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DOCTOR WHO - THE FACE OF EVIL -  Louise Jameson as Leela
"...Tom was blatantly patronising toward me, as Leela
and Louise Jameson. Though, I found sometimes the
directors more patronising than Tom ..."

With the departure of Liz Sladen from the TARDIS, the DOCTOR WHO team had the unenviable task to find a new replacement - a replacement that would both radiate charm and engage the viewers as Sarah Jane had done across the previous 3 years.

The chosen one? A girl who started acting with a pronounced stammer and a plethora of spots, finding herself as repertory player at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Louise Jameson became Leela. Instantly popular for her intellectually vulnerability, irrepressible feistiness and faux leather chamois 'skins' that every Ford Cortina 'dad' wanted to get their hands on.

Citing her love of the theatre, Jameson left the programme after 15 months and just 9 stories, yet Leela's influence endures.

Mother, humanitarian, actress and theatre Director (an acclaimed A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM for Leamington Spa based company, Heartbreak Productions), Louise was one of the most engaging WHO personalities I have had the pleasure to interview. Twice (The second was live on stage at Leeds Convention, FanAid North).

Interview choice cuts: then click Back to return here

From school panto to the RSC and then, in 1977, to the BBC for a part that would ultimately shape Louse's career - Leela, the barbarian exile of the Sevateem.

"They weren't quite sure what they were looking for. They had the first story, the costume and they saw 60 girls, then whittled down to 10, 3 and 2. Pennant Roberts said he gave it to me because I made him work. What happens in an interview is that your are given a script to read and the Director will read in other parts. So Pennant was reading Tom's part and he said that he had actually respond to what I was doing rather than just reading the lines. That was why he chose me."

Looking back did she feel that following Sladen was difficult and how did the role change her career.

"It helped a great deal as far as theatre was concerned however for TV was concerned I didn't get an interview for 5 years after I finished Doctor Who. TENKO finally knocked it on the head. I don't like staying in any one job for too long. I think it was absolutely right by changing the companion character completely, from Sarah Jane to Leela. There was no way anyone could recreate what Liz had done because she had done it so well. I didn't feel in competition in anyway."

It is recognised that Sladen played Sarah Jane as herself so were there any Leela traits in Louise persona?

"I like to think that I'm as 'open' as she is. She's very honest. I don't think I'm quite as aggressive. I based Leela on a little girl who, lived upstairs called sally and my own dog, Bosie, I thought Leela was a mixture of instinct and naivety. She's also very intelligent but she's uneducated, which was what those two were.

I found it hard to retain the character over the 15 months. You see, some of the scripts I was getting were actually written for Liz Sladen, for example HORROR OF FANG ROCK. So I was getting scripts that said Leela screams. I said no, Leela doesn't scream. I became very centred on Leela and I knew what she'd say and how she would behave under a given situation."

[1] Renown for his own addiction to role of the Doctor, Tom Baker has been frequently cited as being difficult to work with, demanding perfection whilst concurrently unfastening his own leash and. In the eyeofhorus.org.uk interview, Baker specifies he has not favourite companion though enjoyed Sarah Jane's 'Pearl White' image; was Tom as manic as he is portrayed?

"I found Tom an extraordinary person to work with. His energy level is higher than anyone I have ever met. At times very difficult to work with but exciting, so I have a mixed reaction to Tom really. He'd literally throw the script out the Rehearsal Room's window and then this poor little Assistant Floor Manager would trot down and get it. He cared so much about the programme.

Tom was blatantly patronising toward me, as Leela and Louise Jameson. I found sometimes the Directors more patronising than Tom. I don't think that it had to do with Tom and Louise personally but with the Male orientated environment. Men operated the cameras, the lighting, the sound, the producing, the Directing and the majority of the characters are men. So I found sexism more apparent within what I was doing rather than patronisation".

[2] Both Philip Hinchcliffe and Graham Williams moulded the series in their own imitable way, crafting many gems for Leela; what were the highlights?

"I thought both Philip and Graham were very good actually in their own respective ways. It is difficult to know what exactly goes on as a Producer because the producer presents a face to an actor that is one of bonne-ami, generosity and consideration. Then you realise that they are quite cutthroat really as scenes you've recorded are on the editing room floor. It was pressured for them.

It was a 9-day turn around, doing 7 days rehearsal and then 2 days recording. It was very tight. It was even tighter when it all started in the 60s, as they were doing 1 episode a week. The black and whites worked, I think. For its era it was terrific. The entire concept was unbelievable because you could anywhere. You get something like STAR TREK, with its rigid rules that the script writers are bound by the particular conventions that are set up.

THE SUNMAKERS was my favourite story and TALONS one of the best for Leela. Robert Holmes wrote the best scripts of all. THE SUNMAKERS was his last one for the series and a bit of a 'two-fingers to the BBC' as far as Bob was concerned. A philosophy that believe in to. Much more than other stories, it was quite 'left-wing'. Freeing oppressed workers and all that. A good idea however unsubtle.

She came to the fore and emphasised her loyalty to the Doctor. It furthered their relationship that isn't often considered in the programme by the writers. In THE SUNMAKERS, as Bob created the character of Leela, he wrote much better for her.

[4] I should mention that being steamed alive was different. When I joined the series Tom said to me 'I hope you're into bondage because you're going to spend 70% of your time being tied up and strapped to things'. How right he was. It was a just a giggle and a particularly nice company too.

TALONS had the same character development. That was fun to do. There's a nice story about that one. When I got the script it said 'Leela leaps on to the table, somersaults over the dwarf, crashes through the window and falls ten feet on the grass below'. I said, 'No, she bloody doesn't' so they got a Stuntman in to double for me. Stuart had a peculiar time. Luckily I was clothed in the story so he didn't have to wear the leotard. But he kept getting 'goosed' from behind.you know, his bottom pinched because everyone thought it was me."

