From Dr. Who to Outlander, EastEnders to Midsomer Murders there are many ways to love Annette Badland.
Annette Badland has had an enviable career as a character actress. She has played all sorts of characters in theater as well as in some of the world's most famous shows including Margaret Blaine in Dr. Who, Mrs. Fitz in Outlander, Babe Smith in the EastEnders and she will be seen next on the hit show Midsomer Murders.
A quick sidebar on something cool and related to this story...
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Now, back to Annette...
Annette Badland received her training at East 15 Acting School in London and began her professional career in 1972. She has starred in many theatrical, television, film and radio programs, including Bergerac, The Archers, Cutting It, Wizards vs Aliens, The Sparticle Mystery, A Little Princess, Bad Girls and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to name but a few.
Most people's Twitter accounts can verge on the boring. If you like an eclectic mix of art and lovely photos and supportive tweets, check out Annette's Twitter here. It joyfully lacks much political drama, but it has a point of view. The art, her passion projects, retweets of co-workers and others is inspiring in this sometimes petty social media landscape.
The kind, talented and ever-so-lovely Annette Badland spoke with Michele Tompkins for TheCelebrityCafe.com about her training in the theater, a sweet story about the late great John Hurt, the fun she had playing Margaret Blaine on Dr. Who, how she got the coveted part of Mrs. Fitzgibbons aka Mrs. Fitz on Outlander, who she keeps in touch with from that cast, a bit about the EastEnders, her new role on the iconic Midsomer Murders, which charities are near and dear to her heart, how she is about to join the Harry Potter universe, what she likes to do for fun and more.
Annette Badland: Hello darling.
Michelle Tompkins: Hello. I'm glad we're finally well-connected. It is wonderful.
Annette Badland: Yeah, it's good, isn't it, that we're on the landline now. I think it was impossible for the technology to grasp me in the London traffic [laughter].
Michelle Tompkins: Oh, well, I'm glad you're home safe but I am jealous to hear that the weather was nice there. It's storming everywhere around here.
Annette Badland: Apparently, yes. But they're saying we're going to get it again. So today is the only spring-like day we've had in about two weeks. We've had it like you, it was dreadful hail and storms. It was horrible. But anyway, let's all think of this summer [laughter].
Michelle Tompkins: Now, what was your first professional aka paid acting job?
Annette Badland: Well, I got it while I was still at drama school, I did weekly reps, which means you do a different play every week in a seaside town called Salford. Which meant that I had my equity card when I left drama school, which was fantastic. I had a friend to do the season and I suddenly got a telegram, in the days when there were telegrams, saying, ‘Female ASM awful. Bring own cap and apron.’ So I got to be the maid in Private Lives, Coward's Private Lives and lots of other little roles. And then I also had to wind the curtains down and help with the sound thing and things. But that was terrific because it meant, as I said, I left drama school with an equity card which made things much easier. So I actually from drama school went with the Actors Company which was started by Sir Ian McKellan and then into the RSC at Stratford and the Aldridge playing things like Audrey in As You Like It and oh gosh, the hostess in Taming of the Shrew and all manner of parts, really [laughter]. The lead door mouse in Toe to Toe Toward Christmas. I can't think of the lady's name. Not Lady Capulet but…
Michelle Tompkins: Lady Montague?
Annette Badland: Yes!
Michelle Tompkins: What a great background!
Annette Badland: It's been varied, which is fantastic as an actor to have different things. I did seem to mainly do theatre for the first 10 years of my career. The first television I did was a bit with John Hurt. And I had a tiny part. He was meant to—as according to the script, he was meant to know how to tap dance but he didn't. So he used to learn in the mornings and then try and teach me in the afternoons [laughter]. John and I got on terribly well and laughed a lot. He was such a clever, good actor and a delightful, witty, kind man. So luckily, I did work with him again last—saw him again last year before he died, so yeah. Terrific, terrific time and a very good director. I liked it enormously.
Michelle Tompkins: Do you have any plans to get back to the theater at all?
Annette Badland: I did some work at the Globe earlier this year trying to develop a new play. So whether that will happen or not, it may happen in the autumn. But nothing has come along recently that really fired me. And I think theater takes so much of your life, it's got to be something I really want to do and engage in. So I'm waiting. I would love to go back, yes. The last play I did was at the Royal Court. So and that's about four or five years ago I think. So yeah, I'd love to go back.
Michelle Tompkins: Now people love you in Dr. Who playing Margaret Blaine. Can you please tell me your favorite thing about that one?
