Saturday, 29 November 2014

An Interview with...Union J

Christmas with Union J!

Union J rose to fame by participating in the ninth series of The X Factor in 2012. Since then, they've had three UK Official Top 40 top ten singles, a top ten studio album and they have even opened for Selena Gomez! Impressive, right? JJ, Jaymi, George and Josh are back with new music and are releasing their fifth single 'You Got It All' from their new album 'You Got It All - The Album'. This winter, Union J will be all around the country meeting fans and promoting their new single. Earlier this month, I talked with them about new music, inspirations, Christmas and a lot more! Here's what happened when I met Union J...

How does it feel to be here, switching on the Meadowhall Christmas Lights?
JJ: Absolutely amazing. We performed here last year and it was a highlight...performing in front of 15,000 people was insane. It's sold out again today and we're looking forward to it. We're really excited. 

So what do you guys have on your Christmas lists this year?
George: One of the John Lewis penguin thingies!
Josh: Yes! The new John Lewis advert is well class. £95 - you can get the official penguin. 
Jaymi: Yeah...or anything from Morrisons. Mossisons vouchers! 

What's your idea of a perfect Christmas?
JJ: Snow!
Me: I don't think we'll be getting that this year...
Josh: I know! We never seem to get any. But it's still quite early.
George: We might get a little white Christmas. 
Jaymi: Family. Family and time off.

When can we expect to hear your next album?
Josh: Next album is officially out on the eighth of December. So it's going to be out on iTunes, it's going to be out in all the Morrisons shops out there, HMV and all of that stuff.
Me: Maybe somebody could buy it with their Morrisons vouchers!
Union J: Yes!! 

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
Josh: I think just work hard. I mean, it doesn't happen over night. Obviously, we did The X Factor so it kinda did happen over night for us but before that, we all were in different bands, we all worked really, really hard and stuff. So I think just work hard at what you do and if you put enough time and effort into it, it will pay off. 

So, I've got to ask you because I adore Selena Gomez - what was it like opening for her in Lisbon last year?

George: It was amazing. She's a really lovely girl and and she was really welcoming to her team and everything. They're all really cool people. Had pizza and chilled out afterwards, which was fun!
Josh: Very fun!

Who inspires each of you?
Josh: Jaymi Hensley, I think.
JJ: Yeah, Jaymi Hensley!
Josh: You know, he's had a tough time and he's got through it.
JJ: That's why we're here for him. 
Jaymi: I've come out the other side like a butterfly!
Josh: So yeah, Jaymi.

Here's my signature question...if you could each invite any celebrity or famous person to a dinner party, who would they be and why? 
George: That is a good question...
JJ: Erm...
Josh: Jaymi Hensley, I think...(laughs)
George: I'd invite Miley Cyrus because I think she would be a bit of a party animal. She;d be fun...
Jaymi: The Queen!!
Jaymi: Miley Cyrus is better than the Queen?
George: ...that's the world we live in!
Me: I've met Miley Cyrus, she's lovely...
Jaymi: I've met the Queen. No, I haven't really! 
JJ: I'd invite Simon Cowell. Yeah. He's cool.
Josh: Erm...
George: Me. I'll come with you...
Josh: Justin Bieber! Just to see what he's really like!

Finally, do you have a message for all your fans?
George: Merry Christmas!
JJ: Merry Christmas...we love you so much!
Jaymi: Have a happy new year...
George: Have an absolutely wonderful new year!
Josh: Eat loads of Yorkshire puddings and it's fine to put on a few pounds...I have!
JJ:...and the thingies in sausage and bacon...?
Jaymi: Pigs in blankets!
JJ: Eat lots of them!
George: ...and orange chocolates.
Jaymi: Hope you enjoy the album, and the single.
Josh: Don't go changing. 
JJ: We love you so much!
George: Love you!
Jaymi: Peace out. Merry Christmas!

If you're in Sheffield over the Christmas period, why not take a look at their amazing lights this year?! A festive trip to Meadowhall will most certainly get you into the Christmas spirit if you aren't already! Don't forget to pre-order Union J's album 'You Got It All - The Album' which is out on 8 Decmber and also their new single, which is out at midnight on 30 November. Follow Union J on Twitter for updates on their promotional tour, including signings, TV appearances and a lot more. 

My video interview with Union J will be posted soon, check back @adamiqbal for updates!

Merry Christmas!

- Adam

Friday, 14 November 2014

An Interview with...Alexa Goddard

Capital FM's Meadowhall Christmas Lights Switch-On...

I'm So There with Alexa Goddard!

