Audience: What were your feelings about the ending of As Time Goes By? Was it another job you were glad was over with or how did you....what were your feelinigs?Jenny Funnell talks about herself, her role as Sandy in As Time Goes By, as well as her co-stars and their behind the scenes stories. She takes questions from the audience that assembled to see her at the taping of the tribute organized by PBS station 45 & 49 at the Sheraton Suites Ballroom in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
JENNY: Oh, we were all heartbroken, actually because we'd been together since 1991 although it didn't start airing until '92 and although we ... actually at the end of every series we'd think oh, well this is the last one and all say goodbye and then we'd come back, but we knew that this was the final one and we were actually all in tears -- it's pathetic, but Geoffrey always used to come out before we started in front of the audience and he'd do a little chat and he suddenly looked behind and Judi had mascara pouring down her face and then Moira Brooker followed and I was in bits and makeup were really cross with us but we just couldn't help it. And even Geoffrey had a little tear in his eye. So, no, we were very sad 'cause we'd been together for so long.
Audience: And you liked working with each other, obviously?
JENNY: Yeah, yeah. Well that was part of the...well, it was such a small group. I mean although there are lots of characters who came in and out there were just the five of us and we always had the same director, same writer, same crew, same makeup, wardrobe, so it was like a big family -- for ten years, which is a long time. So, I was sad.
Audience: Name of audience member omitted. I must say here you are more beautiful than you are on the screen. Audience applause.
JENNY: Thank you.
Audience: My first question is, will you run away with me? Audience laughter.
JENNY: Do you play rugby? Audience laughter.
Audience: No, but I do like baseball, so just be warned.
Audience: Second question is: we find out so little about Sandy....was there a backstory to the character when you initially started or did that develop as you went along?
JENNY: There wasn't at all, because all I knew is that I was in the first four episodes and I was just Judi's personal assistant so I just thought well, it's a lovely job and I'll just be in around the office and then gradually, I think it was series 2 or 3 Bob Larbey wrote me in more and more and suddenly I was, sort of, part of the surrogate family. And yet, it's very odd because you never hear Sandy mention her parents or brothers and sisters. She does mention a nephew, but I don't know whether she's just made that up -- she says to Judy....
Audience: What was Sandy's last name?
JENNY: Well, I invented....I thought it was Edwards, just because I have a best friend whose surname was Edwards and I thought it would please her, but that only came up when we had a lot of the office scenes and I had to pick up the phone and Sidney said "oh, just do a bit of adlibbing" so I thought -- well you wouldn't just say "it's Sandy" -- so I said I was Sandy Edwards, so -- but it was never used again, so I mean no one will really know. So she doesn't really have a background, I mean I sort of wrote at it a bit in my head so that I'd, you know, have something to play so she seemed to be her family were Judi and Geoffrey and Moira, really.
Audience: I know you do a lot of other things in between taping, but what are your plans now -- was this one of your major things and now that it's done where are you heading now with your career?
JENNY: Well yes it has been my major thing really for the past ten years. Well, I have a little daughter now so I, she's sort of taking up most of my time. Last year I was very busy and so I decided that this year I'm working, but I don't want to do, well I would like to do, but I don't want to do theatre that will take me away and most theatre now you do a tour before you come into London. I've got radio plays and books on tape. I do quite a lot of voice-overs and the odd telly, but not anything that will take me away for eight, nine months because I don't think that's fair.
Audience: So no series?
JENNY: Another series? If there was another series that was like As Time Goes By, which was just seven or ten episodes and was all filmed in and around London, which meant we all got home at night then I would welcome it.
Audience: Is there, has there been talk about what we would call a spinoff?
JENNY: Well we don't usually, we don't actually have spinoffs in the UK. Like, cause I gather that you have quite a few spinoffs, so I don't know. Bob Larbey used to make jokes about we'll go and film in Canada and see what Sandy and Harry are up to and see where Moira and ...I keep calling...see where Judith and Alistair end up, probably somewhere like Bali or somewhere, if I know Alistair, but whether that's serious or not I don't know. I mean we still talk about maybe coming back and doing a Christmas special or an hourlong thing, but that's up to people's availability and whether Bob Larbey will write one.
Audience: We have heard Madge is sick, the character who played Madge -- just wanted an update on her...
JENNY: I'm very sad to say that she (Jenny is, of course, referring to Joan Sims) died. Yes, she was very ill -- not this last year -- the series before. She'd had health problems for quite a while and she'd also, she'd been filming and she had to ride a bike and she fell off and broke her hip which was sort of the start of a decline and she -- Bob had written her in -- and she came to the read-thru, very bravely, on her crutches and said she wanted to take part, and then she phoned Sidney Lotterby a week before the filming started and said she didn't feel well enough and then very sadly, she died last year. So she was, she's sorely missed.
