Digger asks actress and ex-CBBC
presenter Josie D'Arby a few questions.
Josephine d'Arby graduated
from a 3 year acting course at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
She has worked
extensively in the UK as a TV host and presenter on countless
shows, including two years on CBBC where she became a familiar
face to millions. In 1999 she became the youngest British woman to
then have her own chat show 'Josie' on Channel 5. She presented
Top of the Pops Plus and the Holiday programme and also
worked on the hilarious surreal comedy show (which
parodied 70s shows such as Tomorrow's World and schools
programmes) called Look Around You. She also recently
appeared in the adult-themed comedy Spoons.
Josie has hosted
Channel Four's morning show, The Bigger Breakfast and appeared regularly in Holby, Casualty and Merseybeat. She is a celebrity
ambassador for the Red Cross.
moved over to working for the BBC in the west, where Josie has her
roots, as a roving reporter and presenter.
and graciously agreed to
answer a few of Digger's questions for www.retrosellers.com
Some images courtesy of and © copyright www.rexfeatures.com
Digger: What was your
Josie: I grew up in the town of Newport in South Wales. Well,
actually itís a city now and theyíre investing a lot more time
and money in developing it. I had a great childhood and it was a
superb place to grow up in my experience. But then I was lucky
enough to know what I wanted to do from an early age and get focused
on it. As with all urban cities, it has expanded and there are, of
course, issues and problems, but there are wonderful people there
with brilliant senses of humour, and thatís why I love it.
Digger: At what point in your life did you decide to get into
entertainment and who were your inspirations for your choice of
Josie: I knew I wanted to be in television very early. I
originally wanted to be a gymnast but as soon as I discovered
performance and the school play that was it for me. I was super-focused as a kid and as a result I started working in TV when I was
14 and did several shows as a presenter and also as an actor and
radio plays all over the country, but mainly in London. I was
inspired largely by Ďthe kids from Fameí, and Eddie Murphy,
Oprah and the Cosby show. Also, Different StrokesÖ shame to say but back then the only prominent blacks
on TV were Americans. So a lot of my influence was from that side
of the pond. Everyone needs a role model whose journey they can
relate to. I think the movie Back to the Future had a big
impact on me too. I was so blown away by it. I wanted to, in some way,
be a part of that world, so as soon as I did my Aí levels I packed
myself off to RADA.
Digger: During your time as a childrenís presenter did you have
any surprises at the how children reacted to you and the shows you
presented, and what are your best memories of that time?
Josie: I have nothing but fond memories of my time as a
childrenís presenter. I was very young and it certainly is a
wonderful way to spend those years. I had a lot of freedom and was
working with people who had a similar sense of humour and sense of
fun to me, so we could create together. The joy of kids' TV then was that there was hours of it and it was
live and so your content could be dreamt up at 9am and on screen by
tea-time. And then the next day, new ideas. It was brilliant and, of
course, I was young and a student, so had something of a double life.
Part broke student working my butt off, and then, in the holidays, it
would be premieres and parties and free clothes. I cannot complain. And I adored working with the kids at the
time. I did kind of go
through a phase of being too cool for my own good, but by then I
was in youth TV and that is a different thing. But I loved working with the kids at first, but then you know, after
a long period of time of being a human climbing frame at kids' parties,
and being mobbed by parents urging their kids to sit on your lap,
you know, you kind of go, "enough already, I want to play with the
grown ups." Some kids' presenters are born to it and can do it
forever - it wasnít like that for me. I had my eye on the adults
and was always throwing in references and gags just for the
folksÖ. One time I was at a function and this lady came up to me
and said "Josie I loved you on kids TV - one time you were reading
the birthday cards and I was watching with my 2 year old Ö and you
made a joke about a phantom pregnancy, and I laughed so hard" Ö
it was encounters like that Iíd love.
Digger: Can you tell us about your involvement with the Red Cross?