I adore listening to music by Alexa Goddard. She is extremely talented and is a traditional artist who achieved success through hard work and dedication to making her dream come true. Over four years ago, Alexa created her own YouTube channel, covering some of her favourite songs and using social media to promote herself. Today, she has already released a cover of Turn My Swag On by Keri Hilson, a duet with Wiley, and two of her own singles after signing with Roc Nation. Now, she's on the road to further success! I'm a huge fan, so when I heard the Marilyn singer would be at the Meadowhall Christmas Light Switch-On with Capital FM, I was So There. Meeting her was amazing. As she walked through the press cabin, I was told I'd be first to interview her. But first, she had to sort her out her hair. After blaming it on the weatherman, and her hair looking as beautiful as ever, I talked with her about Christmas, new music and more. Here is my interview with Alexa Goddard! 

How do you feel about being here tonight, at the Meadowhall Christmas Lights Switch-On?
Alexa: I'm excited! For me, I haven't felt like it's nearly Christmas yet until today. Like, this is an actual Christmas Light Switch-On, I'm excited. Really excited. 
Me: That's good, it's great to see you here.
Alexa: Thank you. 

What do you have on your Christmas list this year? 
Alexa: So, I need to think this through because earlier on when I was asked, I said a juicer and then I thought that's so uncool, isn't it? I need to, like, have a think. But it's either a juice, (laughs) so I can make some nice fresh juice, or just...I want a new wardrobe. Lots more skinny jeans, ripped skinny jeans. That's what I'm into. And leather jackets!

What is your idea of a perfect Christmas?
Alexa: Perfect Christmas is lots of food, lots of family, and lots of alcohol. Drink responsibly, though. 

When can we expect to hear the album?
Alexa: Definitely next year. Whether it's very beginning or kind of February/March, is still to be decided but definitely next year and I'm so excited for you to hear it. 
Me: I am too! I can't wait! 

Do you have a title for your album yet?
Alexa: Not yet. Do you have any ideas for me?
Me: Hmm...I don't know...
Alexa: I know it's hard! These things are hard! Whenever I watch other people being interviewed and they're like 'no, I haven't thought of one yet', I'm like 'surely you have!' but I haven't! (Laughs) I haven't. So, I'll have a think. 
Me: Will Marilyn be featured on the album? 
Alexa: Yes! That will be on the album. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians? 
Alexa: Never ever ever EVER give up. No matter how hard it feels, just don't give up. Because giving up is the easiest thing to do, so you've got to keep fighting. 

If you had a dinner party, which three celebrity/famous guests would you invite and why? 
Alexa: Ooh, OK. I'd have Alan Carr, 'cause he's hilarious. Derren Brown, because I think he would just mess with peoples' heads and it'd be brilliant. And...Rihanna. Because she's just hot! (Laughs)
Me: That would be a fun party! You'd have to invite me too. 
Alexa: Yes. You can come! 

Who inspires you?
Alexa: Erm, musically...India Arie, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, John many people. I could go on forever but they're the ones that come to mind. 

Finally, do you have a message for all your fans? 
Alexa: Thank you for being incredible and supportive, and patient, and hilarious, and crazy, and I love you loads! 

Hear Alexa's latest single, So There - it's brilliant! It is available to download now on iTunes. You can also visit Alexa's YouTube channel here. Don't forget to follow her on Twitter to keep updated on her inspiring journey! 

Thanks for reading,

- Adam!

<a href="" rel="publisher">Google+</a>

Friday, 31 October 2014

13 Questions with...Taylor Momsen

At the age of just 21, she's already created a global fan base through acting, modelling and of course singing. After breaking away from acting, she's now focusing on the project closest to her heart - The Pretty Reckless. Formed in 2009, the rock band released their début album Light Me Up in 2010, and have since  achieved worldwide success, with their recent single Heaven Knows going straight to BBC Radio One's B-List and Going To Hell charting at #8 in the Official UK Top 40. The group are returning to the UK and headlining the Going To Hell Tour this November. I talked to her about her band, the tour, inspirations and more. Here are 13 Questions with...Taylor Momsen!

1. Hi Taylor! Earlier this charted at #1 on The Official UK Rock Album Chart and in the top ten on the Official Top 40 Albums Chart. That's such an amazing achievement! What do you think of your UK support?
Taylor: The fans in the UK have been a huge inspiration to the band. The first time we played London was in a sweaty club for 200 people, and now we're doing [the O2 Academy] Brixton, we can't wait. Most of my favourite bands come from there so it's always magical to come back. I've been to the UK six times this year already, I've considered moving there on multiple occasions. 

