Actress Emma Samms, Shall We Dance
PUBLISHED: 23:23 28 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:08 20 February 2013
It may be summer, but actress Emma Samms has a spring in her step. For she has landed a lead role in Adam Cooper's new Sadler's Wells production, Shall We Dance, celebrating the music of Richard Rodgers.
It may be summer, but actress Emma Samms has a spring in her step. For she has landed a lead role in Adam Cooper's new Sadler's Wells production, Shall We Dance, celebrating the music of Richard Rodgers. Fans of this multi-talented performer will know that Emma originally trained at the Royal Ballet School until an injury cut short her dancing career at the age of 16.
Although she went on to find fame as an actress, in films as well as TV greats such as Dynasty, it was a terrible blow. "It left me heartbroken," she says. "Of course, my second-choice career has been very good to me so I can't complain at all; however, to now have the opportunity to dance in public - and, on top of that, with Adam Cooper and at Sadler's Wells Theatre - is a dream come true."
And that's an appropriate 'reward' for someone who's made countless other dreams come true, as Emma is also known for her charity work. She co-founded Starlight in memory of her brother, Jamie, who died of aplastic anaemia at the age of eight. The charity brings sunshine into the lives of seriously ill children by granting their wishes and providing hospital entertainment.
"I can hardly believe that, after all this time, I will be dancing on stage," Emma says. "It shows you should never completely give up on something. Like me, you may have to wait 32 years but your dream might just come true."
Where do you live and why?
I live in the Cotswolds because it's the most beautiful place I've seen in all my travels around the world. It's also very accessible: I worked in LA last month, filming the TV show General Hospital; and I'll be working in London for the summer. In other words, I can lead a quiet life at home, but still get to wherever I need with relative ease.
But the really delightful thing for me is the fact that my friendships here have nothing to do with my career. One of my dearest friends, for example, works for British Gas and has been known to show up when my boiler breaks down. I always say to him that if he ever has an acting emergency, I'll be there!
How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
Twelve years, so I'm still a newby. My bit of the Cotswolds isn't - and has never been - as 'glitzy' as other parts: in fact, glitziness was something I was trying to get away from. I lived in LA for 13 years, and there were moments when I felt there was a long lens potentially on me at all times. More than anything else, that's exhausting. Having said that, mostly I was able to live the homebody life I've always lived: I'm firmly of the opinion that a lot of that is down to you as an individual. If you walk around with a bodyguard all the time, you're more likely to need one.
What's your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
Sleeping late (which is my idea of the perfect start to a weekend anywhere); followed by Stroud Farmers' Market; then a work-out at Le Spa in Cirencester. On the Sunday, I'd go for a walk and a pub lunch.
I have to say that Le Spa has been brilliant at helping me train for Shall We Dance? It's hard work, getting back into shape. At the moment, I'm having to rehearse in London for three days a week, and that will increase as the show gets closer.
If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
I'd fix up my house a bit but I'd stay where I am. Home is a classic Cotswold-stone building, relatively secluded, yet five minutes from civilisation. When it snowed, I could walk to the shops.
Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
Next to a main road.
Where's the best pub in the area?
I'm not loyal to any particular one because I enjoy trying new places, but they have to have good beer: my favourite is Old Spot. If I had to pick, then it would be that quintessential pub, the Woolpack in Slad, or the Fleece at Rooksmoor.
And the best place to eat?
My house, but not when I'm cooking!
What would you do for a special occasion?
I'd stay in and celebrate: as I said, I conceded a long time ago that I'm a rather dull homebody at heart. I do attend a lot of 'special occasions', though. Recently, I was at both the Derby and Royal Ascot representing Starlight, and I was at Stapleford Park for the birthday party of Prince Azim, the son of the Sultan of Brunei. The reason why I attend these sorts of events is to draw attention - and therefore funds - to the charity, and I'm realistic enough to know that I can do that better if I look more like 'that girl off Dynasty' than the one who walks her dog on Cleeve Hill. I always enjoy it, but it's also a relief to be at home and not to have to worry about the way I look.
What's the best thing about the Cotswolds?
The people. When I bought my house, a cleaning lady came as part of the package! I soon found out that that was one of the best things about it because she's now like family to me: we've adopted her and she's adopted us.
... and the worst?
Tricorn House [a famous Stroud eyesore]. How can people allow ugly buildings in such a beautiful area? In one sense, when I first came over from America, I found it strangely comforting that you would have a pretty village with a petrol station bang in the middle. It made me realise this was real life; that the villages didn't just exist for the convenience of busloads of people with cameras. However, to have practical facilities is one thing; but to allow hideous buildings is inexplicable.
