Australian performer Virginia Gay has been a presence on our screens since she graduated from WAAPA. Not content with acting only on screen, Virginia has excelled on stage too including writing some cabaret shows.
Virginia was kind enough to do a Q & A for this site. She can currently be seen on Winners & Losers on Channel 7 whilst at the same time trying to perfect the art of Twitter.
1. You attended WAAPA – what was the best piece of advice you took from your time there?
Be fun to work with, be courteous, be RESPECTFUL to everybody. Everybody who’s working before dawn to make your work safe space and effective. Regardless of their station, regardless of their perceived ‘influence’ over your career. It’s a small industry. Bad behaviour, bad attitudes, a bad stink about you, travels. Quick. And a reputation as someone fun, thoughtful and responsible to work with goes a long way to getting you your next job. And regardless of its ‘use’ for your career – it makes your current job more fun to work on! Makes your set joyful! Playful! Everybody does better work then. It’s that old adage about first dates. Don’t pay attention to how he treats you, look at how he treats the waiter. That’s a better indication of character. And a better indication of the kind of person you want to spend your time with.
2. Any plans of bringing “Songs To Self-Destruct To” to Sydney or Melbourne? Or recording an album in the future?
Yes! I definitely have plans to bring ‘Songs To Self-Destruct To’ to both Melbourne and Sydney – but we are shooting maaaaadly through to the end of this year – we’re just trying to find a time. Might be early next year – I’ll keep you posted. And I literally just thought the other day I must record the show, while I still remember all the lyrics… Hopefully I’ll have a CD to sell while the show tours!
3. Do you have any advice to those people treading the boards for the first time?
Do everything. Say yes to everything for a while. Try everything out. Join a band, do front of house, stage manage, MC, take every role, no matter what size. Try it joyfully and thankfully. Get used to stretching yourself. Being in front of a crowd. Being seen. Feeling safe and dangerous at the same time. Why not find people with whom you feel safe playing and make a sketch comedy troop? (Our newest cast member Nick Russell did just that with his WONDERFUL comedy group The Peloton – they just write and film their own skits and they’re an internet sensation – and VERY funny!) You could change the world. You could be the next Tina Fey, ferschissake. Go to drama school. I recommend it. But don’t let it define you. Find what you’re good at, what makes you different and special and corner that market. But also getting good at letting go of all your tricks and working with nothing. That’s when you find totally new things and it’s scary and wonderful.
4. What is the key to keeping a long-running role fresh?
Gosh, what a great question! Number one – hope that you’re working with goooood people who are always playful and ridiculous. Number two – hope you’re working with great writers and directors who see your strengths and the character’s strengths and extend you and offer you delightful ridiculous things to keep you and the fans entertained.
5. How did playing Gabby on All Saints affect your preparation for Frances on Winners & Losers? And has one been easier to play?
All Saints worked even quicker than Winners, so it taught me about the speed of TV, how you gotta come on set ready to hit the ground running otherwise you’re no use to anyone. It trained me in that. But Gabby was always assured in her roles. Assured in her presence. It was a hospital drama – we wanted to tell a story that medical professionals were just that, professionals. Calm. Confident. And very well trained. Any conflict that they were having they kept it to the big print (subtext), would never fight in front of patients, were always there working for the good of the patient and to solve the medical mystery of the ep. Frances, even though she’s clearly well trained and good at her job, is in a comedy, so as often as possible I say (and the writers say) she should be terrible at things. And she is a person who is DREADFUL at alllll manner of things. Social interaction. Dancing. Reading people’s body language. Getting subtext. Emotional clarity. Aside from that – the hair. Using my real hair in All Saints meant that my make up calls were very minimal, which was always nice when you’re staring at 6am anyway. But I dooooo love my sleek Frances hair. Makes perfect sense for her. Its just it takes a team of eight people with industrial strength clothing irons to get it like that.
6. Apart from the differences in the type of shows, have you noticed any differences in filming Winners & Losers in Melbourne as opposed to Sydney (All Saints)?
Melbourne. Is. Cold. We’re shooting through winter for the first time this year. There aren’t enough flesh-coloured tights in the world, my friend. Two, three layers at a time under those skimpy, stylish dresses. Also in The Saints I wore sensible, comfortable, on-your-feet-all-day shoes, all the time. I had a total of three uniforms over four years. Winners is new outfits every scene, new magnificent hair dos, and high, hiiiiiigh shoes. I’m already 5’10”. Mama don’t need no heels.
7. Favourite Singer / TV Show / Film
Favourite singer: iOTA and Emma Pask.
Favourite TV show: Buffy. It got me through high school. And now Louie. Oh. It’s wonderful. Very real and very mad.
Favourite film: Broadcast News. A perfect written, perfectly acted film, with glorious emotional and gender politics. A masterclass.
8. You can invite five people to a dinner, who would you choose and why?
Joss Whedon, Dorothy L Sayers, Jennifer Byrne, Allison Janney, and Paul Capsis.
9. Like yourself, I’ve spent a lot of time in the Inner West of Sydney, what memories do you have from your time there?
The smell of the biscuit factory in Camperdown, the look of the jacarandas come exam time, the winding ridiculous streets, laughing and kissing and laughing some more in Newtown cemetery (our school was just around the corner. It was considered absolutely the done thing to hang out in the cemetery in your time off. It now seems both inappropriate and intensely grim, but you know. Teenagers.)
10. You’re known for your brilliant tweets but admit to being a bit of a novice when using Twitter. So question has to be asked, have you finally figured it all out?
I accidentally tweet myself more than I intentionally text my own mother. I have lost your questions no less than five times, and I’m still not sure how to send this to you. I think this answers the question, don’t you? (However, I do love twitter enormously! It is a totally wonderful way of interacting with fans. My mother asked me to clear out some of my old boxes from her house the other day, and one was entirely filled with All Saints fan mail, which I had hand-written responses to in scenes off, sometimes months after receiving the original mail. The interaction between fans and cast has changed SO dramatically in just a couple of years. Now interaction is instantaneous, public, short, usually hilarious, delightfully casual, and you can chat with all of us at once, and see all of us chatting with each other too. You can really be part of a conversation. I think it’s a wonderful thing. If only I could remember how to use it…)
Thanks again to Virginia for taking the time to answer the questions!