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Monarch of the Glen

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Live Chat
Susan Hampshire
The lovely Susan Hampshire joined us, fresh from the ghillie's ball on Sunday 27th October 2002 during series 4. Many Monarch fans logged on with questions about playing the part of Molly and her very successful acting career.
Here is the transcript of what was said...

First question from Alison Cook: You are wonderful in the character of Molly. I just wanted to know, are you anything like her?
Dawn Steele: Yes, still filming now - it takes us nearly seven months. This series is a bit longer too.

Question from Sarah Fox: Do you think that there is any hope for Molly and Kilwillie?
Susan: (laughs) Ah, that would be telling! I think that Kilwillie shouldn't really have been after Molly, considering he was Hector's friend for all those years. And he's a bit of a crook, really, doing all those shifty deals. I think Molly hasn't found anyone new yet - Andrew, Kilwillie - who knows? A lot of people are writing to me and stopping me in the street saying - don't marry him!

Question from Gareth: Did you train professionally as a dancer? We have just seen you do a very good tango with Kilwillie.
Susan: (laughs) I trained as a ballet dancer, very different from ballroom, but my mother used to teach it. We enjoyed lessons after work and learning the tango. Once a week we do tap dancing for fun we haven't done that in the show yet!

Question from ScotlandtheBrave: Would you like to live at Glenbogle?
Susan: I'd simply love to live where we film but not particularly in the house, although it has very good views, it needs a lot of work and you'd really need lots of servants. A tent on the lawn or a caravan would do me!

Question from lucy: Do you really like Haggis and was it a real Haggis you were covered in on tonight’s program?
Susan: It was real haggis, mixed with brown paint to make it look better. I love haggis - I used to eat a lot of it and I like vegetarian haggis, too.

Question from richy: Do you miss Hector / Richard Briers since he left? Is filming the programme much different now?
Susan: It is different. Richard had a special type of storyline - comedic. He'd make the crew laugh on set. We've discovered that almost any one of us could not be there and no one would miss us, because it has turned into an ensemble piece. But we do all miss him. Luckily, without him the show is still very successful.

Question from bbbbenjy: You must have such fun filming Monarch of the Glen - which story line have you enjoyed the most?
Susan: I adore the storyline where I rescued the wolf. I enjoyed when I became the lawyer for Hector and Kilwillie when they were on trial for stealing the fish. The wolf one was one I particularly enjoyed.

Question from veronicasmethley: How come you look so great all the time .. what's your secret?
Susan: Thank you very much for the compliment! I thought I looked old in tonight's episode! I drink lots of water and lead a healthy lifestyle. No coffee, no smoking, only a little wine and a very good diet.

Question from anthony: Do you actually have any Scottish roots in your family?
Susan: I was brought up in Wick because my mother was there but my roots are Irish and not Scottish. That's better than English, isn't it?!

Question from kentom: Susan - you always dress so elegantly on the programme. Do you have any input to the outfits you wear?
Susan: A lot of the clothes I wear are my own - old ones that are suitable. Molly wouldn't buy new stuff all the time. Eleanor, our designer, has been great to work with. I do have an input but I take whatever advice. Sometimes they are made for me and sometimes because they are my own clothes they fit very well rather than clothes that are bought for me.

Question from mike1: Do you remember performing in 'She Stoops to Conquer' at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne way back in the 60's ?
Susan: I certainly do, my goodness! You must have a good memory. I do a lot of theatre around the country. I was quite inexperienced then - it was earlier in my career. A man called Dumpkin, I think, later was in Vanity Fair with me.

Question from peajay: How do you cope with the terrible midges? They must drive you mad!
Susan: When I first got there they were a shock! But I've grown to appreciate the midge. If it wasn't for the midge, there would be bungalows and caravan sites everywhere. The midge stops the country being taken over. They love me - they bite me all over, get in my eyes, mouth, hair - but they're not all bad.

Question from joseandkiller: Do you have a hobby - that is, if you have time for one outside your busy schedule!
Susan: My hobby is gardening, I love it, it's my main hobby. I like being at home and I'm very happy being in my house, I love cooking. So I'm also a better gardener than Molly - what was she doing to that tree tonight?

Question from nel: I would like to ask Susan Hampshire how she copes with being dyslexic, as i am also dyslexic.
Susan: It's very frustrating. With my work, I give myself more time to read the scripts - do lines. I sacrifice nights out because my job is so important and I need the time to go over my lines. I get really good days and really bad days.

