Sunday, 4 December 2011

INTERVIEW: Gillian MacGregor

Just prior to the release of the great short, Hit Girls, I met up with star and scribe, Gillian MacGregor.  After having only chatted to her via the medium of Twitter I had no idea what to expect from the version of her that could talk to me in more than 140 characters.  

She was as charming and pleasant as she is online but her picture doesn’t do her justice, she is more beautiful in the flesh.  She certainly possesses the movie star looks and hopefully this and her upcoming projects will provide her the springboard into the bigger projects she deserves.

Recently Gillian had also been involved in a charity project called Model Fight Night which, whilst Hit Girls was our reason for the meeting, was where we started……

Damon: How did you get into Model Fight Night?

Gillian: Hit Girls was the first action project that I did.  I learnt the action like it was a dance and found that I happen to be, you know, not horrendous at it and after that I got more action stuff. This was obviously good for me as it was something that I’d always been interested in but never thought it’d be something that I could ever get to do.
HIt Girls Pics

(Gillian, Rosie & Joey on set - picture by Zoe Ryan)

I was doing a job playing Claire Redfield from Resident Evil and I became very good friends with one of the other actresses, Hannah Farmer.  She took part in Model Fight Night last year.  The thought of actually having a martial arts skill that I’ve trained in and worked hard for was very appealing.  I was excited about what I’d potentially be able to do action wise at the end of the process.

Training sessions at the Boxing Clinic were awesome.  Well... until the first time I got hit in the face.  For a little while after that I just wanted to quit to be honest! The punch came right underneath my head guard to my jaw and it felt like my brain had rattled.  I thought fuck this I don’t wanna do this anymore, but I’d said I was going to do it, so I did!  We were raising money for the Katie Piper Foundation so there’s no way I would have backed out.

Damon: Would you do it again?

Gillian: It depends on what else I’ve got going on as the time commitment is huge.  When it actually came to the fight, I loved it.  There was a lot of crying and insecurity during the build up to the fight, but then on the day I was completely calm.  By the time I got in the ring I was so aggressive I was like an animal.  It was an amazing experience and I won so that was quite nice.  

Being a working actor requires you to be on the case all the time and I just found that everything suffered because you have to prioritise the training because someone’s going to be trying to take your head off.  So if you don’t train you could get hurt.

Damon: Has it affected you getting new projects?
HIt Girls Pics
(Gillian & Rosie take things up a notch - picture by Zoe Ryan)

Gillian: Well, since Fight Night I’ve been busy.  I’ve just shot my part in a new British feature, “Across the River” and, among other projects, I’ll be shooting a thriller feature “The Quiet One” in January.  Also, I’m back on stage again in November as well. I’m doing a show called Burlexe and it’s about the stories of the ladies who do burlesque.

Damon: Is that going to be in London?

Gillian: Yes (The Shadow Lounge, 5-7 Brewer Street,London, W1F 0RF)

Damon: So what was your inspiration for “Hit Girls”?

Gillian: I wish I had a good story for you!  I just had this idea of what if Rachel and Monica from “Friends” were evil, and “Hit Girls” is what came out.   The original script is quite different to the finished short because I wrote that 4 or 5 years before we actually shot it and during that time it had undergone different personnel changes including a different director.  I think Adrian was our fourth director!  Rosie, the producer and fellow Hit Girl, called me up and asked me if the script was available and off we went.
HIt Girls Pics
(Gillian ready to kick ass - picture by Zoe Ryan)

I was going through a really bad personal time just before the shoot and I’d try to leave the business but I just kept getting work, which is obviously nice.  When you want it you don’t get it, when you’re not looking for it, it comes your way. I told Rosie she could have the script but I didn’t think I wanted to be in it.  She said “No! You have to be in it. You must be in it.” So, of course, I was – thank God!

Damon: Where was it filmed? The opening shot looked fantastic.

Gillian: The flat belonged to a friend of Rosie’s.  It’s quite special.  We were really nervous using it.  

I’ve got an interesting story about the intercom scene.  That’s a live feed from the front door into the flat and not done in post production.  Joey (Ansah, her co-star) and I didn’t know each other at the time and we had to do this intimate scene, which is awful at the best of times!   With the live feed to the whole building, everyone could have been watching it. We were there shooting it for hours doing the same racy thing over and over.  I didn’t know that at the time!  

The view from the flat was amazing.  I was so worried about everything I even had to put tape on my heels so I didn’t mark the floor. 

Damon: So how did he survive getting a knitting needle shoved up his nose?

Gillian: Well you can.

Damon: Did you research that?

Gillian: I did research that.  People get shot through their head and as long as it doesn’t hit certain points then you can survive it.

Damon: Until you get hit in the head with a spade!!

Gillian: That was horrible.  That blood went right in my eye.  We only had one take of that and it was the last shot before we had to get the sunrise.  It was like pressure, pressure, pressure.  We had five crew members that were underneath the camera with the blood, ready to throw it at us and someone got their hand in the shot and so we had to crop it a little.
Damon: So are you going to be putting Hit Girls into festivals?

