Everything is within our powers
English actress Alison Steadman speaks about her life, work and fun.
In 1991 she won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress for the Mike Leigh film Life is Sweet, and the 1993 Olivier Award for Best Actress for her role as Mari in the original production of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. In a 2007 Channel 4 poll, the “50 Greatest Actors” voted for by other actors, she was ranked No. 42.
You live an intense creative life. It is no easy, of course.
Steadman: Everything is within our powers, you know. I try to keep to some rules, which help me combine work, rest and fun.
As an actor, I have periods of intense work and then a break. As you get older, learning lines gets harder, since your brain is slower. I have a little office space at home where I often stare out the window at the bird feeders in the garden.
How do you keep in touch with your family when filming?
Steadman: Usually via a WhatsApp group, so there are texts flying about most days. When I have a free weekend, I organise a get-together. I have a 10‑month-old grandson now, which is wonderful. My Liverpool roots are important to me. Sadly, my parents aren’t there any more, but my sister and friends are, so I visit every two or three months. I can’t bear the idea of never going back.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Steadman: I like to watch wildlife in my local wood. I always take my binoculars and tick off all the birds I see on an app on my iPad. I also love bat walks, birdsong and tree-identification walks. One of my sons bought me a karaoke machine a few years ago. And If I’m particularly stressed learning lines, I sing along to some nice songs there.
Actors always keep to some diets.
Steadman: Yes, it’s important. Only once a fortnight, I will have a fry-up for breakfast – some bacon, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs – but that is a treat. Jumbo oats porridge and a huge fresh fruit salad is my normal breakfast. At home, we sometimes don’t have breakfast till 10.30am or 11am. When I’m filming, I leave the house at 6am and have breakfast on set. The catering is often very good and provides wonderful salads for lunch, which I’ll have with some cheese. For dinner, I like cooking pasta with lots of fresh vegetables and tomato sauce.
Is night rest important to you as well?
Steadman: Yes. We need to regain strength after a day’s work. You see, I am a good seven-hour person, although I find that now I am a bit older I need less. I like to do a simple crossword or puzzle or read a book for 20 minutes before I turn off the lights. We don’t have a TV in the bedroom, but I do use my mobile phone as an alarm clock, so it is at my bedside for that purpose only.