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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Miranda Hennessy, British Actor, Writer and Comedian Our Coverage Sponsored by Hallak Cleaners the Couture Cleaner

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Miranda Hennessy is a British Actor, Writer and Comedian. A regular on the London comedy circuit, Miranda cut her teeth doing stand-up whilst training as an Actress at Drama Studio London before going on to create her own award winning sketch comedy group – ‘Hennessy & Friends.’

Now a regular face on British television, you may have seen her playing a diverse range of characters such as psycho girlfriend Isabel in BBC’s ‘Pramface’, self-obsessed Australian dancer Zoe in Comedy Central’s ‘Give Out Girls’, Royal Correspondent Fiona Templeton in E!’s ‘The Royals’, and obnoxious producer Millie in UKTV’s ‘Hoff the Record’ (an improvised mockumentary starring David Hasselhoff!) to name but a few… Or, if horror movies are your thing, you may know her as the star of Icelandic feature film; ‘Harpoon / Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre’ where she enjoyed filming out in the freezing Icelandic Ocean for two months and doing all her own stunts.

In 2014, after writing and starring in two sell out shows, Miranda together with her sketch group won the award for ‘Best New Sketch Act’ at the Edinburgh Festival and was invited to write and perform for the BBC Radio 4 show ‘Sketchorama’. Since then ‘Hennessy & Friends’ have headlined Latitude Festival and Leicester Comedy Festival in the UK as well as being the hosts of their own regular comedy nights at The Leicester Square Theatre in London.

Now Miranda’s made the move stateside to Los Angeles to try and ‘break America’; auditioning for leads in US TV pilots and pitching her own sitcom scripts with a view to writing and starring in her own show. We are so happy to present Miranda Hennessy as our latest Mover and Shaker! Peachy Deegan interviewed Miranda for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first acting memory?
Miranda Hennessy: Being cast as the lead in the school play at junior school despite being the youngest and smallest auditioning and having no prior acting experience. I was playing a cockney tap dancing lad in the play 'Pearlies' and several of the older boys were seriously pissed off that they didn't get the role. My parents were so surprised when they came to see the show as I was such a shy, quiet girl.

When did you realize you were funny?
In Chemistry at school - I was disrupting class and being a bit of a clown, I think I was giving stupid answers to the teacher's test questions or something, when I realised that my teacher was laughing just as hard as the pupils. Once he'd composed himself, he sent me out of the room. I think I got a letter home too...

What is the definition of someone that is funny?
Someone that makes others laugh?

What motivated your intrinsic passion for acting?
I guess I must just really want to be someone else?! No, I do love being other people for a while - it's a lot of fun, but also I think it's because i'm really interested in people and how they work and relate to each other. I really love working out how a person's past and experiences mould them into who they are and how they will react in any given time or situation. That's always fascinating to me. Without wanting to sound cheesy - Human Beings are pretty fascinating creatures.

What is the difference between a successful actor and one who is not?
I don't really know to be honest, because there are so many talented, driven Actors out there who are not successful for whatever reason. Luck often plays a huge part as well as hard work.

What have you enjoyed the most about each of your acting ventures and why?
I've been really lucky that I've been able to play a wide range of characters. I really loved playing the slightly unhinged 'Isabel' in Pramface, she was a bunny boiler but it came from a really desperate, needy place. She so badly wanted to be loved that she become the most un-lovable character, I found that pretty hilarious. But my favourite role I think so far was playing an Aussie Dancer in 'Give Out Girls' - Zoe was so self-obsessed and confident that she could be a total bitch without seeming like she even knew what she was saying - bitchy with a smile. She would stab you in the back and make it seem like she was doing you a huge favour and then be long gone before you even knew you were injured. I was also really lucky to spend two months out in Iceland shooting a horror film which was wonderful, Iceland is so beautiful and I got to experience some pretty amazing things - we saw the northern lights from the boat we filmed on every night and whales swam around us during the day. I got to do my own stunts and even got eaten by a mechanical killer whale... oops, spoiler alert!

