Photography Norman Powell
MeetingVenus.com: Can you please explain your background and family? How did you get started to feel interested in the arts/entertainment?
Emma Fletcher: I was raised by my maternal grandparents, due to the untimely passing of both my birth parents at a young age. My interest in the arts developed from an early age and was borne partly from a number of close family members, working as successful artists in many areas of the entertainment industry and also due to my initial interest in performance; serving as a way to curb the pain I was experiencing, due to the loss of my parents.
MV: Who were your role models from cinema, theatre, dance, TV during your childhood and teen years?
EF: Growing-up I could usually be found with my head stuck in a book on Albert Einstein’s analysis of theoretical physics or Sigmund Freud’s studies of the human mind. I later became fascinated by the life of Marilyn Monroe. I felt a complete affinity with what she had been through. I was also drawn to the film Annie and Sweet Charity, probably for the same reasons. I think I was trying to find answers through these books and films, to sever the pain I felt from the loss of my birth parents. I was however, particularly drawn to all the beautiful cinematography in Sweet Charity and completely fell in love with the storyline. It’s a bit like a modern version of Cinderella – finally being able to go to the ball. I think for a while there, I wanted that to be me!
MV: What can you tell us about studying and learning to become a creator?
EF: Firstly, I believe we never stop learning in life and that also goes for any creator in the world of arts too. I would like to believe I am a creator of many elements in my life; a creator of happiness, a creator of love and yes, a creator or art – be it in written form, on canvas or on the stage. Born into a ‘show-business dynasty’, I received an early introduction to the world of creative arts. From a tender age, I was lucky enough to watch and learn many of my creative skills from members of my family, although I also believe you need to have an intrinsic passion for the arts, to carry it forwards yourself.
|Emma Fletcher…somewhere in time
Publicity shots by Karen Hatch for record contract during Emma Fletcher’s early career
MV: According to you, what were the pluses and the minuses to venture into modelling at an early stage of your life?
EF: What were the pluses and minuses to venture into modelling at an early stage of my life? Gosh, that’s a difficult question. I can indeed only answer this question from a personal viewpoint and my view will not necessarily be the experience of other people in the world of modelling. However, I believe I entered the world of modelling, once again to try and seek out answers to some of the pounding questions I had in my teenage years, in relation to the early losses I experienced in my life. I also believe I was trying to seek out adoration, as a replacement for the loss of love I felt from certain members of my family, who sadly were very unkind and emotionally abusive towards me from a young age. My experiences in the world of modelling were not particularly good ones. I found the industry to be lacking spirituality and felt it to be unsavory. What did I learn from these experiences? Perhaps the industry taught me how to become a stronger person and shrewd in business. I guess it also taught me how to throw a good pose towards the camera!
MV: What drove you to write your own biography a little early compared to other celebrities? How was the feedback on the book from readers, close-ones and journalists?
EF: Whilst it is true, that I have been told I wrote my biography at a younger age than other celebrities, I never really took this into account whilst writing. Age wasn’t a consideration for me and I don’t believe it should ever belittle anyone from speaking out, especially if they have something important to say, that may be of intrinsic value to others.
Having never kept a diary, when I was originally approached to write a book about my life experiences, I was unsure how the process would make me feel. As I am a very private person, my initial reaction was I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to write down my personal experiences and intimate feelings on paper for the world to read, leaving myself open and exposed. My next thought was, as I have been through so much upset in my life, perhaps the memories were best left in the past, where they belonged.
My initial thought when agreeing to write my biography was: ‘Why would anyone want to read a story about my life?’ The response I received was simply: ‘Because your story is inspirational and you have so much to share.’ I was aware that if I were to tell my story I would have to tell the whole story, as half of it would only reflect half of who I am. I was also concerned the book should not turn into one of naming and shaming or finger pointing. The most important element would be for it to become a book which might inspire and help others to overcome adversity in their own lives and to demonstrate through my story how it is possible to come through the other side of heartache with a smile still on your face and your faith in humanity intact. That is exactly what I hope the reader will feel having read my story. If reading my biography can indeed inspire others to follow their dreams against the odds, then I have succeeded in my mission and my book was worth writing.
The feedback so far from both friends and journalists, has been very positive and encouraging. As long as my written-word helps even just one person, then I feel I have succeeded in my reason for writing.