2. What was the inspiration for the album 'Going To Hell'? 
Taylor: Everything and nothing. Inspiration comes when it comes. About half way through the record a theme started to develop, but it all happens on it's own. We went through a lot of shit while making this record, and in the end I think we came out with the most honest piece of work we've done to date. It's rock and roll, it is whatever it wants to be.

3. So you're bringing the 'Going To Hell Tour' back to the UK this November! What's it like for you being back on the road and touring again? 
Taylor: Lots and lots and lots of travel, but the shows make it all worth it. We're ending this run in the UK so we're going all out, it's gonna get mad.

4. What do you feel is the BEST thing about touring?
Taylor: Playing is by far the greatest thing. My band and crew are like family, so having the chance to spend time with them is great, but it all comes down to the show. When the lights go down and it's time to play there's no feeling like it, it's like sex on crack.

5. What are your favourite tracks to perform on tour and why?
Taylor: I love playing all the songs, obviously I look forward to playing new material, that's always the best part. There's no real favourites because they're all my favourite.

6. After the tour, what do you hope to do next? 
Taylor: We'll be touring through next summer, in between will be more videos, starting to record some new material, and hopefully an acoustic version of our record Going to Hell which is in the works.

7. You're an amazing performer and you clearly enjoy making music, having written your first song at 8 years old! Where did your love for music first begin? 
Taylor: The Beatles. My father had a large classic rock vinyl collection and as soon as I heard strawberry fields I was hooked, probably around 5 or 6 years old.

8. You're very creative when it comes to your music videos! What is your favourite video and what was the filming process like?
Taylor: Right now, I'm proud of Heaven Knows, I wrote the treatment and co-directed the video. There's a lot of metaphor going on and we worked very hard on it, I think it stands out.

9. You are a style icon and have an amazing sense of fashion. Where do you like to shop for your outfits? 
Taylor: I'm a vintage/thrift shop girl. I just find random things and put them together or just make it myself.

10. If you could invite any three celebrities or famous people to a dinner party, who would they be?
Taylor: Katt Williams, Larry David and Archer (the cartoon character)...would be a pretty funny dinner.

11. You've had an amazing career and have achieved many great things. What has been the highlight of your whole career?
Taylor: Definitely our record 'Going to Hell'.  We didn't even think it would come out let alone be liked, it's definitely the thing I'm most proud of.

12. Who inspired you to be the woman you are today?
Taylor: Again I'd say the Beatles basically set me on a course, and that's why you're talking with me today.

13. Finally, do you have a message for your fans?
Taylor: Come see a show and rock your asses off.

If you haven't already, get your tickets to see The Pretty Reckless on their 8-date nationwide tour in the UK this November! Their latest album Going To Hell is out now. Don't forget to follow Taylor on Twitter for updates as she tours the UK! 

Have a Happy Halloween.

Thanks for reading
- Adam!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

13 Questions with...Amy Walsh

She's a Northern actress who has achieved great success and has been awarded many deserving roles. In summer 2014 it was announced that she had been cast as Tracey Shankley (Sam Dingle's love interest) in ITV Emmerdale. Soon after, Tracey arrived in the village causing nothing but chaos for the Dingle family. I adore Tracey, she lit up my television screen (but sadly destroyed Sam's). As well as Emmerdale, she appeared in E4's Hollyoaks Later in 2011 as Jennifique, an addition to the McQueen family. Stage credits include Shakers at the Hull Truck, Seconds Out at the Reform Theatre, Ladies Day at the Oldham Coliseum and Sleeping Beauty at the Harrogate Theatre. I got the chance to speak to her about life after Emmerdale, what Tracey is up to, advice for actors and much more. Here are 13 Questions with...Amy Walsh!

1. You recently portrayed the role of Tracy in Emmerdale - what was it like getting cast for this role?
Amy: It was a bit of a dream come true for me to be honest. Because, well obviously I'm from Yorkshire so it was filmed nearby my home town which is always nice and I just wanted to kind of have a TV role where I could really get my teeth into a character and show a different side to my acting. This helped because she was kind of a bit sly and there was a lot of different dimensions to her which I liked. So yeah, it was brilliant. It was brilliant news. 