What do you think of the historic pay discrepancy between men and women in acting?
Obviously I think it's disgusting in any profession, I honestly can't believe it still exists. Equality should be a given by now, surely. I think the problem is also about how we portray female characters in film and TV too and therefore how they are valued. But it is getting better.

What directors would you like to work with and what do you think you would learn from them?
I would really love to work with Armando Iannucci, 'Veep' is one of my favourite shows and exactly the sort of show I want to be working on. Or Judd Apatow, everything he does is awesome.

What do you attribute your acting success to?
Tenacity, stubbornness, sheer bloody mindedness. Any normal person would have given up years ago, after the first few hundred NO's but I kept trying!

Do you enjoy the stage or the screen more and why?
Both. I'd never want to give one up completely. As much as I love working in TV now, I still enjoy performing live comedy and theatre whenever I can.

Do you admire other comedians/ennes - why or why not and if so who?
Yes of course, I admire a lot of my peers who are out there every day gigging, writing, working. I also admire the female comedians (I hate the word comedienne) who are out there at the moment writing, producing and starring in their own shows. I hope some day soon that will be me.

What is the craziest stunt you've ever had to do and would you do it again?
When I was filming 'Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre' (catchy title - it's called 'Harpoon' in this country!) there was a scene where my character jumps from this huge whaling ship into the ocean in the middle of the night. When the director and I first talked about the scene, he told me I wouldn't be allowed to jump myself as it was too dangerous so we would have a stunt double do it. Apparently it was too high a drop and I would go too far under the water, but also it was pitch black and no one would be able to see me, oh and the sub zero temperatures meant that it would feel like daggers going into my head when I hit the water... So after hearing all of this, we get to the night of the shoot and the director decides he wants us to do the jump after all! So he can get a close up shot of our faces. And I'm like, no way, you said it was too dangerous! So, then they get the stunt guys to come and talk to me and reassure me that it's all perfectly safe, and as long as I wear ear plugs and a wet suit under my clothes I should be fine. Anyway, it was up to me, but it was one of those moments where I just thought - i'm gunna kick myself tomorrow if I don't do this. So I did it. And it was equally terrifying and awesome at the same time! The best bit was right before I jumped, I shouted to the 1st AD 'Are there Killer Whales down there?!' ... and there was a not too short pause before he came back with; 'No ... but we have a gun just in case!' And on that note, I jumped, and fell, and there was the moment when I felt I should have hit the water but I just kept falling for several seconds more, and then I hit the water. And I did go really deep under the water and the shock of the cold was really intense. But then I came to, and started panicking about the killer whales (in character of course!) and started literally swimming for my life to reach the life raft. 

What would make you feel you "broke America"?
Oh I don't know, I want to be a regular on a big TV show out here, something I really love and would watch myself. That's a good start!

What or who has had the most influence in your pursuit of excellence?
My family. My Grandmother was a Ballerina and took me to my first ever audition, my Great Grandmother paid for me to go to dance & drama classes when I was at school, and my Mum has always taught me never to put a ceiling on myself, and that no matter what a person's means or where they come from, they can do anything they want to.

What are you proudest of and why?
My sketch group Hennessy & Friends, because that is 100% made by us - written, produced, performed, funded... and - it's funny! I know it is because I have several reviews framed at home that tell me so. Not really.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I'd like to do some more Drama, I've done Drama in the theatre but screen wise I've mainly worked in Comedy so that's something I would love to do that I haven't had the opportunity to do yet.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Hennessy and Friends won the award for 'Best New Sketch Act' at the Edinburgh Festival, that was an honor.

What one word best describes you and why?
Oh no, it's a test. 'Fun' coz I always like to try and have fun whatever i'm doing. God that's so lame. How about 'Green' coz that's my favourite color, and not because i'm green with envy!

