She’s an acting legend with a quick wit and a soft spot for Corrie. So who better to share the secrets of her success and give us a little life advice than Julie Walters?
Say the name Julie Walters to anyone aged 18 to 80 and they’ll react with a guaranteed, “I love her.” Whether it’s for how she made you laugh in Dinnerladies or Acorn Antiques, her maternal charm in the Harry Potter films and Billy Elliot or her pathos in Educating Rita, Walters’ career is nothing short of astonishing. Her wicked wit and West Midlands accent only add to the charm. We couldn’t be happier, then, to tell you Walters, 65, was everything we’d hoped for when we talked to her about her current role in Indian Summers. Giving us food for thought on everything from politics to womanhood, here are her life lessons.
Forget being good at everything “I’m not a cook but I always felt like it was a measure of my womanhood in some way that I wasn’t amazing in the kitchen. I can roast a chicken and make a fish pie but women put pressure on themselves with this domestic goddess idea, this notion that we can be everything. We’re not everything and why should we try to be? I grew up thinking we should be marvellous professionally, in bed, in the kitchen, all that crap. Oh, bugger off!”
Engage politically “It’s important for everyone to take an interest in politics. Voting will make a difference. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a democracy. The NHS is suffering, education is too. It’s your life, your prospects, your employment. Engagement needs to start at home. There was lots of talk about politics when I was growing up in the Midlands but I wasn’t really engaged until I became a student. There were anti-Apartheid demonstrations and I had to find out what they were about. Leaders today ought to get moving with young people. They don’t appeal to them at all, do they?”
Be tenacious “Confidence is vital. It’s better to be over confident than under confident, as you’ll get that knocked out of you anyway. When I was younger, I had utter belief in myself as an actor, despite not having it in other areas of my life. I could impersonate people and make them laugh and I remember thinking, ‘This is something other people can’t do.’ Of course, other people can do that but I was deluded and it helped me. I believed I was the best actor in the world when I first came out of drama school – that anyone who wouldn’t employ me was secondclass [cackles]. It really was the arrogance of youth. I have it less now than I did [laughs]. Nurturing confidence is not about thinking ‘I’ve got to be the best’, it’s about knowing you’re good enough in life. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. If people worked as hard on the inside, how they think and feel, as they do on the outside, wow, what a great population it would be.”
Get out of your comfort zone “You have to be frightened in order to be brave. I’ve always been an anxious person and would test that by putting myself in difficult situations, like going on stage. If you avoid the thing you’re frightened of, you spend more time feeling anxious and avoiding it than if you just face it and go, ‘Oh, the world isn’t going to fall down.’ Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway [by Susan Jeffers] is a book I’d always recommend.”
Laugh at life “Cynthia, who I play in Indian Summers [the proprietor of the British social club in the Indian town of Shimla in 1932], doesn’t care what people think and I love her irreverence. Irreverence, like humour, can help people cope and put things in perspective.”
Don't believe your own hype “I don’t read reviews. I used to and either you over-believe the great ones or lose confidence because of the bad ones. I am tempted sometimes, particularly if someone says, ‘That was a great review in The Independent.’ Then afterwards I wish I hadn’t because they pick out things you don’t want to know about yourself and, I don’t want to sound w*nky, but it makes you self-conscious instead of being in the moment.”
See the world “I haven’t travelled that much and filming Indian Summers in Malaysia has given me a hunger to see more of Southeast Asia. Malaysia is so interesting – there are streets with a church, a mosque and a Buddhist temple all living quite happily, and it’s a mix of old and new – you get ancient temples and then shopping centres that make Westfield look like the Arndale Centre in 1974. And the food, oh my god! Time speeds up as you get older because you don’t experience as many new things. Travelling gives you new experiences and broadens your imagination.”
Tell people how you feel “My friends will say to me, ‘I really love you’, and I’ll say, ‘I really love you, too’. If someone is important to you, it’s important to say it, but it’s hard for some people and you know they love you whether they say it or not.”
When things go wrong, think small “If I’m having a bad day, I’ll think, ‘Why didn’t I feel good about today?’ And it’s usually because things haven’t worked out or I haven’t achieved anything. So I tell myself, ‘It’s just one of those days’, and give myself something I can achieve, even if it’s just replying to some mail or sorting out the recycling. That’s a great task, actually; getting rid of all of Grant’s [Julie’s farmer husband] Pig World magazines is quite therapeutic.”
Don't diss soaps “I don’t like people being snobbish about soaps. They miss the point – there’s a lot of very good acting and lot of issues are addressed. Mick Carter [Danny Dyer] in EastEnders is a big favourite. He’s very attractive and l love his daughter Nancy [Maddy Hill]. Sean Tully [Antony Cotton] in Coronation Street always makes me laugh, too. I love Mondays as you’ve got Coronation Street, EastEnders and then Coronation Street again. And I love that Emmerdale is on every night.”
Indian Summers continues on Channel 4 on Sundays at 9pm