Photography by Spencer Lloyd-Peet
MV: In your own words, describe the changes of the entertainment field as witnessed by your own eyes throughout the years?
EF: I think one of the biggest catalyst of change, to the field of entertainment in the most recent of times, has to be the ‘Me Too’ movement. Legally, I am bound not to say too much – but having been through the courts myself, in this regard; I know how difficult it can be to speak-up when you have been physically abused by someone in the industry. My hope is, that we see positive change come from this movement. The entertainment industry should be a safe place for everyone, not just for the few. The medium of art should aim to serve as a wonderful way to express oneself, in a safe and transparent environment.
MV: Are there challenges related to gender in relation to your profession that you faced?
EF: Yes, very much so. I believe I have answered that above and if you’ll forgive me, I shall refrain from expanding any further on my answer. I do however, hope to also see payment standards becoming fairer across gender and in fact across ethnicity too.
MV: According to you, describe the current situation of the creativity industry in your country?
EF: Well of course, the situation in the entertainment industry is currently being determined by Coronavirus. Sadly, we may see a lot of theatre spaces being forced to shut their doors for good. I think we will start to see many more independent filmmakers using the medium of online services, to create content.
Photography by April Phillips
MV: How do you describe the casting biz and your experience with it so far?
EF: Oh, the joys of casting! May I be so bold, as to share with you an extract from my book, in relation to my first ever casting experience? It was, as follows:
I had only just stepped out of the doors of East 15 and suddenly I found myself face-to-face with my first real audition. We had practised audition skills, yet nothing can really prepare you for that first one, or for both the sheer excitement and extreme terror you face all at once. I can only describe it as being a feeling similar to the one you get just before the start of a sheer drop ride at the amusement park, which goes hand in hand with the unknown territory you are about to encounter. The directors at East 15 had said to all the students, ‘You will always remember your first audition.’ In my case, mine was an experience I will never forget.
I received a breakdown for a job from a casting director, on behalf of a director looking for a red-haired woman in her late forties, to play the younger wife of Michael Caine and the older lover of Jude Law, in an undisclosed feature. The only other specifications were she had to be a size 10. I read the breakdown and thought, ‘Okay, so I’m not a red-head, I’m not in my forties but wait… I am a size 10!’ Okay, so I plead insanity here for applying to this job, but all I saw were these six little words in my head; ‘Michael Caine and Jude Law’s lover!’ So sue me again, I applied! Actually, just before I sent off my résumé to the casting director I received another breakdown for the same job, stating the director was now happy to also receive résumés from women who were in their thirties, brunette or happy to dye their hair red. ‘Sure, I’ll dye my hair red, I’ll even cut it off for the chance to work with Caine and Law’, I told myself and it sounds to me like the director isn’t really sure what he or she is looking for anyway!’ My job was done. I had successfully managed to convince myself I was exactly what the director required. Now all I had to do was convince the director!
I sent my résumé off to the casting director that day expecting, to be honest, to hear no further. Later that evening, whilst I was out with a friend in a rather noisy pub, enjoying a seriously tall, cold OJ, my cell phone rang. Now, if you’ve ever found yourself trying to accept a call in a noisy room, you can’t help but shout out your telephone greeting in almost a screech, in order to be heard above the inaudible noise level surrounding you. Shouting isn’t lady-like and it certainly is not professional. I heard the soft vocal tones belonging to a rather pleasant lady on the other end of the line respond, ‘Oh, hello. I’m calling to speak to Emma Fletcher please.’ She said my surname. She meant business and I had just answered the call in a voice I was certain only dogs would respond to! ‘Quick! Think!’ I told myself. ‘How do I get out of this one?’ I screeched back down the line ‘Hold on please, I’ll just go and get her for you!’ I bolted outside to a noise-free zone, placed on my acting hat and in my best business-like voice I could muster, I calmly responded, ‘Hello? Emma Fletcher here.’ Bingo! The casting director bought it. She proceeded to tell me the director of the film I had applied to wanted to see me early the next morning. I was informed I was required to bring along a swimsuit, an evening dress and a work suit. I would be auditioning for Guy Heeley and be given a screen test. Guy Heeley! My heart started to race. Guy Heeley was the First AD (Assistant Director) on so many hit films, too numerous to mention and I was going to be auditioning for him tomorrow! I immediately made my polite excuses to my friend and hurried home to get my outfits ready.
