Actress Daisy Badger, 28, is currently wowing audiences in her debut Royal Shakespeare Company role as the charismatic and witty Lady Landsworth in The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich; later in the season she also plays Rosalie in the musical Miss Littlewood. Her distinctive tones are already familiar to fans of Radio 4’s The Archers as Pip Archer. Here she talks to Gill Sutherland.
CAN I just start by declaring I’m a sad and avid fan of The Archers, and I will have to resist the urge to call you Pip!
It’s not sad, I love The Archers! I grew up on it too… when I first walked into the studio you kind of go ‘So wow, you’re Justin…’
You have quite a bit in common with Pip, including a rural upbringing…
Yes, I grew up in Church Lench, near Evesham. It’s Badger heaven! There’s farming in the family – my mother’s brother has a farm and on my dad’s side it was all market gardening, because of the Vale. Times have changed though and Tesco’s don’t stock the beautiful bean crop that we have any more.
I have a brother in London, and mum and dad work together and run fishing lakes in Church Lench.
What did they think when you wanted to act?
Well dad’s the pantomime dame in all the village shows… Mum has booked 32 tickets just for herself on different nights of Mrs Rich. They’ve always been there and been supportive.
What was your route into acting?
Well I started with the usual school plays – at Church Lench Primary. I remember learning the word ‘considered’ so I could say ‘could you consider me for the part?’
I was a shy child and so made to hang out with people. I remember coming to the RSC when I was at Bredon Hill Middle School they hooked us up with workshops at The Other Place. We did Measure For Measure; I didn’t know the play at all and had no idea what to do.
I was also involved in amateur theatre – I remember being in a ridiculous play about the asparagus festival!
I went to university to do English Literature up in Edinburgh – the Fringe Festival was a bit of a hook. Getting the run of a building and putting on a play with friends at Edinburgh was brilliant.
After graduating my boyfriend at the time got into drama school, and I thought if he can get in I can get in; so I went to LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art).
And then you got the part in The Archers in 2014…
Yes, very quickly after leaving drama school. The lady who was casting it knew someone who taught me. I think they found an embarrassing video online of me talking about foot and mouth! I was 12 and we had made a documentary about it because it was awful and I was passionate about it. I think that might have clinched the role for me!
It’s amazing being on The Archers – the best job in the world. There is such a good cast – you see their skillset and you are like how did you do that?
It’s been tragic lately [with the death of young mum Nic Grundy] I had to pull over listening to that Friday night episode.
How did this role of Lady Landsworth come about?
I met Helena [Palmer] who cast it a few times and then it was very quick… The Swan company is also cast in Littlewood and I went to see them first. It’s a musical and on the morning of my audition I had an absolute nightmare and didn’t have my music printed out – I had to sort that and go straight to the audition. I got out at Tottenham Court Road tube – where they have free- standing pianos that anyone can play. I thought this is my moment – played the music, sang it through and thought that’s OK. Anyway it went well– I think Erica [Whyman, the director] is an Archers’ fan!
It was so awesome to get that call saying I was coming to the RSC. It’s my local theatre!
Tell us about The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich – what’s it about and does it have something to say to modern audiences?
The play is a treat and a delight. It’s a remarkable play – especially coming from 1700 when women were not on the forefront of society – but there are all these women at the helm of this play.
My lady is widowed and has all the autonomy in the world and she has wealth and beauty [Daisy hesitates modestly, and laughs at herself]) and she can do as she pleases because she is not tied to a man, which gives her extraordinary liberty. She comes to London and tries to find the most honourable man.
I’m in the b-line story in contrast to Mrs Rich, and it demonstrates there are many different ways of using power, money and status.
I think it does have something to say about women and power – I’m not sure what though! I watch it and I think ‘hmm something’s going on here’!
It’s been amazing learning about Mary Pix [the play’s creator] we’ve had visiting professors, who are such amazing founts of knowledge – they told us everything about what the playhouse was like, what London life was like, about politics, society and culture – they steeped us in the world that Mary Pix grew this play in.
What sort of preparation have you done to get into character?
It’s been a while since I’ve come to a classical text so it’s been great to be in touch with that kind of vibe again. It’s been tricky because I wouldn’t say the play lends itself to psychological breakdowns. It’s the enjoyment with which these characters use words and their facility with words and that is the thing I have been longing to be infected with – so language and doing the lines in lots of silly accents. My lady has so much fun – she is there to enjoy life – and so for me I care a lot about it and I want to get it right. But the more you want to get something right the more it can clam you up so letting go of that has been really good. We’ve been working it through with lots of different brains and with Jo [Davies, the director].
Do you think you will be taking any new skills back to The Archers’ studio?
Definitely. I’ve not been acting for very long it’s essential to exercise those bits of your brain that creates and make things live in imaginations – knowing that I’ve had a little bit more experience of that gives you confidence; it gives you a bit more faith in yourself.
Quickfire round – How Mrs Rich are you?
Are you a sharp witted feminist?
I’m a dull-witted feminist!
Are you materialistic?
No, I don’t think I am.
What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
I bought some lovely speakers.
Are money and power important?
For good people.
What’s been your starriest moment?
I went and did a talk on The Archers at Church Lench village hall after a fundraising dinner.
And you were a question on The Chase – contestants had to name the actress who played Pip Archer!
Yes, and the presenter laughed at my name thinking it must be made up!
Have you ever schemed to win a lover?
No (laughs knowingly).
Favourite female writer?
I can’t get the book I’m reading out of my head, Secret Lives of Cows, it’s by Rosamund Young and about beautiful cows! She’s not my favourite writer but it made me cry already and I’m only on page 39. There’s so many good books I’ve read lately, including Why I am Not Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which is a brilliant, important book.
Favourite female comedian?
Victoria Wood had a big part in my upbringing watching comedy.
WHERE AND WHEN: The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich is at The Swan Theatre until 14th June.