Leela, Far From Primitive: An Interview with Louise Jameson

Christmas has been successfully navigated- nailed it!  Today, I've been on Facebook and Twitter talking to readers about the geekiest gifts we all got.  I received a TARDIS hat along with bantha and tauntaun plushies.  The most relevant gift to this blog, though, was a remote flash for my camera.  My cosplay photography is going to be better than ever! :)

Anyway, I'm finally wrapping up my Chicago TARDIS interviews.  The third guest I met at the convention was Louise Jameson, who played Leela alongside the Fourth Doctor.  Her character was infamous for many reasons- the costume, of course, but also her intelligence, combat prowess, and fire.

"Fiery" is actually the word I'd use to describe the actress.  From her bright red hair to her female-empowering views, Louise Jameson is an inspiration.  This interview includes everything from fandom to soap operas- even The Bean in Millennium Park!  Plus, I was honored to hear about the fate of Leela herself...

*****

Louise Jameson as LeelaGeek Girl Chicago: "Just like I said to Colin and Peter, congratulations on 50 Years of Doctor Who."

Louise Jameson: "Thank you! Isn't it amazing?"

GGC: "Absolutely!  How does it feel to be a part of something with such a tremendous legacy?"

LJ: "You know, I've been asked that question a lot, and up until this year, I don't think I really understood it.  I don't think I really got what a legacy- what an iconic program- it is, and how privileged I am to be part of it... I'm rather moved by it this year, in a way that I didn't think was possible. You know, I feel very sentimental about it, very loving towards it, very grateful for it.  I'm hugely fond of Tom Baker now- we didn't get on back in the day at all."

GGC: "You didn't? Oh my-"

LJ: "Not at all.  No, no.  In fact, the reason I left the show was that it was an uncomfortable situation at work.  But now, we work together all the time.  We work for Big Finish, we're doing Doctor and Leela, it's an absolutely wonderful thing to be part of, and I'm very, very, very grateful."

Louise Jameson at The Bean

GGC: "I got this lovely picture of you on Twitter at our Bean.  How are you enjoying the city of Chicago?" 

LJ: "Oh, I love Chicago. I wish I was here longer. We're gonna do a jazz club, the art gallery, and that's about all I'm gonna have time for with all the convention stuff."

GGC: "That's a shame; at least we're all getting to meet you at Chicago TARDIS. With that in mind, I'd love to ask some questions from your fans.  Joseph P asks, do you feel you entered the show at the right time, and if not, which Doctor would you love to travel with?"

LJ: "That's quite a difficult question.  I definitely entered the show at a very, very interesting time, because in 1976, in Britain, we were a bit behind America.  The Equal Rights Bill came through.  So, women were on the crest of a Feminist wave from about '75 to about '81, which is when I did Tenko.  As a woman in the profession, I was getting really cracking roles and some cracking political stuff to do.  ...I don't mean political drama, but I think all entertainment is political and reflects the society that it's within.  So, it was a really, really good time to be a part of it for me, personally, and for my personal journey.

But, if I had to choose another time, I think I'd like to have come in with either Patrick Troughton or with Christopher Eccleston because on their shoulders rested the entire future of the series.  If Patrick hadn't worked, we wouldn't be sitting here today, and the same with Christopher.

GGC: "Absolutely.  It's great that you brought up the Feminist era, because Shannon W, a reader of mine, says you were her idol growing up.  She wants you to talk just a little bit about what it felt like to be in a revealing costume, but at the same time, being an empowered, weapons-handling, strong female."

LJ: "The costume, at the time, I didn't have any problem with whatsoever.  I didn't feel it was gratuitous.  I felt it perfectly logical that somebody being brought up in a hot jungle would be wearing not much, completely comfortable in her own body, so didn't mind showing it... but again, when you look back, hindsight's a great thing.  Of course they made her this feisty, intelligent, uneducated, instinctive woman, but they took her clothes off to do it.  Maybe I was more exploited than I realized at the time, but it really didn't bother me at all, then. I didn't feel I was being taken advantage of.

Leela figurines...Bloody uncomfortable! It was incredibly uncomfortable, a leather leotard. The second costume, the little tennis dress-y one, that was much more comfortable.

GGC: "Speaking of costumes, actually, I'm a cosplayer, and I've seen a Leela costumer here at Chicago TARDIS.  How do you feel when you see someone wearing a Doctor Who costume?"

LJ: "There were two at the convention we did in England the anniversary weekend.  They were both incredibly beautiful young women, and there was a part of me that absolutely reveled in how gorgeous they were, and how confident they were, and how beautiful they were, and there was a bit of me that mourned my own youth and beauty.

GGC: "Wow, I still think you're gorgeous!"

LJ: "Well, thank you."

Doctor Who Big Finish audio featuring Louise JamesonGGC: "Leela gets left on Gallifrey in the TV program.  However, in the audio, we hear more of her. We hear when she allegedly, maybe dies- she's aging rapidly and bound.  Do you feel we've seen the end of Leela?"

LJ: "Oh, she's definitely coming back.  That one you heard was I think second in the part of a trilogy.  The third part is in the process of being written.