Audience: If this was the last episode (probably referring to the hourlong retrospective) in the episode just prior to this we saw a young lady who was on the steps, who was going to try to make her home there on the steps in front of Lionel and Jean's home there, I was hoping we might see more -- another young woman to move in with them. Is there any thought to that.
JENNY: Well, I thought, when I read the script I thought oh, well that's Bob's sort of replacing the girls in the house, but the story was very odd cause he never really took it anywhere. It was almost as if he had the idea, and then there were no future plans and so he sort of ended it like that because we were all rather surprised because it was such an interesting character I thought and she played it very well. And it went no...it didn't sort of go anywhere. So, sadly not.
Audience: Are nine seasons -- is that a long run in British -- cause it is in American television, that's for sure, but is it in British television as well?
JENNY: Yes, very much so. Last of the Summer Wine has done more, I think. And, but otherwise, I mean A Fine Romance and Butterflies they all did maybe two, maybe three or four and that was considered long. So, no, we've clung on well. Thankfully.
Audience: I was wondering about the time when Sandy fell in love with that bicycle ---at Jean and Lionel's wedding -- what became of the bicycle, the motorcycle rider, that little romance there?
JENNY: The guy with the long hair?
JENNY: I don't know. I said, cause Bob put -- he's very wicked -- he always said Oh, I'll write you in some very interesting boyfriends and he certainly did that. But he was only in that one episode and I think probably Sandy just went out with him for a one night, probably had a laugh and a bite to eat and that was it, really. I don't think they'd have a lot in common, somehow. Audience laughter. I don't think so.
Audience: Welcome to America. Tell us a little bit about Jenny. I mean growing up, parents, that kind of a thing.
JENNY: Well, I'm a twin and the funny thing is, actually, my twin is going out with a policeman who plays rugby, Audience laughter. which is such a very odd coincidence. I mean, she's only known him a year and a half, but it is funny, so I see her, she phones up and she's always very cross on Saturdays because he's disappeared. Been there, done that. But, so yes, so I'm a twin. I was actually born in Nairobi, in Kenya, but my dad didn't have a coffee plantation. We lived there until my sister and I were three years old and then we came back home. My mom's from Scotland, so we lived in Scotland for a while and then settled in Surrey, which is near London. And I'm trying to think what else really. None of my family are theatrical. I mean my mom always loved the theatre and took us from a very early age, but they're all medical really, my family, so I think they were rather bemused when I ended up in the theatre. They were very pleased, but I have nobody else in the family who does it. Sadly. Be quite if I had an uncle or an aunt who was successful. Be rather jolly. I'm trying to think what else to say. I mean I went to school. I went to drama school, did my three years there and then won a prize with the BBC radio rep which gave me my equity card which then was a very important thing to get because as a young actor you couldn't work unless you had an equity card and each theatre company had two a year to give away so it was quite an important thing to win for me. I was very pleased and it resulted in six months working for the BBC. And the rest is sort of, ah....you probably know. Was that enough?
Audience: I'm wondering what your feelings were the first time that you met or acted with Dame Judi and my second question is I wonder if she made you one of her famous needlepoint pillows.
JENNY: Hahahahaha. I was thrilled to bits when I got the job because as a young actor and even before I was an actor I'd always idolized her and been to see everything she'd ever done. And funnily enough, I think when I was fourteen, fifteen I wrote her a really gushy fan letter. Audience laughter. And she wrote me a two page handwritten letter back which just shows you the kind of person she is -- she took the time to do that. And funny enough when I was working with her I got it out and showed it to her and she thought that was very funny. So I was thrilled to bits to meet her. I was terrified because I was late, which is something you must never be on the first day because there was a bomb scare on the underground and I thought I'd left enough time. I'd left an extra hour, but I was stuck in a tunnel. So I had to walk into the room. I was scared enough and I had to walk into this room fifteen minutes late, but she was very sweet. She just came up, put her arms around me and said "it must be awful, let me get you a cup of coffee." So that was fine. And, as to one of the famous white pillows, yes I have. In fact, she made my husband and I a heart one when we got married, which was very sweet.
Audience: Could you take us through the...just what it was like you said ... the first read-thru... what it was like to get an episode into production and get an episode on...what the process is?