Annette Badland: What's not to like, huh [laughter]? That was fantastic because the previous two episodes from “Boom Town,” where we first arrived, were the only ones written. And they were the first episodes recorded because they often don't record the first episode of something until they know how the mechanism works. So they actually shot our first two episodes first of all.
And then Russel liked what I was doing and he wrote “Boom Town?” for me which was a huge gift. And it arrived around Christmas time as well. So it was thrilling. What did I like? I liked that she shakes her booty. I liked that she was the first alien to confront—well, the first person ever to confront the Doctor about his own ethics and what sort of being he was.
You know, that long restaurant scene. So that was great. I loved having lines like, ‘Dinner and bondage works for me [laughter].’
Yeah, it was fantastic because Russel's such a good writer. And he can write, pace often humor in a single line. And that's a delight for an act to be able to go from one mood or emotion to another in one line. It's such a treat. I just relished the whole thing really, the whole concept of it. And being an alien alone, which is also like the Doctor and so much. So I had a thoroughly good time on that. It ended up as an egg with a little odd hair-do [laughter]. The potential is always there to come back [laughter].
Michelle Tompkins: And I hope you do. Actually, a place where I really want you to come back is in Outlander. You're Mrs. Fitz is such a favorite character. I mean she was the first person besides maybe Jamie who grew to love and trust Claire.
Annette Badland: Yeah.
Michelle Tompkins: How did you get the part?
Annette Badland: Again, we all have just a few gifts usually as actors that we hold in the palm of our hands. And that was just lovely. Cat is so easy to love and bright and sunny. And we got on so terribly well. My mother was a Scot, so I have some Scot in me. And Sam and Tobias and I were the first three actors to be cast. So, because they hunted long and hard for Claire, I auditioned and then had to meet Ron. Ron auditioned me.
And I was absolutely bowled over when they wanted me. Terry, the costume designer, is brilliant. And their costumes are so authentic, wonderful, wonderful things. Dresses didn't used to have pockets in them. You have a string around your waist with two little sacks on either side. And Terry did all of this. You have to access them with—by a slit in your skirt. And apparently, women used to crofters with knit, would have a ball of knit in one hand while the band was in the other arm [laughter].
But just terrific. Those mad boys, delightful, Sam. And just getting on so well with Caitriona. And John Dahl, the first director, allowed us great freedom and gave this a modernity, I suppose. Talks in terms so it was present day. This would be emotions or thoughts that you might be having. So it was an utter delight.
I then went into, I don't know if you'll know, the soap called EastEnders. And Outlander did want me to go back for some of the second season. And I simply couldn't do it which broke my heart. We tried very hard, but schedules just wouldn't allow it. So I was devastated not to go back.
Michelle Tompkins: Is there a possibility that you could go back in the future?
Annette Badland: I don't know. Anything is possible, isn't it, Michelle [laughter]? Anything.
Michelle Tompkins: If so, it would be lovely if you did.
Annette Badland: Yeah. Mrs. Fitz apparently does appear in one of the later books. But whether they'll still be making it, or whether I'll be able to do it, who can say? But I would just love to go back. I was very, very, very happy there.
Michelle Tompkins: One of my favorite scenes in the whole series is when your character threw a little shade at a woman at the gathering who happened to be played by Diana Gabaldon.
Annette Badland: Yes [laughter]. Nice to naughty with the writer, isn't it, to be cheeky with her? She was terrific. She came on and took it all on board, and to be working in a Scot accent and costume. She was just great. She's great company anyway. I was full of admiration for her to be creative in that way, and it not be a little private moment but to be a huge gathering like that.
Michelle Tompkins: The cast seems to get along so well. Do you keep in touch with any of them?
Annette Badland: Yes. Caitriona, I do, not so much Sam. Graham McTavish, I do. Mr. Walters, I do. Sir O’Rourke [laughter] who has no sense of humor whatsoever. So yes, we do all keep in touch. It's terrific.
Everything about this photo is fantastic! 👌 pic.twitter.com/q0F7swhZbr
— Eddie Balfe❤️ (@eddie_balfe) April 23, 2018
Michelle Tompkins: Now with EastEnders, there's actually a rumor circulating that you might be returning soon. Is there anything you want to say about that?
Annette Badland: Oh, Babe. Babe, I don't know. Not that I know of. But she could turn up at any time, couldn't she?
Michelle Tompkins: It seems like people want you back. So I like that. It's always about people wanting more of you.