Gillian: For now the plan is we’re just going to release it online.  It’s not a festival piece, it’s too commercial.  We’re going to do quite a bit of press, starting from now! You’re the first one.

Damon: Excellent, thank you. I noticed you have a TV show in the works.  Ninety Eight Percent.  What is that?

Gillian: I’m a lesbian in that one which isn’t something I imagined trying in front of a crew of people, ha ha!  I have no experience of this.  This will be a new thing for me. It’s going to be shot later this year, beginning of next year and it’s set back home in Scotland so that’s really cool.  

It’s got a BAFTA nominated director, Frank McGowan.  I’m really excited to be working with such a young, dynamic Scottish company.
Damon: You mentioned being a lesbian in it….

I have a lesbian sex scene, oh my dear lord!! My dad is going to freak out, he’ll kill me. My family weren’t impressed with Hit Girls to be honest, with the wanking scene. I had to tell them you don’t actually do it you know; it’s a film.  Joey didn’t even have his willy out, I promise.  

Obviously there’s more to the show than the sexuality of the characters.  It’s a gritty crime drama.  So, I have got other scenes other than the sex scene but that’s the one that’s making me go “Holy Shit! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!!”  Everything is local, the whole cast is Scottish as are the crew. Its good Scottish talent, we’re doing it for the Scots.  I’m nervous though.

Damon: I’d be nervous if I were doing something similar.

At my audition they didn’t ask me straight out if I was gay or straight but they warned me that there are sexual scenes with a female and was I alright with that?  I was like hey, whatever.  It’s just as bad doing those scenes with boys as it is with girls to be honest.

Damon: So it’s a drama?  Is it a comedy drama or straight up?

Gillian: It’s just drama.

Damon: Any plans to move into comedy?

No specific plans.  I just go with whatever fits, you know?  The thing with Hit Girls is it is meant to be funny.  We had a big screening at BAFTA with strangers and they laughed all the way through but when my friends are watching they just don’t know what to do.  They don’t know if they can laugh or not in case they laugh when they’re not supposed to.  I was like “It’s okay, I’m wanking a dead man, you can laugh at that”.   I think it’s quite hard to do comedy.  Poor Joey.  He’s ticklish so he had a hard time with that bit trying to be dead.  

Also we had to actually kick him into the grave.  The first time it happened I wasn’t expecting it.  Poor Joey.  To be fair to him he kept his mouth shut and he did it about five times.

Damon: So with you doing all the action stuff, were they your knife skills?

Gillian: Yes they were. They weren’t that good to be fair. Although it’s actually hard to chop a lime in half in one strike. I really enjoyed it.  It’s a good little short

Damon: And it’s yours.

Gillian: And it’s mine.  Sort of.  Ours.  There were loads of lessons that I learned. I’ve written stuff that’s been produced before and generally it’s been done as I wrote it but Hit Girls wasn’t because everyone has their input.  It became much more of a collaborative process between me, Rosie and Adrian.  

Adrian brought the boyness to it... you know, that masculine and feminine mix which seems to be what works in it.  It’s what people comment on.  

On the day we were faced with cutting some dialogue and I wasn’t happy.  Because of rain interrupting filming Adrian said we were going to have to.  I said that we’d gone over the whole script we can’t cut anymore dialogue.  But, actually, he was right and we could have cut quite a bit of that and it still would have worked but never mind.

Damon: So was the rest smooth sailing?

Gillian: No, ha ha. We actually dragged Joey through the forest, actually took his whole body weight and that was so difficult.   And we lost the sound and had to ADR the whole forest stuff.   Somehow they sorted it out and made it work. Joey even came into the ADR suite and actually put his weight on us so you could hear it in our voices.

Damon: Good thinking.

Gillian: That wasn’t my idea. Are you kidding?  I was like do we have to? Ha ha.

Damon: So do you want to make the move into big budget features or you did you want to keep doing more low key things?

Gillian: I’d like to be able to do both. If you could do the bigger stuff to fund the smaller stuff then I think that would be the best situation for all.  

I’d like to be able to do some more writing.  I’ve got a feature script that I’ve been working on for a while and would love to work on more but it’s so hard finding the time.

It feels like the industry has changed so much you need to be able to do all sorts of different things.  Otherwise you’ll just sink.  So I feel like, certainly with a lot of the lower budget films I get involved in my input is potentially more than just being an actor.

Gillian is certainly more than just an actor.  She has an enthusiasm of all aspects of creation that makes you want to go out there and make movies with her.  I am looking forward to seeing her in Burlexe and hope that she soon starts reaching to wider audiences and brings her infectious personality which is currently untainted by the Hollywood machine.  And to be honest I can’t see her falling into the trappings of the Hollywood lifestyle.  Whilst considering her home to be London she is a true Scot at heart and they’d never let that happen.  This is only a good thing.

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