Question from James1: Susan do you paint in real life or isn't it something you like to do?
Susan: No, but having done the watercolours, I think it would be a wonderful hobby to take up. I really enjoy it now but I've never had lessons. I will eventually, when no one wants to employ me any more! Oh, another hobby I just remembered - I'm learning to play bridge.

Question from mickey: Susan, how has acting changed since you first started in the 60s?
Susan: Enormously. It's been a huge learning curve for me every time I do a new programme when I haven't done one for a long time. When I did The Grand the style had changed so much. In the old days, people went from drama school to theatre. So if you were on the other side of the room and another actor spoke, you could hear them. Now, people talk much more quietly. I think the style change has a lot to do with soaps and reality television. The acting must be more realistic or it looks too fake - in someone's living room or kitchen, for example. I call Monarch 'heightened reality' because it's comedic. The style was established on our first few episodes. We try to act truthfully with real emotions but when we're comedic or silly it's heightened from real life.

Question from Babha1: The scenery of Glenbogle is beautiful! Do you get much time to enjoy the countryside of the area when you are not filming?
Susan: If I'm not filming, unless I'm 'weather cover' - you wait in your room, but if the weather is bad, they call you for an inside scene. We drive for 40 minutes to work and 40 minutes back. Last year, I drove to Skye and up North, so I've seen a lot of it and enjoyed it.

Question from Bells: We saw you in Relatively Speaking in Guildford - you were excellent. Do you plan to return to the stage soon?
Susan: Last year I did Relative Values, Noel Cowerd. I was going to tour this year. But having done it 2 years in a row - 7 months TV then 5 months touring - I think I'd like to take a break.

Question from Clauders: Are you yourself more at home in the City or the Country?
Susan: I love the country, but my house is in the city. I love my house too, so it would be nice if my house was in the country!

Question from maarten: Dear Susan, did you know you have a lot of fans in Holland? Monarch of the Glen is quite popular here!
Susan: Oh, that's very nice to hear, I'm delighted.

Question from glenbolge: do you surf the net regularly or are you netphobic?
Susan: I'm ashamed to say I've only just learnt to work my mobile! I don't know how to text, use my video, the net, e-mail. I can turn on the TV, the oven and drive a car! I'm living in a bygone era, I'm afraid. I'm missing a lot, I know.

Question from Kelly: How did you feel when you received your OBE Susan?
Susan: I was really pleased, because it was for dyslexia so I felt it was for all dyslexic people. When you look at all the other people who do amazing things you think it might be unfair that you got it because you are famous. My postman is wonderful, teachers, nurses - they do a brilliant job. Lots of people have done much better things than me and are much more worthy of it.
Question from Gavin: Who painted the picture of Hector?
Susan: I don’t know I'm afraid. There are three - one was given to Richard Briers when he left. One is in the hall, and another is in a hotel in the Highlands. I'm really embarrassed that I don't know.

Question from Olivia: You say you love gardening do have a big garden yourself or do you just have a few flowers and bushes?
Susan: I'm in the middle of contemplating renovating a barn and making a new garden from scratch. It's a huge project and much depends on cost - these things always turn out to be very expensive!

Question from Biggsy: If you could choose any famous guest star to appear in 'Monarch of the Glen', who would you choose?
Susan: I'd like to have Cliff Richard in it. A story about a pop concert where Molly falls head over heels for Cliff, that would be a good story. And ... Billy Connelly. That's a big question, I can't think of anyone else.

Question from Georgia: hi susan just wanted to thank you and all the cast for giving me and my friends something to talk about on a Monday morning at school and also wondering how you first got into acting?
Susan: Well, Georgia, I started when I was about 7. I was on an underground train and a lady approached my mother and asked her if she'd like me to test for a part. So I did and got it. When I was about 15 I was an extra in the ballet companies. At 16 I went off to do repertory - where you do a different play every week. I made the tea, moved scenery, cleaned the stage and did small parts. My first part was Dora in Night Must Fall. She was the maid. I later played in the movie, the part of Olivia, the leading lady opposite Albert Finney.

Question from Aly: How do the local people respond to a television series being filmed in their area?
Susan: I feel they are wonderful to us. We absolutely love them. I think that they're happy we're there - I hope so! Because we have highlighted that the area is there and do something for the revenue by renting cottages and cars and eating out and going to the shops. They are all terribly nice to us.