2. What was your favourite thing about the character of Tracey?
Amy: Erm, that's an interesting one! I actually really loved when her cruel side came out and that was the most fun to play! But also, in contrast to that, I also loved when they showed her vulnerability as well and that only happened a couple of times. Not many at all...because I knew more of her background and her upbringing and stuff that I'd kind of developed myself. It was nice to play those moments as well and to show that she's not just a nasty person that's out to wreck everyone's lives, she's the person she's had to be to get by, her life. So yeah, I liked the extreme sly, sneaky nastiness and the extreme sensitive side of her, you know what we saw at odd times. 
Me: I really liked Tracey! I'm missing her at the moment!
Amy: Are you? (Laughs) that's nice to hear. 

3. So what do you think she is up to now after leaving the village?
Amy: It's an interesting one because she left quite abruptly and then, you know, most people didn't think she'd go anywhere without a fight. I think she's probably one of these people that gets what she can out of the situation, knows she's pushing her luck a bit, and then moves on to the next. So I imagine, she's probably...I think she's probably gone back with her ex. Because I think that was her only other option and that's why being with Sam was kind of better than that, just because it wasn't with her ex. You know, he used to beat her up and stuff, actually I don't think she had any other options. I'd like to think hasn't gone back there, but imagine she probably would have. 

4. Do you think it's possible that Tracey might return one day to cause more problems for the Dingles?
Amy: I'd love to think that, to be honest, because I think there was a lot of hope for that character and you don't get many kind of...I call her a villain, I mean I don't think she was that bad, but from what people have said to me, they think she was pretty bad. Everyone's like 'I don't like what you did to Sam' and I'm like 'I'm sorry!' So yeah, I do think there's room for another baddie. It's always interesting when it's a woman, I think. Because, I liked with Tracey that you don't expect what's actually going on in their head. You don't really see it until the sly look or whatever. So, I'd love to go back, I think, if the storyline came up then that'd be amazing. I think there's probably room for it! (Laughs)
Me: I'd like to see her back one day...
Amy: Aw, thank you.
Me: But I don't like the fact that she broke Sam's TV. 
Amy: I know, but that was accidental. That was one of the less malicious things she did. It was a bit like 'typical - Tracey's done it' but actually it was an accident, but she was making herself at home far too quickly, I think! But that's just because she's a bit of a clumsy girl! (Laughs) How many people fall into a TV set?! 
Me: I know! How's he going to watch Emmerdale now?!
Amy: Yeah, exactly! (Laughs)

5. So moving on, you played the role of Jennifique in E4's Hollyoaks Later series in 2011 - what was that experience like for you?
Amy: That was amazing actually, I was really lucky 'cause we were filming in Ibiza for most of it, which is a lovely perk. So, yeah we flew out and had a week there and had a couple of months back at the studios in Liverpool. I was really lucky to come in as part of such a big family in the series because often with the late night series - you come in and you're kind of separate from the actual show - you know, you're coming in for that specific storyline, but for me I was part of the McQueen family, so I instantly felt like, totally taken on board and part of them and we had a really nice time filming it. And again, the character was meaty and I had quite a lot to do and that was late night so I was really kind of pushed and, yeah, I loved it. 

6. As well as television, you have been a stage actress and have had many theatre roles. Would you like to return to the stage any time soon?
Amy: Yeah, I would love it. Actually I went to see a production of a company that I worked for a few times the other night and I's small-scale touring and the money know, there's not much in it but you do kind of think 'oh yeah!' I could definitely go back to the stage. For sure, there's no doubt in my mind that I will do more theatre hopefully if I get the job and hopefully more TV. I've always said a nice mixture - that would be ideal. It's not easy for everyone but if you can do that, I think that's what keeps your passion 'cause you don't get stuck in a rut and I absolutely love theatre. I love it. I love being on stage every night in a performance, and I love the rehearsal process which is what obviously, you don't really get in TV, especially soap/drama. So yeah, I definitely think I would do again, for sure. 

7. What's been your favourite character to play? Because you've portrayed quite a few, haven't you? 
Amy: Yeah...that's a good question. There's quite a few. I'm quite typecast, to be honest. Like, I'm often cast for the gobby, tarty northerner with a heart and a lot of the roles I've done have kind of been of that ilk. Tracey was one of my favourites - not because it was most recent, like, but because there was another side to her, there was a darker, more malicious side to her than I think I've ever played before and it wasn't as typically me as some of the others I've been. I had a few different characters in a play I did. One of the characters was so tiny, I only had a couple of scenes as her but she was like a pub landlady. I had to do a different accent and physicality which I really liked. When everyone came to see it they pointed out that character and I was like 'that was tiny! I was only on a bit!' But, I often like playing characters that are very different to me, so something like that. 

