Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Dame Maggie ♥

To a beautiful lady, many blessings and all the best wishes to you on this special day. There is not much to say except a heartfelt thank you for the inspiration you have given to many people, for being a pillar of strength even in the most difficult of times, for your contribution to the arts on stage and on screen, your generous and humble nature, and simply for being just who you are. May your day be as lovely and as wonderful as you!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Young Lady Meets the Queen ♥

“Julie Andrews signing books for the little ones!” - Courtesy of s5a

Julie Andrews Book Signing of The Very Fairy Princess at Saks

Today was perhaps one of the most memorable and special experiences in my entire life. I was given the amazing opportunity to meet none other than Dame Julie Andrews, otherwise known as Queen of the World, at a signing for her book series The Very Fairy Princess! I am still pinching myself to make sure it happened and if it were not for the picture I managed to get of her, I would think this entire day was all a dream!

I'll skip the part about getting there and get straight to Julie! I walked up to her, bubbling with excitement on the inside because HELLO! JULIE ANDREWS. IN. FRONT. OF. ME. She was dressed in a dark pant-suit and look abso-bloomin-lutely beautiful, elegant, sophisticated and just practically perfect in every way. She smiled and said something in that lovely voice of hers about waiting a minute, she needed to put on her glasses because the glare from the light was hurting her eyes. Here I am, lil ol’ Miranda, and Julie is discussing her eye problems with me! I was instantly put at ease and my nerves miraculously left me. I was surprised I was not shaking or in tears at this point.

As she autographed my newly purchased children's book in her perfect penmanship, I thanked her for being there to sign the books and for giving the public a great opportunity like this to meet her. I think I actually but unintentionally said “Thank you for being here today” :D To which she responded, “Oh no, thank you for coming!” She was absolutely sweet!

Love from Julie Andrews ♥

She was very touched when I told her I came from Connecticut to see her and she even told the assistant next to her that I’d made the hour-long journey from my school to NYC for the event. Imagine that, Julie Andrews telling someone else about my journey to meet her! And she thinks traveling over an hour on the train is bad enough lol So cute! All concerned, just like a Granny should be :)

I told her how much of an honour it was to meet her, thanked her for being an inspiration to many and told her that I thought that writing the books with her daughter was such a beautiful project for them to do together because we really must give credit to both of them even though Emma wasn’t present at the signing. She mentioned that there was another book in the series being released in April and that I must come again to see her. Yeah, that’s right, Julie wants to see me again lol (Let me have my special moment and pretend we’re BFFS ok?) To think we had a nice, lovely little chat and I was surprisingly calmer than I expected to be! How awesome is that?! Then the time came for us to part ways and we said our goodbyes and smiled at each other. I swear I would have hugged her and never let go were it not for the table between us. Next time I’ll get the hug! Yes, there will be a next time because I am determined as ever now :)

When the time came for me to reluctantly leave, Julie did her queenly wave from Princess Diaries and said … you guessed it! “Thank you for being here today!” What a wonderful wonderful woman! Perfect! JUST PERFECT! And as I left I blew her some kisses as she waved back and we took our leave. It was all so surreal and just wonderful!

When I think about it, I realize that this day was really so much bigger than it seems. The fact that I met Julie is a HUGE deal in and of itself already but experiences like this always take me aback and when I later on reflect about it, it strikes me of just how significant something like this is. Meeting her and seeing her right there in front of me was truly a dream come true for me. Never in a million years would I have thought this would happen, that I would actually get to be in the presence of a living legend and have a few words with her, listen to her speak and laugh in person, have her smile warmly at me, or anything at all really. This is literally the kind of things you dream about and wish it were real but lo and behold, there we have it! This actually happened and I have the picture to prove it!

"You just have to let your SPARKLE out!" - The Very Fairy Princess

It’s moments like this when I am reminded more than ever of Walt Disney’s quote: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

And this past year, I really must admit that so many of my biggest dreams have been coming true little by little when I really go after them (what with England, and Judith Light, and then today meeting Julie) and I often have to take a step back to appreciate it because I can get so caught up in the daily routine of life and feel as though I’ve accomplished very little because things aren’t happening fast enough for me. But then things like this happen, which usually involves me making a decision, sticking with it and seeing it through. Today was based on a simple decision I made to just go to the book signing, the opportunity couldn’t have been more perfect and it always amazes me that such a simple choice can make a big difference, especially as I could have stayed home and missed this. Now I can only say that I live a very blessed life. That common phrase “All in good time” … yeah, it’s true. We just have to have a little patience, painfully tedious as it might be to bear a long wait. I waited with a glimmer of hope to meet Julie and finally our paths crossed. Magical? Yes indeed!

