Acting legend Louise Jameson details drastic hair change she did to win Emmerdale role
While many actresses of a certain age are starting to dye their hair for fear that roles will dry up, Louise Jameson has discovered the opposite.
Because since she decided to let her hair turn naturally white, job offers have poured in, including one to join Emmerdale.
The former EastEnders star, who recently turned 70, will make her Dales debut tonight, playing Rhona Goskirk’s overbearing mother Mary.
And she’s convinced embracing gray helped close the deal.
“It’s extraordinary, but literally since I stopped dyeing my hair, there’s been a lot of work. I had eight or nine offers,” says Louise.
“I thought it would be the opposite, but no, the work is actually expanded for me. Some actors try to look younger and handle it brilliantly, but I think if there’s an air of desperation to trying to hold on to your youth, it limits your casting.
“I’m very happy to be 70 and let my hair go white and not go the Botox route. I think this age should be embraced naturally.
Birmingham Post and Courier)
Louise, who played Rosa di Marco in EastEnders, had always planned to work well past retirement age.
She recalls: “My father was an insurance broker and he sold life insurance policies. I remember him saying, “We really need to help you with your pension”. And I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll work until the day I die’.
“That was a long time ago when I was 20. I never planned on retiring. I write now and I also direct, so I have my fingers in a lot of pies.
For now, however, Louise is busy playing the outspoken mum Mary, who bursts into Emmerdale unannounced just as her daughter Rhona is about to propose to her boyfriend Marlon Dingle. With her acerbic wit, Mary is quick to shoot him.
The fact that Mary was fun and feisty, rather than a stereotypical old lady, was part of the appeal for Louise.
“Older people shouldn’t always be portrayed in cardigans and Zimmer frames,” she says firmly.
“I was going to tell Emmerdale about it when I came in for the chat. But before I caught my breath, they gave me a glimpse of where she was heading and it stopped me in my tracks. It was better than anything I could have come up with. »
Louise, who grew up in Woodford Green, Essex, was even shocked by some of the outrageous things Mary does and says to her long-suffering on-screen daughter.
She says: “As a mum myself, I wince at some of the things Mary says. There is such a fine line between supporting and interfering. With my two boys [Harry and Tom] I really hope I toe the line of support, but I’m sure if you talked to them they’d say I interfere sometimes!”
Louise has enjoyed a long and varied career, with roles ranging from Blanche Simmons in the acclaimed 80s series Tenko, to the five years she spent in Bergerac as the girlfriend of Detective Susan Young.
The role of Mary is not really her first appearance in Emmerdale.
She made history 50 years ago playing the series’ very first murder victim, Sharon Crossthwaite, a cousin of Annie Sugden.
Continuing the theme, she also ended up in a body bag in Bergerac, suffered a heart attack in EastEnders and died of beriberi, or vitamin B1 deficiency, in Tenko.
“They keep killing me, are they trying to tell me something?”
she laughs. “When I was in Emmerdale in the early 1970s, it was one of my first jobs.
“So being offered this part seems to have come full circle.”
Arguably Louise’s biggest career regret was not being allowed to continue playing EastEnders matriarch Rosa for longer than her two-year stint on the soap opera.
She says, “It’s a great show with a fantastic cast and I absolutely loved my time there.
“We had had two years of break-in and we were almost ready to fly, but a new producer came along with different ideas and [the di Marco family] were the victims.
But while this role is perhaps what she is perhaps most widely recognized for, she remains a fan-favorite of Doctor Who for playing Leela, the glamorous warrior in Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor from 1977 to 1978.
“I still get letters from people who wrote to me in the 1970s,” she smiles. “It’s amazing. I do so many Doctor Who conventions that I have nothing left to sign!
“I also do Doctor Who audiobooks and just wrote a screenplay for them. It has become my pension and it takes me all over the world.
Louise suffers from dyslexia but luckily Emmerdale bent over backwards to help her with her filming schedules.
“I had so many emails that I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do on what days,” she explains.
“We are sent all the information, so it was a question of deciphering which elements were relevant to me.
“I couldn’t see my way through the maze, but they helped me untangle it.”
Louise stays in shape with regular yoga sessions and also credits total abstinence for four months before the first lockdown with helping her improve her energy levels.
“I’m pretty glad I quit when I did because I think otherwise I would have spent the whole lockdown under a table!” she laughs.
“It’s not like I drank a lot, but I had a drink or
two a day.
“Now when I wake up, I’m awake, I don’t have to spend an hour coming back. I feel so much better for it.
As for the future, Louise wants to enjoy every second of her time in Emmerdale.
“I would love to stay as long as they want me to,” she smiles. “It’s a beautiful job to land in the 70s, I’m so grateful.”
Emmerdale is weekdays on ITV.