JENNY: Yeah.Sure. We'd meet up, at the very beginning of the series we'd meet up and have a read-thru of all the episodes, which was great because it meant all the new people people coming in got to meet people and also gave them an idea of timing. Then we'd have two weeks off and then we'd do all the outside filming, all the location filming, which would be very odd, cause you might come in and do the last scene of episode ten, you know, and you haven't even started the series yet so that was very odd because then you'd come to episode ten and think oh, I wish I hadn't played that scene like that, but I'm stuck now. And so we do all the outdoor filming, have another week off for Sidney Lotterby to cut it and edit it and then we'd start from scratch on episode one. We'd do the read-thru on a Monday and then we'd block it and then we'd come in on the Tuesday having ... meant to have it learned. And what Sidney would do was great -- he'd sit us all 'round a table and we'd go through each scene line by line -- again, again, again until we sort of were familiar with it and then we could get up and move it on the set and we'd do that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and we'd be cutting and they'd be timing it and sometimes Bob Larbey had to come in and cut quite a bit and sometimes he was kept in like a schoolboy and had to write another scene. That's how Harry was brought in because that's because we were running under one episode. I'll tell you about that in a minute. I'm very pleased about that. And then we'd do our tech run -- all the cameramen would come in, and the crew and watch it. And then we'd have one more run and then go home and then the next day would be in the studio and that would be the longest day apart from filming on location. Because we'd be just sort of w....it would be really for the cameras and that's quite a long, slow process technically and they'd build the sets and then we'd do a dress run and then at seven o'clock the audience would come in and we'd record the show. So it was a week an episode, apart from the filming.
Audience: I'm very interested in the eccentric character, Mrs. Bale. What...is she still professionally active in England?
JENNY: Yes she is. Yes she is. Janet Henfrey. She does an awful lot of work. She plays odd, eccentric characters. She'd be the first to day that. She also does a lot of theatre. I think it's a wonderful invention of Bob Larbey's. I mean I stood ... the first time I read her coming in with the shipping forecast I couldn't believe it and it works. I mean if you sort of...when we first read it on paper I thought oh, this is too extraordinary, this is mad, but then the whole setup was Rocky and Madge, Madge playing the drums and Rocky going off to mad places like Bolivia. I thought she was a wonderful character and she's a very interesting lady.
Audience: Number one, is this your first visit to America and number two, is ... are you surprised at American's fascination with British Comedies?
JENNY: I've been to America once before. My brother-in-law lives in San Francisco so I came over for a brief holiday when my husband was over here working, but it was ten days so we just sort of stayed in that region so and here, I'm only here for four days so I still won't see much, but I definitely plan to come back because I don't like arriving at a place and only seeing a hotel and not knowing anything of where I am. As to my, yes, I am amazed and thrilled, thrilled to bits that you all love the show so much and British Comedy because I can really only talk about As Time Goes By but I had no idea how much you loved it until...it was Judi had been over here and she came back and she said "It's absolutely amazing." She said "they know more about the lines than I do." And Geoffrey said, Geoffrey then said "well, that's not hard." Audience laughter. True. And she was just absolutely bowled over and also the following that she has and, as a result that we had from whenever she does a stage play and when, in fact, I don't know if anybody here came over, but we had two groups who came over and watched the live recordings of As Time Goes By and then we did a question and answer session afterwards. And that's when I realized -- I mean people knew just so much about it and loved it and I think it's wonderful so thank you all for watching it so much.
Audience: Two other interesting characters on the show -- Stephen and his wife, Penny -- the dentist -- especially intrigued my friend and I who ... we both work for a dentist in Cortland
JENNY: Oh, you do?
Audience: I think you should explain dentistry in the UK.
JENNY: Jenny laughs. He's a wonderful character, Paul Chapman. I just think he's a very good actor and he's very wicked on camera. None of us -- Geoffrey, Judi, Moira, Philip or I -- none of us can actually look at him straight in the face without corpsing because he's so funny and he's got, you know, his eyebrows -- he used to do a very, very wicked thing: he'd sort of -- he'd wax one up one way when he'd have a scene with Judi, go off and then wax the other the other way. And she'd then have the tears streaming down her face and we would have to stop. And he's got a great sense of humor and I think he's just a -- I think what he -- Stephen is a brilliant, bumbling character that you can't fail but love.
Audience: It may be a silly question, but what is Pimm's?
JENNY: Pimms? I really should have looked up my cocktail book. It's -- I don't like it actually -- it's quite sweet -- it's a mixture of ... it's apple juice and martini and, I think it's, what's in -- Sangria. It's a kind of mixture -- it's quite potent and you can get varying degrees of it, you can get, I think there's Pimm's One and Pimm's Two -- there's a sweet and a dry. It's a nice, refreshing summer drink, but the danger is you think it's like lemonade and suddenly you don't remember much of the afternoon.
Audience: Does anyone ever forget their lines during a show and do they say something impromptu? If so, is it accepted?