If there’s one thing that was re-emphasized for me today it’s to hold fast to your dreams because you never know what will happen and to remember that we too have to make an effort to go after them.

Miss Maggie Smith, you are next darling!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Downton Abbey: A Doll's House

What happens when you watch Downton Abbey and notice that you have a dollhouse sitting prettily in its lonesome corner? This!

"Welcome to Downton, a house divided ... by walls."

Step into "Dollshouse Downton", where your favourite characters from the increasingly popular television show are parodied in one of the most imaginative ways: in the form of animals! Never thought you'd ever see Maggie Smith as a duck, did you? Well now you can!

"Dollshouse Downton" takes the characters and storylines created by Julian Fellowes and adds a nice twist to them. The result is nothing short of amusing and more often than not, it conveys what is on almost everyone's minds when watching the real Downton. It is amazing how the animals absolutely suit the characters they represent. The entire project, though done by two 16-year-olds in a bedroom, is well thought out and executed brilliantly.

The two episodes produced have received thousands of hits on Youtube but the success it achieved was more than what was expected. Little did "Dollshouse' Downton's" creators know that soon after releasing their project to the public that it would attract the attention of Dan Stevens, who plays the dashing Matthew Crawley on the show, and would even have a brief feature article on The Guardian's website.

Grace and Tanvi, the two young ladies behind this masterpiece kindly participated in a short Q&A, for which I am grateful, that allowed me to get the inside scoop on how this whole thing came to be. Let's see what they had to say.

How was the idea to create Dollshouse Downton born?
Tanvi: I can’t take credit for the idea – as far as I know, it’s all down to the fact that Grace had this doll’s house her father made for her as a child, and a fairly extensive collection of these Sylvanian Family things. Something awesome must have gone on in her mind there because I distinctly remember a time when she sort of just came out with “I have this idea for an epic parody of Downton Abbey set in a doll’s house. From there it was mainly with coming up with our own style, which turned out to be that we would parody both the plot and characters. We each came up with a few scenes we wanted to do and it kind of just took off.
Grace: I had the idea long before we actually made it. My dad made the doll’s house for me and my sister when we were very young, and I suppose watching Downton Abbey and then seeing the doll’s house there in the corner – it just clicked! I then immediately went to Tanvi, because not only is she a fellow Downton fanatic, but she’s really interested in the world of film and I knew she’d be up to the challenge.
The animals you used were absolutely adorable! Where did you get them and how did you decide which animal would represent which character?
T: Heh, again that was mainly Grace, her being the prop manager. Some of the characters were just easy – the hedgehogs as Mrs Patmore and Daisy, the Dowager Countess as the duck. The rest was really working with what we had, seeing as we had no budget!

G: All of the animals were Sylvanian Families or Beatrix Potter figures which I’ve had since childhood and couldn’t bear to give away. Most of the casting was fairly easy – luckily we had enough rabbits to be the main Crawely family, and then, I suppose, we went by looks. The penguins were perfect as footmen, obviously, whilst the Mrs Tiggy-Winkle figure really does look like Mrs Patmore! We’ve nearly all the figures I have though, so we might have to get some more!
How long did it take you to put the entire project together?
T: I make it out to be about 6/7 hours scripting, 3 days of filming, 1 day of rough editing, 1 day of voiceovers and then all the many, many hours I spent doing the proper, final editing, including the trailer and stuff.
Which character did you enjoy playing most?
T: Definitely the Dowager Countess. I got to do my mannish falsetto and say silly things like “PEASANTS!”. Daisy was fun too, ‘cause she sets up loads of jokes but I struggled endlessly with the northern accent.
G: Personally I enjoyed playing Thomas and Branson the most, partly because the accents were really fun! There also two of my favourite characters from the show, and I thought we managed to do them justice, if in a very different manner from most tributes!
Describe how you felt when you discovered that Dan Stevens had seen it and tweeted about it and that "The Guardian" had featured it on its website.
T: OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG was basically it. I’m not sure I was capable of coherent speech. It was a total shock, and all happened so quickly because Dan Stevens tweeted it only a few hours after it came out and within 2 days it was just casually sitting on The Guardian website with an article quoting one of the lines from OUR SCRIPT!
G: Completely in shock! I discovered the Dan Stevens tweet myself and I just thought ‘This is it. This is exactly what we wanted to happen!’ We were utterly overjoyed because his tweet meant that the views shot up, and led to the article in The Guardian. This, again, left me in complete shock. My friend called me about it and I was pretty much screaming down the phone – as you can imagine, I was very, very happy and absolutely amazed that our no-budget summer project had made it so far.
Do you know if anyone else from the cast has seen it?
G: Brendan Coyle and Hugh Bonneville retweeted it, and I found out that Lesley Nicol has seen it too. We tweeted it to some other members of the cast, like Allen Leech and Jessica Brown-Findlay, but they didn’t respond. Also, Jessica Fellowes, author of The World of Downton Abbey and niece of the writer Julian Fellowes has seen it – so who knows, maybe she showed it to him!
Can you say a little about your love for Downton Abbey itself? And how did you survive the wait for the show's return?
T: I watched the whole first series on the telly with my Mum… I’ve been a fan of Dan Stevens for a couple of years now, since I saw him in The Vortex (the first live play I ever saw!) and it sounded like our kind of thing. I fell in love with the production and style of it all… such cliffhangers! I suppose Dollshouse Downton was kind of our way of dealing with Downton withdrawal symptoms… and watching the DVDs over and over…