8. You're a very gifted actress and have gotten some deserving roles, what would be your advice to anyone aspiring to be an actor/actress? 
Amy: Erm, if there's anything else that you love to do then, kind of keep those things going, if you can. If there's anything you're good at as well as acting I always think and kind of wish I had something to be focus on as well in those down times that you're out of work, because they can be quite hard for an actor. But on a more positive note; you have to be dedicated. It has to be the top thing on your priority list, I think. And I think, know your craft. Everyone's different and everyone works differently and finds different things helpful. You learn that if you go to drama school, there's different techniques and methods and things to use, to help you. But just find what works for you and develop that and stick with that. That's what I learnt. Also, if you've got a niche of any description, find that. Like, if there's anything that makes you different from anyone else, use it. I had to realise that I'm going to work in the North probably more than I am in London. I live in London but every acting job I've got has been up north, because of my accent, obviously, my roots. As soon as I accepted that that was probably where my roles were gonna come, you can hone in on that and work on that area of the country, almost, to kind of break in to that, get into a circle up there. Wherever you're from; it's not just about where you're from, it's about...if you play an instrument...I know some of my friends are in work constantly because they play a few different instruments, if you can do that then that's good as well or anything creative really. 

9. You spoke about attending drama school, was it the ALRA you attended? What was it like studying Drama there?
Amy: The ALRA, yeah. It's a brilliant school in the south of London. They've also got [another] one now, actually. They've opened ALRA North in Wigan. So yeah, they're a brilliant school and I loved my three years there. I had to save up to be able to go there and it was a struggle, financially, and also, personally it's not easy. Anytime that thinks taking a degree in Drama is easy, it's not. Drama school, you're pushed to your limits and they often say they break you down to build you back up again and at the time I was like 'this is ridiculous', you know, fighting against it (laughs) and actually, in times I realise how they did that and why and how I was stronger for it. So yeah, I'm very grateful for my training, definitely. 
Amy Walsh as part of the cast of
The Harrogate Theatre's Sleeping Beauty (2013)
10. What's been the highlight of your career so far? Has there been a particular moment that's stuck with you?
Amy: I'd say probably getting the job on Emmerdale. Even though I'd done TV before. I think that was most definitely one of them. Just because, years ago I auditioned for them but then I got my Hollyoaks gig but couldn't go for a recall so for a while, it had been kind of meant to be. So that was a really amazing time, when I got the contract through. Another time...possibly, I think maybe getting my first ever job which was with John Godber, Hulk Truck, which was a massive, massive deal. He wrote me a part. Basically, I got cast to understudy all four characters of a play that he's written called 'Shakers', they were doing a tour. They were doing a six-month tour and I understudied the whole tour and then at the end of the tour, he decided that he wanted me to be on stage every night so he added another character, for the last six weeks of the production. He added another character into the play and that was me. So, that was pretty impressive for my first professional job! (Laughs) So yeah. That was definitely a high for sure. 

11. So who inspired you to be who you are today? 
Amy: Erm...I's always a funny questions because my eldest sister's an actress and I always saw her doing really well, she was a bit of a child star. She was in Emmerdale, actually, about fifteen years ago. So, she kind of made me know that it could happen, like her success made me believe this does happen to people and I could be one of them. Her career was amazing and was inspiring but I think I've kind of been inspired by people around me believing in me, to be honest. I was low in confidence, really, and especially when I went to drama school I felt a bit like the underdog coming down from up north and there was really intelligent people in my class talking about Brecht and Checkhov and I was like 'ooh..' and it just took a few people (throughout my life, not just at drama school) like my teacher at school, my teacher at college, a few different people to inspire me to carry on and to believe in myself. Still to this day, I have that. Like a director that I've worked with a few times. I know that he believes in me and that helps. I think that's where your inspiration to carry on comes, and to aim high or to try and make your dreams come true, so to speak. So family, though, as well. Like I say, my sister and my parents were really supportive and I was very lucky in that respect. 

12. Speaking of family - you recently welcomed Kimberley's baby boy into the family! How did that feel for you? 
Amy: Aww amazing! He's absolutely beautiful. I've already been a nanny for her for a while. She had to go back to work, so I went with her and looked after him while she was working. He's just amazing. We're really lucky, he's healthy and happy and they're doing really well so I'm an auntie to three nephews now! My Christmas list is gonna be LONG! (Laughs) 

13. This is always a really fun question for everyone: if you could invite any three celebrities of famous people to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Amy: Ooh...that's a good one! Erm, I absolutely love David Beckham! I think he just has to be there and I've got my boyfriend in mind because I think he loves him just as much! (Laughs) All men love him, don't they as well? Straight guys. Erm, so Beckham might be one of them, because I want to see how he normally is so yeah, him. Erm, Beyoncé. Oh my God. How did I forget her?! Beyoncé. That'd be on my list. I'm really inspired by Julia Roberts, as an actress. I think she's amazing, how many different roles she's played. So I'd like to meet her and have a little chat about acting with her, I think. 

