won best newcomer and best actress
awards for her stage work - she is obviously capable of both. But two such
high- profile roles in one season?
"It seemed unbelievable when I heard I had both parts," she admits. "I
didn't have time for a big celebration because of all the filming.
Hopefully, this weekend I might get a chance to celebrate with my family -
it might have sunk in by then." In Savages, Victoria stars alongside Marcus
Brigstock and Geoffrey Palmer.
In Victoria and Albert there's a famous face at every turn - Nigel
Hawthorne, Richard Briers, Penelope Wilton and Jonathan Pryce. The latter
traces the Queen's life from her coronation at 18 to Prince Albert's death
from typhoid at the age of 42.
Their story is being billed as "one of the greatest love affairs of the
19th Century". But there has been some controversy over the nude scenes.
Even Victoria's mother expressed a little concern after reading that the
new drama portrayed the Queen and Prince Albert as a "lusty couple who were
obsessed with sex".
"My mum read in a newspaper that monarchists were upset that Victoria
and Albert was going to be a 'bodice-ripper'.
"I hadn't told her much about the show, so I rang her up and told her
how tasteful it will all be. "Fortunately, she just laughed and thought it
was quite funny. I have no high moral ground about nude scenes, but it has
to be an extraordinary part for me to agree to do one, and in this case it
was. It is a love story and seeing Victoria and Albert in bed together is
part of that. After all, they did have 10 children and she was really,
really, attracted to the person she married, so obviously they had a
"I talked about it with the director an awful lot beforehand and when we
came to do the two love scenes I felt very in control. As far as nudity goes
viewers won't see very much because it is done with such taste."
Victoria is the middle child of three. Her father is a retired
advertising agent and her mother ran her own nursery. School was the private
Priors Field in Surrey, where her O-level studies included drama.
But it wasn't until five years later - and the week before she was due
to start an English degree course at Bristol University - that Victoria
announced to her parents that she wanted to be an actress.
"I suddenly realised I didn't want to spend the next three years reading
books at University and that I wanted to act.
"My parents were disappointed at first, but they understood and were
very good about it."
Victoria did the rounds of auditions for all the major drama schools and
was unceremoniously rejected from every one.
"They all told me I was dreadful. I wasn't unlucky - I was just
genuinely bad," she says with a grin.
"I was completely unprepared and just didn't know what I was doing."
A year later, after doing local youth theatre, LAMDA offered her a
"I was relieved, but if I hadn't succeeded then I would have carried on
until I was accepted somewhere."
She was obviously doing something right. After theatre director Sir
Peter Hall saw in her first professional role, she went on to win the
Critic's Circle Award for Best Newcomer in 1996.
"So far I have been very lucky, amazingly lucky, but I am glad my first
success has been in the theatre and not in television.
"I have seen friends who got lead TV roles straight from drama school be
really, really destroyed by it. "Suddenly they were well-known faces, they
had good TV work - the difference between theatre money and telly money is
vast - and they thought, 'Great I have done it, I am rich'. Then three years
down the line they have spent all the money and suddenly it stops dead.
"The effect that has had is very sad to watch.
"When I started I said I wanted to spend the first five years doing good
solid stage work before I even thought of going in front of a camera because
all the actors I admire succeeded in the theatre first before going into
I turned down film and TV work to do good theatre roles." When the time
came for TV, she said to herself: "If I haven't got my first lead roles by
the time I'm 30 I'll be in trouble".
"I am 30 this month, so I managed it... just."
There is only one area in which Victoria felt a little out of her depth
during the making of both shows - and that was motherhood.
"I have no experience of small children and have never been cast as a
mother before. Then suddenly in my first two leading TV roles I am playing
mums - it's very weird.
"It wasn't so hard playing Queen Victoria as a mother because she didn't
look after them herself and didn't actually like children very much until
they were older.
"But playing a mum like Jessica Savage, with two young children, was
much harder. I spent the last couple of months carting a three year-old
around under my arm. It was completely new to me.
"We had a lot of fun filming but it hasn't started my biological clock
ticking - I don't think I've got one! Friends said it would make me start
feeling maternal, but it hasn't.
"I know a lot of girls who, when they hit 30, started saying,
'Something's missing. Shouldn't I have children by now?'.
"I have never thought that. Anyway, at the moment I am very single," she
says wryly, emphasising the "very".
"I have had long-term relationships in the past, but not for quite a
"For me having children is all bound up with being in a relationship - I
just can't think of kids without thinking I would be in a relationship
first, so I don't think I will be having them for a long time yet."
GRAPHIC: VICTORIA BY NAME...As the Queen with Jonathan Firth as Albert and;
Jonathan Pryce in the new BBC drama
(Submitted by Tara)