G: Wow, my love for the show itself…I wasn’t instantly obsessed, but I was certainly drawn in by the first few episodes, so I watched the whole series and by the end I was hooked. I love Downton Abbey for so many reasons, but I suppose the main things I love are the character development, the plot, the cinematography and the humour. Downton is essentially a soap, and I understand it’s not the most highbrow of television. But it’s engaging, entertaining and beautifully made, which makes it so different from the rest. And as the cast and crew are always saying in interviews, it’s not an adaptation so we’re kept along by the suspense of the plot, and it’s set in a wonderful period, where generations began to clash like they hadn’t before. And of course, the new series being set in World War One makes it all the more exciting, if also more nerve-wracking.

It truly is amazing how their enthusiasm for one show led to such a creative idea that became a reality and it deserves all the attention it receives. Both episodes are available for viewing on their Youtube page. It's an absolute must-see and makes being a Downtonian a lot more fun!

For those wondering if there will be more "Dollshouse Downton" in the future, Grace says, "I would love to do some more Dollshouse Downton based on Series 2, if we can both find the time! We’d have to get some more Sylvanian Families though, and maybe build tiny trenches in the garden!"

Tanvi is also up to the challenge. "I think the idea was that Dollshouse Downton Series 1 basically followed Downton Abbey Series 1. So, if we get the time, we might continue in the same vein with Series 2. Provided we haven’t run out of jokes, that is!"

Well with Downton, it's probably safe to say that the jokes will always be there!

Lady Grace and Lady Tanvi, congratulations on all your success on making Downton history and a job well done, and thank you for the laughs! And if Series 2 is in the works, just don't make the wait a year long ... we've had enough of that sort of agony!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Young Lady's Reflection from the Heart

Yesterday was my 21st birthday, a major milestone I suppose, and now that I’ve done some personal reflection I have to express my gratitude to my favourite ladies who have inspired me immensely over many years and continue to do so everyday. On days when I feel unhappy and quite low about myself, they give me the strength to carry on because they’ve overcome so much and I know I can too. They are a few of the many blessings I have in my life and I owe them so much. The extent of my gratefulness knows no bounds and what they have significantly impressed upon me are things I will always take with me in life.

With all my heart, I thank you …

Audrey Hepburn for teaching me how to be lovely inside and out.
Lucille Ball for teaching me to laugh and how to make others laugh.
Betty White for teaching me that one can be amazing at any age.
Eva Gabor for teaching me how to exude glamour and class at all times.
Julie Andrews for teaching me that one voice can change many lives.
Maggie Smith for teaching me to embrace my wit and intelligence.
Judith Light for teaching me to open my heart and mind.
Catherine Tate for teaching me to work hard and have fun.
Joanne Froggatt for teaching me to keep dreaming.
Lady Gaga for teaching me to be brave and to express myself.
And to each one, thank you for teaching me that in truly being kind to others, beauty comes from within.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Master Class with Judith Light | 10 Important Things to Know

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend a master class, courtesy of Primary Stages, with one of my favourite actresses, Judith Light, whom I had previously interviewed last winter after seeing her performance as Marie Lombardi in Lombardi. I'm still over the moon I had such a great opportunity to meet her again. I have to keep pinching myself to see if it was real or just a dream. Actually, it was a dream, just one that came true for me ... again!

Ms. Light began the Master Class stating that this wasn’t like a normal class and declaring that she was not the master, at which point I was mentally rolling my eyes at that last bit because my mind was busy screaming "YES JUDITH YOU ARE THE MASTER TO ME AND I WORSHIP THE GROUND YOU WALK ON!" Me? Biased? Yes! Honestly, her humility is both genuine and heartwarming.