Josie: Yep, I always wanted to work with them. I just really
believe in what they do and, as things stand, thank God for
organisations like them and the people that sustain them. Like a lot of people,
I spend a lot of time thinking about global
problems and individual happiness and in working with the Red Cross
you actually get to help out. I prefer to be as hands-on as possible,
so would rather work in their shops or go to Africa and pack food
parcels and visit people. When youíre on TV, you get asked to do
this sort of thing, but mostly it's people from non public
professions. Iíve honestly met some of the best people in the
world through working with the Red Cross Ö
Digger: What have been the funniest /strangest things to happen to
you live on air?
Josie: For the first five years of my career, 90% of what I did was
live, so any number of things have happened. From having abuse
shouted at me during a live phone in, (well that only happened once).
Other than that, some of the finest moments of my life have been
live in front of the nation. Well, the finest moments at that point.
Digger: How terrifying is it to first appear on live TV in front of
millions of people and do you ever get used to it?
Josie: Live TV has never scared me. Itís the biggest thrill,
live anything - theatre, speaking etc. is my buzz. I have no fear of
it whatsoever, because Iím not being fake, because weíre all
human beings arenít we, and I donít sweat the small stuff. And
as someone once said, TV isnít watched by millions, its watched by
3 people sat in their living room, willing you not to give them a
reason to turn over. Viewed like that, its not so scary. Iím not
saying Iím not nervous beforehand. Yep, I get that once or twice,
but never during the show. Thatís the bit I love the most. Other
things make me nervous, but not doing my job.
Digger: You record under a different name why is this and where did
name come from?
Josie: I donít record any more. I had a fantasy that I would
write some songs and sing them to some people in a room who might
get something out of hearing them. That happened - I opened for Skye
from Morcheeba in London and it was one of the finest hours ever,
and I loved it Ö then I moved on. I donít have a hunger for it.
Itís a real con to always want something other than you have
sometimes Ö so I am very happy with being a presenter.
Digger: Top Of The Pops is, in my
view unfortunately, a thing of the past. What are your views on
Josie: Well it's literally had its day. It only comes on at
Christmas now. I am so glad I got to host it so many times, as
really it was on my list of things to do and was a brilliant time. But the music industry has changed, and so has music TV.
end of an era.
Digger: How did you land the role of Pealy in Look Around You, what
did you think of the scripts at first and was it as much fun to make
as to watch?
Josie as Pealy in
Look Around You, with
Peter Serafinowicz, Olivia Coleman and Robert Popper
Josie: I auditioned for Pealy, and I thought the script was
brilliant. I really got it, and really wanted the job. Pete and Popper (the writers) are very cool, and so they worried about me
because Olivia Coleman (who played Pam) is also very cool, and my
background wasnít quite up their street. But I knew I was right
for Pealy and I could do it, because I understood what they were
doing and was on their wavelength 100%. So they saw me a few more
times then gave it to me. We had such an amazing time making that
show. Weíd all crack up all the time, it was like we were all
getting paid to be so stupid and loved it. Obviously something like
that is hit and miss but really those that love it, rreallllllly
love it and thatís very gratifying.
Digger: Spoons was quite risky. What do you think of the way
boundaries and taboos are broken these days on TV?
Josie: Well Spoons is very risky, but it did come on late on a
Friday night and I think the DVD has a 15 rating or higher, so they
were very responsible. Maybe thereís a place for boundaries and
taboos etc. etc., but I don't think spoons was shocking for the sake of
it. I think it made some painfully accurate comments about modern
relationships and made them brilliantly. I donít think it was offensive; it was just
Digger: When you appear in dramas such as Mersey beat and casualty
how much of you goes into the character, if at all?
Josie: Well, I would if it was appropriate. But I have to say I have
never ever played a character that had any of my traits or thoughts.
