OnTheBox interviews Kelly Adams
With her girl next door charm, Kelly Adams has already become a fan favourite in hit shows Holby City and Hustle. On Tuesday night she returns to our screens in Bluestone 42, BBC Three’s new comedy series about a British Army bomb disposal unit serving in Afghanistan.
Obviously Afghanistan is still an active combat zone for British troops. Did you have any concerns before signing up to play Padre Mary?
As soon as I was sent the script I thought it was really exciting and I was glad that the BBC was tackling something current. To my mind it didn’t seem remotely offensive, so I didn’t think there would be any problem with the fact Bluestone 42 is set in Afghanistan.
The real guys in Afghanistan are wicked people carrying out their jobs in an incredibly hostile environment. They have developed an amazing sense of humour that we actually had to tone down for the show – you couldn’t broadcast some of the things they say.
Did you speak to any current soldiers or military personnel to get their perspectives?
Female padres are incredibly rare in the military, but one of the show’s writers put me in touch with one who is serving in the forces. They all want to talk about their experiences and see those portrayed on screen, and I spent the whole day at her house asking questions. I couldn’t believe some things she has had to do, but of course to her they were all perfectly normal and part of the job.
Did you go back and watch any classic war shows or movies before you started filming?
One of my all-time favourite films is Private Benjamin with Goldie Hawn – I probably know every line in it off by heart – which gave me inspiration when I was on set in dressed up in my army kit. My knowledge of Afghanistan was minimal at best and I did not want to go into Bluestone 42 without knowing everything about it, so I watched a lot of documentaries rather than fictional shows and films.
Did you and the other cast members have to go through a military-style bootcamp as preparation?
Bluestone 42 was filmed in South Africa, so we all went down there a week early for rehearsals and training. Prior to that we all trained together in London, learning to march and run with backpacks around Hyde Park, believe it or not. Because we knew we needed to honour the subject, everyone took it really seriously and threw themselves into it. Nobody wanted to look like the actor that had only just held a gun for the first time during a take.
This is your first role in a full-on comedy. It’s often said that comedy is one of the hardest disciplines for an actor to master – is there any substance to that claim?
Katie Lyons, who plays Corporal Bird in Bluestone 42, said that because she is typecast as a comedic actor she can never get into drama, whereas for me it’s the other way round. I have been trying to break into comedy for some time, but it’s quite an insular world and normally dominated by quite a male-driven group of performers. This is the first time I’ve opened a show – I joined Hustle in its fifth series – so to have got such a fantastic role in Bluestone 42
is brilliant and I hope it will open things up for me a bit more.
What effect has being a part of Bluestone 42 had on your regard for the armed forces?
It has totally changed my perception. Before the show I had no idea what they did and I never really paid any attention to them on the news. Now I watch and listen with a new-found respect for what the guys are doing over there. They do something extraordinary every day but view it as normal, whereas we actors do the exact opposite. It’s not that hard to learn lines and do a scene; it is hard to find a bomb and detonate it safely.
You are currently taping auditions for shows over in the US. Would you like to emulate other British actors who have found success stateside?
For me it’s not that I want to leave the UK to go over there and make the big bucks, it’s about doubling my work load. If you can get work in the US as well your profile goes up over here, and then it goes up over there, and – if you can manage it – you can have twice as many roles on the go. That said, I do get way more excited about British television.
Where do you stand in the UK versus US television debate?
I would much rather have a BAFTA than an Oscar. Unless I’m auditioning for a part in a show, I don’t really watch US television. I think the quality of acting in this country is amazing, and I watched the BAFTAs with envy. In Los Angeles they love British actors, especially male British actors, as for some reason they think we are all brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon and know Shakespeare inside out.
Bluestone 42 begins on BBC Three on Tuesday March 5 at 10pm