But she was right about it not being a regular class. This was more than a master class, this was a life lesson! It was more like a therapy session, as someone who works there said it would be and always is when Judith gives these classes. It was so enlightening, inspiring, empowering, mind-opening, tear-inducing, filled with much laughter and just overall wonderful! She basically let those in the class really lead the discussions on various topics that ranged from acting and the industry to personal stories and life in general, and she listened attentively, giving the speaker her undivided attention and responding with the utmost sincerity. I jotted down some notes but after a while, I stopped because why look at a notebook when you can look at her face?! She said that what’s important will stay in our memory and this is what stayed with me and which I'd like to share. I hope some others might find her words useful and take them to heart as I did.

Here are what I feel are 10 important things to know and remember.
  1. It is important to find people that are going to stick with you in life and be there to support you throughout it all.
  2. Everyone is always being guided by something. It might not seem like it but there is always some form of guidance present in our lives, be it in our minds or in the form of others.
  3. Nothing happens by chance, if things are meant to happen, they will and if the things you want to happen don’t happen … “SO F***ING WHAT?!” ;) (pardon the expletive, it's a direct and brutally honest quote)
  4. People need to stop doing things and just BE, embrace their being and existence first because we’re all here for a reason.
  5. “Bring every moment of joy to every moment of your life!” You’ll find that your life changes for the better when you do this because making the effort to be happy with the circumstances of your life, even if it’s not something you imagined for yourself, makes a difference.
  6. Get rid of timelines you’ve set for yourself because they take away the control you have over your life. Things will happen when they happen.
  7. “Just for today do not anger, just for today do not worry and be filled with gratitude, devote yourself to your work, be kind to people.” - Reiki mediation (Ms. Light, a very spiritual person, is an avid practitioner)
  8. This book should be bought and read: Buddha Standard Time by Surya Das
  9. Judith Light is an amazing person!
She sincerely cared about what we had to say and you can tell that she is always like this with whoever she encounters. It takes me right back to the day I interviewed her where she was open and honest and happy to be there. She shared personal stories of her own with the class, many of which I already knew of before but just to hear them come from her is something that is to be cherished. Because here is a woman who has had such an extraordinary life with many ups and downs, someone who has had great success which is very well-deserved, who is so brave but still gets terrified of the prospects ahead of her, and yet she is so humble and grateful for all that she has and is more than willing to sit down and talk with those of us who are still chasing our dreams and simply be there for us. Her feedback and advice was more than appreciated and I’m going to do my best to heed her word because it is law!

I cannot be more grateful to Ms. Light for her time, energy, and willingness to participate in this master class. She is a great inspiration to many, myself included if you hadn't noticed as yet, and if you are not aware of her existence ... please, I beg you on my hands and knees, Google her name, learn about who she is and what she does and then come back to me so I can point you in the direction of all her major work and the various causes she is an advocate for. And if you seriously have to Google her, why haven't you been aware of her before?

I could actually go on and on about this magnificent person but I'll stop right here ... for now. Just remember to open the windows of your mind and let a little LIGHT in.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday Lucy ♥

I’m happy that I have brought laughter because I have been shown by many the value of it in so many lives, in so many ways. | Lucille Ball

Today, the 6th of August 2011, everyone's favourite funny girl turned 100! Lucille Ball, Queen of Comedy, captured the hearts of millions of people around the world through none other than her highly-acclaimed television show I Love Lucy and the various series that followed. Premiering in 1951, the show has never been off the air, a testament to Lucy's great influence in the entertainment industry and in the lives of so many people.

Mere words can hardly express how very much loved and admired this remarkable woman was and still is. She, along with her husband Desi Arnaz, was a true pioneer in the history of television, setting the solid foundations from which we now have the increasingly-powerful medium that television has become. We owe so much to Lucy and it is only fitting that she is celebrated with so much enthusiasm today and forevermore.

On a personal note, I Love Lucy has been my favourite television show of all time for many years and it will forever remain so. So many people say this but it's the honest truth: "I Love Lucy" was never just a title. Actor, comedian and a good friend of Lucy's, Bob Hope put it best, "One of the greatest gifts to mankind is laughter and one of the greatest gifts to laughter is Lucille Ball. God has her now but thanks to television, we'll have her forever."