Which shop could you not live without?
There are two, Firstly, and most importantly, the only hairdresser I will go to now is Ben at Blushes in Montpellier, Cheltenham. He's a brilliant hairdresser (and very cute!).
Secondly, I have to admit that I couldn't live without Tesco's. I used to think I didn't get recognised because, unlike in America, nobody said anything. However, I've since discovered the staff had clocked me but were too English to say anything. That instantly made me worry that they'd all noticed the few occasions when I didn't put my trolley back where I should!
What's the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
People assume that, if you're not in London or a big city, you can't do the things or get the things that you need. In fact, there's no disadvantage in terms of shopping, technology or services. Everything is here: it just happens to be prettier.
What would be a three course Cotswold meal?
Old Spot sausage and mash; apple crumble and custard (not cream), made with apples from one of my trees; and a selection of Cotswold cheeses.
What's your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
Slad Valley: it's spectacular.
What's your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
I don't have a specific one but the essential elements would be a shop, a pub, a church and a school: a school breathes life into a village. And everything would have to be built from cheerful and warm Cotswold stone. LA, by contrast, is a place of convenience. You get drive-through banks, dry cleaners and Starbucks, so you never have to get out of your car. The irony of that, of course, is that I wouldn't include any of those things in my village. You can live without them; in fact, I think one probably should.
Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds...
What's your favourite Cotswolds building and why?
The Royal Crescent in Bath. It may be the American tourist in me, but I can't help but marvel at it.
What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
I'd never long for wall-to-wall sunshine. Everything here is so lush and verdant that you don't mind the rain; you delight in the seasons.
Starter homes or executive properties?
If you had to choose between one or the other then, of course, you would have to have affordable housing. The good thing is that people seem to be taking more care over the sorts of homes they build - and I wonder if we have Prince Charles and Poundbury to thank for that. He took great pains to show that new houses could vary from each other, and be appropriate to their landscape.
What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
Don't ask me: I used to think the Forest of Dean was in the Cotswolds!
If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
My friends, my house, and a bit of Cotswold scenery. I'd just leave the weeds from my garden.
What would you change about the Cotswolds or banish from the area?
It would be lovely to think that the Cotswolds didn't suffer from any of the problems that big cities do in terms of drugs and crime; sadly, just because it's beautiful scenery doesn't mean that at all. The Cotswolds can sometimes get forgotten in the sense that people tend to ignore the deprived areas because they think they couldn't possibly exist.
What's the first piece of advice you'd give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Furnish your house from Wotton Auction Rooms. I'm often there, but I always leave written bids. If you stay for the sale, you'll end up with far more than you need.
And which book should they read?
Katie Jarvis's guide book, Best of Britain, Cotswolds. Clearly written by someone who knows the area.
Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
My dear friends Laura and Jason Turk throw the most amazing ball every year to remember their daughter Isabel who died, aged six months, of Spinal Muscular Atrophy in June 2004. It's both incredibly moving and fun. This year, it raised over 7,000 for the Jennifer Trust for Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
I'd go to the staffroom of my children's school. So many things I'd like to know...
To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
Volunteers everywhere. My volunteering is very visible, usually fun, often glamorous. But I'm thinking about the people who volunteer to come in at two o'clock in the morning, after the party's finished, to clean up the room. Their task might be mundane, but they can see the bigger picture. It means the charity isn't paying for cleaners which, in turn, means more money for the cause. They're the true heroes.
The Cotswolds - aspic or asphalt?
Having lived for so long in the very new country of the United States of America, I lean towards aspic. What we have here is precious, beautiful and historic. Whilst we must ensure that progress can be achieved, it would be a crime to lose any of the history or beauty of the Cotswolds.
With whom would you most like to have a cider?
Prince Charles: I'm a big fan of his. The work that he does is probably, in the most part, quite dull, yet he does it with such dignity and humour, and raises so much money for charity. When he was about to get married to Camilla, I wrote to him saying I wanted him to know there were a lot of us out there who thought he did a really good job, and who wished him well in his marriage. Astonishingly, he wrote a letter back the day before his wedding.
Emma Samms will be performing in Adam Cooper's Shall We Dance - A Tribute to Richard Rodgers, at Sadler's Wells, London from July 23-August 30. To book, phone the ticket office on 0844 412 4300 or visit www.sadlerswells.com