Irish presenter Laura Whitmore is an instantly recognisable face on television. She got her big break in 2008 after winning a competition to become the face of MTV Europe, and since then she’s been a regular presence on our screens, appearing on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here Now! the Brits coverage and most recently competing on Strictly Come Dancing. She’s certainly made a name for herself as a presenter, but now Laura is focusing her attentions on acting. She’s currently touring the country in Not Dead Enough, a gripping murder mystery by renowned English crime writer Peter James. Ahead of her performance in Bristol, we spoke to Laura about this change in her career direction, her theatre icons and favourite interviewees.
London Calling: How are the performances going?
Laura Whitmore: We started previews in Dartford and we’re currently in Woking, we’re getting a great tour of the country but I can’t wait to go to Richmond as that’s close to my home at the moment. All my friends will be going to that one!
It’s a great script, exactly the type of thing I would go and see. Just like with presenting, you only ever want to be involved with something you truly care about. I love the crime genre and Peter James’ books are brilliant.
LC: You’re known for your presenting work primarily, so was there ever a fear about how people would react?
LW: Oh yeah, it was my biggest fear I suppose. But you know ultimately when you go in there with your script it really doesn’t matter whether you’ve spent your career on television or not. I remember Joshua (producer) sent an email to my agent basically saying ‘we thought that Laura was going to be shit but she’s actually really good!’
LC: Can you tell us a little bit about your character in Not Dead Enough?
LW: My character is Cleo Morey, she’s a pathologist and she cuts up the bodies and takes DNA. She’s very important to the storyline and finding out who the killer is. She’s dating the detective, and as much as there’s this gruesome crime story there’s also a love story going on too. And without telling you too much, she’s slightly closer to the situation than she’d like to be.
LC: What’s it like to being back on stage and how is it different from presenting?
LW: With presenting you’re sort of acting as well, because some days for I’m A Celebrity you’d be getting up at 11pm at night but you’d really have to be happy and turn it on for the shows. I worked on quite a few plays back in Dublin when I studied drama and it’s always kind of been my thing, but more of a passion project. To get to do it professionally is wonderful but also terrifying.
On stage you’re not in control really. With live television you have an ear piece with a producer moving things along, and being on stage is a little bit different. It’s the rawness, you can’t really hide and you never know how the audience will react. You’re also not you. Once you’re up there on stage you’re not Laura, you’re Cleo. At the costume fitting someone asked me ‘how do you like your clothes?’ and I was like ‘I don’t have to like them, Cleo is wearing them!’
LC: How did you approach the role of Cleo, was there anything that inspired you?
LW: I have a journalism background and I remember working on crime cases back in Ireland and I was obsessed with our state pathologist in Ireland, Marie Cassidy. I always thought she was quite glamorous for a pathologist. She did this podcast where she spoke about being a woman in that industry, and I felt like there were a lot of similarities to the character of Cleo, because it really is such a man’s world.
LC: And it’s interesting because there are parallels to that and being a woman in the entertainment industry.
LW: Yeah, I think things have changed a lot. Years ago women were always just a bit on the side but I think that’s changed with people like Cat Deeley, Tess Daly and Davina McCall. I’ll be presenting at the Baftas and I honestly think I’ll get more people talking about what I wore rather than how I act. Apparently everyone I’ve ever interviewed I’ve dated too!
LC: Do you have any theatre icons that you look up to?
LW: I saw Billie Piper in Yerma, and she’s just unbelievable. Michelle Williams in Blackbird on Broadway was great too as it was this completely different role for her, it just left me with a sense of shock when I left the theatre. The other play I saw was by an Irish actress called Denise Gough who won the Oliver for People Places Things. Seeing those women really gave me the motivation to get back into it.
LC: As an interviewer, who’s been the most interesting person you’ve ever interviewed?
LW: That’s so hard! I remember interviewing Ed Sheeran and I was one of the first people to ever interview him, and then meeting him again afterwards when he was really famous, same for Katy Perry. I’m also a massive Foo Fighters fan so I remember interviewing Dave Grohl and having to be like ‘act like you don’t care, act like you don’t know everything about him!’
Laura Whitmore will appear in Not Dead Enough between 13 – 18 March at Richmond Theatre and will be touring across the UK and Ireland until 1 July. Find out more and book tickets here.