Actress Kara Tointon has recently been seen on-screen in the new ITV drama, The Halcyon. She had previously been known to audiences her roles in Mr Selfridge, The Sound Of Music Live, winning Strictly Come Dancing and of course her appearance in EastEnders.
Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Kara, first of all tell me about Gaslight and your character.
Gaslight is a play written by Patrick Hamilton written in 1938 and I play Bella Manningham who has been married for seven years. She is incredibly optimistic and completely obsessed and in love with her husband, he can do no wrong in her eyes. However her husband is convincing her that she is going mad. I’m in it with Keith Allen and Rupert Young and it’s been really interesting as a piece to rehearse, it’s not your normal whodunit but it’s unravelled itself into a completely different story to what I had thought it would be. It’s different from anything that I have done before, lots of lines to learn and textually rich.
How does working on stage and on screen differ? What are the challenges?
It’s interesting because when it comes to learning scripts for television it’s short term learning and you don’t always get a lot of time to rehearse and it’s a different process whereas on stage you do have a lot to learn but you do have a lovely rehearsal period where you worry that the lines aren’t going to ‘go in’, but slowly and surely they do. Before you know it you’re in front of an audience and you’ve got through it and conquered your fear.
Do you suffer from stage fright or nerves at all?
I think before the first night I always have nerves but you have to use them, I like having nerves and I think it would be a bit worrying if you didn’t have any nerves. Slowly they disperse over the duration of the run. I do get nervous but in a good way.
Is there a particular play that you want to do or a part that you would really like to play?
I used to think about roles that I would love to do but in reality in acting it depends on the auditions that come up at the time and it’s best to take each job as it comes. Just playing strong female roles is quite special, for instance this part in Gaslight is a strong female although she is having a tough time.
The Halcyon has just finished on ITV, what were your highlights of playing Betsey in the show?
It was a fantastic project to be a part of, especially with it being set in 1939. Funnily enough my Great Auntie, my Dad’s Aunt was a bit of a cheeky character and when she was younger she had this really infectious cackle of a laugh, so when I was thinking about this character I thought about her a lot. While I was filming I saw a photo of her and she had her hair in exactly the same way as they did my hair for Betsey and she also sang at the pubs. It was such a lovely time in history to do because although it’s before my time it’s still very close to my heart because there were family members who were around at the time. She was such fun to play because she didn’t care what people thought of her.
We’ve been treated to your lovely singing voice in The Halcyon and previously in the live version of The Sound Of Music, would you like to pursue a musical theatre career in the future?
I love singing and I have had a lot of singing lessons while growing up so it’s always been a hobby that I have enjoyed. I’ve got no plans to make it into something but if a job comes up where singing is necessary I would go for those parts. I don’t see myself as a singer, I see myself as an actress who can sing, I’ve noticed that my voice has strengthened over the years because I have a good singing teacher who gives me great vocal exercises. It’s amazing what you can do with the right exercises and techniques. I worked with Maria Friedman not long ago and she taught me that you don’t have to have the best singing voice, as long as you enjoy what you’re singing, that was a good lesson to learn.
Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come along and see Gaslight?
It’s a little bit different, it’s a thriller and melodrama, not really a whodunit and we’ve tried to do it in a new and fresh way. As this was written in 1938 it catered for the audience of its time, so what we’ve tried to achieve is to keep it fresh. If you’re up for a thrill, come along and see what you think, it’s a good play.