Amy also told me about how she will be competing on this year's ITV Text Santa netball team with Michelle Hardwick, Charley Webb, Eden Taylor-Draper
and Sammy Winward...

Amy: I'm taking part in the netball match, Emmerdale vs Coronation Street for Text Santa in November. So it's a brilliant cause and any Emmerdale or Corrie fans should really come down and see it. It's on the 22nd of November in Manchester. I'm going back to play with the cast and the crew, which is really exciting. I did a bit of training whilst I was up there for a bit of fun and exercise and they've asked me to go back, which is really nice. 

You can book your tickets to see Amy on the Emmerdale netball team for ITV Text Santa by clicking hereAmy also had the following message for all of her fans...

"I am massively grateful to everyone that's been supporting me throughout the years. I've got a few people that have literally been to see me in productions up and down the country and tiny little theatres and now they texting saying they're watching me on Emmerdale which is really nice. And also anyone that's tuned in to see what I'm doing on Emmerdale, it's really nice to have that nice feedback I've had, even though she's a bit of a nasty character, I'be had quite a lot of nice feedback which is really nice to hear. Especially when you go into something so established and successful, so yeah thanks to everyone. Keep honing on, keep going at it if you're trying to do it yourself because if often is just about timing and sticking it out, I think. Like, there's been so many times where I've thought 'I'm slacking it off, I'm gonna think of something else because I can't deal with it', you know. The down times when you're out of work. But then something always comes up so as long as you've got that dedication and commitment it should happen. I'd like to think it will happen - one day."

Don't forget to follow Amy on Twitter

Thanks for reading,
- Adam!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

13 Questions with...Tanya Franks

After becoming a successful stage actress, performing in the UK and abroad, she was cast for Channel 5 soap opera Family Affairs in 2000. She appeared as DCI Morell in The Bill in 2005 and other credits include Doctors, Holby City, The Cup, Pulling, Hotel Trubble and the successful ITV drama Broadchurch, in which she played the role of Lucy Stevens in 2013. For the last seven years, she has had various stints in BBC EastEnders as Ranie Cross - her most notable role yet. As well as being a successful actress, with her partner James, she kindly dedicates her time to SOS Children's Villages Charity, a charity helping protect the interests and rights of children worldwide. I got to discuss her brilliant charity work with her, as well as speaking about her career and whether we'll see Rainie back in Walford. Here are 13 Questions with...Tanya Franks!

1. Hi Tanya, please tell us a bit about SOS Children's Villages Charity and its aims?

Tanya: SOS Children's Villages has been set up since 1949 and there is 132 different countries around the world and basically they build up villages and they train women to be a mother over a two-year period - she's the mother of up to ten children at one time. It's amazing. It's an amazing set up, they have schools, general facilities, everything's there on site for the children. It's like their living environment. And 100% of donations goes to the villages.

2. It's a brilliant charity and you have gotten involved by sponsoring a child - how was this like for you? 
Tanya: It's lovely! We have contact with the village she's in, we receive regular updates about her, it's good to hear that she's doing well and the children are doing well. So it's lovely. We're hoping that we'll be able to get over and see her at some point, in Ethiopia.

3. What influenced you to get involved with this charity in the first place?

Tanya: Well I think it's because they do such an amazing job. You know, literally the fact that they don't just deal with emergency relief, they actually provide homes that are appealing to the culture of each country. I think it makes a big difference to me to know that 100% of the money that I send over goes directly to those children. To me that's a massive bonus. I think it's a great way for it to work. 

4. There is an opportunity to read more about fundraising on the SOS Children's Villages website, but do you have any top tips or advice on how people can fund raise?

Tanya: For example, one of the ways I got involved was that I held a birthday party. I said to everybody that I invited "please don't bring me any gifts at all, but if you want to do something then I would really appreciate you looking at SOS Children's Villages and perhaps considering donating to them instead. It meant that I had a party and we also had a laptop there with the donations page open so people could donate if they wanted to, We had a bucket that they could put cash into if they wanted to. There was no obligation but it did mean that I could bring an awareness to the people that I know about the charity. Because they don't just spend the money on marketing and advertising, it's very much about they money going to the villages. They really rely on us getting out there and speaking to people about them. Obviously, there's technology these days that could be used to spread the word. So that was my way of getting more involved with them. Apart from the sponsoring I was doing anyway, it was a way for me to hold an event that was specifically to celebrate something else and to celebrate SOS. I think as much as anything, it's just about spreading the word. There are friends of mine who walked away, looked into SOS further and are now supporting them as well.  Me: I think it's nice that you got involved because you have a high profile and can help promote as well.
Tanya: Yeah, exactly, you know, social media and there's also videos and things like that. We like to help where we can.

