The Original Theatre Company’s production of Agatha Christie’s “The Mirror Crack’d” plays York Theatre Royal next week (4th – 8th October 2022), with Sophie Ward as Marina Gregg. Sophie has most recently been seen in the BBC‘s “A Very British Scandal” opposite Claire Foy and Paul Bettany, BBC/HBO Max’s “Troubled Blood” and “This Sceptred Isle”, playing opposite Kenneth Branagh’s Boris Johnson. For the past four years, Sophie has hosted the European Diversity Awards and works closely with Stonewall. Here, Sophie chats about her career to date, her advocacy work and all things Agatha Christie and “The Mirror Crack’d”…
Is The Mirror Crack’d your first experience of Agatha Christie?
No, I did a television version of A Caribbean Mystery with Joan Hickson as Miss Marple and also Go Back for Murder, which was a play by Agatha Christie.
In The Mirror Crack ‘d you play Hollywood film star Marina Gregg – is she based on anyone in the movie world?
There was a star called Gene Tierney who was the inspiration for this character and quite famously Elizabeth Taylor played the character in a film when Angela Lansbury was Miss Marple. Marina is entering a new chapter in her life, a bit more peaceful. She’s doing films she likes with her husband and finding some respite in buying this big house in an English country village. It’s a new start for her.
She’s an actor, you’re an actor, do you identify with her in any way?
There are lots of things that I understand and I’ve worked in a lot of productions from that period. So it’s a world I know a little bit about but I hope it’s not too close to my own life.
Did you experience Hollywood when you were commuting between England and America?
I did quite a lot of television in various shows but not films in the US. I met my wife (Rena Brennan) in Los Angeles so we like to spend time there. I’d like to get over there more but my mother-in-law lives in Florida, my mother is in London, and I have grandchildren in England. With work and family it’s not been easy to get over there in the past few years. A small matter of the pandemic.
Have you and The Mirror Crack’d co-star Joe McFadden been comparing experiences working on ITV’s Heartbeat series?
Joe was in the series after my era on Heartbeat but we have that in common which is really nice to be able to talk about. I was on the show for two years, quite a big chunk of time to do one job when you’re an actor. We’ve been catching up on our time in Heartbeat.
How was lockdown for you?
When we had our first lockdown I was quite happy doing a lot of gardening for a while. But I think we all had thoughts of a reassessment of life and of what we were doing. I had time to ask myself, ‘Am I going to carry on with acting when this situation finishes?’. As it turns out I do want to carry on and I did miss it during lockdown. But it was really great to have that time to think about things. You’re on a wheel, which you get on and keep going round and round. It was good to think ‘I’m choosing to do this and not just carrying on’.
You’ve been acting longer than most other actors your age.
My first role was at the age of 10. So I have been acting longer than actors who didn’t start so young. I feel very lucky to still be an actor.
Where does Marina fit into the kind of roles you play these days?
I’ve had the opportunity to do lots of different parts. Marina is very much a movie star with all the charm and challenges that can bring. I’m thrilled to be playing her.
What are the strengths of Rachel Wagstaff’s new adaptation of The Mirror Crack’d?
This is one of Christie’s later books and things are changing in society and in St Mary Mead. Rachel’s version shows that they’re quite conscious of that in the village. The characters aren’t stock characters, they are all interesting three-dimensional people and Rachel has managed to include all their stories. As an audience we need to care about them. You want to understand people and not just see another character murdered. Every character is valuable to the story.
Have you returned to the book or film and TV versions?
Obviously what we’re doing is our version. Rachel has done an amazing job so that’s what we work on and that’s where my imaginative world is – in Rachel’s world. But I’m really interested to see other versions and find out more about that world. Then you have to focus on Rachel’s version.
You’ve written two novels the first of which, Love and Other Thought Experiments, was longlisted for the Booker Prize. Is there a third novel on the horizon?
My second book (The Schoolhouse) came out in May and I’m hard at work on the third one. It takes me about five years to write a book.
What prompted you to ‘go back to school’?
First I did an undergraduate degree part time, then I did an MA and I’ve just finished my doctorate at Goldsmiths. There’s a lot of waiting around in our job and I left school after my A-levels, didn’t go to university, just carried on working. I really wanted to go back to school. I knew my children would be coming up to that age soon and wanted to be able to talk with them about going to Uni, what it meant and what it was. I studied, it took me about 15 years and out of that came the idea for my first novel which was a mixture of the things I’d been studying.
You’re also an advocate for gay and lesbian rights.
I try to be supportive and feel open about my life. I did write about equal marriage for the Guardian. I felt very strongly about it, about everyone being able to have that option to get married. I am involved to that extent but there are people whose whole careers are seriously applied to gaining our rights. I’m a very small part of that. There have been a lot of changes, changes in the law and people’s attitudes, which has been amazing to see and experience. But I never take it for granted because, as we see in other countries, either things don’t progress in the same way or they’re going backwards. You can’t be complacent.
Is being actor helpful in getting your views across?
Obviously sometimes it can give you a platform and sometimes that’s an advantage – and sometimes it’s not.
What’s next after The Mirror Crack’d tour?
I have a research trip for my next book.
Somewhere exotic perhaps?
I can’t really say as I’m still developing the ideas and immersing myself in a new world. Let’s just say ‘’travelling’!
So there you have it! “The Mirror Crack’d” plays York Theatre Royal from the 4th – 8th October 2022 and you can find more information and tickets here.
Q&A courtesy of Steve Pratt.
Images: Ali Wright