JENNY: Oh yes! She won't mind me saying this. Judi's reknowned for forgetting her lines. So much so that Geoffrey has them written and his hand. And he sometimes doesn't have the right ones written on his hand. Audience laughter. Or he'll do sort of sign language. I mean, she's got a brilliant memory, but she works very differently to Geoffrey. She never reads the script before the read-thru. You'll see her marking her script up as she's reading it and yet she comes up with this wonderful performance first time. I don't know how she does it. Geoffrey always works his li....he's got every move worked out and he's a great -- he's a master of comic timing and so, yes we do forget our lines -- mainly Judi. Moira has been known to call me Lionel. Audience laughter. But it doesn't matter. I mean it doesn't matter at all because the audience love it, because it makes us look human and I think they love seeing actors make a mistake and they love it when, sort of, the warm up man will then explain what happened and then we go again so it sort of involves the audience as well. I think it would be quite dull for them if -- well it would never happen -- but if they just saw a smooth run-thru of the show, cause I think it's interesting to see it working properly.
Audience: The question that I have for you, Jenny, is the timing -- when you see the looks, the asides, by everyone on the cast -- they seem to be so crisp and punctual. I know you're just commenting a little about the timing, but is this a trait of the crew that you have there or is it something that you really worked awfully hard on because it looks so spontaneous and nothing can happen like that, that spontaneous -- the timing is just so great. How does that come about?
JENNY: A mixture of things. I think it helps immensely playing it to a live audience because that's why we all love theatre because you get as much back as you give and you can listen to the audience and you play a line and you get a certain response and that helps you and you think "oh, it's going that way, I'll play it differently." So it's a very, sort of, organic process, having an audience there. Bob Larbey writes brilliantly for his actors and you can't help but slip into ... he writes such wonderful lines and rhythms that you can't help but slip into it and that helps the timing and working with Judi and Geoffrey and watching them -- I mean that's what I found so amazing when I first started out with them, because they just know how to pause, how to fill a gap just with the raising of an eyebrow or a look or throwing a carrot or something and they get a wonderful laugh, so it was wonderful to watch them just -- the characters can breathe and live through no dialogue -- just through reactions.
Audience: I was going to ask you about another character who is there periodically: Lol. Audience laughter.
JENNY: Jenny laughs. Lol. Yes.
Audience: ...and his brothers.
JENNY: And his brothers -- they frighten me. They're huge. They were huge. Yes Lol -- Tim Wylton, who plays Lol -- Well, once again, it's like Mrs. Bale, I mean he's such an extraordinary character. And I really, really wanted Bob Larbey to bring in Lol's mother. I mean, the way he used to talk about her, you know -- "I have to go home, it's time to cut mother's nails." You have this vision, don't you, of this awful old harridan sitting in this little farmhouse? But in a way maybe that's why it worked so well, because you can all have your own picture of Lol's mother. And his brothers. Yes, his brothers -- yes, they were all, well four of them were wrestlers and they were huge -- I think the smallest one was 6 foot five and they terrified the life out of me -- it was like they were giants. Lovely people though.
Audience: You've already mentioned that As Time Goes By is filmed before a live audience and I was going to ask how you felt about that but you've addressed that, but are most Britcoms filmed for live audiences?
JENNY: Yes, they are. Yes they are.
Because in this country they used to do it, and they seem to have given it up now.
JENNY: Have they? So you have canned laughter?
Audience: That's my feeling about it.
JENNY: I think all of them. And all the comedies I've done -- they're all done in front of a live audience, which is wonderful and I think that's why they work so well and why that question about timing is there because you have an audience to play to.
Audience: About how many are in the audience?
JENNY: It depends on the studio. The biggest studio we played in had about 400 and that was when we had quite a lot of scenery so we had to have the bigger studio, but the normal size studio would have about 200 and I like that because it was nice and intimate. It was much nicer.
Audience: Was there any scene or location where you either had the most fun or you had the most trouble doing a scene?
JENNY: Whew! Let me think. The most fun....well, we all loved the dog in this....that wonderful little dog that came in ... I can't remember his name in the actual program -- his real name was Dexter and he was such a character and he wasn't sort of from an animal trainer, he belonged to the cameraman. Audience laughter. And he used to come in and sit with his dad and sort of sit in the studios, sit and watch and so we all got to know him and then suddenly he got an episode so it paid off. Audience laughter.
Audience: Can I do that? Will it work for me, too?