5. We recently saw you reprise your role as Ranie Cross in BBC EastEnders and she is currently not on screen, but can we expect to see her back on Albert Square any time soon?

Tanya: I can't say exactly when but I think there's a good chance that she can pop up in Albert Square again at some point, yeah.
Me: I'm excited to see her back then, hopefully! 
Tanya: (Laughs) I think there's a big possibility. 

6. You have been lucky enough to do theatre for many years before you went into working on television, do you hope to be back on stage any time soon?
Tanya: Quite possibly. I haven't got anything planned at the moment, theatre-wise, but last year I spent doing theatre, I didn't do television at all. I spent the whole of 2013 on stage and this year I've been back in television again. As I say, I haven't got anything planned for theatre at the moment, but it's always something nice. If the project is with a company that I want to work with, or a director I want to work with then yeah, it's always in consideration for sure. 

7. Of all the characters you've played, which has been your favourite?
Tanya: Er, I think, overall I would say Karen in Pulling, which was a BBC comedy show that I did. Rainie, as well, is such a remarkable character and they're so far from who I really am but they're a great challenge to meet. I think the scripts on Pulling were so funny, I think everything about that series was right, if that makes sense, from where I was in my career at that time. 

8. What has been the highlight of your whole career?

Tanya: I think there are a number of highlights. I think I've been very fortunate in that way, I think I've had some theatre highlights, working with Steven Berkoff - he's an iconic playwright and director of theatre. Working with him was a real high point, for me. I think doing a show like Pulling, EastEnders, working in the National Theatre - I've done three shows at the National Theatre and that's always a high point being there. So, I'm lucky to have been able to have experienced that three times. Yeah, down to the smaller shows that I've done, like a beautiful play that I did on the London Fringe, about ten or eleven years ago called 'All Fall Away' and it was, again, a beautiful piece of writing, gorgeous character, working with that company. I would call that one of my high points as well, and I was a co-producer on that. 

9. That's good, because you do produce some of your own projects too, don't you?
Tanya: Yeah! I produced a short film which was special to me, a short film called 'One Day', which was starring Tim McInnerny, Toby Stephens, was directed by James Barriscale. It was such a great team! You know, it was great to be able to make that and to see the script come alive, which was something that I'd written. So that's another high point, I guess!

10, Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?
Tanya: If you're starting out in the profession, it's very easy to just hope that you're going to get an audition...but the easiest way to do it is just to do it yourself! You can put on plays, you can make films now, yourself, I mean we have cameras on our phones now (how technology is at our fingertips!), you can make web series, you can do sketches...there are so many opportunities now for us to be able to promote ourselves. And so I think that that's a really easy way to get started. It also helps to start building your confidence, and it also helps the way people are going to see you. 

11. Which actors inspire you?
Tanya: My biggest inspiration, proabably when growing up, is Peter Sellers. His characters I just found so intriguing and I loved the fact that he played characters that were so different and diverted himself. So I guess that he was a big inspiration when I was growing up. 

12. If you could invite three celebrity/famous guests to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Tanya: Well I would like Peter Sellers. I would probably end up being speechless and proably not say very much (laughs) erm, I would invite...Mahatma Gandhi, just can you not have somebody who's made such a difference to this world? I would probably...I'm trying to think somebody I would invite now...
Me: It's quite difficult, isn't it?!
Tanya: Yeah! I'm trying to think of somebody alive, otherwise I've just got dead people around the table which is not very good! Oh yeah, that's the would probably be Allison Janney. She was in West Wing. And I think she's fabulous. So I'd probably have to invite her as well. 

13. Finally, do you have a message for all of your fans and anyone reading this interview?
Tanya: Yeah, my message is...if you really have a dream or an aspiration, don't just let it go. Keep going for it. And if you can incorporate, at some point in your lives, an organisation such as SOS Children;s Villages, that will also be able to enjoy the journey with you, then I think that's what life's all about. 