Happy 100th Birthday Lucy! Thank you for the hours and hours of laughter and fun, the joy and happiness you brought to millions of people over the decades. Thank you for teaching us to laugh at life and how to make others laugh too. And thank you for being the inspiration you are to so many. You truly were a blessing and a great gift to us all. Somewhere in heaven, I'm most certain that you keep all the angels laughing!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

10 Reasons to Watch Downton Abbey

Britain's hit drama Downton Abbey, which follows the lives of an aristocratic family and the servants who work for them, took the world by storm last fall, much to the surprise of everyone involved in the show and those who thought it wouldn't be as great a success as it has become. It has acquired millions and millions of viewers worldwide since its premiere and has been highly-acclaimed by critics, most recently earning 11 well-deserved Emmy nominations. Fingers cross that it wins the majority of those on Emmy night!

I was fortunate enough to be in the UK while the series was being broadcast for the first time and I immediately fell in love with it from the start. I've seen it numerous times, so many that I've actually lost count, and have been trying to convert anyone who will listen to me go on and on about this show into fans. Always trying to spread the word, I have compiled a highly-biased list of what I feel are the top 10 reasons to watch this show. Feel free to disagree with me, these are simply my opinions. I only hope that I am convincing enough to compel others to heed my advice and watch it. If not, well then I have amused myself in making this list. Please note that there will likely be spoilers from the first series included.

And without further ado, here they are!

X | The Score

Downton Abbey's soundtrack is simply superb! Composer John Lunn does a fantastic job of providing such beautiful musical accompaniment that really fits with the show and enhances it. From the moment the opening credits roll, which is wonderful in itself, one is immediately sucked into the world of Downton and, at least in my case, there is no turning back. Like a fashion designer's collection, every piece is carefully crafted and cohesive with the others, and yet each manages to have its own feel while emphasizing and conveying the mood set in the scenes. It is without a doubt a large part of Downton Abbey's appeal. So much can be said about how marvelous the music is but it's much better to just listen to it and hear for yourself!

IX | Cinematography & Costumes

Let's face it, this show is just pretty to look at! Every bit of it is so visually pleasing, especially the way the camera pans across the scenery, that one is not able to look away! Filmed primarily at Highclere Castle, there couldn't have been a more perfect site for Downton to be set. It is eye-candy from the first scene to the last. Everything, the rolling hills, the castle, the driveway, the village, the halls, the dining room, the library, even the kitchens and attic are so beautiful and are depicted in such a surreal way that you might find yourself planning a trip to the very sites where the show was filmed just to experience it firsthand.

Image © PBS

And the costumes and hats! They are to die for! The costume department hit the nail on the head here and did a splendid job. Not only are the clothes historically accurate and reflect the characters' status and even their personalities but they personally make me wish that sort of fashion was still in style. Parasols and all! Except the corsets, I could do without those.

VIII | Historical References

Downton Abbey, spanning from 1912-1914 in Series 1, coincides with major events in history. From the start this is evident as news of the Titanic's sinking arrives by telegram and affects the Crawley family when the heirs to the Downton estate meet their demise on the ship. It is this historical moment that serves as the catalyst that sets the rest of the first series into motion and from there on everything else escalates for the family. As they say, shenanigans ensue!

While they may appear to be the simplest of things to those of us living in the 21st century, the use of electricity and invention of the telephone are a novelty in the show and it is amusing to watch how the characters react to their sudden appearance in their lives. What follows are humorous situations where characters are afraid of the vapors that will seep out of the newly-installed lighting and where no one wants to answer the phone because its ring is like the "cry of a banshee" ... or perhaps it is because they don't actually know how to use it!

During this time, the Suffrage Movement is also in full swing and attracts the youngest Crawley daughter who wishes to join the cause and finds herself in a spot of trouble for it. Allusions are made of the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the trouble it has caused in Europe, and by the time the first series has reached its conclusion World War I has officially begun, leaving a sense of fear and anxiety among the residents of Downton. On the whole, a wonderful job is done in showing the inevitable societal changes and how it affects the characters, with the series ending on a cliffhanger that leaves the audience desperately wanting to know how the impending war shakes up life at Downton.

VII | Drama-filled Plot

Or more commonly referred to as "juicy plotlines"! As mentioned before, we're presented with the sinking of the Titanic and the repercussions that follow what with the estate suddenly being in jeopardy because the heirs are dead. Then there is the whole business regarding the entail (Austenites understand the concept better than anyone) which was apparently set in stone years before by the late Lord Grantham, and consequently having to find a new heir while trying to figure out what to do with the eldest daughter who can't inherit since, of course, she's a girl.

But the plot is also filled with scandal and secrets, hidden pasts and lies, of which I intend to give nothing away. It's actually very much like a soap opera, but if anything it's posh soap! There's always something going on and following the character's lives is both entertaining and overwhelming. It's a marvel how easy it is to get completely sucked into the plots. There is so much drama and comedy and angst, it's almost impossible to be bored when watching any episode and by the end of each you're likely to be wondering what your emotions are doing because it's hard to describe what you are feeling in regards to what you've just witnessed. That might just be me though.