The next morning I took the train to Twickenham Studios and made the short power-walk from the train station, in the pouring rain, to the entrance of the studio. I was cursing the rain for messing up my tidily positioned hair, which now bore a complete resemblance to a new, skewwhiff, ‘Hey look at me, I’ve just jumped through a hedge backwards’, fashion statement. After checking in at the front desk, I was asked to wait in reception until someone came to collect me and take me upstairs to the holding area. Sitting beside me was a stunning six-foot brunette, somewhat resembling Isabella Rossellini, with a bob to her chin and a centre parting cut to accentuate her perfectly formed face and cheekbones, which were so high they were almost popping out of her small frame. Immediately realising the heterogeneity between this creature and myself – twins we were not! I began to panic. Similar casting types? There was certainly no mistaking us as sadly separated at birth! We were more like the Benedict ‘twins’ played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in the movie of the same name. ‘Remember your cool head on calm shoulders.’ I kept repeating to myself. ‘They wouldn’t have asked you to come in if they didn’t feel you had something to offer. In any case, I may be blonde and only 5 foot six, but my hair is golden blonde, so at least I’ve got some red in it. Surely, I’m closer to the mark than some six-foot stunner who happens to be an Isabella Rossellini look-a-like, who can’t even speak English because she’s probably not even from this planet. I’m cool!’
Shortly into my inner self-prepping dialogue, the production assistant came and collected me to take me to the holding area. ‘Have you met Ken before?’ she asked. Ken? I racked my brain to try and find an answer, but I really wasn’t sure what she was talking about. I thought I was meeting Guy Heeley. ‘No.’ I replied casually. ‘Okay,’ she said.
I followed the PA along the corridors, up the stairs, through more corridors and up more stairs again, wondering all the while about whose famous feet had touched the ground beneath mine, until we finally reached the holding area. Had I just set foot onto alien turf I wondered? In the holding area were three more girls sitting quietly and they were all exact carbon copies of the Isabella Rossellini-wannabee I had just sat beside in reception. ‘Oh – my – God!’ my inner dialogue had reached illiterate mania and was literally shouting obscenities at me now. ‘Run, run, get out while you still can! Save yourself!’ it screamed. ‘Escape the Rossellini ambush! Adios cool head on calm shoulders. Here’s… trouble!’
Suddenly and somewhat rather excitedly, another one of these alien creatures entered the room to collect the remainder of her belongings. ‘What an amazing audition!’ she beamed. ‘You’re going to love Ken!’ Just who was this Ken enigma? I kept asking myself.
Just then a man’s head popped around the door. It was Guy Heeley. I could hardly contain my excitement. ‘Okay,’ he said, ‘who’s next?’ He pointed at one of the three remaining Rossellini’s and said ‘Right, you haven’t met Ken yet, so you can go and meet him and then I’ll see one of you ladies first.’ He then pointed at the last Rossellini and said ‘Sorry Emma, I’ll see you after’. ‘That’s okay,’ I said. ‘I forgive you!’ I was just excited Guy Heeley knew my name! Guy smiled and said ‘Someone will come and collect you soon to meet Ken first and then you will audition with me after.’ Before I even had the chance to ask who Ken was, both Guy and the last alien woman from planet Rossellini were gone, as had the girl who had just come in to collect her belongings. I was left sitting on my lonesome looking at my rain-drenched hair contemplating ‘Who is Ken?’
At least 15 minutes must have gone by before one of the girls jumped back into the room gleefully exclaiming: ‘You’re next, they’re coming to get you! You’re going to meet Ken!’ Okay, enough is enough I told myself and out of my mouth finally popped the inevitable words: ‘Who is Ken?’ ‘Kenneth Branagh!’ She said. What? Did I just hear her right? My heart started racing laps like Nigel Mansell in the Grand Prix! It was fight or flight. My heart said fight, my head said take flight… ‘NOW!’ My legs turned to jelly and my mouth to rubber ‘Kenneth B, B, Branagh?’ I repeated. ‘Yup’, she replied breezily before picking up her bag and heading off.