GGC: "Oh, good!"

LJ: "I don't know what's going to happen.  Nigel Fairs is my writing partner."

GGC: "That's so great to hear!  They want you to think she might be done for, and I was so hoping-"

LJ: "No. I'm there.  I'm directing for them next year, as well, for Big Finish."

GGC: "So, you've had a wonderful, successful career after Doctor Who. Laura D wants to know, what parts of Leela came with you to your roles in Tenko, The Omega Factor, and beyond?"

LJ: "Oh, that's an interesting question! I think Blanche in Tenko and Leela in Doctor Who are actually incredibly similar... they both didn't wear much, they're in a very hot place, they're thrown into very adverse conditions, they're fighting an enemy most of the time, they're both highly intelligent, they're both very instinctive, they both don't have much education.

Blanche was quite a sexual being- consciously- whereas I don't think Leela was.  Leela was very unconscious about her sexuality... as indeed was I, at the time. I'd only been acting about five, six years when I got Leela, and I don't think you really come into your own properly until about a decade after you've left college and you've got some real life experience under your belt, which was exactly when I hit Tenko.

Stuff starts happening, you know- parents dying, I got pregnant, my heart was broken, I moved house- you know, a lot, lot happened in that year.  So, Tenko, for me, has it as kind of a real pinnacle point in my career.  I think a lot of Leela came with me without even realizing it.

Tom Baker and Louise JamesonGGC: "Holly B was a big fan of Eastenders, and wants to know if you may ever return to that program."

LJ: "No! They gave me a heart attack off-camera!"

GGC: "Well, people live through those!"

LJ: "Yes, come back in the shower- that's what they do in America, isn't it?"

GGC: "Or an evil twin, something very soap opera."

LJ: "Yes!"

GGC: "Geek Girl Chicago is for young women, and is about teaching women that they are equal to the boys in the fandom. They can come play, too, and enjoy Doctor Who and these conventions.  What message might you have for young female fans?"

LJ: "We've all said how fantastic it is that there are more women showing up now to these conventions now than used to be back in the day.  It used to be almost entirely male.  And people are meeting here, getting engaged here, coming back married the next year, then they bring a baby to see the year after that!  It's fantastic!  Tom Baker said once that the queue is so long that they got married and divorced by the time they reached him! (laughs)

No, just come along. Come along, dress up, enter the spirit.  It's the art of surrender, and you'll always find like-minded spirits here.  I think this particular fandom is unique.  There's a few lost souls here that have been gathered into the Doctor Who family and really found that they belong.  They don't feel so outside.

I think it's an extraordinary fandom that has the most intelligent people, and also people that can be quite challenged and a lot of people seem to have been adopted that are a part of it.  I hear that story over and over again.  You know, people that have had a little bit of trouble in their lives are attracted to this weird, wonderful, wacky program because it makes them feel part of a family."

GGC: "That's what I've always loved about Doctor Who. It teaches you that, no matter who you are, no matter what you like, or what you think of yourself- whether you're beautiful or not so much, intelligent or not so much, you can be a fantastic human. 

I just talked to Peter Davison and asked if he thought there should be a female Doctor.  He said no, and he had some interesting reasoning.  I want to know what you think."

LJ: "I think there could be one. I know there's a real, hardcore fan that would really balk at that.  I traveled with Romana- Lalla Ward- in Gallifrey and the Big Finish series, and, you know, we did great together.  That could have just as easily transferred itself onto celluloid."

GGC: "I'd watch that show!"

LJ: "There's no reason why it couldn't be a woman.  When I was asked before Peter Capaldi was cast, 'Who should be the next Doctor?' All these names were floating around, and I said it should be a black lesbian with red hair because all of the questions were, 'Is it going to be black?' 'Is it going to be a woman?' 'Is it going to be a redhead?' So I think they should combine all three into one."

GGC: "I would love that."

LJ: (laughs)

Louise Jameson on the set of The Tractate MiddothGGC: "Where can my readers follow you now?"

LJ: "I'm reading a novel for Red Apple called Fishermen's Wives.  I don't know when that's going to be on download.  Then, immediately after Christmas, I start rehearsals for Absurd Person Singular. There's a sitcom hovering.  There's a film coming out called A Fierce Courage- that's a short film, and I've done a horror film for BBC2- they're saying either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It's called The Tractate Middoth, and it's being directed by Mark Gatiss."

GGC: "Perfect. I will be sure to tune into that.  Thank you for all of your time today, it has been lovely meeting you."

LJ: "Wonderful meeting you, too."

*****

Louise Jameson was a pleasure to speak to.  She really embodies the truth- that women can be both intelligent and proud of their bodies.  Ms. Jameson is a fantastic role model for young women; Chicago TARDIS made a great choice in having her speak to its attendees.  I hope to meet her again, if only to spend a little more time laughing together.  What a treat.  Leela lives!!

 

That's it for my Doctor Who/Chicago TARDIS interview series.  Geek Girl Chicago will continue to attend conventions, though, to get the coverage you love.  Subscribe!  Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

 

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