Downton Abbey's Sophie McShera

Tea Time Tidbit for the week of August 29, 2016

Tea Time Tidbit

As Daisy, the kitchen maid

Sophie McShera, who played kitchen maid Daisy Mason in Downton Abbey, returned to the London stage last week in John Osborne’s The Entertainer, the latest play being presented by the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company. In it she plays Jean Rice, the daughter of failed music hall comedian Archie Rice. Laurence Olivier was the original Archie in the late 1950s and McShera’s part was played by Joan Plowright, for whom Olivier left his wife at the time, Vivien Leigh. This time 'round, Kenneth Branagh takes on the role of Archie.

Tea Time Tidbit

Lilly James as Cinderella and
McShera as Drisella

This is the second time McShera has worked with Branagh in the last year or so, as he directed her in the 2015 film version of Cinderella, in which McShera played stepsister Drisella. The role of Cinderella was played by McShera’s Downton Abbey cast mate, Lilly James, whom Branagh recently co-directed in his theatre company’s production of Romeo & Juliet, in which James played Juliet.

The Bradford born McShera has also played Cinderella. In 2010 she was in a stage production at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Here's a clip of McShera rehearsing and talking about that production:

Tea Time Tidbit

Rehearsing with Kenneth Branagh

The last time 31-year-old McShera performed in the West End was five years ago when she was in the comedy Jerusalem, which starred Mark Rylance. That was almost two decades after her professional stage debut in The Goodbye Girl, which only came about when one of the five girls submitted to audition by the Bradford theatre school McShera had just joined dropped out. Apparently an American accent was a criterion for the role and as McShera had spent her summer glued to the TV show Saved By The Bell, a show about American teenagers, she felt she was up to the task. The producers must have agreed, because McShera was cast and embarked on a national tour, accompanied by her Irish grandmother as her chaperone.

McShera then went on to play Annie in the 1998 West End revival of the musical before finishing her high school courses and getting a degree in drama from Brunel University in London. McShera left University in 2007 and just three years later became one of the original cast members of one of the world’s most popular television series.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
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