Joanna Lumley says youngsters ‘want to be famous’ – she wanted to ‘act well’

Dame Joanna Lumley says youngsters nowadays just want to be famous rather than great actors.

The actress, 77, is inundated with children asking her how they can make it to the top and become “movie stars”, but the Absolutely Fabulous star didn’t ever dream about becoming well-known, and she sees acting as a passion rather than her profession.

She said: “Anybody who has worked in our world knows you work ceaselessly to learn a play, to get things right or to go out on tour, you work and work and work all the time.

“I don’t see it as work, because if what you’re doing you adore, you might be exhausted, you might get two hours sleep in somewhere where, which we have all done, with rats, and rain running down the walls on a very, very humble salary, but you do it because you love what you’re doing.

“I don’t know what to say about acting, because I think a lot of people now have a different way of doing it. There is acting for television.

“Some people only want to be movie stars. Children come up to me and say, ‘How can I be famous?’ Because that’s all they want to do. I never wanted to be famous. I wanted to act well.

“Quite often leaving tremendous drama schools, like LAMDA and RADA, you may have come out with the gold cup, but it doesn’t give you a job.

“This is the whole thing in life, people who go to university and come out with a degree, it doesn’t get you a job. The only thing that gives you a job is working.

“You must start out, I believe, in the most humble, humble, way, accept everything you can and get to know your business.”

Joanna admits nowadays TV actors only have to “be alive and remaining breathing” to put in a performance, because there are microphones everywhere, but when she started out in theatre there was a huge emphasis on stars projecting their voice.

She said: “In the theatre, we used to have old rules that you have to be able to be heard at the back of let’s say a 1,000-seater.

“But nowadays, people are wearing microphones, so that ability, the ability to project your voice and your emotions over a very large crowd of people has now been taken away.

Despite her glittering career, Joanna regularly looks in the mirror and wishes she was someone else, and she applies lots of make-up to try to avoid looking “frightening”.

Speaking on the Joanna and The Maestro podcast, she added: “I love words, I love literature and I love poetry. I love plays, I love telling stories and I love another world, which isn’t our own world.

“On television, you don’t really have to do anything because they’ve got a microphone down your throat and a camera up your nostril. So you just have to be alive. You literally have to remain breathing and you’ve got a performance.”

“Sometimes when I look in the mirror in the morning I go, ‘Oh no, it’s still her. It’s still me.’ In my dreams and in my head I’m somebody completely …”

Asked if she wants to be someone else, she replied: “Always. I’ve always been shocked to find out it’s still me, which is why I always wear lots of make-up, and I love changing my hair.

“Because I keep thinking one day I’ll wake up, look in the mirror and go, ‘She’s gone.’

“As you get older and older, I’ve realised you’re so frightening to look at when you’re not thickly painted. So, now I just get up extra early to put on lashings of stuff.

“And I dye my hair vigorously, because I like it. I will go to my grave with somebody else’s false teeth clipped into my head, to try to put an extra perf.”

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