Annette Badlands: Yes, it is, isn't it? It certainly is. Apparently, it was a character they love to hate. They disliked her intensely but relished her. When I'd worked with the producer before on—Skye had a series that they ran every Christmas, called Christmas Crackers. And I'd done one story with Stephen Fry, and then I did another with Sheridan Smith. And it was the producer of the Sheridan Smith piece that said, ‘I'll always look for an Annette Badland shaped part.’ And then he became the exec on EastEnders, and we met, and we talked about, Aunt Babe being Dickensian, and maybe a pearly queen, and all sorts of things, so…
Again, it was something really interesting to create, and not be one dimensional, to have different facets to her. Because she loves her family, but she's never been loved, so that makes her vengeful, and so it's nice to have a complicated—not necessarily—Yes, villains are great, but a complex character. Not just sort of easy-peasy. I like to— because as human beings, we all have different facets in this, and we all behave differently with different people. Different people bring out different reactions in us. So I think it's important, in characters, that you create that, too, that diversity.
Michelle Tompkins: Now please tell me about your newest project, the Midsomer Murders [laughter].
Annette Badlands: Well, she's another interesting person, because I know the pathologist has tended to be young and the love interest for Barnaby's sidekick, and now Fleur Perkins comes along, who is a woman of a certain age with a mind of her own, a very interesting love life, drives the black Jag convertible, and takes no prisoners, really is very good at what she does. Won't take any nonsense from the boys. So that's something to relish and enjoy, and to be part of something that's so iconic as well.
When I was asked to meet the producers and things, I— you know, it's extraordinary, isn't it? Everybody knows Midsomer. The whole world loves Midsomer. And I think that's because it's—visually, yes, it's a feeling of England that the world responds to and anticipates it's going to be like. But I think also there's always humor, there's always intrigue.
It's never a direct line to the murders, and there are often more—there's usually more than one murder, there's usually two, and probably three. And even if English isn't your first language, there is so much to watch and relish and enjoy in it. That's its, sort of international appeal and its longevity. And Paddy the dog, of course [laughter].
Michelle Tompkins: Of course, you've got to have Paddy.
Annette Badlands: Of course, yes.
Michelle Tompkins: Now what do people most often say to you when they recognize you on the street?
Annette Badlands: Oh, well during EastEnders, they don't call you-- Soap fans tend not to know your name, they know the character name. So I was always being asked how Aunt Babe was, and they remember things like Bergerac. I've been stalking John Nettles you see, I haven't quite caught up with him on the German murders, but I—the first of the series I was in, I used to do episodes of things or a few episodes, but the first series was Bergerac. So they may remember that. They say, ‘Oh, I did like you in,’ or they're very complimentary, which is fantastic. Yeah, they're usually very generous to me. And the Outlander fans are brilliant, they are terrific fans.
Michelle Tompkins: Yes, they are.
Annette Badlands: Are you part of my…
Michelle Tompkins: You're one of my favorites.
Annette Badlands: You're part of the clan, are you?
Michelle Tompkins: I am. I've interviewed a couple members of your team, including Nell Hudson, she's just fabulous. (See the Nell Hudson interview here.)
Annette Badland: Oh yes, yes.
Michelle Tompkins: Which movies or TV shows do you enjoy watching?
Annette Badland: Oh, I like the Scandi things. I don't know if you get them. Do you get The Killing? But not the American version, the Scandinavian versions?
Michelle Tompkins: No, I haven't seen them yet, are they good?
Annette Badland: Right. We have very dark Scandinavian dramas that the nation has fallen for. So The Killing I suppose, and The Bridge, they were both much heralded. Wallander, so all those Scandi things. I'm not very good with the feel-good movie, I thought Three Billboards, was amazing. That's my kind of film. I haven't seen The Shape of Water yet, which I want to see. But I'm not so keen on the romantic or comedic films. I still haven't gotten into binge watching. I can't do a box set. I like the anticipation that next week this will be happening. I download stuff and then never watch it. It's a bit like the old days when we had VHS. I used to record things and you'd never get around to it; time moves on.
Michelle Tompkins: It is interesting that you like to wait for stuff because most people are really impatient.
Annette Badland: Yes, I know, they gobble it all up and then it's gone [laughter].
Michelle Tompkins: Well, Annette, what do you like to do for fun?
