On stage, Caroline Langrishe has starred in everything from farce to serious drama and tragedy. But she’s probably best known for her television roles as Georgina Channing in courtroom drama Judge John Deed, and as Charlotte Cavendish in Lovejoy.
Langrishe has also appeared in Tis Pity She's a Whore at the Young Vic opposite Jude Law, directed by David Lan, Present Laughter on tour and in the West End, Private Lives at the Watford Palace Theatre, Dog Days at Windsor’s Theatre Royal, The Philanderer at Hampstead Theatre, The Knickers at the Lyric Hammersmith, Evening Light and Lady Audley's Secret at Bristol Old Vic, The Cherry Orchard at Riverside Studios, and A Portrait of Dora at the New End Theatre.
Langrishe’s film credits include Newborn, Rogue Trader, Parting Shots, Crimetime, Hawks, Dead Man’s Folly, Mistral’s Daughter, Christmas Carol, Michael Bogdanov’s Shakespeare, Death Watch, Les Miserables and Eagle’s Wing. In addition to Judge John Deed and Lovejoy, her television credits include As If, Brotherly Love, Justice in Wonderland, Harry Enfield, Cleopatra, Heartbeat, Peak Practice, Mosley, Bombay Blue, Embassy and Sharpe.
Langrishe is currently appearing in Marrying the Mistress, the first-ever stage adaptation of a Joanna Trollope novel, which launched an extensive UK-wide tour this month.
Date & place of birth
I was born in London in 1958 (10 January), but we moved to Kent when I was six, and my parents still live there.
Lives now in
Putney (south London), I’ve been there for about ten years. I live with my two daughters. They are quite old now - embarrassingly old, actually! One is at university in Leeds, and the other’s at drama school in Oxford. The youngest wants to be an actress, but the older one is very literary. English is her subject.
Elmhurst ballet school. I wanted to become a ballerina, but I wasn’t going to become a soloist for the Royal Ballet so I decided I didn’t want to do it. Of course, only one in a million become a soloist for the Royal Ballet. I enjoyed acting more. I just wanted everyone to look at me, really. Apparently, I told my mother when I was about three I just want to have people to look at me - so that’s what I did! And you can act for the rest of your life, whereas you retire at 30 in ballet.
First big break
Playing Kitty in Anna Karenina for the BBC when I was 18. Then shortly after that I did a TV film called The Flip Side of Dominic Hyde. And then I did a lot of work in the theatre with Peter Gill who really helped me a lot.
Career highlights to date
My real career highlight was The Cherry Orchard with Peter Gill. And also I was in Kenneth Branagh’s production of Twelfth Night, which was very thrilling. TV wise, I suppose Lovejoy. I was in that for a couple of years, and that put me on the telly map as an adult.
Oh my God! Well, best not tell you about the ones who weren’t my favourites! Basically, anyone who makes me laugh goes to the top of the list. I can’t think of any off the top of my head; but the cast for Marrying the Mistress are wonderful. Adrian Lukis and I get on like a house on fire, and I love Polly Adams. It’s essential when you’re going to be on tour together that you all get on because it’s like having a six-month holiday with people, so you have to be able to tolerate each other.
Peter Gill is definitely a favourite. And Matthew Parkhill is a name to look out for. He directed an afternoon play I was in for the BBC called Some Sort of Lovers and he saw me for myself - I didn’t have to be glamorised. Normally, I play these rather glamorous women. But I hasten to add, I’m not doing so in this play - you see me in my own world with greasy hair and jeans!
I love Chekhov, I think he is the best playwright ever. And I love Tom Stoppard plays as well.
What roles would you most like to play still?
I haven’t had much of a crack at the Shakespeare roles, apart from playing Olivia in Twelfth Night, and I’d love to play Beatrice in Much Ado. I’d also like to do much more comedy on TV. I’m always cast as a powerful career-type person, which isn’t really me. As long as I can make people laugh, then I’m happy. There isn’t a lot of laughter in Marrying the Mistress, but I’m trying to find some!
