So you have never sung on stage before and you are about to step into the shoes of Audrey Hepburn – and, in this production, Pixie Lott, to sing Moon River. Throw in that you are aged 25 from Bury with no theatrical background, and it is safe to say that you would probably be just a smidgeon nervous.
Not so Georgia May Foote, the actress à la mode, who seems to treat starring in that iconic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s in exactly the right way – as an amusing adventure. This is the woman, after all, who appeared on Strictly without any dance training, and according to several newspapers “won the heart of the nation” (and that of her dancing partner, Giovanni Pernice, with whom she is still, um, dirty dancing).
But make no mistake, her points are as sharp as Hepburn’s cigarette holder, reflecting that her parents only allowed her to embark on her acting dream if “I got my grades”.
“I deliberately haven’t watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s, my parents watched it again and urged me to but I don’t want to be influenced,” she says boldly. “I think Audrey Hepburn played it in quite a light way. I have been studying the book, and not only was it set in a different time, it’s actually quite a dark story – Holly Golightly is basically a high class escort going off with lots of different men.” She is right: Truman Capote’s novel was pretty explicit, but the film had to tread carefully, and occasional references to “$50 for the powder room” went “woosh” over the straight-combed, Brilliantined heads of American film audiences.
And stepping in the glittering shoes of Ms Lott throws up other challenges. Not only is Pixie very beautiful (though Georgia is no aeshetic slouch, and has been nominated for various “sexiest soap” actress awards and has appeared in FHM more often than turnips have appeared on Gardener’s World), but she is also a hugely successful singer; Foote, not so much.
“I spoke to the director about it, I think it is welcomed that we are very different and have our own ideas. I keep telling myself I will be fine, and I’m sticking to that as I have to do it. She is quite vulnerable, just strumming a guitar, so I should be able to do it. Before Strictly I hadn’t really gone in front of a live audience before, but you learn to do it and enjoy it. And I have my acting: I’m focused more on just getting the play right.”
It was a challenging home life which drove her into acting. Her parents, she reveals, took in foster children.
“My mum also works in my sister’s school, and she is disabled,” Georgia says. “She’s 13, and is a sister to me now. But I was very unnerved at the time. We had all these other children there and they were all playing with my toys.”
Part of the motivation for going to drama school aged nine was to get out of the house. “The house was a bit crazy, and drama school was an escape. It started just to burn off energy really, jumping around. My grandmother did a bit of singing but no-one in my family came from that kind of background.”
Her parents challenge for her to get her grades worked. “They sat me down and said ‘100 per cent we will back you but you must get your grades in case it doesn’t work out’.” And was that a hardship? “Not at all, I was one of the best in my year. I’m a bit of a geek actually, and was winning awards and really enjoyed school and college.” Which is not an impression you would gain from reading tabloids which scarcely see beyond her figure. “I always wanted to be a criminal psychologist, it fascinates me, I love crime dramas,” she discloses. “Who knows, it maybe something I return to one day.” The macabre seemed to find her at any rate, and in two of her earliest roles she was “murdered”. “In Conviction I was 12 years old and had these flowers on me covered in fake blood. My mum was not impressed.”
But soon she was becoming an established television hand. Her break was Grange Hill, and to keep up with their studies the fictional school programme had a real life classroom where the actors were expected to study four hours a day. “It was a nightmare for the teacher because he had every kid from primary school age to college age.”
After a guest appearance in Coronation Street she was given a leading part, and has built up quite a CV, with credits in such British staples as Casualty, Emmerdale and Heartbeat. But does she miss Corrie? “I don’t miss the show; I miss the people. It is only once you leave you realise how intense it is. It has a lot of people in it and you are waiting for a good story line.”
She took the plunge to leave knowing she had Strictly, but beyond that there was nothing. “It is terrifying, and sometimes there is nothing around.” Risking falling flat on her face – quite literally – on Strictly must have also produced a few butterflies, no?
“Oh yes, but I always knew I could move a little bit, at family dos I was always first on the dance floor. It was the best thing I have ever done. And you learn about music in a completely new way; I took to listening to it on the tube with a new intensity. I made mistakes in every performance but you learn to sell it to the audience.”
She doesn’t, she says, envy the new cast of Strictly, and even now the five gym sessions a week she did then is taking its toll: “My body aches and my bones still creak! I didn’t realise just what a demand it would make on the body.” She admits to having lost a bit of fitness “and I ate my bodyweight at Christmas.” She clearly likes her food, talking dreamily of another trip she plans with Giovanni to Italy, where it appears the prospect of meat in restaurants is every bit as alluring as the muscular physique of her tango partner.
Ambitions include making it in film, ideally in British period drama. She would also like to play a superhero. Before that she is going to star in a run of the Rocky Horror Show, though she speaks more wistfully about appearing in a show like Chicago. She says she has scarcely had a day off since June, with little time to enjoy her new London pad (her house in Bolton is let). “My parents came down recently and asked where we should go. I didn’t really know myself, I still feel I am looking for my place. My sister is coming next weekend and I need to do better finding somewhere.”
Now any unhappiness over having a childhood taken up with foster children is long gone. She is close to her parents, and they have taken to Giovanni, and she looks back on those she shared her early years with affectionately. “You saw the sparkle in their eyes. It changed their lives. They had to leave us eventually, which was hard, but I hope it made a difference. It was a great experience.”
Is fostering something she would ever consider? “I do enjoy it, I’m good with babies and kids, I would never say ‘no’. But I would need to be settled first –
and right now life is non-stop.” Spoken like a true
Brighton Theatre Royal from 25-29 October,
adapted as a play with music by Richard Greenberg and starring Georgia May Foote
From Coronation Street to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Georgia May Foote has come quite a way, via Grange Hill and Strictly Come Dancing. As she heads for Sussex she talks foster sisters, ambitions to be a criminal psychologist... and Audrey Hepburn