Producer/ Actor/ Keen baker
Liz and I chatted for hours in my kitchen, all the while baking a deliciously fruity ‘hummingbird cake’ and listening to 80s pop.
Ellie: My first question to you is what do you love? What in life makes you so happy that your toes curl?
Liz: Is it super cheesy if I say music and theatre?
Ellie: No, nothing is cheesy.
Liz: I think that’s what it is for me, definitely musical theatre. And it’s funny because I don’t understand why people don’t like it! Do you ever get that? Because I love it so much, and I could listen to musicals all the time. I enjoy listening to new musicals, old musicals, the same ones over again, and I always imagine myself in these roles as well. Which is pretty sad. But I suppose if you’re pretending to be somebody else you can escape from your own life for a bit. So definitely musical theatre. And performing, in general. It gives me so much pleasure, because it gives other people pleasure, I think that’s what it is that I like about it.
Ellie: It’s so true that there’s a stigma around musical theatre being so desperately uncool, but it’s undeniable that it does something to you, it moves you. And you really feel some people fighting that, they almost don’t want to admit that it makes you feel things. I’ve always been fascinated that you can play a scale and it does nothing, but play the notes in a different order and it can affect you so differently. It’s very hard to explain. Maybe that’s what people don’t like, that they can’t explain it.
Liz: Another thing that I love, nothing to do with theatre, is just being around people. Friends, not like when you’re walking down the street and someone is walking really slow and you’re like ‘GODDAM YOU PEOPLE’, I don’t like those people, but hanging around with friends, with a beer at the pub, just talking, or not talking, sometimes just being around them. I like when you know someone so well that you’re comfortable in silence. Finding out about people, laughing with people. I say it’s nothing to do with theatre but actually it kind of is, if you’re doing a show, like the show we’re doing – that’s seven weeks together where you spend all day together and then then every evening and then it all ends, just like that.
Ellie: I wonder whether that’s why a lot of actors are quite frightened of being on their own, when they’re not working. Because we’re used to such intensive periods of friendships with the same people. Okay, the next question is hard. Liz Chadwick, what do you love about yourself?
Liz: Um. Um. It’s difficult to say what you love about yourself without taking in to account what other people like about you. The last holiday I was on with my uni friends in Ibiza, we always play this game called ‘I love you because…’ it makes everybody cry all the time, we usually do it after lots of alcohol, you pick a name out of that hat or whatever and you tell that person what it is you love about them, and my friend Mike said he loved my style. I think everyone grows into their own style and I think I’ve found mine now which is good, it’s nice to know I look good in it. I think my talent is good, but I think there is always room to improve. I’ll tell you what I do love about myself, when it comes to music, I can pick music up very quickly, I can teach people quite well with music, I think I could pick up an instrument quite quickly, I kind of like that about myself. It’s funny how nothing to do with my looks is in this, I don’t think a lot of girls would say their looks. But I think I’ve learnt how to feel good about what I look like, I’ve learnt how to dress myself. I’ve learnt how to dress for my body and my personality-that sounds like such a stupid thing to say-
Ellie: Not at all, that is in no way stupid. That is something that people, including myself, strive for, to get to a point where they can say ‘I know how to dress for myself’. I still wouldn’t be quite there.
Liz: I would say you have your own style.
Ellie: I just wish I could say it. I couldn’t answer any of these questions, whenever I ask that last question I think how I couldn’t say what I love about myself. I’ve realised I’ve got to stop saying this is a hard question, because I’m just perpetuating the idea that it’s hard to love yourself. Speaking of hard, what is the biggest challenge you are facing in your life right now?
Liz: It’s kind of a multitude of things I suppose, but I think right now it’s trying to be happy in both work and in general life, because, when you’re doing a show in such an intense pocket of time, especially producing it as well, it’s seven weeks where I don’t see my husband, we never really see each other, there isn’t time and then when it finishes then I go into post show blues. So work/ life balance is the hardest thing- is the biggest challenge for me right now. We also have this new house where, we bought it last year and then have had 6 months work on it where we didn’t live there, and now we’ve come back to it to do the decorating but we just don’t have time, so we’re kind of living on a worksite, and when we come home it’s not a very nice place to be at the minute because it’s not finished.