VI  | Memorable One-Liners

Julian Fellowes, creator of this masterpiece along with the Academy award-winning film Gosford Park which can be said to be Downton's predecessor, is pure genius because the lines he has written are just fabulous! When you hear what comes out of the mouths of his characters, you wonder how does he come up this stuff? It's brilliant! The actors have called each script a real page-turner and what is transferred from page to screen is remarkable.

Who could forget Violet, the Dowager Countess' sarcastic remark, "Why does every day involve a fight with an American?" when sitting in and nearly falling out of a swivel chair invented by Thomas Jefferson and then proceeding to declare herself a "good sailor" when offered a new chair. Or my personal favourite (which my blog is named after) and perhaps the best known line in the series, "What is a 'weekend'?" which the Dowager asks with the utmost sincerity because in the life of an aristocrat like hers, weekends do not exist. In fact, everything Violet says is a hoot! More about her later!

Humor aside, some of the lines are memorable because they can be quite poetic at times. In particular, Lord Grantham's line, "We all have chapters we'd rather keep unpublished" stands out because of everyone's ability to relate to it. Who doesn't have a few things they'd rather keep quiet about eh? This and many more fantastic lines are part of the show's charm. Perhaps they're nothing special at all but they're quite nice.

V | Romance & Rivalry

It wouldn't be the same if there wasn't any romance to give you that gushy feeling inside, the kind that you feel when you read (or watch) Pride & Prejudice and Eliza and Mr. Darcy finally confess their love to one another and all you can think is "AWWWWWWWWW!"

The most captivating romances include the servants Anna and Mr. Bates (my favourite) whose relationship start off as friendship and slowly blossoms into something beautiful, and yet is a bit heartbreaking because Bates insists that Anna forget about him though she refuses to; Lady Mary and Matthew who are very much like Eliza and Darcy with their initial mutual dislike and who, after getting to know one another better, become engaged later on; and the vague relationship of Lady Sybil and the Irish chauffeur Branson is intriguing because of the social barrier they'd be crossing if they took things further. For these couples, we can only hope that they take a leaf out of Lord and Lady Grantham's book, in which their marriage was a matter of convenience and later on became one of love, and find happiness together in spite of the troubles that may come their way. And even housekeeper Mrs. Hughes reveals how she turned down multiple marriage proposals so that she could keep her job at Downton. You want angst, you got it!

And then there comes rivalry between lovers, sisters, friends, family, even people from some of the characters' past who they never expected to see again. This adds to the drama and provides great storylines to get caught up in.

IV | Villains

No proper drama is complete without characters we love to hate. The main antagonists take the forms of Sarah O' Brien, the lady's maid and Thomas, First Footman (otherwise known as the First Douchebag) who are the most manipulative, bitter, and spiteful people in the show. Whether it's plotting to get the valet Mr. Bates sacked or causing trouble for the family they serve, these two seem to have no limit when it comes to their desire to have their own way. Even Anna, head housemaid says of O' Brien, "We're all lucky if we get a civil word out of you" as she hardly has anything nice to say on most occasions. At least in last series' final episode, O' Brien felt some kind of remorse for her most recent act of unkindness which was possibly more evil than unkind to be honest. You'll just have to find out what she did for yourself because I'd hate to ruin the story. As for Thomas, he's still a major selfish d-bag.

III | Loveable Characters

[L-R: Lady Sybil Crawley, Lady Edith Crawley, Lady Mary Crawley, Cora, Countess of Grantham; Robert, Earl of Grantham; Violet, Dowager Countess; Matthew Crawley, Charles Carson, Elsie Hughes, Thomas Barrow, Sarah O' Brien, William Mason, Mrs. Patmore, John Bates, Daisy Robinson, Anna Smith, Gwen Dawson]

One cannot help but fall in love with these characters that Julian Fellowes has created and developed so thoroughly, whether hero or villain, aristocrat or servant. Within this upstairs/downstairs dynamic involving the Crawley family and their servants, there are are up to 20 main characters and each has something significant about them that allows them to appeal to a wide demographic (22 countries around the world!) and makes the audience come to genuinely care for them and want to know more of their respective stories. And, believe me, everyone has their own back-story!