Annette Badland: Oh, well, I like to go to the theater, I swim, I love to swim so I try when I'm not working to go and swim at least a half a mile in the mornings before I start my day. So I like that. I'm a real water baby, I've always enjoyed that, and swimming in the sea and things like that. So there's that. I have sailed recently, I did it for charity. And I don't know that I'm going to turn it into a hobby, but it's very exciting. Do you call it abseiling when you go down, rappelling is also, isn't it? Rappelling?
Michelle Tompkins: Going down a mountain? Oh boy.
Annette Badland: Yes. Yes. Well, it was a building, but that was pretty stimulating. I've flown a Spitfire, I won it in a competition. I've always wanted to freefall, so I'm hoping I might have the nerve to do that before it's too late for me to do it. Yeah, the Spitfire was amazing. It was every emotion you can possibly imagine. I was thrilled. I was terrified.
It was from Biggin Hill so, as we took off, I was thinking about all the guys who'd flown out in the war and never come back. And then there came a point where, because it was— I had a pilot in the front obviously. He said, ‘Now, it's your turn to fly.’ They show you how to use the joystick and all that. I could hear my voice go, ‘Do you think—are you sure I should be doing,’—and he just put his hand up in the air and said, ‘Well, no one else is flying it.’ So I had to take over the controls. And it's just amazing because it's very human-scaled, so you just feel it's you with your arms stretched out, and just glorious. And then we did a— I think he controlled it, but we did a victory roll at the end of the thing. So, that was just a tremendous gift. And I never win anything. I was absolutely astounded.
I haven't really answered your question, but I suppose free-falling might be my next in this trajectory. I might just have a go at it. But, of course, you can't when you're working. So abseiling, as I say, works for a children's hospital, but it was nice to be able to do while I'm not under contract for anything. I've just done— the BBC had CBBC which was the Children's Channel, and two years ago they did Shakespeare's Dream. And then this year we've done The Tempest. And they truncated it, 50 minutes now long. And we give young children Shakespeare. We give them a version of Shakespeare. The proper words with links to help them, but just super stuff, things that should happen really. So I hope you might get that out there. I'm not sure.
Michelle Tompkins: I promise I will. Please tell me about the charity work you'd like me to mention.
Annette Badland: Oh, charities. Well, I abseiled for the Birmingham Children's Hospital. I support Diabetes UK and also Dimbleby Cancer Care. And Dimbleby Cancer Care it's David and Jonathan Dimbleby. You may know their—David Dimbleby, Richard Dimbleby's son. They're great interviewers and political interviewers. And David's had his own series, but they started this charity which is to help, not to—it's to support. It's to support the people who are suffering from cancer and their families. And at the moment, they're having the teas, very British teas, all around the country. So they're doing that at the moment.
Michelle Tompkins: What is something you want people to know about you?
Annette Badland: What do I want people to know about me? Nothing [laughter]. I want to be a woman of mystery [laughter]. I'm not as fab as some of the characters I've played.
Michelle Tompkins: But I bet you are close. There's a little wiggle room.
Annette Badland: Yes. As naughty as others. Not as bad as some, but as naughty as others [laughter].
Michelle Tompkins: And how do you like your fans to connect with you?
Annette Badland: Twitter. Twitter's the usual one for fans for me, really. Not so much Facebook.
Michelle Tompkins: Now what's next for you, Annette?
Annette Badland: Another CBBC project. I don't know if you know, we have a Bedtime Story which Tom Hardy has read, Dolly Parton's read. And they've asked me if I'll do one. So that's my immediate project to do. I don't know my story yet, so I have to be told that, but. So that's what I do next.
I've been asked to do some theatre, but I'm not [laughter]. The projects weren't exciting enough, just didn't interest me. As I say, this piece of the globe is terrific. So maybe that will work, but we'll see. So at the moment, I'm pretty free, which is very odd for me. I'd been very, very, very lucky and I tend to work most of the time.
Oh, I've just been Rita Skeeter for Audible, which I think is just being released in the History of the Quidditch Match, so that was lovely, to play Rita Skeeter as well.
Michelle Tompkins: Oh, it'd be great to have you in the Harry Potter universe [laughter].
Annette Badland: I know, they've been very foolish not to have me in it so far.
Michelle Tompkins: Agreed [laughter]. Now is there anything else you'd like to add?
Annette Badland: No, darling, I don't think so. Just love to everyone, and I hope when Fleur Perkins turns up, they'll enjoy her, and understand her wry humor, and enjoy her taking no flack from the boys [laughter].
Annette Badland can be seen on season 20 of Midsomer Murders that will be streaming soon on BritBox.