Speaker 1 00:00:21 Are you doing I'm Doug <inaudible> and you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. Now here at plastic towers. First thing of the morning, yours truly can often be heard echoing through the west wing with his rendition of Frank Icefields timeless classic. She taught me how to Yodel, but this voice is as nothing by comparison with today's guest, Jessica Martin, impressionist, singer actor, writer, and illustrator. She was one of the voices on the original spitting image was a punk werewolf for Sylvester McCoy doctor who spent two years in the west end with me and my girl and has of late written and illustrated life drawing a charming and honest account of her showbiz trials and triumphs. She describes herself as an old fashioned girl. So let's start the interview in an old fashioned way by asking how you're doing.
Speaker 2 00:01:08 I can hear that in a slightly Irish accent. Cause I remember that was what people would say. I want to go on a holiday to, uh, Adonai and county Pomona. It's probably a terrible, terrible accent. And I'm supposed to be accent queen here, but no, in short the answer to your question, how am I, how am I doing? I'm doing really well. Thank you, Doug. Good, good
Speaker 1 00:01:30 Accents are a weird thing. Aren't they particularly with one set of close to family?
Speaker 2 00:01:34 Yes. Yes. Um, it's one of those things that I was constantly doing accents from the age dolt and I blame my Irish mother for that because she could never tell a story of how the day had been without investing herself in all these characters. It was like sort of Dickens' saga, you know, a day at the legal office. You get to experience everybody, it, all their focal colors. And of course nowadays, and I'm doing, you know, I'm doing that since telling a story to my kids and what do I get? Mum, mum, you can't do that. You've been casually racist. You're going to get canceled. You can't possibly do that. So, you know, I dunno, maybe this is a lost, I lost form. I think that my initial intention, if there was any intention at all in doing an accent was to assimilate and ingratiate myself by, you know, is that it's like mirroring, isn't it a very conscious business technique, but I think there must be something natural in human nature that you try and I want to feel comfortable. So I'm going to talk in the vernacular
Speaker 1 00:02:40 On the accident there because it's, it's, it's something that I've talked with. Uh, other interviewees about certain characteristics are given over to certain accents. And also this is a country where, uh, somebody pointed out in the United States, you could travel for 900 miles and still be in the same state. And this country, you travel 50 or the accidents changed twice. And there's a different word for button.
Speaker 2 00:02:58 Absolutely true certain accents as well, or thought of as more friendly than other accents. And therefore they might be required by businesses to lure in custom by fooling them with the accent that they broadly, um, assigned as being friendly, user friendly, whatever.
Speaker 1 00:03:21 So you started off, you say doing voices from the year dot and looking at your memoir life drawing available in all decent shops. Uh, you also saw were very much influenced by the TV and adverts.
Speaker 2 00:03:33 Yeah. I mean, literally there is written evidence, so my mom kept, she didn't keep it for a long time, but she kept a diary try and keep yourself sane. I guess when, um, when I was about two, my little sister was a newborn and in it, she wrote something to the effect of Jessica is sat in front of the television again and she's rubbing her hands over her face and saying a can, they was a range of soap back in the early sixties and up until not too long ago, I think. But yeah, I mean, I was, I was mimicking and I was doing that physically and uh, you know, um, and in word from an early age, that was, that was me. Well, I guess I, I'm trying to think now I do have a very early recollection of seeing the Beatles, uh, on ready, steady goes, something like that. And I was singing and she loves you. Yeah, actually it wasn't even, she loves it. It was just yay. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:04:38 So, uh, you know, um, uh, my father who was well, we'll get onto the Irish connection shortly I'm sure. But my mum was Irish and my father was from Singapore. Uh, and he was a Filipino ethnicity. I, my father was a jazz musician, so there was music in the house and I was a naturally musical child, I guess most children are musical, but for me it was, um, all the more, because that was in my DNA. That was what my father did for a living. And he was constantly playing records or, or playing piano and doing his, uh, exercises. So music was kind of just there. And for me, music was there in literal music, but also in the music of people's voices and accents, I've found the way people speak is endlessly fascinating. And you can have people who have the same accent, but different Tambra's different pitches, different emphasis that color the way they, you know, the way they say things. And they little tells about themselves. I think in a way, one speaks to, Yes, EO, very good Edo for short Placido for long. And he was known as Edo Martin.
Speaker 1 00:06:02 Right. And he was not only a jazz pianist, but you let his own, I suppose, bam draws and combo, wasn't it?