As Dame Maggie Smith put it, "There are so many stories there with so many characters involved that it is a truly ensemble piece. It’s not as though there are any individuals really - it’s a whole company piece. And I think that’s interesting. I think the viewers love to know what’s happening in Carson’s [the butler] life as much as what’s happening in Daisy’s [kitchenmaid] and Mary’s [eldest Crawley daughter]." How right she is! Speaking of Dame Maggie, this bring us to Reason #2 ...

II | Dame Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess; Image © ITV

The Grand Dame herself! Need I say more? When you've got one of the world's greatest stage and film actresses headlining a show like this and proud to be a part of it, you know it's gonna be good! Dame Maggie plays Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, matriarch of the Crawley family who is there at every turn, poking her nose in everyone's business in which she believes she has a say. She is the epitome of the old aristocracy of the Edwardian Era and seems to care for nothing but that which concerns herself and her family, not to mention her disapproval of the changing world.

But what viewers will find is that beneath the snobbery, selfishness and inflexibility of this character there lies a kind woman with her family's best interests at heart, one made out of "pure custard", according to the Dame. With years of knowledge and experience, perfect timing both in comedy and tragedy, an extensive supply of facial expressions that make all the difference and the flawless delivery of her lines, Dame Maggie bring the Dowager Countess to life impeccably! And yes I am highly biased, this is my favourite actress after all and she is the reason I started watching in the first place. And besides, she has some of the best lines in the entire show and has been nominated for a 2011 Emmy in the category of Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for the role! What's not to love?

I | The Ensemble Cast

[L-R: Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Amy Nuttall, Lesley Nicol, Sophie McShera, Thomas, Howes, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, Siobhan Finneran, Rob James-Collier, Dan Stevens, Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jessica Brown-Findlay, Penelope Wilton] © ITV

And finally, the #1 reason to watch! The incomparable cast! Joining the Grand Dame are a fabulous group of people that brings the aforementioned lovable characters to life and makes their lives so intriguing and wonderful to keep up with. Everyone is at the top of their game when they really commit to their characters and it is amazing to witness. And to one's benefit, a new group of great actors is brought to attention and they are certainly notable stars to watch, especially the younger rising actors. This is very much an all-star cast and among the best that Britain has to offer! I classify them among the few flawless casts in existence. In short, they are truly what makes the show worth watching!

One might wonder, does the show have its flaws? Of course it does, just like everything else in this life. But what's important is that, while acknowledged and not completely overlooked, the flaws are seen past and that you simply have a bit of fun in Downton. It's a lovely way to leave the mundane behind for a while and escape into a beautiful world with beautiful people.

And if Downton Abbey doesn't appeal to you, well then, to quote dear Violet, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!" Or you could always watch something else.

Downton Abbey returns in the autumn for its 2nd series on September 18th in the UK on ITV1. It will return to the US on January 8, 2012 as part of PBS' Masterpiece Classic. Do watch! The Dowager Countess commands that you do!

Images © Miranda Rachel unless otherwise stated

Friday, July 29, 2011


It would seem that I cannot log into my blog here because my university decided to tamper with the e-mail system and make changes and as I was using said university's student e-mail account for that blog, everything is gone and I can no longer make use of that blog. I've already dealt with my panic and frustration about this whole ordeal in a mature way and I've created this new blog here so I can start afresh and perhaps be a bit more professional in my writing.

I thought about transferring everything else I'd written already from the other but that would be too time consuming and tedious. Instead I'll just transfer the article on Judith Light as it is one of my favourite pieces of writings and it means so much to me and then go from there and be productive for once. I have so many ideas, it's just further developing them and accomplishing them that's the problem.

So here's to a new start and a successful run with this blog. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

ON BROADWAY: A Little Light, A Lot of Love

Today’s generation knows her best as Ugly Betty’s Claire Meade and Judge Elizabeth Donnelly in Law and Order: SVU. But those who have followed her extensive career over the years will remember Judith Light from the hit 80s sitcom Who’s the Boss? as Angela Bower, the successful advertising executive and single mother who hires a male housekeeper, played by Tony Danza.

Originally a stage actress, Light returned to the theater this past autumn after many years of not having worked on stage. She is currently starring in the role of Marie Lombardi in Broadway’s Lombardi and her performance has garnered rave reviews. I was fortunate enough to see Lombardi in December and even more fortunate to have met with her for an interview at the start of the new year.

As someone who is not an avid sports fan and has little interest in football, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Lombardi. Truth be told, I simply wanted to see it because a favorite actress of mine was one of the stars, but I found that I came away with much more than I ever expected. And even as a journalist, I was glad to see that there were many things relevant to journalism in the show. So like Michael McCormick, the journalist in the play, conducted interviews with the other characters, I held my own interview with the charming Judith Light!

