http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/thea ... goody.html
Priscilla Presley: I’d much rather be a baddy than a goody
As befits the King’s former wife, Priscilla Presley tells Veronica Lee why she is excited about making her panto debut as the Wicked Queen
Fairest of them all: Presley admits that she didn’t understand the panto script when she first read it Photo: REX
'Bring me the contract immediately – I need to see the small print.” That’s not what you want to hear five minutes into an interview, but Priscilla Presley is asking if it’s too late to back out of her first panto, playing the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
But the woman who was once married to, appropriately enough, the King – Elvis Presley — is not having a diva moment.
It’s simply mock-outrage in response to a question about the strain of performing 12 shows a week. This deadpan reply followed by hearty laughter is, I’ll soon learn, typical of the petite 67-year-old – who could easily pass for 20 years younger – even if I get the distinct impression that certain areas, such as family and religion (Presley is a Scientologist), are off limits.
And if I were in any doubt about her meeting the physical demands of panto, Presley points out that she took part in Dancing With the Stars (the American version of Strictly Come Dancing) in 2008. “It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Presley is, of course, used to living in the spotlight. She met Elvis when she was 14, married him at 21 and divorced him six years later, all in a blaze of publicity. After his death in 1977, she was executor of his estate for several years, and helped turn Graceland – once their marital home – into a multimillion-dollar tourist attraction.
We meet as Presley is about to start rehearsals for the show at New Wimbledon Theatre. I ask if she has taken advice from two Hollywood stars who trod the same boards – David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson – and she says no. “I kind of jump into things and I certainly jumped into this,” she replies. “If I feel good about something and I don’t see a downside to it, why not? I know panto is very British and traditional, but for a newcomer it’s fun to do something different.
“It’s also a bit of challenge. I’ve appeared on stage but I’ve never done anything like this before and I always want to do new things. I can’t wait to do it because it’s something we don’t have [in the United States] — maybe we should.”
Presley says a big part of the appeal is making fun of herself. “The audience get to boo and hiss; kids must have so much fun because they’re so much a part of it. When I was a young girl I used to love to perform and it kind of reminds me of that. Panto introduces kids to theatre and, God knows, that’s a good thing.”
But does she get the very British humour? “In all honesty, I really didn’t understand the script when I first read it. One of my lines is: 'Go ahead and boo. Boo all you like’, and I thought, 'Should I be coaxing people to boo at me?’ But my co-stars [Warwick Davies, from Star Wars and Life’s Too Short, and the stand-up comic Jarred Christmas] have been brilliant at explaining that it’s all part of the interaction, and that you can use that as a performer.”
The comedy of panto appeals to Presley, who played “straight man” to Leslie Nielsen, who improvised a lot on set, in three Naked Gun movies. “He did the craziest things,” she says, “but I reacted at all times as if this was most normal thing, so it never felt contrived, it had a freshness to it.”
Presley is best known for playing Jenna Wade, an old flame of Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), for six seasons in the original Dallas during the Eighties. She recalls the experience fondly. “It was a fun time in my career – great characters, great scripts, great cast, great ratings; how could you not like that?”
She remembers Duffy and the late Larry Hagman, who played JR Ewing, with particular affection. “Oh my gosh, he lived life to the full, I can tell you. He started each day with a glass of champagne, and it was a magic one that never emptied. But he was a great guy to work with, utterly professional and very generous as an actor.”
There has been talk that Jenna Wade will return in the remake of Dallas, which has recently ended its first-series run on Channel 5 – “although she may have to kill off a few rivals first” – but in the meantime Presley is looking forward to being a blinged-up baddy at Wimbledon.
“Baddies are always so much more fun to play than goodies,” she says. “My Wicked Queen will be mean and witty, and really full of herself.” Will she be channelling anything nasty from within? “No, it’s acting!” she says, amused by the idea. “I’m creating something fun here, it’s not real.”
This is the first time Presley has spent an extended period in the UK, and she is making the most of it during the rehearsal period, visiting museums, going to the theatre and getting to know London. “I’ve never had the opportunity to truly indulge in the rich history of this incredible country,” she says. “What I love about London is that there is always something new to discover, and nothing compares to wandering through all the nooks and crannies.”
But she also has a personal connection to this country – her daughter by Elvis, Lisa Marie Presley, who has four children, lives in East Sussex. “The fact I’ll be able to spend the holidays with friends and family makes doing panto all the more special,” she says.
Will her grandchildren be in the audience at Wimbledon? “Oh my, yes, I certainly hope so. I just hope the young ones won’t find my Wicked Queen too scary.”
'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ is at New Wimbledon Theatre (0844 871 7627; atgtickets.com) from Dec 7 to Jan 13 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebri ... oines.html
Priscilla Presley: my heroes and heroines
The actress on the people who inspire her
7:00AM GMT 05 Dec 2012
Anne Lillian Beaulieu
My father was a colonel in the air force and always very popular but it was my mother who was the foundation for our family. She raised six well-grounded children and never favoured one over another. Now 85, she still puts things in perspective for me.
She’s such a great example for women. Not only is she a wonderful businesswoman but she uses her celebrity for good. Her Urban Zen Foundation does a lot of work in Haiti, helping people through therapy and educating communities on how to be self-sufficient.
I didn’t feel comfortable being in front of an audience or being critiqued but my acting coach really pushed me to overcome my shyness; he was a no-nonsense coach. He was also a mentor, guiding me and helping me make the right choices in my career.
He was one of the most amazing people I ever met and is still my hero because he taught me so much about life, love, caring for others – everything I know as far as who I am today. Being around him gave me chills.
I’ve met her a few times and always find her captivating. She has achieved so much, despite starting life in poverty, and has the rare gift of making people feel they’re the only thing that matters.
Priscilla will be appearing as the Wicked Queen in 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ at New Wimbledon Theatre, Dec 7-Jan 13
Priscilla Presley was talking to Jack Castle.