JENNY: You can try, yes, you can try it. So that was fun. One of the worst episodes for me was when, well there were two actually, is one when Moira Brooker and I had to bend down when a taxi passed and splashed us with a puddle and it was six o'clock in the morning and it was a freezing day -- it was, I think, minus two -- and we had to go six times. Audience groans. Six times. I mean we both got flu that night. It was horrible. The other one was when I had to lose a shoe in the rugby pitch with Harry and it was absolutely frozen solid -- the pitch -- and the poor makeku...wardrobe lady hadn't given me a stiletto heel, she'd given me a heel that she thought would stick into the ground and it wouldn't and it wouldn't and it wouldn't and we were there for hours and Sidney Lotterby got crosser and crosser and crosser -- not with me, with the shoe and the ground, I hope. So that was a bit tedious, but otherwise, I'm....honestly...I mean we've had huge laughs on most of the locations and scenes because of the people that we're working with really. Been a lot of fun.
Audience: You mentioned earlier, so it's time to go back to that, about Harry, how that came about because the show was running short?
JENNY: That's right. He was brought in, he had got one scene written in -- it was when I think the neighbors next door were moving and Jean doing her usual sort of listening thought there were burglars and so the police were called so he was brought in just for that one epi...one, I think it was one scene. And the following week -- I think it was the Wednesday or Thursday and Sidney said "Bob, we're about four minutes under -- you've got to write some more." And Judi said "Please don't give the lines to me," because she was in a show in the West End at that time so she would have no time to learn the lines and Bob said, "Well, what about that young lad who came in last week? We all thought he was rather good, what do you think?" and I said "Well, I think he should come back. Definitely." And so wrote him in for that episode and then when they were short again they wrote him in and that's how he came back, which is great. I mean he's a very good actor so he deserved it. But it was wonderful that he was just in for one scene at the beginning. I'm very glad we ran under.
Audience: I'm curious about the photos of Jean and Lionel at the beginning. Are those really legitimate or ...?
JENNY: Those are...the girl is Finty Williams, Judi's daughter and the boys is Geoffrey Palmer's son, Charlie Palmer and it's great actually, because they both -- I mean Charlie Palmer looks very like his dad as a young man and Finty's very like her mom. So it was perfect. Actually perfect.
Audience: And one other quick question: the noises. We hear traffic noises occasionally and it just seems very surprising. Like outside traffic noises that may be the studio wasn't soundproof or something.
JENNY: No, that would be Sidney putting it in for real life ...
Audience: Okay, that's what I wondered.
JENNY: because where the house is...it's in Holland Park, which is quite -- it's a very beautiful part of London, it's near Notting Hill, where they filmed Nottin....ok...but it's on, it's quite a busy road and so he always puts bits of traffic in because you would hear it in the house. He's very into realism.
Audience: I wanted to ask how Judi Dench is doing since the loss of her husband and also, whose idea was it to end the series because I think a lot of us are pretty broken-hearted over that.
JENNY: She's doing very well. Obviously she's heartbroken because they were a very close couple and she for the first time ever -- I've never known her to stop work, and give up work from about September October when he was very ill at home. She just said "no, I'm not doing anything and nursed him." So she obviously misses him very, very deeply. She's drawn a lot of strength from friends and family and from his family. She sees a lot of his brothers, his brother and she's thrown herself into work because wherever she works she's such a warm, loving person she makes them her family so I think that's how she gets through it. And as to whose decision it was, I don't know, but I think it was a joint decision with Judi and Geoffrey thinking that nine series was a long time and I think they wanted to go out in a bang rather than it sort of fizzle out -- you know, we have less ideas and less ideas. We didn't want people to say "oh, it was good then, but pity about it now." But they were very sad at the end said "oh, I wish we hadn't." So, we'll wait and see. Audience laughter.
Audience: Hi Jenny. I'm also from England so I feel a kinship with you. But anyway I've been here much longer than probably you are. Anyway, how do they audition for the part?
Audience: For any for the parts?
JENNY: For any of the parts. Well Geoffrey was ...at the very beginning of the project Geoffrey was approached. It was in 1989 when Colin Bostock-Smith who was the chap who came up with the original idea -- he sent it to the Theatre of Comedy who approached Geoffrey and said "Look, what do you think about this?" Do you think it's a good idea and he thought it was and he then, eventually, brought on, thank goodness, brought on Sidney Lotterby onboard to direct it and they hadn't got Judi on their list at all. They had a lot of actresses, but not Judi Dench. In fact, Jean Simmons was a very close candidate. I think she was seen twice for it and was very interested, but then she got a -- I think she got a sitcom over here which meant that she couldn't do it and it was either -- Geoffrey says he wasn't sure whether it was him or Bob Larbey who had also worked with Judi -- Geoffrey had never worked with Judi before -- Bob Larvey had and Sidney Lotterby had and they thought, "Well, I wonder if she'll be interested" and they phoned her up and sent her the script, which she didn't read, but Michael read it because he always used to read her scripts and she said "Yes, I'd love to do it." And then there was five months -- the BBC wanted to go then and there and start filming and Judi wasn't free for five months and some idiot at the BBC said "Well, let's recast." I mean, can you imagine how short-sighted that was? And luckily, Geoffrey and Sidney said "Absolutely not. If you've got Judi Dench. We wait." And they waited. Because I don't think it would have been such a successful show if we hadn't. I mean no disrespect to Geoffrey, but if we hadn't got Judi..so that's how the two of them got on board and the rest of us were just called in. I'd met Sidney Lotterby two years before for a part in -- I don't know if you got it here -- May to December -- did you get that? Well, they changed one of the main characters halfway through...