Speaker 2 00:06:08 Yeah. So band, or if you want to be sort of posh about it or impressive dance orchestra, because we, I still have them actually in our record collection, but we have Edo Martin and his Latin orchestra live from the Koch desert. Uh, and there's another one Edo Martin and his orchestra play members and chatters. So, um, he played various types of jazz, but he initially was known in London for having a Latin American jazz orchestra. Uh, and he was heavily influenced in turn by the very famous savvier Cougar who'd been in you, you will have seen San Diego Cougar if you're into old movies at all. Is that old musicals with Alice Fay or Carmen Miranda? Invariably they'd have Zapier Cougar, you know, with his Cuban orchestra. So that's the kind of lineage that my dad was coming from. And of course in the fifties there was Tito 20, uh, Latin was big. And then of course we had west side story, which was the flowering of that, all of that, um, interest and, and excitement about Latin music. So my dad was kind of coming. He came to London from Singapore in the early fifties, but by the mid to late fifties, he was a bit of a star in Soho with this brand of Latin jazz music, with whatever he brought from his upbringing. As, um, as a musician at the raffles hotel in Singapore,
Speaker 1 00:07:45 <inaudible> here, we have a Filipino Singapore. We want to see what the term is, uh, playing Latin American.
Speaker 2 00:07:54 Yeah, yeah. Talk about, you know, cultural misappropriation or whatever, or cross-cultural, you know, whatever. Um, but yeah, I mean, he was, he, he was not a typical Singaporean musician. He was very, uh, very kind of, I guess, experimental and pioneering. It was my dad's mantra in life was I want to do my thing and whatever that thing was at the time you'd go for it. You're hell for leather. So yeah, he was a big fan of the American and Latin American musos Oscar Peterson and, um, uh, bill Evans as well. But his sort of favorites piano wise,
Speaker 1 00:08:37 I think that also influenced your own musical tastes because obviously it's like a, where we were talking in the preamble yesterday to this, you described yourself as an old fashioned girl, something I mentioned in the, uh, in the intro and your impressions that came through for you, uh, where people like Judy Garland, the bubble.
Speaker 2 00:08:52 I definitely, so I mean, my dad wasn't, he himself wasn't into Judy Goldman, particularly, but in his record collection, I always remember I found a soundtrack of south Pacific with Mitzi Gaynor and Rosanna Razzi. And I just played that endlessly and I knew the whole school. Ironically, I got to play Nellie Forbush in south Pacific many, many years later, but the other albums, I remember my dad had where he had a Jack Jones album, which was lovely. And he had elephants, Gerald, and Steve Lawrence, Steve Lawrence had a beautiful voice and he was married to ed Goleman who had a fantastic voice sort of like Doris Day, but much jazzier kind of Husky smiley voice singer. So yeah, definitely. They were my influences, but I think, um, I found like my dad did his own thing. I found my own thing because I in watching television, not only did I see adverts ready, steady go, but I accidentally came upon these black and white movies from yesteryear.
Speaker 2 00:10:00 And, uh, and the very first thing that really made an impression on me was a documentary about Garbo, uh, which was presented by Joan Crawford. So two old movie stars with the price of one. Um, and I just had this sort of massive little girl crush on Greta Garbo. Um, and then when I was seven, I remember a news item and it was this big announcement, the famous Hollywood actress, Judy Garland has been found dead in her London, flat dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And then they showed this clip of Judy Garland, singing clang clang claim where the trolley and it was lovely. And there was this woman with long reddish hair and all the fashion clothes leaning out of a trolley. I just thought, oh my God, she is amazing. Who is she wished she, and I think I had friends that had seen the wizard of Oz.
Speaker 2 00:10:57 It was one of those films that you could still go to the cinema and see, this is, I'm talking about late sixties, but I knew nothing about, but then after that, it's like every time a film came up on television with Judy Garland, I was there, you know, I was there, I was watching it. And then when I was about nine or 10, I saved up enough money to buy this double album of Judy Garland, the Hollywood years. Um, still have it in my record collection this day, but it was all these fabulous songs that she'd sung from when she was at MGM. So literally she was probably age 12 to about 25, 26. Um, and yeah, that she was, she was my idol. She was my queen. So, um, yeah, I, I found not the, I was leaning towards jazz necessarily, but I was leaning towards, I was heading towards musical theater and the American song via Mitzi, Gaynor duty Garland.
Speaker 2 00:11:56 And, um, and also my mum, she, she took me to see Barbara Streisand in funny girl for my seventh birthday. And, uh, because she recognized, I mean, she'd taken us, me and my sister to see sweet charity probably cause she wants to see it. And you know, I better take the kids. What am I going to do with the kids? Can't afford a baby. So we went to C-suite charity and I came home, dressed up mum's high heels and an old nightie and pretended I was S you know, prostitute in a dance or singing if they could see me now, as you do,
Speaker 1 00:12:39 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram born Jessica Cecelia, Anna Maria, with a couple of extra names thrown in later, Jessica Martin's parents met in the coffee shop and jazz era of London Soho given her starring role in west end and touring musicals. It seems only right that her story begins with the,
Speaker 2 00:13:02 I began life as a chatter char, and I began life as a, should we put it as a gate crasher? I was not expected to the party. Um, so to give you the backstory with my mom, so my mom was born Mary Bernadette Maguire, and she was one of a large family of 10 children, uh, Cantor for Manor. And my, um, my grandfather had a farm in agony. I remember going to visit per hall, which is in my romantic, uh, imagination. It's the Torah of the McGuire family. There's a little gum with a wind reference for you. Um, and my mum I found out probably in later years, uh, was a bit of a bit of a black sheep. And the family didn't understand the party line is, you know, when you're born into a big family, there's no room for being an individual. You do what needs to be done, and you're going to go to church and you're not going to moan about it, and you're going to get up early and you're going to go outside and play outside.
