Rose Henderson is an actor and writer. Her TV work includes playing Sister Assumpta in Fr Ted, directed by Declan Lowney. She was nominated for a Hennessy Award for her short story The Box. She is currently starring alongside Isobel Mahon in Weighing In in The Civic.
We chatted to her about her career and working on the show.
Could you tell us a little about your journey into acting, and how it all happened for you?
I wanted to be an actor from the time I was a sprog. I always had my hand up, volunteering to read or introduce someone or thank the visitor to the classroom. When I was 13 my Mum saw an ad in the paper for Betty Anne Norton’s summer school, and I adored it, immersing myself in relaxation exercises, melting like an ice cream and a flapping around like a shirt on the washing line on a windy day. She had a hundred hats, and with each new hat, you became a new person. I loved being a new person! What a gift.
I took classes and entered feis competitions and did walk on parts in the Abbey. Working as a secretary in Guinnesses, I spent weekends at the Oscar School of Acting in Sandymount which had eminent actors like Alan Stanford, Kevin McHugh, Chloe Gibson and Vincent O’Neill on the team and joined the Oscar Mime Company. I left Guinness to spend two extraordinary years in New York studying mime under Polish teacher, Stephan Niedzialkowski. He was wonderful and I learned a lot about acting from him.
Coming home, I was in a dilemma. After all this training and study, how do you become an actor? Where do you get a job? There is no path. I developed a clown character called Bunjy and worked children’s parties and busked on the streets. I was spotted by the RTE news at the Rose of Tralee festival and an RTE director asked me to audition for a children’s programme. This led to six happy years in Pajo’s Junkbox and the Whole Shebang and Scratch Saturday. One thing leads to another. Small jobs done well make happy directors, and Philip Kampf asked me to do adult comedy sketches on Nighthawks. I auditioned for Father Ted and my career was really taking off. I worked with my first child, I worked a little less with my second. I found it almost impossible with three, and the fourth nearly submerged me. But even though I loved being at home with the children, I really wanted to get back onstage. With the help of The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, I wrote a play, Ruby Tuesday, and a series of happy accidents followed: a one woman show called According to Sydney, Fair City, the Gaiety Panto Snow White, and most recently Weighing In, which has been a joy.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
Everyone told me it would be impossible, that there were very few jobs, very few opportunities, loads of knocks, and they were right. I think I’d have liked someone to say, you don’t have to hang out in pubs, to be in with the cool set. Do the work and work will come.
But if you really want to do it, if it lights up your soul, if the work feeds you, and if you feel you will be only half living if you don’t at least try, then go for it. Why not you? Somebody has to get the job. Prepare, study your craft, read everything you can get your hands on, and remember that no job is too small. And one day, you may find yourself working on a little show that gives a lot of pleasure.
What’s your favourite part of the process of acting?
The applause! The flowers, the champagne, the limousines, the glamour… Honestly? Standing in the wings, listening to the chatter of a full house and knowing they are going to love this. We spent two weeks getting this show ready, and believe me, that is not a lot of time, but we spent a lot of that time crying laughing, and if that is not a fantastic job, what is?
How did you get involved with this production?
I had worked with the director Caroline FitzGerald on According to Sydney, a one-woman show by Gerry Lynch, and she recommended me to Ger Gallagher. It was inspired casting because physically Isobel and I were just right for the parts of Pam and Breda, but in that happy accident that is collaboration, each of us added to the process, and Ger was generous enough to allow us to mangle her script with suggestions, while keeping her canny eye on the structure. Each scene builds on the last, and it is that unusual thing, a clean comedy based on a subject every woman has been touched by: weight.
If you hadn’t been an actor, what would you have done?
I’d have been a teacher, a preacher, a barrister, a right royal pain!
Can you tell us about your character?
No. Come and see the play.
What do you hope audiences will take away from watching ‘Weighing In’?
I hope they will realise that it’s important to bring a spare pair of knickers to a comedy – just in case. I hope they will go home with sore faces from laughing. I hope they will come back a second time to hear the jokes they missed the first time because they were laughing so much. I hope they will take the pressure off themselves when it comes to appearance. Most of all, I hope they will take away a Curly Wurly.
What’s next for you?
No idea. I’m expecting the offers to come flooding in, as they always do. It would be nice to be able to see over the horizon wouldn’t it?
Do you have any dream roles?
I do dream about playing the lead role in a film, but I don’t like to limit my dreaming to specific roles. I love getting up at 5am, and being driven to my trailer, and made up by gorgeous make-up ladies. A film crew becomes family and I love that. But I also love the immediacy of theatre. Weighing In has been a real journey. We work hard, we look out for each other and we pack up and move on to the next venue and it’s a pleasure.
And finally, what was the last TV show you binge-watched? How many episodes did you see in a sitting?
Breaking Bad. We always vowed to watch one episode, but the writing was so clever. The sting in the last minute of every programe left us just wanting to know what happened. Just one more. ONE more!! I think we spent a whole Saturday once.
Weighing In plays at The Civic until Saturday 5th December 2015. Tickets are €16 & €12 concession and are on sale from our box office – 01 4627477 or online here