What do you take your sense of identity from?
My family and friends. I have a small group of friends from University whom I'm very close to; it's nice to have friends and a life away from the industry. I think that's really important.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And London? And Los Angeles?
Manhattan - I'm going to Manhattan in a few weeks and I want to go this tapas restaurant my Mum told me about. She used to live in Spain and said it's really cool - it's called Casa Mono. I love tapas.
London - Alexandra Palace. My favourite thing to do is walk our dog Myrtle there and have a pint at the Victoria Stokes Pub or the Earl Haig near our house.
Los Angeles - Runyon Canyon, I really miss Myrtle when i'm away from home so I like to go for a hike there in the mornings and see lots of other cute dogs on their morning walk. I like to take pictures of other people's dogs when they're not looking. It's an illness.

What is your favourite shop in Manhattan? And London? And Los Angeles?
London - Scarlet Rage Vintage in Crouch End
Los Angeles - Meltdown Comics on Sunset.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
My sister Juliette, I don't know what to do yet but she is the most intelligent, self confident 18 year old I have ever met and I want her on my team!

What is your favorite drink?

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Umm ... I don't go to many cocktail parties but last night I was at a jazz club and Jeff Goldblum was there and he did a dramatic reading of my text messages, which was pretty surreal.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? And London? And Los Angeles?
Manhattan - I've heard there are some amazing Lobster bars in the financial district where they serve Lobster right out in the street - I can't wait to go to one of those!
London - My current favourite is 'Bar Esteban' in Crouch End. Delicious Tapas and amazing Gin & Tonic cocktails the size of my head. Also, bonus points for - it's right by my house. Or 'Copita' in Soho.
Los Angeles - I'm living round the corner from 'Cheebo' on Sunset at the moment and I love going there for brunch. Also I went to 'Animal' recently and that was pretty yummy.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 
I don't think I know any? Sorry!
And London? 
Bridget Jones' Diary.
And Los Angeles?
I can't think of any books set here, but my favourite film set here is 'Mulholland Drive'.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Deadpool. Well, i've always wanted to be a superhero and he looks like he has the most fun out of all of them.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? And London? And Los Angeles?
Manhattan - A Cocktail. It would be called 'The Hennessy' and it would be Gin based, and green.
London - A pub. It would be called 'The Hennessy' and it would be Gin based (with some great beers on tap), and green.
Los Angeles. A star. They can keep it pink like the others, that's cool.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
And London? 
 Filming a sketch in Highgate Woods all day which involved me chasing my husband and then beating the crap out of him. That was fun.
And Los Angeles? I like to hike in Runyon Canyon. I also do a lot of Yoga.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
And London? 
Hang out in Soho on a sunny Friday afternoon.
And Los Angeles?
Go to Pioneer town! (I haven't actually been yet but i'm very excited to go.)

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
My husband because I haven't seen him in nearly two months now because of work, so I really miss him! Sorry if I made you throw up your breakfast.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
And London? I recently saw Blondie live in Hyde Park, that was fun. 
And Los Angeles? I haven't seen any music or art gigs here yet I don't think.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I love going out of my way to do a favour for a stranger - they always act so surprised! In London they do anyway, it makes you feel really good and if everybody did that the world be such a lovely warm fuzzy place! But on a grander scale, not enough I'm afraid. I mean, yes I fund-raise and I give money to certain charities and I will always give money and food to homeless people I see on the street because that is an issue very close to my heart, but I could do a lot more. 

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? 
And London? Overrated - The London Eye. Underrated - Alexandra Palace.
And Los Angeles? Overrated - The Walk of Fame. Underrated - Snake Pit Ale House on Melrose.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite WhomYouKnow
​.com​ column and what do you like about it?
Peachy's Pet Pals!! You've probably already guessed, but I'm a big fan of animals, especially Dogs.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I also like Cats.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Twitter - @mirandahennessy

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