The PA collected me and walked me down the short corridor to Mr B, B, Branagh’s room. What must have been literally seconds, felt like the longest walk in my life! My inner-dialogue was now carrying out its own five-act play. Then the door swung open. Standing there was a handsome, silver-haired fox, oozing charisma by the wagonload. ‘Hi,’ he said in his familiar dulcet tones, holding out a hand for me to shake ‘I’m Ken’. Trembling, I somehow managed to shake his hand and utter the word ‘Hi’ and then completely froze due to the extreme shock of the situation. Growing up around celebrities, I had never been star-struck before, but this was different. This was my first audition. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. I was meant to be auditioning for some no-budget feature made by final year film students, where I could make all the mistakes under the sun. Wasn’t I? Not that I’m knocking final year film students, we all have to start somewhere, but that was the plan, wasn’t it? At least, for a first audition. Right?
Recognising my sheer fear, Ken politely walked me to his computer and said ‘Are you any good with computers? Only mine’s broken and I can’t seem to fix it.’ He then proceeded to place his computer in my hands as I uttered ‘Not really, but I know a man who can!’ ‘I know a man who can?’ I uttered to myself. ‘I know a man who can?’ I felt like Jennifer Grey’s character Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman in Dirty Dancing the first time she meets Johnny Castle, played by the wonderful Patrick Swayze, when she says ‘I carried a watermelon!’
After I managed to successfully regain my composure, following a hotchpotch of uber-erroneous sound leaving my mouth, I ended up having a half coherent and fairly orderly, logical, half-hour chat with Ken. He told me his plans to re-make the film Sleuth and informed me Michael Caine, who was cast in the original film as the character Milo Tindle, would now be assuming the role of Andrew Wyke, originally played by Laurence Olivier and Jude Law would be taking Michael Caine’s original lead role as Tindle. At this stage, Ken said he was not sure to what degree the wife would be in the film (in the end he did not use an actress for the role at all and instead used a photograph on the wall as in the original film; to represent the wife as an enigma), but informed me that when he met people he felt he could work with, there would still be the possibility of working with him in the future. He then politely and in a serious voice said, ‘You may have to act out a bedroom scene with Jude Law. Do you think you will be okay with this?’ Was he kidding? I put on the straightest, most professional face I could muster and slowly said ‘Yes. I think I would be able to manage that.’ I even managed not to smile whilst saying it. I was very proud of myself. I was now a professional actress after all!
Ken thanked me for taking the time to come in and I, of course, thanked him for taking the time to see me. I was then properly introduced to Guy Heeley for a half an hour screen test. Guy shook my hand and said ‘I see you have met Ken.’ ‘Yes,’ I replied confidently ‘I have met Ken’.
I followed Guy into a small room in the studios where all the equipment had been set-up and the film crew was waiting. I carried out a screen test in various outfits and was given some dialogue to say. Afterwards I was measured-up for the purpose of costumes and even my ring size was taken. Finally, I received yet another firm handshake from Guy and a friendly, ‘Thank you’ for my time, before making my way out of the studios and homeward bound. And that my friends, is the story of my first ever audition!
Photography by Spencer Lloyd-Peet
MV: How do you approach the works offered to you?
EF: Work usually comes to me via my agent. If work reaches me first, I run it by my agent before moving forward anyhow. I will usually read the script in full, once through and then my character sides a number of times, before deciding if this is a project I would be keen to become involved in. I also like to research the ethics of the production company initially as well. I have trained as a Method actor. I am very regimented in my work-ethic and approach towards the role I am undertaking. I want to understand and absorb the world of the character. I like to get to know everything about who they are and how they think and behave, in order to use this in my representation and performance. This helps me to remain faithful to the way the character has been written. If I am playing an historic figure; then of course, this will entail further research and consideration, in order to remain truthful to the depiction of who they were.
MV: What do you consider as your greatest artistic achievement so far?
EF: When I consider my greatest achievements, I don’t necessarily relate that to my acting; I relate that to whom I have touched personally in my life. If it is also true of my acting; that a project I have been a part of, has touched people in a positive way – which is of course what I always hope for – then I am always happy and grateful for the opportunity to create that outcome. May I answer this question further, by drawing you towards another extract from my book?