[3] TALONS was a veiled pastiche of MY FAIR LADY, with the Leela an alien Eliza Doolittle for the Doctor's Professor Henry Higgins.

"Tom and I debated whether to tour with that actual play. We thought we'd be rather good - a sort of double act. I think TALONS picked out those key aspects. I think she calmed down too. Her aggression was tamed. Like no more Janis Thorns. We were originally going to call them Janice Thorns but it sounded like an out-of-work actress. So Leela was educated to a certain extent but I doubt.it would be interesting to see what she is doing now. I should imagine she's got 11 children on Gallifrey. Back to Mother Nature."

So back to the beginning for Leela, THE FACE OF EVIL. An exciting time for a young actress; what did she remember?

"Well, the funniest thing I recall is being chased by that frigging monster - the invisible thing. To get that effect they put translucent tripwires at the base of tress and with my red contact lenses - used to make my eyes brown - I literally tripped over them all. There were my first scenes and no rehearsals too. It was the first time that the crew had seen the costume, clinging on to my dressing gown as long as I could. The they said, 'We're going to have to light you, get that thing off'. I took off the gown and there was this hushed silence and then this timid voice called out - it was the head lighting man - 'Well, I don't mind lighting this!' From there on in they were all terrific. It was fun!"

Special Visual Effects were the bread-and-butter of the series, with IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL being one of the best examples within her tenure.

"Once I learnt how a special effect was done then it washed over me. I'm not very good with machines. I think its part and parcel of the female programming when you're a kid - boys go with the machines and the girls do the more tactile things. So once I've hand something vaguely explained to me I was quite satisfied."

One of the most 'special effects' , according to many pubescent boys, was the Denys Fisher action figure of Leela. With greater kudos than having a Wax dummy at Madam Tussards, was plastic reproduction flattering?

"No! My only view is of my bank balance! (uncontrolled laughter) I used to get a percentage of every unit sold. My Mother stuck it up on top of the Christmas tree instead of the Fairy. It's a bit of joke. I'm sorry, but I'm mercenary about being made into a doll. I like it for that reason."

[5] Denys Fisher created other action figures of the Giant Robot, the Fourth Doctor, Dalek, Cyberman and her companion co-star, K-9.

"K-9 was wonderful and partly because I adored John Leeson. With John trotting around on all fours during rehearsal helped to establish a relationship with his character. At that time K-9 could climb into the TARDIS so we had to do a lot of 'head acting' [cue example]to compensate. The camera would cut to us watching him move toward it, then back to the dog just as he approaches and then back to us, moving our heads. In fact he was actually stuck on the edge going yrrrr yrrrr yrrrr. He was great.

I got on terribly well also with Annette Adelaide from HORROR OF FANG ROCK. She played this hysterical girl - stupid and screamed a lot.

The crew of THE ROBOTS OF DEATH was a really good one because I think it was so cosmopolitan. It wasn't in the script but just the way the Director cast it.

I tell you that we got Chris Benjamin and Trevor Baxter. They were hysterical, giggled the whole time."

[6] After 15 months of running down corridors, monsters and mild corporal punishment, Leela elected to stay on Gallifrey having fallen in love with Andred. Did Louise depart with the same level of fulfillment?

"Mixed. I was very sad to get out. It was really the first time in my life that I'd been panicked about finding another job. The BBC is very womb-like and they value your soul. The truth is that I was short listed for a film, YANKS, and I got down to the last three. Yeah, so mixed feelings; sad and happy.

However, the way she went; falling in love? No, I thought it was a piece of very bad writing. She could have died saving the Doctor's life or something. I think the BBC idea of getting rid of woman was marrying her off. I mean she came in with a 'whooossshhh' and I would have liked her to have gone out with in a same way. They had not established a relationship with Andred at all, only holding his hand in episode three - which is something I worked out. Graham Williams wanted me to change my mind, wining-and-dining me but it was time to move on. If I had stayed any longer I think I would have even more trouble getting back into the real business."

[7] Following a period of wearing very skimpy clothing on television, Louise continued in the same vein with her next project - but under different circumstances. The truly remarkable TENKO but her feisty character, Blanche Simmons, seemed jinxed and was written out by the third season. Why?

"I was simply pregnant. I missed the first 5 episodes of the second season because I was having a baby. Then we negotiated for the third season and began to feel ill, and there I was.pregnant again. It was the happiest and most wonderful job I've ever done. It was blissful job. Really lovely.

I don't mind stripping off for the part. I stripped off in TENKO.completely! I stripped off for a play called PASSION PLAY, in London. In the stage play, MOLL FLANDERS, I wear quite a lot for Moll but show a lot of boob and a lot of thy. So if it requires it I'll do it. If it's purely for titillation value than I won't do it. Its that simple."

With roles in other popular, high-rating BBC series, such as BERGERAC (as Susan Young), THE OMEGA FACTOR (as Anne Reynolds) CASULTY (as Janet Tolchard) and EASTENDERS as Rosa Di Marco) , Louise Jameson has remained a true favourite on British television with a natural acting style and distinctive charmed personality.



Lousie Jameson - interviewed in EYE OF HORUS (EOH) Issue 9

DOCTOR WHO - THE INVISIBLE ENEMY - The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson)

THE INVISIBLE ENEMY - The Doctor and Leela



DOCTOR WHO - The Denys Fisher Leela doll

The Denys Fisher Leela doll

BBC 1 - EASTENDERS - Louise Jameson as Rosa di Marco

EASTENDERS - Louise Jameson as Rosa di Marco (1998-2000)

LOUISE JAMESON - publicity photograph

LOUISE JAMESON - publicity photograph


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