JENNY: That's right and I was up for the takeover of Zoe, which was very funny and I got down to two and I remember, sort of being terribly thrilled and then not getting it and I was disappointed, but actually Lesley Dunlop was far better casting for it, I think. But then a year later it paid off because Sidney Lotterby called me in for Sandy and I got it so I'm very glad now that I didn't get Zoe and I got Sandy instead so that's how we did it.
Audience: Hello, I was wondering how many episodes there were in total and I can remember the character Jean saying that she and Lionel, the first time she cooked for him, she fixed something called Bobble and Squeak and I was wondering if you could tell me what that is.
JENNY: OK. I think and I'm not sure, I think there are 64 episodes in total. Bubble and squeak is -- there are lots of different ways you can make it, but it's usually what you do the day after you've had your Sunday roast. It's the leftovers. It's usually the cabbage and the vegetables and the mashed potato and you make them into sort of potato cakes and fry them and serve them up with whatever you want the next day. They're lovely actually, they're very nice. I don't know why it's called bubble and squeak.
Audience: One of the things (I had the chance to talk to her just for a little bit before we st...before you guys did, nyah, nyah) and we were talking that as over here, the television the television landscape is full of reality. It is over....well, quote unquote reality ...it is over in England, too? Right now? A lot more reality television than...
JENNY: Oh yes. That's awful. It's absolutely terrible. In fact, have you seen the latest series As Time Goes By? Because Bob Larbey wrote in a dig. There's Geoffrey, was leafing through the Radio Times and he said there's nothing on. There's this, there's that, there's that. And it got the biggest laugh of the evening because it's true and we had an equity meeting, that's the Actor's Union, a couple of months ago and we were all sitting around saying "You working?" "No" "You working?" "No" There were ninety percent out of work and one of us got a Radio Times and we looked at it and I think in that whole week there were maybe four or five programs, for new programs -- the rest were reruns -- that involved actors. The rest were -- there was something called Weddings From Hell, Neighbors From Hell, Builders From Hell, Bad Driving, Celebrity Drivers, Crash -- I mean just all full of reality television. I mean we were talking about this earlier and I was really hoping that was a trend that would end, but it doesn't seem to be going. It's just -- I think it's appalling.
Audience: We're hoping soon the rest of the viewing audience will go "Ooh, a well-written sitcom, wouldn't that be nice?" Do we have any other questions?
Audience: Where did you meet your husband and how old is the daughter you have?
JENNY: Yes, I met my husband in a theatre company I've been up to Alan Aykborne, a British Playwright -- he's written about thity-eight -- he's written more plays now than Shakespeare has, but anyway he's our sort of great modern British playwright and he has his own theatre company up in the north of England in Scarborough. And he usually, he books actors for a whole year so it's quite a commitment. You go up there and work with him and you do maybe six plays plus he will then write a play for the company and I'd been up there for a year and I thought, well, it's time to leave now -- I was young and single and I thought, I'll go back to London and they called me and said "Look, we're doing a Restoration Comedy next, it's called Beaux Stratagem -- why don't you stay and play the innkeeper's daughter? It'll be fun." I said "No, think a year's long enough." They said well, we're having -- they're some new actors coming in." So they twisted my arm and I'm very glad because one of those new actors was my well now husband. So that's how we met. That was in 1988. We didn't marry until 1997. I couldn't make my mind up, but that's not true. It's not true. We were both -- that's one of the nature's of this business -- we were both away a lot so we wanted to wait until we were both home, had a period of time at home and, as to my little girl, she's just two, just two, so very little. In fact, I phoned her tonight. She said "Mommy, come home." It's my first time away from her.
Audience: I was going to say, it's the first time away?
JENNY: It's difficult.
Audience: Hi. I wanted to say Welcome to America also. And, there's a website that's kind of linked to our PBS station -- it's an As Time Goes By website and I know a lot of the fans are always going on there because this particular lady that's the webmaster has done a really good job and they've had a whole running discussion about spinoff possibilities and, you know, what could evolve out of that and they had asked if fans wrote in would that be something that would make them consider a spinoff if they got a lot of mail in regard to that?
