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WRAP > Career > TV > This Interview

Appearance on Heaven and Earth (2000)

Alice Beer

Broadcast by:

"[??]" is used to indicate uncertain transcription phrases.

The show's co-host, Ester McVey, introduces the pre-produced interview with Wendy:

EM : "Now, if you watch EastEnders, you'll know that in Albert Square, Pauline Fowler does nothing but forgive and forget other people for what they have done to her. Well, our Alice Beer caught up with her alter-ego, Wendy Richard . . ."

The setting of the interview is a large, airy dining room (which Wendy later told me was a Chinese restaurant in west London). She is wearing a dark jacket, adorned with a large round silver-colored brooch, over a light-colored blouse. The table where they are sitting has been set with flowers, and both Wendy and her interviewer have glasses of water. Alice Beer is sitting to Wendy's left.

AB : "Well, it's a big birthday this week, a huge birthday. It is the birthday of EastEnders; but it's actually also the birthday of Wendy Richard's dog, isn't it?"

WR : "That's true, yes, Shirley Brahms the Second . . ."

AB : "That's far more important, isn't it?"

WR : "It is. She's nine years old, and she's got a Louis Vuitton collar for her birthday."

AB : "Now Pauline would never, never buy her dog a Louis Vuitton collar, would she?"

WR (smiling) : "No that's true, she wouldn't even buy a Louis Vuitton belt for herself, but anyway.....No, but she has got the money, so she could."

AB : "Acting is so obviously very natural to you. Is it something you went into without even thinking about?"

WR : "Umm, not really, no. When I was younger, first of all I wanted to be an archeologist, and then I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, and . . . well, I left school -- my mother was a widow -- and it was a bit of a struggle for her, but she got the money together and I went to Italia Conte, and I started to get work. My first job ever on TV was with Sammy Davis, Jr. which was absolutely fantastic; he was a lovely man, a real gentleman."

AB: "So how did you get from wanting to be a vet to going to Italia Conte?"

WR : "I don't know -- I think when I realized I would have to cut up animals to learn how to save them. I'm too softhearted anyway; I mean, I'm a great one for having a good cry. I can't watch these programs about Battersea Dog's Home and vets and pet rescue and everything, because I just sit there and sob my heart out. I want to take them all in."

AB : "What about looking back to Miss Brahms? Obviously she held a very strong place in your heart; you called your dog after her . . ."

WR : "Oh, yes, yes."

AB : "So what was that like?"

WR : "Well, we did Are You Being Served? for twelve years. We did the first one as a pilot for Comedy Playhouse, when the BBC used to make programs, you know, and run them as a one-off and if they took off then they would become a series... So we had twelve years of Are You Being Served?, which was great fun, because I had worked with everybody--apart from John Inman--before, and we all knew what each other was thinking. We were so . . . close."

A clip from the Are You Being Served? episode Cold Comfort is shown.

AB : "You look at your CV [résumé], the number of different things you've worked on goes on and on and on forever. But you will always be known for Pauline and Miss Brahms, won't you? Primarily?"

WR (firmly): "Well, I think that's wonderful."

AB : ". . . You've no regrets that you've done. . . ?"

WR : "Not at all, not at all. I mean, I was also Private Walker's girlfriend in Dad's Army as well. Three wonderful characters, and I'm very proud and happy, and very fortunate, to have played all three of them."

A clip from the Dad's Army episode Two and a Half Feathers is shown.

WR : "I love Pauline; I'm very grateful to her, and I think she's a great character. She is a real fighter for her family; her family are the most important thing . . ."

A clip from a very recent -- probably 1999 -- EastEnders episode is shown.

AB : "She's changed quite a lot, hasn't she, over the years?"

WR : "Yes. But not a great deal. You still get references to Pauline's cardigans, and I have to tell you now that I haven't worn one, I think it's for about seven years now. There's only been two changes of hair style in fifteen years; otherwise, she's more or less the same. I started wearing a tiny touch of lipstick now and a bit more eye shadow. But otherwise, she's not changed."

AB : "She's got herself a lover now . . ."

WR (her voice carefully neutral): "Oh no, you're reading things into it. She's got a gentleman friend; who says she's got a lover?"

AB : "Oh, I hope you going to go down that road. Looking forward to a bit of passion."

WR : "Well, wait and see."

AB : "Tell me, the thing you were very open about was when you discovered that you had breast cancer . . . and why did you decide to be open and share it with the press?"

WR : "Someone had rung up the press and said there's something going on. So they were up and down the street, making a nuisance for all the neighbors and everything. But I thought, now, there must be a reason for me to have found myself in this situation, of having this lump. And then I thought it must be a lesson in life for me to learn, and therefore I must pass on what I learn from it to others, because it is the most terrible shock when you're told you've got this . . . thing growing inside you, and you don't want it there, you know, this cancerous growth. And I mean, my first reaction was, I was so angry: "How dare God do this to me?" But then, as I say, a bit of sense kicks in, fortunately, and you realize there must be a reason for it."

AB : "And were you frightened by it as well?"

WR : "I admit that I was frightened when I was laying in the hospital bed before I went downstairs for the operation, but as I am a practicing Christian and I do have a faith, I thought "God will look after me". And He and Mr. Gilmore did."

AB : "Were you trusting in Mr. Gilmore, your surgeon, or were you trusting in God?"

WR : "It was a bit of both, actually, because God had given him the skills to help all women."

AB : "And did you, you're a practicing Christian, did you pray and talk to God more when . . .?"

WR : "I always say my prayers. "

AB : "At night or any time . . .?"

WR : "At any time of the day. You can say your prayers at any time of the day. You can be doing the washing up, walking down the street, sitting in a park, whatever. You can always speak through to head office."

AB : "Are you asking or are you thanking or are you.. . .?"

WR : "Well, you have to give thanks. I feel sorry for people, actually, who have no faith, who are atheists, and everything, because in a time of stress, who do you talk to? And same as in a time of thanksgiving, whether it be for the birth of a child or whatever, or clearance [recovery] from an illness, who do you thank, if you haven't got your faith?"

AB : "Do you believe in an afterlife?"

WR : "Yes I do. My mother brought me up to believe in an afterlife. She was the seventh child of the seventh child. And she had the gift."
[Webmaster's note: Ms. Richard did not elaborate on this statement. I can only note that in Western culture the nature of such a 'gift' is traditionally considered to be clairvoyance (second-sight) or an extraordinary healing ability.]

AB : "Really? What . . .?"

WR : "Yeah, and it's just something that was accepted. She was also a committed Christian, and would go to church -- that's the way our family life was."

AB : "And do you think it would have been much harder for you to get through that period, if you didn't have a faith, and didn't believe?"

WR : "I think so, yeah. But that's just my thought, that's just me. Other people might be different."

AB : We've done the terribly unhappy, difficult part. What's the happiest part of your life that you think about? Is it now? Or is it. . .?"

WR : "I think now. I'm very happy, contented now. I have a nice, balanced home life, and I've got a good job -- a very good job -- . . ."

AB : "It's not a bad job, is it?"

WR : ". . .a lovely house, and . . . hopefully, if we get stuck in, it'll be a lovely garden this year as well."

AB : "So, life's good now. Was there a sort of really golden, special period?"

WR : "I think every day is my golden, special period."

AB : Because of what you've been through?"

WR (nods in the affirmative): "Um-hmm."

AB : "Wendy Richard, thank you very much."

WR (with a warm, glowing smile) : Thank you!"

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