10/08/2009

Joss Discusses Her Role on The Tudors

Ah, to be Joss Stone.

Barely into her 20s, the British soul singer has already got a Grammy, an enviable recording career (10 million album sales and counting), a brand-new release winning critical acclaim, and now she's acting on a popular television series.

No wonder she's so cheerful, indeed giggly. Fresh from an appearance on Live With Regis and Kelly, Stone is determined to tell me that although her turn as Anne of Cleves on The Tudors is her first major acting gig, and although she was considered good enough to be asked back for the TV show's fourth and final season, she is not really an actor. She's a singer who sometimes acts.

Modesty aside, whatever Stone lacks in experience, she more than makes up for with sheer gumption. Her portrayal of Anne of Cleves is both funny and touching. Her Anne is a fragile creature, a woman overwhelmed by her new life as Queen of England; a life comprised of complex responsibilities and mortal dangers. Stone's face, usually a bright, open visage, registers layers of deep distrust and uncertainty.

Then again, perhaps the cinematographer simply captured Stone's real-life feelings – to go from almost zero acting experience to feature character, surrounded by classically trained actors, well, that would throw even the most seasoned soul singer.

For now, however, Joss Stone seems happy to enjoy the ride. She has nothing to lose.

I asked The Tudors director Jeremy Podeswa this same question two years ago –

Oh, Jeremy is so sweet! He helped me to no end, man. I just didn't know what I was doing and he, like, taught me how to act, in, like two seconds! I love him! No, seriously, I was so nervous, I was just, like, “Jeremy, you gotta help me out, man,” and he said, “No worries, honey, you'll be fine.”

Then perhaps you can answer the question he balked at: Why isn't Henry VIII fat on The Tudors? With you, wife No. 4, he really should be starting to bulk up.

I think because it's Showtime. Ha! To be really honest, I think that the show is a sauced-up version of Henry VIII's time. You know, it's got a little spice. They've kind of gone the opposite way from how it was done before, and it's a fun interpretation of it. There's been so many versions of Henry VIII that have been made that were imperfect to the history, so why not spice it up a little bit? Ain't no reason why not.

When you first said “sauced-up” I thought you said “soft-core.”

Ah! Same thing!

I loved how Anne of Cleves is introduced to the show – via a series of sight gags, wherein we never see her face. It was very Benny Hill.

Yeah, it was silly, wasn't it? I loved it! I mean, I didn't write the script, obviously, but I did my best with it. But I started with this show by auditioning for a different role, the year before, and they gave it to me, but then I couldn't take it, because I had a tour, so the scheduling was all wrong. It was such a shame, I was just gutted. So I said to the lady from Showtime, I'm sorry but I can't cancel my tour, it's already gone on sale, but, I know you're going to do more seasons, so if ever you need me, for any other role, I just want to be part of The Tudors . So she said fine, do you want to play the next queen? I said sure! No problem honey! But I didn't really realize it was Anne of Cleves, I just said yes, and then I looked her up and I was like, “Oh my God, she's German, I have to do a German accent, she's the ugliest of all of them, she's a crier and shy – this is a character role for me, I gotta get right into it.” So, I did.

You have been on the Maxim Hot 100 list –

Have I?

If I know that, you must know that. Yet, Anne of Cleves was regarded as unattractive, and the script describes you as unattractive. But, of course, you're not.

I don't think I looked my best, to be honest. No, I wasn't shining. There was a definite lack of makeup – they wouldn't give me anything! I would, like, beg for mascara and they just wouldn't do it. But I think it [Anne's alleged unattractiveness] was more about her clothes and style, which was amazing, but very different from the English style, which was all kind of busty, with thin waists, and Anne's style had a different vibe – massive hats and sleeves. It all made me look a bit weird. But there are different opinions about her – some say Anne was the most attractive, but those people are probably on crack. I just did what I could with her look, so be it. I don't really care. Make me ugly or pretty, as long as I play the role right.

I visited some of The Tudors fan sites –

Oh, oh!

And the fans were about 50/50 on you –

Oh, no, did I do a bad job?

No, no, I think that just proves you did a good job. But I'm wondering what it's like to be a performer who has been famous throughout the Internet age, and has always lived in a culture where whatever you do is instantly assessed?

I think it's helpful, because you can figure it out as you go along. I'm not an actress, I don't really know what I'm doing and I need to learn. The more people comment on what I'm doing, the more help I get, really. I like to see whether people enjoy what I'm doing or not. And, I don't really have to wait all that long! But you can't care too much about it, only when it's helpful. Sometimes it's hurtful, sometimes it's flattering – but at least it's something. 

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