Speaker 2 00:14:11 Cause that's what kids do they're seen and not heard. And they're absent until it's tea time and then it's prayers or respite. So she, um, went off to, I mean, she was sent to a very good, uh, Catholic boarding school, the St. Louis nuns convent in county down. And I think we had a relative, a great aunt who was mother Claude was, you know, she was the headmistress there. And unfortunately, if my mom, her eldest sister had been an absolute Saint model girl, child pupil. And when my mom turned up at the confidence, like, you know, why aren't you like your sister? Everything. My mom did was always going to be in the shadow of her perfect sister. So a bit wild and a bit kind of, um, adventurous. So she didn't get to have adventures until she managed to, uh, get herself not thrown out.
Speaker 2 00:15:08 I think she'd just flunked. She was at teaching college and Belfast after she finished at the convent, she was barely older than the kids that she was teaching. She was not remotely interested in being a teacher. So my grandma just, it was like, oh God, what are we going to do with this daughter? I know let's send her off to London to be one of the, I think they, they kind of call them now the hello girls. But, um, my mom was, she was, even though she flunked her exam, she was bright and she was fluent in French. So she became a telepathy, you know, telephone operator. Um, and there was a place in Chelsea where they had international phone calls. My mum would do that, plug it in the spaghetti wiring and, and putting people together. <inaudible> and you know, what do you want to talk about?
Speaker 2 00:15:55 Um, and that was her. So she was in a girl's hostel and Chelsea at doing this job. What, you know, I'm afraid my mom true to type the job. Didn't last, very long what my grandma had described as a nice, safe, um, you know, fitting job for a young lady. My mum was suddenly, suddenly found herself as a waitress in a very glamorous themed restaurant called the LQ Cubana. And at that time in London is it was my mum. Always. I remember her telling me this story over and over again, and her first-line would be, you have to remember, you see, in those days in the fifties, London was great pea soup folk, and it was still recovering from the war. And so the bit of glamour that was there was provided by coffee bars and these restaurants, which had been started by a guy called Doug Fisher.
Speaker 2 00:16:55 Um, so there was the LQ Barna, which was a south American themed restaurant. There were in terms of coffee bars, you had the McCobb club, which was where people had coffee, uh, on a coffin. And you had these little skull ashtrays. Um, there was another place which was the Roman rooms, and there you'd be served by Roman slaves, serving you a steak on a flaming sword. And the menu was a scroll. So, you know, we have immersive theater now, Doug, nothing new under the sun, you know, secret cinema they've been there, they did it in the fifties, but we just don't know about it. I know because my mom was there. She was part of the original dining experience. Absolutely. So my mom was thrilled because I mean, she was a very attractive young woman. I have photographic evidence that she was, I mean, she was sort of, kind of from PE back at boarding school, they were living on white jam and pickle.
Speaker 2 00:17:50 And then she came to London. Suddenly she lost a bit way as she could wear the clothes she wants to wear. And she was very good makeup. She looked, she did look like a movie star, my mum and the criteria for these waitresses was sexist as it sounds. But, you know, that's another time they, the waitresses had to look good. They would generally, uh, models like Lucy Clayton or they've been to RADA. And they would just kind of waiting tables till they became Joan Collins. Um, and so my mum had that job and after hours, she and her girlfriends would go to a place called the disk attack, which was, you know, they played records and they would play Latin American music. Um, and I think, I don't know whether it was because my dad went down there after hours or possibly actually possibly. I think my mom had gone to the nightclub, which was called the Cote dissolve club in Soho.
Speaker 2 00:18:50 And it was the original location for the very first Ronnie Scott's. So Ronnie Scott's was in, I think it's in Dean street now, but it was like one of the other like Greek street or, you know, one of the other places. And that's where the coach has all was. So my dad was, as I say, he was a celebrity in that kind of circuit. Uh, so my mum would have danced to the Edo Martin orchestra, but one evening my dad came after hours to the disc attack, which is where my mom had her waitress mates would hang out. And, um, uh, my mom danced with the famous Edo Martin and, you know, and the rest is history. It's my history. Um, but you know, unfortunately for my mom, she was one of many beloved by my dad. So, you know, he was courting my mom and he had another girlfriend who I think was living in Spain.
Speaker 2 00:19:47 Um, and, uh, you know, as you know, from the book dog, I found out when I was 11 years old, I had my Davina McCall moment. Um, I found out that I had a long lost brother in Iceland because my father had gone to Iceland for, uh, a jazz festival. And that summer he'd got an Icelandic girlfriend and actually they were married. Um, and he cited a son and the son at the age of 17 was, you know, looking for his dad. And so I, I was 11 and that was the first time I met my brother Valgeir and, uh, yeah, my dad was a very complex character and he had a very complicated romantic history, but as he said, that's the deal? I'm a jazz musician. What do you expect? You know, if you come on board with me, this is what you get. So no one was expected to complain diaries,
Speaker 1 00:20:47 Storytelling and things like that. So she had also had a very artistic bent as well. And do you think that was a lot of your inheritance from her?
