Combine an inspirational rags to riches story with a heartwarming tale of true love, and you’ve got international success in more ways than one, as British reality TV/singing sensation, Paul Potts, can attest.
A 42-year-old cell phone salesman turned tenor, Potts has been known to audiences the globe around since winning the inaugural run of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent in 2007. Now, six years following his electrifying leap into the spotlight, all eyes are once again on the unlikely maestro with the upcoming release of One Chance, a biopic chronicling Potts rise to stardom.
Set to premiere at this month’s Toronto International Film Festival, One Chance has tossed not only Potts’s name into the air, but that of his wife, Julie-Ann Potts, and along with her’s, the name of actress Alexandra Roach.
Cast in the role of Mrs. Potts, Roach imbues the film’s love story with the tenderness of the real-life couple’s extraordinary bond — the very emotion that drew the actress to the part initially. “The heart of this film is the love story,” declares Roach. “Julie-Ann’s unrelenting belief in him and his talent moved me.”
A Welsh beauty familiar to British audiences, the recent Royal Academy of Dramatic Art grad is rapidly approaching the status of international star by way of Hollywood, with critically acclaimed films including 2011’s The Iron Lady, in which the actress gave a captivating performance as the young Thatcher to complement Meryl Streep’s portrayal of the formidable Prime Minister, followed by a supporting role in director Joe Wright’s blockbuster adaptation of Anna Karenina (2012).
While boasting not only the praise of critics for the impressive range demonstrated in the above mentioned roles, but a solid fan base in the UK, owed in large part to the cult following of her Channel 4 television drama, Utopia — aired on Space across the pond — Roach still remains humble, drawing a line between herself and “celebrity.”
Asked if the enduring public gaze and demand for actresses to perpetually be camera ready ever becomes tiresome, the actress cheerfully shrugs, “I can imagine it must be — I’m not in that position as yet. At the moment, I love playing dress up!!”
That said, Roach may need to ready herself to be the centre of the paparazzi’s attention with season two of Utopia currently filming, a supporting role in spring 2014’s Cuban Fury featuring Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead), Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) and Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids), on top of the world premiere of her latest film, One Chance, at TIFF.
Already igniting buzz with news of Taylor Swift joining creative forces with Jack Antonoff, the guitarist of Fun, to pen an original track for the feature entitled, “Stranger Than Fiction,” and the Weinstein brothers seal on the film, One Chance has the makings of a festival favourite. And, considering the film retells the story of an average English gent, who has become Britain’s beloved Cinderella man, and the woman who stood by him and inspired his ascent — it’s really no wonder why anticipation should weight heavy for One Chance — in fact, it was quite inevitable.
Vibrant with sassy wit and refreshing candour, below Roach talks falling in love with the Paul and Julie-Ann Potts story.
You latest film, One Chance, tracks the the rags-to-riches story of Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. Did you happen to catch the first season of the series when Potts was a contestant?
I distinctly remember where I was watching Paul’s audition. That year, I got a bit poorly and was admitted to hospital. I was surrounded by sweet old lady’s and we would all gather round the communal TV to see this new show. When Paul sang — we all shed a tear or two!
I think everyone shed a tear or two! Did you get a chance to meet Potts and his wife Julie-Ann before filming?
I first met Paul and Julie-Ann on set. They visited us when we were shooting the wedding scene, which was a bit daunting. They sat behind camera watching me walk down the aisle. That was a weird moment!
How was it acting opposite James Corden, who plays Potts? Did you have much time to bond before production began?
I met James for the first time in New York at my audition, then on day 1 of shooting…which is always a challenge to bond with your leading man over breakfast in the makeup truck, but we hit it off straight away.
What about working with Mackenzie Crook? I’m sure he was good for a laugh or two on set!
Mackenzie is such a gentleman; I sat back and learnt so much from him. It was like a masterclass in comedy with the entire cast of this film!
You’re no stranger to bio-pics with The Iron Lady under your belt, but was it odd playing an individual that is your contemporary?
I haven’t thought about it like that before…mainly because Mrs. T and Jules are worlds apart and required different things from me. With Jules I could go online and see interviews and trawl her Twitter page; I didn’t have that blessing with Margret Thatcher.
She’s a remarkable women, Julie-Ann Potts. Her belief in Paul is pretty touching; were there any particular moments in the script that especially moved you?
The first time they meet was so sweet and it’s obvious they are meant for each other. When I first read that, I knew I was in trouble because I really wanted to act those scenes.
Think that’s what’s gripped the viewing public?
Essentially it’s a rags-to-riches story. One man fights against everything in order to achieve his dream. Everyone loves those stories because it gives us all hope.
With the world premiere coming up at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, do you think the film will make Potts even more of an international name?
I’m not sure he needs our help, maybe it will remind people of his story.
I understand you got your start rather unexpectedly at age 11 by joining your friend at an open call for a soap — just for laughs — but then actually landed the role. If you hadn’t of happened on that opportunity by chance, think you would have discovered your passion for acting later on?
I think it would have found me at some point in my life if that twist of fate hadn’t happened. I can’t see me doing anything else, so I have to believe that otherwise, I’d be lost or maybe working in Carphone Warehouse like Paul!
Well, we’re glad you found acting! I’ve always thought that working on a soap opera would be quite demanding and fast-paced. Has your earlier experiences in soaps/television taught you any handy tricks that have been useful later on in your career?
It was my training. I had to learn on the job — skills that have saved my ass down the line. How to hit a mark, cheat an eyeline or do an emotional scene with a piece of sticky tape stuck on the camera. I was constantly bugging the camera team on the soap to teach me new skills. I was that annoying teenager on set.
Doubt that! You have a stunning look, and your skin absolutely glows. Any must-have products that you rely on to perfect your complexion?
That’s very kind, thank you! I have good days and bad days. I have a very rigid skincare routine which involves Clarins cleanser and every night I lather myself in Creme de la Mer; I panic if I forget it when I’m working away [from home].
Love the subtle retro vibe to some of your red carpet looks as well. How would you describe your personal style?
Well, my apartment had a completely ’60s feel. That’s the fashion and style that inspired me, so I love playing around and having fun with it for the red carpet.
Who are some of your favourite designers?
Oh…so many… Miu Miu, Prada and Valentino. So beautiful and fun.
The pictures from our shoot the other day are beautiful, you’re quite a natural when it comes to modelling. Do you depend on the same skill set and natural instinct in front of a fashion photographer as when your working on a television or film set?
I’m totally winging it! I haven’t a clue what Im doing… but if I feel like the clothes and hair and makeup change me — then it’s easier as I adopt a character to get me through. Some days when you feel a bit off, you haven’t slept or the clothes are too tight, that’s when I have to go away and find a character to get me through the shoot, otherwise I want the ground to swallow me up!
Living in London, do you miss anything in particular about your hometown of Wales at all?
My family and friends…I try to get back as much as possible, but it’s sometimes tricky. I just went back for my birthday and driving into Wales … I can’t explain it…the air is different — I’m instantly relaxed.
What’s the major difference between the Welsh and the English? The geography and relationship of the two remind me a bit of Canada and the US.
Yes! Very similar I imagine! Heart I guess. Welsh folk are led with their hearts and so in touch with their emotions.
Handy for your upcoming role! Think you’ll ever move back to Wales? Perhaps when you retire from the screen?
Try and stop me!
Styling – Irene Manicone | Makeup – Gosia Byliniak | Hair – Maki Tanaka