A question of taste: Irish-Filipina actress Vanessa Emme

Des O’Driscoll

Vanessa Emme is an Irish-Filipina actress currently based in London. She plays Helena Charles in John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger which runs at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, in February and March.

Best recent book you’ve read:

I recently read Go Set a Watchman, (the sequel to How to Kill a Mockingbird) by Harper Lee. In so many ways, I wish I hadn’t read it — it was so disorienting and it broke my heart.

Best recent film: Get Out. It’s brilliant — it defies genres. It makes you laugh whilst making you think as it unsettles and haunts you.

Best recent show or gig: The National Theatre’s production of a new play by David Eldridge called Beginning, in London. It is the most gorgeous, human play.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately (new or old): Like so many others, Dolores O’Riordan’s voice anthemed my youth. Listening to The Cranberries — how sad we will never hear that haunting, beautiful voice to new music or live again.

First ever piece of theatre or film that really moved you: The Lion King destroyed me — don’t draw beautiful, cute animals and then have one die. I can’t handle it — I never watched another animated picture again.

The best gig or play you’ve ever seen: I bought my tickets to Hamilton for May 2018 in January 2017. All this hype hints it should be one of the best things I am going to see. Building expectations are always a dangerous thing!

TV viewing: Still being quite new to the London scene, I make a point of trying to watch as many UK and Irish TV productions as possible. One of the best things I saw in 2017 was BBC’s Broken starring Sean Bean. And of course, Netflix.

Radio listening and/or podcasts: Currently listening to the podcast Serial.

Your all-time favourite acting performances? Vincent Cassel in Mesrine; Mark Rylance in... everything. He is beautiful in Wolf Hall; Lia Williams as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire in The Gate was beautiful. John Hurt in Krapp’s Last Tape was wonderful.

Your best celebrity encounter: The last show I did in London starred the amazing Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams. As if that wasn’t enough, all their mates came to the show — I think one night we had Anna Wintour, Bill Nighy, and Jude Law in the audience. Oh and Daniel Craig came in to see us… meeting 007 in the bar afterwards was all sorts of trying to play it cool.

You can portal back to any period of human cultural history or music event — where, when, and why? The beginning of time… Adam and Eve? Dinosaurs? The big bang? Apes? What’s the story!?

Do you have any interesting ancestors or family? My mum is from the Philippines and apparently, we are related to Marcela Marcelo who is a national heroine. She was a fierce fighter and led a group of revolutionaries against the Spanish. She died in 1897 during the Battle of Pasong Santol after leading her men in a raid on the Spanish trenches.

Unsung hero: My mum was born into poverty and there were days when they didn’t have food to eat. From a very young age, she decided she was going to make a better life for herself. She studied harder than all of her peers and became the school valedictorian which won her a scholarship to university where she graduated with a first class honours bachelor of science. She did her masters in science and maths but didn’t get to write her dissertation and left the Philippines to teach in Nigeria. She is a constant inspiration to me that if you put your mind to something and work hard you can create change.

You are queen for a day — what’s your first decree? Repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland; enforce education regarding the welfare of animals, and in turn, our planet; reverse Brexit;

impeach Trump (and a few others, while I’m at it). One love, one equality for all. Side by side, no divide. That would be a busy day but I’d go for gold!


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