Speaker 2 00:20:54 Oh, definitely. I mean, I just have a lovely memory of my mum at the Formica table sketching, a very pretty face. And I said, who's that? He said, oh, that's my friend Twiggy. I absolutely believed it. It was, it was like a drawing of Twiggy. Um, so my mum, she loved doodling. She could turn her hand actually. She was a much better like maker. She would drawing wasn't really her main thing. She could like, you know, make you, I've still got a chair, actually that's upholstered by her, but she could just turn her hand to anything. Um, and, and I did find out very late in the day that, um, there was a numb and nice, none of the, one of the only nice nuns, the convent school who was very into drama. And she had predicted for my mum that she should go to RADA and become an actress. But you know, Irish girls in small towns do not do that kind of thing. And actually anybody who's on the stage was thought to be right next door to being a loose woman. It's just not a nice thing to be doing.
Speaker 2 00:22:06 So my mum, she didn't vicariously live through me because what I will say about my mom is probably she would have secretly wished that I didn't go into show business. I remember there was, um, like a hushed conversation one night where she was saying to my dad, I think I declared something about, oh, I want to audition for drama school when I'm at school. And she just said, daddy, she said, Jessica is just not, she's not cut out for there. She hasn't got the temperament. She's really sensitive, which I was. And I am, you know, and you don't lose that. However much people tell you, yeah, you grow a pair, you grow an extra skin. I think it actually gets harder. The older you get in our profession, but I was determined. So when she knew I was determined and also when I started, first of all, I was singing with my father as a teenager.
Speaker 2 00:22:56 You know, it was going to lots of different, um, pumps around London. And my mum would drive me to wherever I was going. And she'd sit the whole night and wait for me to sing my two or three songs that I might be doing with the Brian Booth jazz orchestra or whoever it was I was singing with at the time. So she very much, I mean, she just was a selfless person. So when, when it was all about me selfish, Jessica we're following her career and her star, she supported me, um, in so many ways, you know, emotionally, but also just physically being there for me and filling the gaps that I couldn't do because I'd be off doing tools or whatever, she'd be sorting out house things. Or when I have my kids, she'd be babysitting my children. So she was, yeah, she was remarkable and very gifted, but she didn't achieve any of her dreams.
Speaker 2 00:23:53 But if you said to her, do you feel that you led a satisfactory life? Cause when she passed away three years ago, she would have said, yeah, I got everything I wanted because for her, despite coming from a dysfunctional family, however, however much my grandma and granddad probably thought they were doing the right thing. He let's face it. You know, everybody now recalls the past and we're all from dysfunctional families and hers was dysfunctional. They couldn't give her the emotional backup that she needed. And she couldn't fulfill her dreams with the kind of upbringing that she had. But she created by accident. She created a family, she had my sister and myself. And then once that, as, as she used to say, you know, I never blamed anyone. I was thinking, if you make your bed, you lie in it. And you just deal with what life gives you. And she, she made that her, this was her, we were her pride and joy and she made being a mom, an art form. That's the only way I can put it. She was the ultimate mum.
Speaker 1 00:25:07 We'll be back with Jessica Martin in a moment. But first it's time for that section of the podcast where I asked one of my interviewees to name a member of the diaspora of personal cultural or political significance to them this week, artists, filmmaker, and documentarian, Ruth McHugh with a truly iconic plastic.
Speaker 3 00:25:27 It gives my age away. But like I was, I was madly in love with John F. Kennedy. And I remember, you know, all of that. I remember, um, I remember him coming to Galway in the sixties and I remember him on television. I remember knowing that she was wearing a pink suit and I think television might've been black and white at the time, but definitely knowing that, um, Jackie suit was pink on the day. Um, yeah. And I think like my father would have had his hair. He was like John F Kennedy's, you know, that kind of way in the hair and cut like Kennedy's and wear the same kind of glasses, you know? Um, so we were totally in awe and so proud. I remember across the road, as you went into Galway, there was a banner that said cave, Mila Fulcher for John F. Kennedy. And it literally started to crumble.
Speaker 3 00:26:37 It was just left up there for years and years. And it was across the street to send, gave me a fortune and a lovely thing. I, I, you know, kind of a very odd thing when I was in Liverpool, I was quite fascinated by the Wellington rooms, the old Irish center there, and it was locked up and there were scaffolding outside and there were people beginning to work inside on it. And I was fascinated to see the inside and I was passing outside and I'd taken photographs and I met this guy with a hard heart and he said, I can't let you in. But if you give me my, your camera and I had a really good friend with me at the time, he said, if you give me the camera, I'll take some photos inside for you. So I gave him a, it turned out he actually owned the business and he took the camera inside and he took photographs for me.