Although my past no longer defines me, it was, nevertheless, certainly the essence and building blocks for who I am today. I have asked myself before now if, God forbid, there were a fire in my home, which belongings I would rescue if I had the time? A strange question I hear you cry. Well, yes, I admit I do ask myself strange and testing questions it’s true. Perhaps it’s the actress in me carrying out my own constant character breakdown, or perhaps it’s just the fact I tend to over-analyse at times. Nevertheless, I think these types of questions force us to take stock of ourselves and discover what truly makes us tick. They make us reflect on whom we have touched in our lives and what and who is important to us. They also make us question what important selfless acts we have carried out over the years. So, what items would I save? Would it be my vast collection of DVDs? Perhaps I would grab my jewellery box from my closet or the trophies and certificates from my wall? Actually, it would be none of the above. The items I would save are my photo albums of those dear to me, the scripts and the music I have written and my artwork. In fact, what I have just described to you amounts to grabbing memories of most of the things that make me who I am. When I am laid to rest, it is not important to me to be judged on how many precious items of jewellery I have collected, but on how many people I have touched, hopefully with kindness. We can’t take our diamonds and pearls with us when we pass away. The meaning of life is not about what you take with you, but what you leave behind, so choose wisely what type of person you wish to become.
MV: Tell us about your other activity parallel to arts?
EF: I am also a qualified teacher. I am a qualified Art, Drama and Special Needs teacher. More recently I found myself working on the Frontline, as a Keyworker; working with vulnerable children and children of critical NHS workers – who were themselves on the Frontline in hospitals in London; fighting to save the lives of those infected by Coronavirus.
MV: As an experienced professional, what is your advice to the newcomers?
EF: Well funny you should ask that… I am just in the middle of finishing off my next book, which will be aimed at helping newcomers to the industry, to succeed in their mission and to dodge the pitfalls along the way. The working title of the book is: The Acting Toolkit for Beginners. So watch this space, as they say! In a sentence however, I would say, never give up on your dreams. Another little extract from my book, if I may:
I have been asked before now whether, should I be blessed with children one day, I would allow them to become actors. I feel you shouldn’t stop people’s dreams. Whilst I would understand any parent’s concern if one of their children said they wanted to enter the precarious world of acting, I would not prevent them from following their passion. I would, however, firstly ensure they received a good education, like my parents gave to me, to serve as a good back-up plan and then I would offer them all the love and support to follow their heart and pursue their ambitions. I believe everyone deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential and you have to give people that chance to do so. I would set them free to give them a proper chance in whatever field or career choice that might be. For how can we ever know what we are truly capable of unless we try?
We all need to learn to harness our potential. To quote Arthur C Clarke; ‘The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.’
When you can move past your fears, anything is possible. Remember that ant in the song High Hopes? No one ever thought he’d move that rubber tree plant, nevertheless, he did it! So have the courage to see where life can take you and remember, life is a gift, so choose what you do with it wisely.
MV: How do you see the UK and the world post COVID-19?
EF: The only answer I can offer to this question, is that I pray every single day for world peace. I pray for a world where men and women can learn to live beside one another in harmony; no matter what their differences. Tolerant and accepting of our fellow human. I am sorrowful for the many thousands of victims who have had their lives cut short to the illness created by this virus and I pray for their families at this time. I, too, have lost someone to this dreadful disease. It is strange how this invisible threat, so small in size, is re-shaping the world we live in but I hope if anything good should come from all of this grief, it is that we will come out the other side kinder towards one another.
MV: How do you make equilibrium between your private life and your professional practice?
EF: The simple answer is; by keeping my private life just that – private. Also, the key is not to get too drawn into your own media-machine. When I see myself on television, I separate myself a bit from that person. I think to myself ‘Oh, it’s her again – her with all the makeup and lighting and hair done nicely.’ Jesting aside, the point I guess I am trying to make is, it is important for me to remain real and grounded and separate myself from the world of acting when I come home. This happens by kicking off my heels, putting on my slippers, taking off my makeup and surrounding myself with loved-ones.
MV: What are your current and future projects?
EF: During ‘lockdown’ I have started working with a director via conference calls, on an award-winning comedy series. We have been carrying out rehearsals via online video calls. I can’t say too much yet but the show is entering its third season on Amazon Prime. It is extremely well-written and my character is hilarious. I’m really enjoying the rehearsal process and I can’t wait to introduce my character. It’s giving me the chance to exercise my funny bones!
You can find Emma Fletcher’s book ‘If the Shoe Fits: The Story of a Real Life Cinderella’ in bookstores and online atAmazon, on the following link: