How did you get into acting and musicals?
I started at The Ivy Travers Dance School in Clapton, London age 6
and from my first performance at Bow Civic Centre I knew that it
was what I wanted to do when I grew up. My first professional job
was aged 18 at Battersea Arts Centre in the musical 'Southside'. I
got my Equity card on that job.
What has been your favourite role so far, on stage and on
It's hard for me to choose, they are all kinda my faves when
I'm doing them.
My top 5 in no particular order: Rafiki - Lion King, Killer
Queen - We Will Rock You, Asaka - Once On This Island,
Lola Griffin - Holby City, Oda Mae Brown - Ghost.
What's your favourite musical?
West Side Story. I grew up watching the MGM musicals with my Mum,
but WSS was the one first one where I could actually see myself
being in it.
Do you prefer TV or the stage?
Stage. I love the energy exchange between the performer and
audience. I love the immediacy of theatre.
What's the dream role?
I'd love to play Sophia in The Color Purple.
What's the best thing about the job?
It's eclectic which appeals to the Gemini in me. You meet a wide
range of people, of various ages, from a variety of backgrounds.
The job itself is eclectic: I've been animal, vegetable, mineral
What's the hardest thing about the job?
It's not hard for me because I'm living the dream. But not
knowing, but having to trust that there will be another job after
the one you are doing. That's hard at times.
Do you see your job as having some kind of political
social responsibility? ie. to represent black or gay
My job is to find the truth in my characters. I considered landing
the role of Killer Queen a huge victory as she was written as
white, so having me play her was statement enough. In my head KQ
was bisexual, though. The public's reaction to Lola in Holby City
was humbling and overwhelming. They loved that she was strong, held
a position of authority, spoke her mind, would cuss you, but would
be the first to hold you to her bosom if you needed comfort.
She was the kind of woman I wanted to see on TV when I was growing
up. She was based on my mum. I was very, very proud to play
Is there a lack of diversity in the industry? Do you think
this will change?
I consider myself very lucky in my career and have many
opportunities, however I have had often had to make my own. I was
at the Screen Nation Awards ceremony in 2007 (which when it
first started years before was held in a room with five people) and
I looked around the ballroom teeming with talented black creatives
and performers from film and TV, I was so proud and thought 'Look
how far we've come'. On the other hand, we've lost so much black
talent to the US because they can't get employed here, but the US
recognises their talent, and they're in pilots, mini series, films,
winning awards, writing and directing. Guys like Idris Elba and
Noel Clarke are turning that around in the UK though. I've refused
to see the Wizard of Oz on principle. The bright colourful world of
Munchkinland in 2012, (in a cast of how many?) has only ONE black
cast member. Come on!! Still, I remain open & hopeful, I have
You run workshops and masterclasses - how do you feel
I went to Anna Scher Children's Theatre. Anna would often have
guests come in to share their experiences. Teaching is a fabulous
way of giving back and passing on the baton. I find it very
Who are your musical idols?
Carol Woods, Paula Kelly , Gregory Hines, Ben Vereen, Chita
Rivera, to name a few.
Also my peers and people I've had the pleasure to work with
eg.Susie McKenna, Clive Rowe, Anna Jane Casey, Paulette Ivory,
How do you manage the work/life balance? Acting is
notorious for making that difficult.
It's all I know, and we don't have children so it balances very
well. I only found it difficult when I was in Holby City. The oh so
early hours wreaked havoc with my theatrical body clock, and those
hours didn't allow me to see anyone or do anything during the week.
However, having a true weekend and being able to meet friends
at a civilised time on a Saturday was a joy. I would say that
theatre hours suit me just fine.
Who inspires you?
Talent that has a generous spirit is always guaranteed to fire me
up. Carol Woods who I had the great fortune to understudy in 'Blues
In The Night' has that quality. She was the one who recommended
that I audition, and I'd only just met her. She took me under her
wing and taught me so about the industry, and the craft, and how to
carry yourself. Carol was a great teacher and a true inspiration to
Catch Sharon D Clarke, Susan Calman, Sandi Toksvig and others on
8 July at