I have made a living as a drama actress playing people I have
absolutely zero in common with; zero I promise you. When I
auditioned for Mersey Beat, I arrived on a bike and the producers, who
were wonderful people, loved that and so they wrote it in that my
character cycles. And that truly was the only thing we had in
Digger: You like markets. Are you a collector?
Josie: I love markets. I love the graft. I love the banter. I love
the crumpled notes changing hands and sense of community. But I
donít collect anything, that would involve commitment and thatís
not my bag. I like turning up wily nilly, when the mood takes and
buying or selling and Iím very fair weather. I couldnít do it in
less than 25 degrees heat - that would be no fun.
Digger: Now that Parky has gone is there room for a female chat show
host? And what makes a good interviewer?
Josie: You know what, Parky was brilliant and those old school
boys - him and David Frost back in the day, Well, their interviews were
really worth watching. But I think celebs were more interesting back
then and less guarded than now that they have paparazzi going
through their bins and trying to take pics of them naked. It's all
changed and those real stars donít want you in their deep business.
And everyone else is just selling something. I think the
art of the good interview requires an intelligent, quick wit and a
keen sense of a good story and someone who is never intimidated or
thrown. But it also requires those quality guests Ö they still
exist. Parky's final show was proof of that , and its very watchable
Ö maybe it won't pull in viewers by the zillions in the current
climate. I speak only for myself when I say I appreciate the fine
art of the good interview with a worthy interviewee but for all that
I think Dame Edna is my personal fave.
Digger: What are your top five favourite albums?
Josie: Truly, I can't answer that, because I have such scattered
tastes, but hereís 5 or 6 that are definitely in my top 100. A-Ha
Ė Scoundrel Days, Justin Timberlake Ė Futuresex Love Sounds,
Nina Simone Ė any best of compilation, any Jeff Buckley and Henry Mancini
Moon River Ö Oasis Wonderwall is a truly wonderful songÖ
Digger: What gives you most pleasure, acting, presenting, music,
drama, comedy, and what would you be doing if you werenít doing
Josie: Anything well written is a pleasure and privilege. Case in
point the vagina monologues gives me a huge amount of pleasure to
perform, but ultimately Iím a presenter and thatís what I love.
Digger: If you could arrange a
dinner party and invite any guests, living or dead, real or
fictional from any era, who would you chose and why?
Josie: Ahhh, Chris Rock, Viktor. E. Frankl, Morten Harket
(circa '88), Oprah, Jeff Buckley, Gandhi and Martin
Digger: What makes you laugh,
what makes you sad, what make you angry and what makes you hopeful?
Josie: Chris Rock makes me laugh Ödistance makes me sad ... inequality makes me angry
... the fact that everyone has a soul makes me
Digger: What appeals to you about reporting in the west country?
Josie: Real people, real stories; unearthing something that may
have a profound or meaningful effect on someone. Beautiful
countryside, getting stuck in, challenging authority on
behalf of the everyman. Working with a dedicated team of lovely
people who never put you under any pressure and very much work with
you. So much of what I get to do is just up my street. And, of
course, the variety.
Digger: Are you nostalgic or do you tend to look forward?
Josie: I am neither. It's all about the moment youíre in isnít
it? Well thatís the theory Ö
Digger: Please describe yourself in a few words.
Josie: I am a sphere, which is to say if you know the book Flatlands youíll know what I meanÖ I am a sphere.
Digger: What are
your biggest accomplishments to date and what would you still like
Josie: My biggest accomplishment is in staying flexible and
resourceful and positive. And being fair to everyone and giving my
best in any situation fully. And in always at least trying.
I donít really make plans; thatís not a principal, its just
never really been the way its worked for me. But if I can be truly
happy from here on in, and contribute something meaningful and
significant one day to human happiness or just my own and those I love
then that would be job doneÖ other than that I want what everyone
wants, a satisfying job, relationships and home.
Josie D'Arby interview. February 2008.
Many thanks to Josie for her kindness and
help with this interview.
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