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Debbie Chazen currently plays 'Jackie' in In Basildon at Royal Court Downstairs
Place of birth
Queen Mary's Hospital Hammersmith
Did you go to training school, if so which one?
LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art)
Briefly tell us how you became involved with "In Basildon".
I was asked to take part in a rehearsed reading of an early draft of "In Basildon" last year, and soon after I was offered the part of Jackie.
Briefly tell us about the character of Jackie that you play in In Basildon.
Jackie is the wife of Barry, who is the son of one of the sisters at war in the play, Doreen. Jackie is desperate to start a family with Barry and hopes that they will inherit the house, which would change their lives so much for the better. Jackie is not afraid to speak her mind, has some delicious and obscene turns of phrase and is a joy to play! .
What was your first stage performance?
My first stage performance was as a milkmaid in our Christmas play at primary school when I was about 5. I had only one line "Milko! Milko!", but I was so busy "acting" I forgot to say it! There was a long silence on stage and I saw our teacher fold her arms grumpily and shake her head, so I did the same! I got a big laugh, though I didn't know why, and so began my love affair with the stage!
What is your career highlight to date?
Even after 15 years in the industry, I still can't quite believe I'm doing what I love so much. I'm so lucky to be a working actress, that every new job I get is a revelation and a delight and every new part a challenge and a privilege.
What roles would you most like to play?
I would love to play Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which is one of my favourite plays. I have actually played her already, but I was 19 at the time and at university, so I would hope that I have a bit more life experience now and would love to give her another go accordingly!
What's the best advice you've ever received?
My late mother always said "Don't go into acting!" (hence Russian and Spanish at university!) but I didn't listen. She was probably right, but I'm glad I ignored her and I think actually she would be glad too by now!
What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage/tv?
It was more funny than embarrassing but once, when I was filming Tess of the D'Urbevilles in a squelchy turnip field in the rain I got stuck fast in the mud and needed four burly crewmen to pull me out!
What is the most annoying part about your job?
I am terrible with money and find the whole Schedule D self employment thing a nightmare. Imagine giving someone (especially a flaky actor!) lots of money and saying "Now, don't spend all of this because in January and July we're going to want most of it back again!" I wish the Inland Revenue would just take off the tax at source, then give us a huge rebate when we tally up our receipts!
If you had not become a performer, what might you have done instead?
I have no other skills whatsoever - I haven't spoken Russian or Spanish since university so I couldn't even get a language-y job. I'm quite interested in psychology, so maybe something to do with that? And I reckon people will always need their hair cut, so if I never get another acting job I should really re-train to be a hairdresser!
Favourite after-show haunts?
The Royal Court Bar is my current favourite after-show haunt! It's local, it serves great food and drink and it has a fantastically buzzy and exciting atmosphere!
Who are your favourite actors/actresses?
I know it's a cliche but I do love Meryl Streep. She is a chameleon and I suspect she has magical powers. Apart from her, Jack Lemmon, John Hurt, Diane Keaton, Helen McCrory, David Haig and a less well known American actor called Dennis O' Hare who is totally different in everything he does. Also, I was always a big fan of both Linda Bassett and Ruth Sheen, with whom I am now working. Life doesn't get much better sometimes!
If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and what would you say to them?
My Mum died in my second year of drama school so sadly she never got to see me have a great and lucky career as an actor. I would love to think that she's watching me from her little cloud somewhere and is pleased that I've done so well.
What was the last book you read, and name some of your favourite authors.
I'm currently reading Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch. It's a brilliant and exciting novel set in Victorian London.
What was the last film you saw, and name some of your favourite movies?
This may surprise you but I am a big fan of Bollywood movies! I love the drama, the colours, the music and the beautiful people in them! I just re-watched one of my favourite films Zindagi na Milegi Dobara, a fantastic film about not letting fear getting in the way of life. I highly recommend it!
Favourite TV programs?
I'm not generally into vampire stuff, but I do love True Blood. It's so camp and the atmosphere of sinister goings on in the Deep South is brilliant.
Favourite holiday destinations?
Any holiday destination is wonderful! New York and Venice and two of my favourite places on earth - I'm not really a relax-on-a-beach type, more an explore-a-city girl.
Do you have any hobbies?
I'm currently trying to teach myself to play the guitar and use a sewing machine. Will let you know how I get on!
Do you have any superstitions?
I always have to touch my collar when I see an ambulance, which is something my mother taught us. I recently found out that this comes from an old superstition "touch your collar, never swaller, (swallow), never get the fever"! Ridiculous, but now inbuilt.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
I would take a good tool kit so I could make a nice house with running water, my guitar so I could continue to learn how to play and my fiance Michael for obvious reasons!
What are your future plans?
Well, we just heard that the run of In Basildon is being extended by two weeks...but after that, no idea!