Ellie: This came up in the last interview, the work/ life balance when your work is so personal. Balancing the two when your job involves meeting and working intensely with new people so often, and getting caught up in the whirlwind of each show, it’s very difficult for personal relationships not to suffer. I imagine it will come up a lot, I think it’s a really hard balance for anyone in this industry. So thank you. Which women inspire you and why?
Liz: Women who are determined. Women who, despite everything, work their arse off to achieve what they want. Hannah Waddingham. She is just great. I’ve never met her, but she always seems like such a determined woman, and anything I see her in she is just incredible, the raw emotion she brings to each performance. I get inspired by my friends a lot. The two girls who I’m in The Victory Sisters with, we all have such completely different personalities and I think it works because we bring out the best in each other.
Ellie: On the flip side to that, what assumptions do you find that you tend to make about other women?
Liz: I think, again sweeping statement, but I think most women do this to each other – it’s really bad – but I’ll assume girls are bitchy – I mean what is that? And then I’ll meet them and get to know them and they’re nothing like I thought. I don’t know why we do that, I suppose it’s to do with our own insecurities. I think it’s to do with self preservation, if you assume that they’re going to be bitchy and nasty then you won’t get hurt if they are. I think that’s what it is. And then it’s such a surprise when they’re not, a good surprise. Like you, you’re nothing like I thought either, I made massive assumptions about you. And I’ve been proved wrong.
Ellie: Or so you think. There’s still time. I think it’s true. I think I do the opposite weirdly, I make assumptions that everyone, not just women, that everyone is amazing. It’s the opposite of self preservation it’s self sabotage. I assume everyone is the best and that I have to come up to other people’s level, and if they are anything other than lovely I assume it’s me that is the problem. It’s just as toxic.
Liz: It’s weird that there is no middle ground, it feels like we all do either one or the other. I think mine comes from the self preservation that they are horrible people and therefore don’t deserve the success they have got over me. Like I sing in a 1940s trio and there are so many of them and they probably set it up just like me and have worked just as hard, but the rivalry when they succeed, I feel ‘why have you got that? They’re not allowed that, they don’t deserve it as much as us’.
Ellie: That’s it and I think you’ve just hit the nail on the head of why I wanted to create this project, because I think a lot of women in theatre have been bludgeoned endlessly with this idea that they’re aren’t enough female roles and that we feel other women’s success as a personal affront, rather than being able to remember that that person has worked just as hard in an industry that is not serving them. I want to get to a point where, when I see a female actor succeed I’m like “YES GET IN, ONE FOR THE SISTERHOOD” rather than feel “oh no! Now there is one less part for me!”. The little voice in our head tells us that they don’t deserve it, to try and make ourselves feel more validated and it’s what encourages those assumptions, we almost want them to be bitchy so that we can feel validated that they didn’t deserve it. For you is there a stigma surrounded women that you’d like to see go? Or a myth that needs busting?
Liz: People tend to think women are more emotional than men, which I think is bollocks, I think men just hide it better and aren’t encouraged to talk about it. It’s so good that things like Robert Webb’s new book about masculinity and emotions are encouraging people to see emotions in men differently. I don’t class myself as particularly emotional, I try not to show sadness, I don’t know why, maybe that’s just the way I was brought up. It annoys me that if I do show any emotion it becomes about me being a woman. Like the cliche of the hysterical emotional woman. And that’s attached to the periods thing as well, it’s so irritating.
Ellie: It’s interesting that if you’re a woman and you’re not emotional it’s seen as a very masculine energy, as if you’re un-feminine and maybe a bit cold hearted, but if you are emotional as a woman then you are hysterical. You can’t win. It’s interesting what you were saying that you don’t like to be sad in front of people, what do you think you’re fear is if you had your emotions out in the open?
Liz: Um. That people will think I’m weak. I don’t know why I’ve got that notion of emotions as being weak. Because I wouldn’t ever see someone else crying and think of them as weak, but it’s different with myself. I don’t have many close girl friends, I tend to get on better with men, so maybe that’s why I associate emotions as being weak, maybe it’s because I grew up with a lot of men.