Read more about SOS Children's Villages and find out how you can get involved. If you would like to fund raise, maybe you could take a leaf out of Tanya's book and ask guests who attend an event to kindly make a donation, or you could even host your own fundraising event! Whatever you can do would be amazing. SOS Children's Villages are a very deserving charity and they count on our donations. You can donate online by clicking here. Don't forget to follow Tanya on Twitter to keep up to date and to be the first to hear about any upcoming projects she has in store. Please spread the word about SOS Children's Villages and the amazing work they do.

Thanks for reading!
- Adam

Friday, 3 October 2014

13 Questions with...Lisa Scott-Lee

She is best known for being a member of successful British pop group, Steps, who had 14 top five UK singles. The band split on Boxing Day 2001 and she then went on to pursue a solo career. She also had her own reality TV show, Totally Scott-Lee and finished sixth place in Dancing On Ice 2007. In May 2011, Steps reunited for two successful 2012 tours, two TV series, a Greatest Hits album and a Christmas album! She has now returned to Dubai with her family where she has set up the Dubai Performing Arts Academy with her husband, Johnny. I got the chance to interview her about her new exciting career in being a principal at DPA, a possible future for Steps and more. Here are 13 Questions with...Lisa Scott-Lee!

1. Hi Lisa! So you've been very busy since Steps reunited in 2011/2012! Please tell us a bit about what you've been up to lately.
Lisa: After a fab reunion with Steps, my husband Johnny and I have returned to Dubai to launch our Performing Arts Academy.

2. Where did this idea first come around? 
Lisa and Johnny
Lisa: Johnny and I have talked about for opening an academy for a number of years and decided that this was the right time for us as we want to pass on our knowledge and experience to the younger generations.

3. What can people expect when attending a workshop? 
Lisa: We have designed our 3 hour Performing Arts Workshop so that our students benefit from learning the 3 core disciplines of singing, dancing and drama, all in one master class, taught by professional teachers and performers like ourselves.

4. What do you and Johnny hope to achieve through launching this amazing academy?
Lisa: Johnny and I would love to raise the awareness of Performing Arts amongst our youth, not only in Dubai but around the world as we know how much enjoyment it can give!

5. Why do you feel it's important for parents to influence their children to get involved in performing arts? 
Lisa: For us, it's not just about learning about performing arts and performing but also discovering the other benefits, such as such as improving fitness levels and building confidence, both of which stay with you for life.

6. Do you hope to open any more Academies across Dubai? Or maybe even in the UK?!
Lisa: We would love to expand DPA and our dream is to open an academy in our home land one day.

7. You have obviously been very busy with the launch, with over 100 children getting involved in the first two weeks! How did you feel after the academy got such an amazing reaction? 
Lisa: We were blown away by the support and turnout we have received so far. I think Dubai was ready for a Performing Arts Academy such as ours.

8. You're a mum to two very lovely children! Will you be encouraging them to get involved in the Performing Arts Academy? 
Lisa: Our children both love the arts and naturally want to come to our academy which is lovely. I guess it's in the blood!

9. You've had an amazing career so far and are a great example to the children attending the academy. What would be your advice to anyone interested in performing arts? 
Lisa: Be prepared to be focused and work hard to achieve your dreams and goals and don't give up!

Lisa with her Steps bandmates
10. You've spoken recently about how you and Johnny are settled in Dubai and Steps are currently on a break. Can we expect to see more of Steps soon? Maybe a tour or even new material? 
Lisa: We are in regular touch and we'd all love to do another tour one day as we love what we do and are our fans our incredibly supportive and loyal! 

11. You have had some very amazing opportunities - what has been the highlight of your whole career? 
Lisa: I've been lucky enough to have experienced so many wonderful parts to the industry but my highlight has to be being able to love what I do!

12. Who inspired you to become the woman you are today?  
Lisa: I have a wonderful husband and family around me who have always been supportive and I'm so grateful to them.

13. If you could invite any three celebrity guests or famous people to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Lisa: My first guest would have to be Michael Jackson as I was lucky enough to have dinner with him once! H from Steps would come a close second, just for shear entertainment value and because he makes me laugh so much! I would pick Lady Gaga as my third guest as I recently watched her in concert in Dubai and she was fab! That would be an interesting dinner hey?!

Thank you to Lisa for the lovely interview! Good luck to everyone studying at DPA! You can learn more about the Academy and apply here! Don't forget to follow Lisa on Twitter for updates. Lastly, Lisa had a message for all of her supportive fans:

"I would like to say a big thank you to everyone reading  this who has supported me and Steps over the years and continues to do so. Much love!"

Thanks for reading
- Adam!