JENNY: Oh, do! Audience laughs. Yes, yes, please. Because actually, Yes, yes for any of them. I think they would. I think they would. I mean, it was three series ago when Judi said "Look, we have to keep making more because its so popular and especially over here and they listened. And, I mean, they're always happy to have ideas. And if they know there are people who -- an audience out there -- and TRY.
Audience: And I think the other thing they were also saying was it would be nice if Jean and Lionel could pop in, you know, as their schedules allowed and that was one of the questions that's been batted around there is if a lot of people wrote in, if they thought that would make them consider something, because obviously none of us wanna see it end, you know we'd like to see more episodes now and then.
JENNY: Yes, of course. I'm sure, yes. Yes, well, fingers crossed.
Audience: Every time I see a British Comedy, Americans are always cowboys or the Hollywood Lunatics, how do the Britons see Americans, I mean, are we really thought of as all cowboys and, or is it just for the comedy's sake?
JENNY: It's just for the comedy's sake. And, in fact, I -- I mean I don't know how you took it, I mean I was very -- we were all a bit sort of embarrassed about when the book was made into an American miniseries and I thought that was such a cliche and so bad and the actors were really American so I hope we didn't offend any of you. Was it alright? Because I don't know how real, how true-to-life that is, but I mean...
Audience: But we are all cowboys, all of us
JENNY: No, we don't think that at all.
Audience: How do they go about, how did they choose the audiences for the show?
JENNY: They write in. There's always a -- there's a BBC Website or there's in the Radio Times it will say, if you want tickets phone up and I think when you phone up there'll be a recorded message saying what shows are available and there's always a -- then come an queue up and it's really a question of first come, first served, which I always think is a bit mean because some people come from a long way away -- coach parties from the north. I think actually, probably if you're a coach party or if you're a group like a rotary group or WI or something you might be able to be guaranteed tickets, but otherwise they come and queue and I always feel terrible when, you know, we're going in sort of they say, sorry, that's the line and the rest sort of go away or maybe go and see something else that's being filmed. We always allowed a set number of tickets and so if they're not used up, then we'll always go and give them to the queue, but it's really pot luck.
Audience: I was wondering two things: one of them was where is the exterior filmed for the country scene of Rocky and Madge's home and the second thing is, when I've been in the UK, one of the things I really enjoy is the theatre on radio. We don't have that much here. Do you do a lot of it? I heard you allude to it before and do the other actors that are involved in the series -- are a lot of you involved with that and how does that then compare to the reality TV that this gentleman talked about before as far as your involvement in that and is that like a serial type of programming that you do?
JENNY: The radio. We still have a radio drama company which is based at the BBC who will put out, I think we get get two plays a day. One will be, there'll be a classic serial, which might be a book, a Dickens or a Jane Austen and then there'll be a new...there'll always be a new play in the evening. Plus there'll be a story in the morning and a late-night story at night so there's a lot of work, a lot of work for actors so the radio drama company which I think consists now of six actors will play the main parts or take the main body of the work, but they'll always bring in outside artistes -- so we all do a lot of radio. Judi does a lot of radio. Geoffrey does a lot of radio. I do a lot of radio. I don't....Moira and Philip haven't, but for the dramas obviously we don't do it in front of a live audience, but when when we've done a few As Time Goes Bys on the radio and that's always done in front of a live audience and that's nice, although it's a very different because, as you know, on the television it's so visual and I don't know quite how it comes over when you listen to it, but they obviously change it in the writing so that it makes sense. As to the house -- Rocky and Madge's house that's in a village called Aldenham up in Hertfordshire -- it's up, way up in North London near Elstree and we nearly didn't get it one year because the family who owned it decided that it would be fun to charge the BBC 5000 pounds a day to film it. We'd been using it fine up to there and then they decided they would revamp it or redecorate it and -- so we thought no, we're not going to do that so we just need the exterior -- the gravel drive so Penny and Stephen's house, which is in the next door village had a gravel drive -- it was the scene where Lol's brothers turn up to take me out and so we used Penny and Stephen's house with some very careful camera angles so that you'd never have known and then the family dropped the price a year later. Audience laughs. So we went back. So.
Audience: Which drama school did you go to?
JENNY: I went to a small drama school called the Weber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in South Kensington.
Audience: Are there a lot of Drama Schools in London?
JENNY: There are many more now. When I auditioned there were six drama schools that were acredited, which meant that they were acredited by the National Board of Drama Schools and if you, you had to get into one of those if you were going to get a grant. The grants don't exist now. You have to, your family has to pay or you have to get a loan, so I did it at the right time. But so that's why I, there were only six then. There are many more now and I think they're all acredited, so it would be much more difficult to make a choice now.
Audience: I guess you would have to audition to get into them?