Ellie: Perhaps you’ve taken on quite a masculine attitude to emotions and vulnerability. How have you found that gender affects you at work?
Liz: With the Victory Sisters it’s not a huge issue because we’re three women and I set the group up, but we did this car show in the summer and there was a photographer taking pictures of us, which was lovely, and we found this old tank and we wanted to have some pictures in it. And the dad or the grandad of the owner of the tank was inside it and wouldn’t get out, and so we went inside and he was touching our bums and wanting kisses from us and when we were leaning out of the windows he was touching our arses and none of us said anything. It was really uncomfortable and afterwards all of us were like ‘why did we do that?’ we just got on with it. Because there’s an assumption that women have to be nice and polite. In that moment we were like ‘let’s just get this done’ and in hindsight I wish I’d said I wasn’t comfortable. There was a video I watched from a festival somewhere, and this vintage singer, it was her video, and she’s having a photo-shoot with this guy and she was stood with her hand on her hip and he grabs her leg and pulls it up to him and is flicking her skirt trying to get her garters seen, and it was the most awful thing I’ve seen. And she’s clearly uncomfortable but she can’t say anything because it’s a photo-shoot. I haven’t really come across any issues with gender as a producer, because along with Mark, my colleague, we set up our business, MKEC Productions, together, we’ve discovered how best to run our company and what we’re both best at and so we very much have our separate jobs we get on with.
Ellie: Do you feel the difference between how gender affects you when you are a producer compared to when you are an actor?
Liz: Yes, because you feel more important as a producer. I know it sounds like a terrible thing to say, but you’re giving people a job, so you do feel more empowered and more important.
Ellie: Empowerment is not something we feel often as actors! Do you ever feel you have to apologise for coming across as to strong, almost too masculine?
Liz: Yes because if you are a ‘strong’ women, people then start to get intimidated by you, you can’t just be strong and be respected, if you do show strength and authority then people start to think you’re a controlling, bossy bitch.
Ellie: Bossy is so reserved for women. Bossy inherently comes out of how it makes people feel, it comes out of the insecurity of the person calling someone bossy. It’s like intimidating, you can’t be intimidating in a room on your own, it’s all about how you’re being received. What is one bit of advice you wish you had been given, or you wish you could give your younger self?
Liz: Not to be as shy. I think I would have got a lot more achieved if I hadn’t been as shy. I think if I’d been more brave, I would have got more done, if I’d been braver sooner.
Ellie: So, I have a question for you from the wonderful Marcia Sommerford, what is your proudest achievement as a woman?
Liz: It sounds shallow but I do think I now know how to dress for myself, and that’s a proud thing for me. I don’t always love how I look, but I’m proud that I am now more comfortable in myself. And starting my companies, that is a huge achievement, and not everyone can do that. But yeah, just getting to a point of feeling comfortable in my own skin. Also with make up, I really learnt how to do my own make up and to express myself with make up. I know some people see it as a cover up and can make people feel ashamed of wearing make up, but I see it as an expression.
Ellie: I’ve gone on a bit of a weird journey with make up, I’ve gone from last year having a bit of an addiction to make up and not feeling able to go to the shops without it, without that mask, and I’ve finally managed to release my grip on it and to use it to accentuate what I already have, instead of hiding behind it. I learnt not to hate the face underneath.
Liz: Yes, because there was a phase where people were doing the no make up hashtag, and there was a lot of people lashing out at women posting these pictures, saying “for gods sake it’s just no make up, it’s not that brave’ but I know people for whom it’s a really big deal.
Ellie: Also that really pisses me off, because if we’re going to live in a society where magazines put big red circles around women’s spots and scars and ‘shock horror she’s wearing no make up at the gym’ headlines, we can’t allow that to happen and perpetuate it and at the same time berate people for caring about make up and how they look and for feeling nervous about that. So my last question is, what is one question you feel needs to be asked to the next wonderful women interviewed?
Liz: Where do you see the progression of women in the future? Something like that. What does the woman of the future look like?