Sitting across from me in the lower lobby of the Circle in the Square Theater where Lombardi is performed 8 times a week, Light is as graceful in person as she is on the screen. I was a little overcome by nerves, what with being in the presence of someone I greatly admire, but her kindness and patience quickly put me at ease and we began the interview.

We first discussed the play and her role as the wife of the renowned football coach, Vince Lombardi, who led the Green Bay Packers to victory multiple times and after whom the Super Bowl trophy is named. As part of her research to become this character, Light read David Maraniss’ book When Pride Still Mattered, on which the play is based. She referred to it as “the Bible for everybody in the entire show.” This was her primary source in discovering and capturing who Marie Lombardi was.

“I wanted her to be this full character that wasn’t a caricature,” she said, stating that the biggest challenge she faced was making her character real.

She chose not to listen to or watch recordings of the real Marie Lombardi as she did not want her portrayal of the character to come across as an imitation. What she did choose to use were the book, aspects of herself and her imagination. Audience members, including me, and theater critics alike would agree that her decision was met with success.

In an effortless performance, Light brought Marie Lombardi to life, embodying a sympathetic woman who dealt with her own struggles while she stood by her husband’s side and supported both him and his career. She even mastered what she described as Marie’s regal New York/New Jersey accent, which is a treat to hear coming from her. The accent combined with memorable one-liners Light delivered throughout the show brought much laughter from the audience.

Light stated that the play was not initially meant to be funny at all and it was the level of laughter that surprised her most in regards to audience reactions she didn’t expect. On the whole, she is pleased with the success the play has had.

Soon we turned towards a topic she is extremely passionate about, her activism. During the span of her career, Light has been an advocate for many important causes for which she continues to work tirelessly, and her celebrity status allows her to spread awareness on pressing social issues.
“I call myself an actor and an activist,” she said. “I think that celebrity is terrific … and I’ve always said that the perks that come with celebrity are terrific. But to me, and this is just me … if I didn’t find a way to do something with the gifts that were given me and the way that I had been blessed, I would not feel OK about myself. So that was something that was really important to me and that’s why I felt that I really had to do it.”

She places much of her focus on the LGBT community and the fight against AIDS, something she has done ever since witnessing discrimination and injustice firsthand and how it affected those near and dear to her. Light said that she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t say something about it. And for those who feel the same way and are interested in becoming activists as well she says, “Your activism can go anywhere but it’s really up to you what you feel speaks to you.”

For such an inspiring person, Light notes her husband, Robert Desiderio, and her managers as her own daily inspirations, in addition to “the personal need to say the truth about what I see in the world and have support for that.” 

Though highly accomplished as both an actor and humanitarian, Light started off much like the rest of us at Mother Cabrini, a young girl with high hopes. She can certainly relate to the students here as she herself once attended an all-girls high school so she knows what it’s been like for us Cabrinians, past and present. As they say, she’s been there, done that. 

She also sympathizes with many people, especially the youth, who are discovering who they are and often face difficulties because they happen to be different. One thing she said to me particularly stands out that I think everyone can appreciate.

“Living your life truly as who you really are is incredibly important.”

This has since become something I try to remind myself of every day. And as the interview came to a close, she topped that by saying, “We’re one people. We’re one human body and we just all happen to be different in different ways.”

To hear her speak these words as we sat together is something so very special, it can barely be described. I am thrilled that I was lucky enough to have shared such an experience with her.

What made this even more special was that this happened to be the first Broadway show I had ever seen. It’s a pity that I happen to live in New York and had never seen a show before until now! That has been remedied and now I’m sure that I will make more of an effort to see many more, and all because of this one show.

Others I have spoken to have wondered what the appeal is about Lombardi. I would just like to make something clear about this play. Lombardi is certainly not just about the game of football. It is about so much more that what it seems on the surface.

Light has often said in other interviews that Lombardi is about inspiration and love. And she is absolutely right in saying so. But having met her in person, I find that those very words she uses to describe the play can be used to describe her. And yes, perhaps I am a little biased, but it seems to me that Judith Light herself is the embodiment of inspiration and love.

She is definitely someone I think people, especially young ladies like those of Cabrini, should look up to. I am glad to be able to share my experience with you all and I thank you for letting me do so.

It seems like my time as Editor-in-Chief for Cabrini’s newspaper finally paid off and I can now safely say that my career as an official journalist is well underway!

Lombardi is showing at the Circle in the Square Theatre between 50th Street and Broadway until June 19. Go see it!

This article was written for Mother Cabrini High School's student newspaper, The Cabrini Courier. Many, many thanks to Judith Light for allowing me to have such a wonderful opportunity.

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