Speaker 3 00:27:37 And when I went home and he had taken one photograph and there was a mural inside the, the, the center. And, uh, there was John F. Kennedy with a girl with red hair in a ball that like, I mean, I so identified, it was very uncanny and I like, I'd never seen it, this mural of John F. Kennedy and this girl with a red haired ball, but she was a young girl and I, I probably wouldn't have been as red, but I really like, it was a funny peculiar identification with something I will never see, you know, it's gone now. It was like something disappearing, you know, television was so brand new and he had omnipresence on the level of Christ. You know, it was like only presence. He was everywhere. And he was, he was film star handsome. And his wife like was perfect. Like my mother would have, um, you know, really admired her style.
Speaker 3 00:28:51 The, they, you know, they really emulated that style. You know, the, the less is more, not too much, very elegant cuts, you know? Um, I think my mother would have worn a lot of clothes like Jackie Kennedy and admired her a lot. I was very, very aware of them and totally like totally involved in how tragic his death was. You know, it was, it was an absolute tragedy at the time to ask. Cause I, I, I mean, we had no idea of what television meant and, you know, television was new, totally new Kennedy came. John F. Kennedy came with the box. He came with the television, you know, Ruth book, you there. And if you
Speaker 1 00:29:41 Want to hear more of what Ruth has to say, or indeed any of their previous interviewees, then just go to the [email protected]
also available on Spotify, Amazon, and apple podcasts. And if you want the very top from TPP, why not subscribe simply place your email address in the space of the photo of our [email protected]
and all the plastic wander to be had can be yours now back to Jessica Martin. And I want to pick up on an earlier comment by her mother on her sensitivity and how that works with impersonation.
Speaker 2 00:30:18 I think I'm, I'm an empathetic person where it counts, you know? Um, and I see, um, I see everybody's pain. So just because somebody is rich and successful, be that, say that a fellow actor or a, let's say even a Royal, you know, I did Royals on spitting image and I did princess Diana. She was one of the voices I did. And I, I knew there was something when I did this voice and that sort of very, very, kind of a low key and she's well spoken, but she used to kind of, sort of slur her words. And she was, um, she was somebody, you know, she's now accused, um, posthumously as being, you know, attention seeking. She knew how to play the median, but I, I saw this person who was essentially a shy person, thrust into the spotlight, who was very, she was very kind in a way, um, acting, especially being a character actor is it's the same as being a writer.
Speaker 2 00:31:22 I think writers or actors, they have to put themselves in the shoes. They have to feel the feelings and express themselves as different people. Um, and not judge, you know, just be the person and then it's for the reader or audience to make their minds up of where, where they're coming from or why they've done things. If we go back to spitting image and I do it all, uh, uh, Sarah Ferguson, uh, her wall was always open, never up, never closed. Uh, I don't know why is there, she's on the brink of, I, I'm going to say more. I'm quite finished. I'm greedy. Um, there, uh, yeah, I mean, there's just so many things to take into account. And then I think if I was finding a voice difficult, I would observe literally kind of look at the person to see if there was something in the way that they were moving their mouth or, you know, that would give an inkling w you know, somebody let's think now who speaks.
Speaker 2 00:32:22 I'm trying to think of somebody who would speak with a clenched clenched jaw, or can't think of a specific character. They're all people that would kind of talk like that. I mean, I know kind of doing the ventriloquist that's got, I mean, there's got to be tension surely there they're a tense person that angry about, maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I, I just find it fascinating. Black was probably the very first person that I ever did an impression of when I was a little girl, she had to sell a black shell. And, um, and I was thought, she sounded as if she was being strangled.
Speaker 2 00:32:59 She had this, this voice that was not coming out from my mother. It was kind of somewhere in the back of the throat kind of muted for, um, and there was also sort of excitement about the way she was talking as well. That was like an anticipating flavor to her. But I think also with these impressions, especially back in the day when I was just doing impressions of people that I personally liked, it was for me, it was trying to it's, it's like a form of magic. It's like, oh, if I can capture that of them, it's, you know, I'm get some of that magic dust. I could, I can feel like them. I can feel their, their glamor and their fame in, you know, it's going into my pores as I do the voice, or do the Donny and Marie show for my rib, for my Irish relatives, which I did do
Speaker 1 00:33:55 Love drawing is a very, very honest piece. And you're, you're, you're, you're a very open person here as well. You're talking about your, your, your dad's complex love life and so forth. So when you were writing life drawing, did you, did you ever feel as though, uh, maybe airing too much of the family linen in public?
Speaker 2 00:34:12 I, oh, I, I went through, um, the nine circles of hell, actually putting the book together. It was one of those things I have got you're right. I am an open person, but I am a bit of a hermit too. I'm in a strange dichotomy of one minute. I want to be out there. I want to, I I'm showing off, I'm being an exhibitionist. I'm putting things maybe on social media, oh, guess what this has happened or that I'm dropping a name. And then the other side of me seeking Jesus, how, how self serving, how narcissistic can you be? Can you not just lead a nice, quiet and worthwhile life and stop put yet? And not everything is up for sale and up for grabs and not for, Hey, Janice hands. Look at me. So with the graphic memoir, I, you know, it was one of those things, a lot of my ideas, like the voices they're spontaneous, they come to me.