Question from a4l1: What is your favourite film/tv programme/stage show that you have performed in?
Susan: The best part is Fleur in the Forsyte Saga then Vanity Fair - Becky Sharp. My husband was shocked by Esme Harkness in the Grand because she was a retired madam. Needless to say, I really enjoy playing Molly.
Question from Isabel: Do you have any pets?
Susan: Sadly, none at all. However, as I watched the programme tonight - I saw two mice running past my television! Perhaps I should get a cat.

Question from Kao: Have you ever had an embarrassing moment filming Monarch?
Susan: I think there have been quite a few, some not repeatable! The others, I can't remember, how awful. I must write them down in future so that when I'm asked I can answer that question!

Question from lizzykins: You always look very glamorous on the screen, do you have your own make up artist for each episode?
Susan: I do my own makeup and Annie McEwan, the makeup supervisor, does my hair. I get up at 4.45am wash my hair, get it in rollers, do makeup then the hair gets done and we start filming at 8am.

Question from colm: What kind of programs and films do you like to watch?
Susan: I very much enjoy comedy. I like anything with Julia Roberts in it. I probably shouldn't say this, because I live in England, but I like Friends and Frasier. I like all the wildlife and history programmes because I don't read much and it's a wonderful way of absorbing information.

Question from joanne: What' s your explanation for the series being so popular all over the world? Is it escapism from the real world as it is these days?
Susan: I think there's a hole in the market for programmes that people can watch as a family with no violence, gratuitous sex, bad language. We have romance, humour, and real life things - worries. It is escapism, but it is based on reality. People can identify with the family and their worries, although we're removed - we live in a castle. This programme is difficult to write. It's easier to have someone getting shot and dramatic things. This programme is a credit to the writers, directors, crew and actors too. It's much more difficult than spicy dramas. Especially for the writers to come up with ideas to keep people watching.

Question from darran: Given you’ve played so many varied acting roles is there anything you haven't done that you would really like to do?
Susan: There are lots of parts I'd like to play, but I hate to name them and then find that I never get to do it! If you can understand my logic. I'd like to do more comedy. I hope that's the next thing I do in the theatre.

Question from fluff: Susan if you read who is your favourite author?
Susan: I don't read much. I loved Cider with Rosie, Crime and Punishment. Often my reading is work related. The Compton MacKenzie novels because of this, Noel Coward, when I've done his works.

Question from PamelaJane: You had a special rose with Hector. Is it one you will now plant in your garden?
Susan: Oh, the Glenbogle rose sadly only flowers in the garden at Glenbogle. It isn't actually a real rose. It was made up by the prop boys for the show. Interestingly, famous rose growers have wanted to grow a special rose for the show, but copyright problems have prevented them. It's a great shame, it would be a great seller.

Question from katrina86: hi, molly has had so many great one liners , which has been your favourite?
Susan: It’s true. Especially earlier in the series. Now I'm more involved in the story I get less of them. We work at such a quick pace, we learn it, film it, say it and forget it! So a lot of really good one liners are only any good in the situation in which they're said and they don't work on their own.

Question from zog: I think Golly and Molly would make a good couple don't you?
Susan: Well, sparks were flying in the kitchen when Leslie Philips' character tried to get off with me and my eyes met Golly's and who's to say what might happen in the future?

Question from Heather2: Have you ever done a pantomime? If so what was it and if not, would you like to?!
Susan: I've done Peter Pan, yes. At the London Coliseum. It's lovely playing to screaming children! It's so exciting and the flying was great - I was Peter. It was one of my favourite stage parts.

Question from aidan: If they killed you off, how would you like to go?
Susan: (laughs loudly) Well! That's a difficult question. Maybe she should go water skiing.

Question from 422: Do you speak any languages other than English?
Susan: I speak French fluently. A little Spanish, but nothing else.

Final question from Andy: Do you plan to stay, I'm not sure how the show would cope with both you and Richard Briers gone?
Susan Hampshire: Well, if the show goes again, I would really love to do it, all of us would. We're really lucky to be in something so special which makes people happy. A lot of programmes don't make people so happy and that makes us feel special. I feel privileged to be in it. Molly was sort of an outsider because she came from the south and they are Scottish but now she's more of an insider and I love being in Scotland.

Thank you all for your nice questions and I send you lots of love. Keep watching the show, thank you.

Next Chat - Series 4 Hamish Clark >>
Susan Hampshire


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