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13 Questions: actor Lisa Hammond

by Ivy Broadhead

6th May 2010

Lisa Hammond refuses to be pigeon-holed into the standard goblin and hobbit parts open to people with restricted growth. The Londoner is probably best known for her TV roles in Grange Hill and Every Time You Look at Me, as well as the series Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere - though her talents extend to stage acting too. Lisa is currently touring the UK with No Idea, a theatre piece she devised with co-star Rachael Spence and director Lee Simpson at Improbable theatre company.

Lisa and Rachel wanted to work together but were lacking inspiration, so they asked people on the street what type of play they should write and which part each of them would play. The responses around disability plotlines were very interesting.

The new show is proof that having no ideas isn’t necessarily a barrier to good theatre, as Lisa explained when I asked her our 13 Questions.
Lisa Hammond

My first job was...

In Grange Hill when I was thirteen. I was at a terrible special needs school where they didn’t do any drama, and I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Grange Hill held auditions at my school and I ended up getting a role. After three years I realised that I had to carry on acting for the rest of my life.

What is your motto?

I don’t have a motto, but I think that acceptance of yourself is really important. Accept whatever state you’re in at the time, and remember that things will change.

What invention would change your life?

Being able to just click your fingers and be somewhere. Click and you’re in your bed, click and you’re in New York, click again and you’re on tour.

My dream dinner guests would be...

Stephen Fry; funny, brilliant, lovely, crazy man. Mel Gibson; I was obsessed with him when I was younger, and I’ve still got a crush on him now. And Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm, he is my absolute hero. If we could go to Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant that would be perfect.

If I didn’t live in the UK...

I’d love to live in New York. I’m a city girl, born and bred in London, and I just couldn’t move to the country, it would drive me mad. I’d be like ‘Why is there no shop open? Why can’t I buy pine kernels at 3 AM?!’
Lisa Hammond Performing in No Idea

So far 2010 has been....

New! Devising this show has been a new experience, taking on the role as the maker of something. Now I’m realising how much work goes on behind the scenes.

The assumption people make about me....

Is that I’m very confident and rambunctious, but actually I can be teary and vulnerable. I’m not Wonder Woman, things pee me off and upset me the same as they do anyone else.

Stage or screen?

I like both, but they’re very different. Stage is more immediate and exciting, because it’s live and you can work off the audience. In film it’s all very technical, it’s long days, and there’s a kind of war spirit about it. But gun to my head I prefer theatre.

As a disabled and small actor...

I get offered parts I don’t want to do, playing elves and that sort of thing; basically a warm prop. I do wonder why people would take roles that perpetuate something so negative. When they’re interested in my input, then that’s something I can work with. It’s a balance between trying to change things and just doing your job without coming across as diva-ish or overly political.

The best piece of advice I’d pass on is ...

That the only way to get the roles you want is to train and get yourself out there. People complain that the parts aren’t available, and maybe as a disabled or small actor you have to be a bit more bull-headed, but acting is a tough business for everyone.

Before I go on stage...

I feel like I’m going to vomit. I’m never usually this nervous, but the difference with this piece is that we devised No Idea ourselves, it’s so personal to us.
Lisa Hammond performing on stage

No Idea...

Happened when we started asking people to look at us and imagine what kind of show we would be in. Their responses were so interesting and revealing that the process became the show. My smallness and my chair became something no one mentioned, I disappeared from the story. When people can’t even imagine a story for you, it’s easy to see how equality doesn’t move on. But the show isn’t just about disability, we want to entertain people, not for them to go away and think ‘I learned a very important lesson there about disability.’

Future for me is...

Uncertain. Hopefully some TV before the London run but I never really know. It’s like that with acting; one minute you’re drinking champagne and the next it’s savers baked beans, but that’s just something that comes along with doing the job I love.
• No Idea is touring and can be seen next week at Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. It lands at London's Young Vic in late July.

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