Speaker 2 00:35:12 Um, and I think, yeah, that's right. How the, even the notion of doing graphic memoir, we, I was at a meeting of something called ladies do comics. So this is a monthly thing that goes on. Um, it's on zoom now, but it used to happen in London, maybe in a comic shop, maybe at foils, um, and people who were not everybody actually was a comics creator that, that were interested in comics, obviously, lots of ladies, but there were men there too. Um, and almost like kind of a meeting of alcoholics anonymous, you know, the two hosts of the thing would open up by saying, good evening. I'm I'm, it was Nicola and Sarah that I'm, I'm Nicola, and I've done this, but then I'm Sarah, and I've done this now. We're going to go round the room and what each say something about ourselves. So it was a November meeting in 2016.
Speaker 2 00:36:07 And I remember I was sort of feeling very, very, uh, satisfied with the way things are going, because I remember I'd published a few, um, comics and graphic novels, and I was kind of being more accepted and be given more opportunities in that field and concurrently. I was getting opportunities every year when I get a job, I sort of, I'm joining my hands and thinking, oh, thanks. Be to God, but it's probably going to be my last job. I always feel like I'm hanging on by my fingernails, but I'd been on a bit of a roll. I played the mum and elf the musical for about three years on the trot. And then out of the blue, I got to step in, somebody had dropped out of big the musical and they were doing it in Ireland. And I, you know, I'm suddenly my name's on the bill and I'm in this musical.
Speaker 2 00:36:54 So life was really good. And I was kinda thinking I'm at a place now. I kind of, I'm on this bit of the hill where I I've got a lot to look back on. And I think I've got a lot of things that I've kind of learnt I would like to share. So anyway, we went around the room and the, the thing was, we're going to go around the room. Can you say what you, what you would like for 2017 and what you want to do in 2017? So I just said, I'm going to write a graphic memoir. That's what I said. And then, um, then, you know, when I do have this, um, what's the word kind of thing that you, you know, when you make a declaration or when you kind of put a foot forward, you know, the universe comes to meet you that thing.
Speaker 2 00:37:43 So, um, I, there was a, um, an editor in the comics world who was, she was setting up an independent, no, she wasn't setting up independently. She was going with Unbound who do crowd from the books and she was going to be heading up the graphic novel division. And she just put out a little social media message. I'm looking for, uh, properties to, um, have all my books for the graphic novel division, you know, hit me up with, you've got an idea. So I got in touch with her and his, he K her name is, and she absolutely loved the idea of my life story as a graphic memoir. Um, and, and then that was it. So then I had to, I signed the contract and then I had to crowdfund. So I had to beat the drum even before I'd written the thing down on paper.
Speaker 2 00:38:31 I had sort of, kind of say to everybody, Hey, I'm writing this book and it's going to be this. I think I illustrated 10 random pages for it. Now here's the thing. I remember when I told my mom that I was going to be doing my life story. She said, God, could you not wait until I was gone prophetic words or what? Because actually, um, later in 2017, very, very sadly, my mum, uh, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Uh, but by that time she'd actually given me her blessing. She put her name to the book. She funded, you know, she was one of the crowdfunders on it. And she, you know, it's like, oh God, well, you know, it's almost like back in the damage. She said, oh, Jessica is not suited for acting, but Jessica's going to do any well Jessica's, shouldn't be doing a graphic map, but actually no.
Speaker 2 00:39:26 And the reason why I wanted to do the graphic memoir aside from showing off about all the wonderful things I've done in showbiz was because I wanted to tell the story of my mum and dad. And I wanted to, I suppose, for my dad's part, I wanted to forgive my dad. I wanted to kind of write him as a character in this story and do this thing of looking at him with hindsight, but also looking at him as a person, not my dad, but like, as, as, as a guy, who's got a talent, he wants to pursue this talent and he's not family minded at all, but he keeps, you know, his, his loins or whatever it is, or maybe it is just being a, um, a serial, romantic, he just kind of keeps calling for women and getting into scrapes. But he's really, he leaves got this fixed star that he's going for and tragically, and that kind of, I'm sorry, but that works one in a book, doesn't it?
Speaker 2 00:40:17 But he, he doesn't achieve these things. He, you know, life moves on and he gets older and the star is not what he thought it was. So there's all of that. And then for my mom's part, I wanted to tell the story of this amazing woman. And unfortunately I can't tell all of the heroic things that she's done, because there are certain people involved in those sides of the story who don't want, you know, for whatever reasons. But there were things that my mom did that are, would truly, you know, sort of think, wow, wow, God, she is amazing, but she was a charismatic woman. Um, and I think so often, uh, you know, women do this for themselves as well as sort of Vale who am I to be doing this? And, you know, and also there is that Irish thing, which I'm sure Doug, you understand too, that you do not beat yourself up. You do not that that's pride. That's arrogance. If somebody wants to say something nice about you, that's great. But you know, it's a word we, you know, when we don't get big for our boots here, that's boasting,
Speaker 1 00:41:34 You're listening to the past. He podcasts, we all come from somewhere else, podcast, gmail.com. We went
Speaker 2 00:41:43 On
Speaker 1 00:41:44 Illustrated, autobiography,
Speaker 2 00:41:47 Touching
Speaker 1 00:41:48 Work, not just about her family in this last section. I want to know how she went from working.
