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29 October 2014
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Gideon's Daughter

Gideon's Daughter


Ronni Ancona plays Barbara


Ronni Ancona had one problem when she took on the role of Barbara, PR hotshot Gideon's girlfriend, in Stephen Poliakoff's latest riveting drama.


"I was supposed to playing this skinny media bitch, but at the time I was four months pregnant, so I looked more of an earth mother!"


All the same, the actress, who has since given birth to a baby girl called Lily, evidently had a whale of a time working on Gideon's Daughter.


The performer, best known for her dazzling array of impressions alongside Alistair McGowan on BBC ONE's The Big Impression, reckons that: "This will be the definitive film about the Nineties. It shows how much of that decade was like the Emperor's New Clothes."


Bill Nighy plays Gideon, a PR guru who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But during his depression and degeneration, people mistake his meltdown for even greater brilliance.


"It depicts that classic Nineties phenomenon where image and coolness is all. Everything is a packaged commodity, and superficiality reigns. Lots of icing is put on cakes that haven't even been baked yet."


Ancona goes on to outline her character. "Barbara is a media junkie who is immersed in the world of the business. She is in her element at press launches and gallery openings and around prominent people that's what really turns her on. The Nineties were a heady time, and she gets caught up in it all.


"At first, we think she's a shallow, cold-hearted media type, but scratch the surface and she's just as vulnerable as anyone. It would have been easy for Stephen to write her as a two-dimensional media person obsessed with power.


"But everyone in this drama is three-dimensional and well-rounded. Stephen never thinks, 'This character is not the lead: she doesn't have to be 3-D'. He gives equal weight to everyone."


The Scottish actress has starred in such dramas as The Key, The Calcium Kid and The Debt Collector, as well as comedies such as The Sketch Show, Monkey Trousers and Stella Street. But she sees no difference between acting in the two genres.


"Of course, there are different requirements, but the approach is always the same. I believe in every character I play. Whether it's a light entertainment show or a straight drama, you have to approach it with the same honesty and truth.


"If you're doing comedy, as soon as you say to yourself, 'I'm doing comedy, I'd better play it up,' you're onto a loser because it ain't gonna work. You see some very fine actors doing comedy and think, good God, signpost this way!'"


Ancona continues by expressing her delight that she was offered the chance to work with Stephen Poliakoff. "It's a cliché," says the actress, "but I was very honoured to be asked.


"Stephen is the one of the most consistently fascinating filmmakers around and I've always been a huge fan of his. I've seen all of his work and I find it hypnotic. He draws you into his world, and you can't take your eyes off it. He's in a class all of his own.


"He is so brave as a director: he'll try things that no one else will. He's also very trustworthy. I had to do difficult things in this role. At one point, I had to do a bed scene, and I was obviously slightly self-conscious because I was pregnant. But Stephen was so sensitive. You just knew you were in the hands of someone who's going to make your performance look good.


"Sometimes you think you're doing too little, but when you see Stephen's finished work you realise how right he is. He knows full well that less is more."


The 36-year-old actress, originally from Troon, adds: "His writing is just phenomenal. So often you get sent scripts which are flawed and full of holes. As a consequence, the actors are required to engage in all the usual tricks to make it flow better.


"But with Stephen's screenplay, every comma is in the right place and every word works. It's so seamlessly written, there are no gaps whatsoever:you couldn't thread a single needle through it.


"Often, skilful directors are not such great writers, and they think they can direct their way out of trouble. But Stephen is a master writer as well as director. Everything works beautifully. It's a joy to work with someone who has that sort of creative power."



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