What might you have done professionally if you hadn’t become an actor?
I don’t know what I’d have done. That’s the terrifying thing. I’m always trying to get my daughters to get jobs and they look at me and say: “you’ve never done anything, so why should we?” I’ve seriously never done anything else in my life, which is a good thing in that I’ve managed to remain employed as an actress, but it does mean that I’m really incapable of doing anything else. I even find typing a letter difficult.
What would you advise the government - or the industry - to secure the future of British theatre?
We need to sort out the dressing room situation. The dressing rooms in the West End are hovels. They spend all that money on front of house and then the actors go into these complete hovels, literally! It would be nice to sort that out. Other than that – I really don’t know enough about it to suggest anything that the government might find practical.
Favourite after-show haunts
I just like to go out for dinner. As long as a meal is involved, I’ll be there. I’m not one for hanging around pubs.
My favourite book is Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea, which I love.
Favourite holiday destinations
It’s going to be Christmas time again before I do a holiday, but Africa is my favourite place. I love Kenya, I have done safaris there before. There’s got to be heat involved anywhere I go on holiday.
What was the last thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?
The last thing I saw, which was possibly the best show I have ever seen, was The History Boys at the National Theatre, which I could just watch again and again and again. It was inspired and absolutely brilliant.
What made you want to accept your role in Marrying the Mistress?
What made me want to do it really is that it’s very easy to identify with this world of middle-class marital life and strife, and I find it rather appealing from that point of view. And also, we’ve got together a very classy group of actors, which you often don’t get on tour. More often than not, you get soap stars and celebrities. Also, I love Joanna Trollope TV adaptations and I’ve never been in one, and I would really like to be! So when this came up, I jumped at it. My character is Carrie, the daughter-in-law of the man who is having an affair. She’s pretty clued up. She’s a busy woman who runs the house and has a job, and she has a very open mind to what the situation is all about. She’s not immediately damning of the mistress or the father-in-law. She can see the reality of the world. I think she’s quite similar to what perhaps I’ve become in more recent years, which is rather more looking at the whole picture and being more realistic. I wasn’t like that when I was younger.
What do you like/dislike most about touring?
I absolutely love it because I think plays can get very stale playing in the same place week after week, and being on tour is a challenge and keeps you on your toes. And it’s like being a paid tourist - you can go off and explore these different places that you are at for free. I swim a lot so I go off and find the local swimming pool wherever we go, and I go off for walks in the countryside. I’ve only toured twice and the first one was my favourite because it was all so new and exciting – but I still love it now.
Have you read many of Joanna Trollope’s novels?
I haven’t read a lot of them, though I did one for the radio - A Spanish Lover, about a couple of women. Jemma Redgrave and I did that. More than reading the books, I watch the TV adaptations. I didn’t know this one at all, and it’s quite an intriguing angle that she’s got. When I was first cast, I thought, “I’m either the wife or the mistress”, because I always get those kind of roles. It’s nice to be doing something different in this.
How did you research your role?
I read the book again and again and again until it became very familiar to me, and I carry it around so it goes in by osmosis! It’s very episodic and I have squillions of lines, so many that we haven’t even numbered the scenes. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. There’s a frightening moment when I think, “haven’t we just done that scene”, for almost every scene!
What’s your favourite line from Marrying the Mistress?
“Don’t confuse independence and defiance.” That’s quite useful.
What are your future plans?
When we finish the tour, it will be December and I’m assuming that it’ll be Christmas so I won’t be working then. I’ve just completed a new series of Judge John Deed and a dramatised documentary for the BBC about discovering Ancient Egypt, so that’ll be on screens soon.
- Caroline Langrishe was speaking to Caroline Ansdell
Marrying the Mistress receives its world premiere at Cambridge Arts Theatre on 30 August 2005 before embarking on a 26-date UK tour. Following Cambridge, the tour visits Guildford, Milton Keynes, Clwyd, Wolverhampton, Cheltenham, Bromley, Canterbury, Sheffield, Darlington, Richmond and Windsor, with further 2006 dates to be announced.