Speaker 2 00:41:57 Uh, we went on a father's day. We always used to go to the south bank and a member randomly. We weren't kind of particularly interested in what, what the space had to offer. We went to the Tate modern and I remember walking around and, you know, I'm afraid my conclusions were the same as they ever were, which was, I'm looking at a brick and I'm looking at a chain. Did somebody make this brick or, or sculpt the chain, but I'm not saying this is not what, this is not my idea of art. So my idea of art probably would have, I would have been better off going to the national portrait gallery or Tate Britain. But anyway, ironically, I'm coming out of the Tate and towards the coffee shop and the gift shop. And I saw some lovely postcards of people that visited the tape and all sort of raving had a lovely time and they all did doodles and they were fantastic.
Speaker 2 00:42:55 And I was thinking, this is what I really get excited about people seeing people's sketches. And I remember, you know, if I'd go to see say it was an art exhibition of Leonardo DaVinci, but the initial sketches or anatomical sketches of the thing that would really kind of float my boat. Um, and then I went to the gift shop and I found this book called the creative license permission to be the artist. You always wanted to be fine. Danny Gregory, beautiful hand illustrated handwritten book. Um, what I loved about it was very, very humble, very, uh, pragmatic book on, if you want to draw, draw, don't be waiting for somebody to say, well, you can't draw, you can't do this. So w w what Danny Gregory proposed was that you have a drawing book that you take with you everywhere. You know, just as a writer, as an advise to take a note ad everywhere, take a drawing book, take a fine liner.
Speaker 2 00:43:55 Don't take pencil and razor. And you're just going to draw everything that you see every day. And that was it. I just, from that day onward for probably the next year and a bit, I drew coffee cups. I drew the steering wheel of my car. When I was picking up the kids from school. I drew on holiday. I was drawing my poor husband sunbathing. I was drawing a woman, unbeknownst to me sitting opposite me on a deck chair buildings. I was never interested in doing anything other than pretty faces and people, but I've suddenly doing objects. And I guess, uh, subconsciously learning about perspective. Cause it'd be doing things from whatever angle I was sitting at. I just brought what I saw. So I got the call again. It was another one of those situations like, oh my God, I've got a call for an acting job what's going on.
Speaker 2 00:44:47 And it was a really good job. It was playing the lead and spam a lot on tour. And Phil Jupiters was playing king Arthur. And the first thing I packed was my sketchbook, but I'm going to take a sketchbook. I'm going to be drawing. When we go to all these wonderful places, I'm going to find the nearest national trust place or castle. I'm going to do all that. Anyway, needless to say, the work took up most of my energies. Um, but I found out that openness is, um, you know, when I use salt sky, he's got varied interests and he loves comics. So every way you go to, uh, if a bit from planet or whatever, the local, um, you know, the local store was, and he buys comics and he come back and he'd be thrown down. Yes. Yeah. It died. Dave is your, is your boys or is the latest, you know, Batman?
Speaker 2 00:45:39 Um, and then I said, casually, is there a way I do like the work of Brian Tolbert? So then he got me a copy of Lutheran, right? Um, anyway, I had my sketch book with me and it turned out that he, you know, more than just comics, that he'd been a graphic designer years ago. And what was, you know, seriously interested in art. I thought I'm going to show these pictures because I've been doing all these pictures in my book and hadn't really shown them to anybody other than immediate family and friends. But, you know, that's the show often me, I kind of wanted a bit of endorsement and recognition. So I actually got it filled up to this bullies. Oh yeah. Lovely. Don't die dynamic lines. It's sort of like Disney in the sixties when they were having, like, they know they didn't rub out the, the lines of, I didn't know what he was talking about, but you just kind of slightly compared my work Disney stuff.
Speaker 2 00:46:30 And then he said, um, you know, use the graphic novel. I mean, you were an actress. Every actress has written a script at sometimes it's a script script and join. That's what it is. Boom Tish. And that was it. I just had a, it was a light there wasn't a limitation. It was the light bulb moment. I just thought, oh my God, I never thought of comics. Of course, of course it's a script. It's kind of a storyboard, but they're a bit more kind of detailed and emotion. So I just started devouring. Luckily for me coming into comics at this very late stage of the game, suddenly there was all this digital technology. So I've been sketching in my book and being very strict with myself and not erasing and doing everything and fine line. But suddenly I discovered how to use Photoshop and illustrator.
Speaker 2 00:47:24 And I, I just was an autodidact. I just got all the books I could and was doing online courses. And then I found out that, you know, in the field of graphic novels, graphic biographies, and, um, I was sort of devouring those. And my first comic was about Clara bow signed a movie star, and that was called it girl. And, and by that time I had a wonderful mentor in mark Buckingham, who is a top DC artists. He does fables and he works with me or game and a lot. Um, so, you know, I, I suddenly found this field where I could, I could truly express myself because I think the myth about acting is that people call it self-expression yes, I suppose you bring yourself to parts that you play or whatever. But generally speaking, you're held in by the, um, the confines of what the script requires, what the director requires, uh, and what the part requires.