JENNY: Yes, you did. You had to do, you had to go in and do -- I was seventeen -- too young actually, because when I went into drama school at nineteen, twenty, most of the people there were twenty-four, twenty-five so they'd all sort of seen a bit of the world and done proper jobs so I had a lot of growing up to do, but I can't remember what your question was after that. Jet lag. Jet lag. Yes, auditioning. Yes, auditioning. You had to go and do two three-minute pieces. You had to go and do a classic piece and a modern piece. And then they would give you a, they would grill you on sort of, theatre you'd seen and why you wanted to be an actor and then they might ask you to do a bit of improvisation. They might have asked you to sing and dance. Lucky they didn't me, or I wouldn't have got in. And then they might have recalled you. And then, when you'd got in, got your place, you then had to go and audition for your local authority to see if they'd give you a grant which was daft, because these were sort of people who were nothing to do with theatre, who were just giving out the money and you had to go and do your couple of pieces to accountants and people who didn't know whether that was a good piece or not. That's the way it works.
Audience: This is a little bit about in the country scene. I love the one that was just shown recently where Judi, Dame Judi, told off the countrypeo ple -- the clique, the crowd, the tentacles as Madge would call them -- how real was the portrayal of the English people? Especially when you guys were out and about?
JENNY: Welllll, I mean...Audience laughs. ... I have to be very careful here tonight. I used to think "oh, there are no people like Lol." And that's ridiculous, but actually there are. There are. And my mother lives next door to somebody that's quite similar to Lol and his family. He's a very extraordinary chap who has no electricity or running water. He has -- he's a millionaire -- he's got stocks and shares all over the place and not that that's like Lol, but I'm saying he's an eccentric. There are a lot of eccentric people like that. I think that with the country people that were written, I mean Bob Larbey took reality and then upped it a little tiny bit. But yes, I think, especially in a lot of small villages you do get a lot of...there's a lot of cliques and a lot of very -- village eccentrics -- as I'm sure you have in your towns.
JENNY: No, of course not.
Audience: I don't have a question, but a comment and thank you for all the pleasure you've given us over the years. My daughter and I were in New York when Judi Dench was there for Amy's View -- she was so charming and kind -- she came out every night and talked to all the people and autographs and not many people do that. We were very impressed with her and we've just enjoyed every episode that you've put on and extraordinarily people -- I don't know how they put you all together, but you just fit.
JENNY: Oh, thank you very much. Thank you. Audience applause.
Audience: J-Jenny -- I wanna call you Sandy,
JENNY: That's alright.
Audience: Do you have any favorite British Comedies that you like and do you have any American comedies that you like and then my second question was -- is there anything special in the flavoring, perhaps -- of the custard tarts. Audience laughs. We wonder how you make custard tarts.
JENNY: Oh yes, there is. I love Frasier. I'm a huge Frasier fan -- I think it's fantastic. I like Friends, but Frasier is my absolute, all-time favorite. And they showed it on the airplane coming over, which was wonderful. It was perfect. British comedies I loved was A Fine Romance, Rising Damp. I loved all the Monty Pythons, Fawlty Towers, which still makes me laugh and I still find it extraordinary that they only made twelve episodes -- it seems as though there were thousands. It's wierd. What other comedies?
Audience: Keeping Up Appearances?
JENNY: Yes. We have a debate in my mother's house -- my mom and my sister adore it and find it very funny. I quite like it. I mean, I love all the actors in it and I've worked with quite a few of them and know them, but it's sort of a little too broad for me. But I do like it. I do appreciate it. Yeah. Oh, custard tarts -- nutmeg, nutmeg and cinnamon they usually put in custard tarts cause otherwise it can be quite bland -- sort of just the egg custard. So usually the good ones have a nice, very crisp pastry in it, but have nutmeg in them.
Audience: The acting school that you went to -- is it comparable to like Julliard here in the United States ?
JENNY: I don't know. When I went to drama school, there were six very good drama schools -- the better known one at the time was RADA, but funny enough, that year it had lost its acreditation because they hadn't, I mean for no other reason that they hadn't got a head -- they were waiting for people to apply for the post. So -- they all sort of specialized ini different things -- so the Guildhall School of Drama specialized, tended to give people who had a very good strong musical background -- Julia McKenzie and people like that who can sing and dance and do -- Martine McCutcheon, people like that. My drama school was very -- I picked it because it had a very classical training and background because I love theatre and thought that's where I would like to really do most of my work and radio and funny enough it paid off because I got that radio job so they all really -- they were all very good but it depended what you wanted to specialize in.
(NOTE: I realize that this must seem like an odd place to end this interview, but that actually was it. At that point the ATGB theme music kicked in and this wonderful show ended.)