Speaker 2 00:48:28 You know, you're not playing yourself, you're playing a character. So if your character is not doing very much, or you do, or you're in a part that you don't feel personally is, is written as, as deeply as you'd want where, you know, that's the job that's, what's required, that's it. So I think by that time in my life and my career, um, I enjoyed a very, very, um, satisfying, a very successful career. And I, you know, I would hate ever to come across as bitter or ungrateful, but there were certain aspects I sort of thought I have, I have been there, I've done this now several times. It's just not, I didn't find it particularly exciting. A lot of the parts that were coming up for my age group or my type. Um, so I just kind of, you know, busied myself comics, I just found absolutely absorbing.
Speaker 2 00:49:21 I also, I'm a lifelong learner. Like lots of people are. And I just loved the fact that I, you know, after a week and I'd be struggling with something and suddenly I sold this or I, or I'm getting better at this. This is why I just love is that you never go backwards when you're doing art. You're always do. It's always a forward progression. And you know, the worst thing is that you look back at where I feel, God, I really get that published. Oh my God, it's awful. I can't look at it anymore, but it's um, yeah, it's and it's not too late. Are there any particular artists? Uh, I love, uh, Michael William Kaluta, who was one of, uh, uh, in fact I love all of these guys. There was a group of artists. It sounds like a pop band, but they were the studio in the seventies and that's, um, Bernie writes and, uh, Brian Barry, Windsor Smith, and Jeff Jeffrey, Catherine Jones and their are, is very classically based. So they're very sort of influenced by Pre-Raphaelites. And I guess, you know, again, that feeds into they're coming out of the 60 seventies and that kind of psychedelic era, very kind of decorative dreamy, mystical kind of art. So yeah, I like that. Um, I've got, there were so many artists that I love. I love Richard piers, Rayner who did road to perdition. I've got a copy of, yeah. Barry Windsor Smith monsters that was released recently, but it's, it's quite harrowing. It's a bit scary
Speaker 1 00:51:00 When I was reading yours. I was reminded of, um, uh, the love and rockets.
Speaker 2 00:51:05 Oh, love. Oh gosh. Yes. I love the Hernandez brothers work. Thank you. That's a huge compliment.
Speaker 1 00:51:12 What's your favorite
Speaker 2 00:51:12 Joke? Oh, my favorite joke is, um, one that my son was telling when he was two years old. It was his very first jokes. My husband and my son just got the constant telling Jason. I totally forget them. Um, doctor, doctor, I've got a piece of iceberg lettuce up my bum and no, I've just told it the wrong way. We, they see I'm terrible at telling jokes because the doctor says that's just the tip of the iceberg. And so my son who's, he's living at home at the moment. He's, he's just graduated from film school where he said, I'm, I think every evening when we come to dinner, we should, all of us write our own joke, not a joke that we found on the internet. So I haven't done one, but he came, came to dinner with one, which was, um, two hours are conspiring to murder another owl. They're in cahoots.
Speaker 1 00:52:11 I'm going to have to ask that choke question more often. Um, what, uh <inaudible>
Speaker 2 00:52:18 Yes.
Speaker 1 00:52:19 Do you get to visit at all?
Speaker 2 00:52:21 I haven't visited funny enough. The last time I saw them was when I did, I did a comic con in a skin comic festival. Um, and, uh, and it was in a Methodist church. All my family had Catholics, but you know, we put all these things, these sectarian differences aside when it comes to art. That's another thing that I love about the arts too. And, uh, yeah, and I think my couple of my cousins and their offspring came to that and I've met up my other, some of my other cousins couldn't make it to the actual convention, but we met up for drinks in a pub. And I I'm very much hoping that when, I mean, things are signed from the petrol shortage at the moment, that's really putting a date on this conversation. Um, things will move back to normal and yes, I do want to get over and I especially want to bring my, my children have never been to Ireland. I want to take them. They're very interested in their Irish heritage.
Speaker 1 00:53:19 And finally, it's the question I ask all my interviewees. Um, what does being a member of the RFPs room mean to you?
Speaker 2 00:53:25 That means to me, my lovely community of school friends that I have to this day. So I, because of the lockdown I was reunited with about six of my friends that I was at St. Michael's where we were in the same class. We 6, 4, 1 of them I'm still, you know, still close to, I would say, she's my best friend, but the others, you know, it was like the years just melts away. And we were meeting weekly on a zoom quiz and we had such a laugh. And I think, you know, I've had friends since, but I've never, I never will have friends. Like then something, something very special about us, us Irish, Brits.
Speaker 1 00:54:12 You've been listening to the plastic podcasts with me, Doug Devani, and my guest Jessica Marks, the plastic pedestal was provided by Ruth McHugh, had music by Jack dividens. Find [email protected]
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or email [email protected]
Busted podcast is a production of the plastic projects.