Jorgie Porter chats about TV, ballet and starring in Fame at Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre
Soap actress, FHM babe, reality TV star and all-round lovely lady Jorgie Porter is taking to the stage in Fame. She tells us all about it . . .
Oops,” says Jorgie, as she picks up the phone. “I’ve got tuna in my mouth. Hang on.”
There’s a momentary pause, presumably as she swallows then there’s a satisfied aaahh.
“It’s gone,” she says, as the tuna makes its way through her oesophagus. And so begins a thrilling 15-minute joyride with one of Britain’s most unashamedly, filter-free and entertaining performers.
The Jorgie in question is the beautiful and lovely, the vivacious and vibrant Jorgie Porter. She’s an actress, a TV star, a reality show contestant and an eater of tuna at lunchtimes. As we have learned.
Oh, and another thing. Jorgie’s an absolute hoot. Her biography proudly declares that she once ate a crocodile penis while appearing on I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! We ask her about it later – wondering why her biography focuses on something so grizzly and, ahem, gristly. Trooper that she is, she tells us how proud she was to, um, get it down her. Which is nice, when the bushtucker shop is all out of tuna baguettes.
In an age of #MeToo political correctness, in an era when having a laugh, being a bit risqué and giggling at stuff that’s genuinely funny but might offend an inuit in eastern Greenland is forbidden, Jorgie is welcome relief. These are the times when apologists rule, when everything that once seemed normal has been banned by people telling us to mind our Ps and Qs. Jorgie, however, appears not to have read that memo. She’s deliciously unaffected and brazenly unfiltered. Lucky us. There’s nothing serious or po-faced about the uber pretty actress. She is light, refreshing and very, very funny – probably not always intentionally.
Jorgie, we hope she doesn’t mind us saying, combines fearless hard work with a soupcon of ditziness. Actually, that’s not right. She is the acme of ditzy – and is all the better for it. In a different era, she’d have sung a breathless ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ to JFK.
Fun, jolly, uninhibited and so hilariously saucy that by the end of the interview we’re laughing at our own questions before we’ve even asked them because we know she’ll answer them with something funny, Jorgie is the sort of person for whom the phrase ‘live wire’ was invented.
We’re talking to her because she’s starring in a new production of Fame – The Musical, which is on a 30th anniversary tour of the UK. She’s lining up with Keith Jack and Mica Paris in the production, which will visit the New Alexandra Theatre from November 19 to 24.
Based on the 1980 phenomenal pop culture film, Fame – The Musical is the international smash-hit sensation following the lives of students at New York’s High School For The Performing Arts as they navigate their way through the highs and lows, the romances and the heartbreaks and the ultimate elation of life. The bittersweet but uplifting triumph of a show explores the issues that confront many young people today: prejudice, identity, pride, literacy, sexuality, substance abuse and perseverance.
Jorgie is thrilled. The Catherine Wheel interviewee fizzes, pops and cracks when we ask her about it. “I am super excited,” she says. “It’s a brilliant show. Everyone knows the songs when they come on. Fame is reiminscent of older days. The cast are incredible. Mica and Keith, they’re like pros, aren’t they, and big, big stars.” Then what does that make you? She giggles.
“I am so excited to be making my stage debut playing Iris Kelly in Fame. The musical is one of my favourite ever films and I can’t wait to open the show in Manchester, my home town. I’ve not had a chance to perform ballet for a long time, it’s what I originally trained in – so I’m looking forward to getting my ballet shoes on!”
Her research for the show was pretty basic. “I do like to research things I’m doing,” she says. “I watched the YouTube stuff and bought the film, which was quite hard to find. There are a lots of different aspects.”
We’re not sure what she means – though we think it’s all that stuff that we blathered on about regarding prejudice, identity, pride, literacy, sexuality, substance abuse and perseverance.
Jorgie spends most of her time in TV land, rather than theatre, but there are parallels between acting for the cameras and acting for a live audiences. Performers have to draw on personal experience, swimming deep into their soul as they reflect on personal experience to create a character. Or something. Jorgie knows what we’re talking about and in Fame she’s identified with her own character and others as they sign up at a performance academy to pursue their dreams. She did just that, before the Channel 4 soap, Hollyoaks, made her a household name, well, sort of.
The brilliant Ms Porter agrees. “I went to dance school and Fame – The Musical is an absolute mirror of what goes on in dance school life. I remember being in the green room with people and there were all sorts of situations. You all have to be there for each other and you want each other to do well. Reading the script then playing the character isn’t an exact replica of that. But I do feel it’s quite similar and it’s something that I can go with.”
It’s unfair to say Jorgie has no theatrical experience. She does. But, to be honest, it’s limited. She laughs when we ask her about it. “I did a panto a couple of years ago. It was Snow White, which was brilliant.”
It’s not hard to imagine Jorgie being brilliant in panto. She’s exceedingly likeable, kids would imagine she’s a princess and she’d have the lightness of touch that panto requires.
“Snow White was great fun. There were some interesting reactions from the crowd. You can see their faces in the crowd, which is quite entertaining. That doesn’t happen on TV.”
And any other theatrical experience?
“When I did Dancing on Ice on Tour it was great fun. People like to show their home town to you and show you what they’re about. I did that six years ago when I came second on the TV show. It was a different level being in an arena and everyone was cheering. They all come out to have a good time and everyone loved the live show.” Jorgie has a fascinating biography. She’s best known for her role as Theresa McQueen in Hollyoaks. She was a contestant on the seventh series of Dancing On Ice on ITV and made it all the way to the final where she finished runner-up. Jorgie was then asked to return for Dancing On Ice: Champion Of Champions.
She has had the honour of being FHM’s front cover girl five times, most recently in September 2015 and once again made FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women List. Are we still allowed to flag that up in this post-Feminazi age of political correctness? We hope so. Because when we ask Jorgie about it, she purrs.
She’s been nominated for a bunch of awards, including Best Serial Drama Performance at the National Television Awards and Best Newcomer at the British Soap Awards.
Her TV work has included ITV’s award winning series I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here! Jorgie spent 23 days in the jungle during which time she sky-dived, won 10 stars in Disaster Chef, which included eating a crocodile penis and cockroaches, drinking animal blended cocktails, getting strung high above the trees in a human trap and taking part in the most famous trial of them all, Celebrity Cyclone.
Jorgie had huge public support back home in the UK and finished fifth.
Since returning from Australia, Jorgie has filmed an episode of Lip Sync Battle for Channel 5 against Rufus Hound and worked with E! on their live red carpet coverage of the Golden Globes. More recently, Jorgie starred alongside Mathew Horne, Jason Watkins, Sherrie Hewson, Roy Barraclough and John Challis in the highly-anticipated BBC One remake of Are You Being Served? Oh, and she’s the new face of major international skin care brand Proactiv+.
It gives us plenty to talk about.
“Well, Hollyoaks was when I just got started and I was only twenty. The whole of my twenties was taken up with being in that, which was amazing. It’s done me quite well because I forgot how to dress as me.”
We pause, to work out what she just said. Then we trace it back and realise that she’s talking about the fact that there was a wardrobe department in Hollyoaks which would tell her how to dress – but now that she’s not in Hollyoaks she has to dress herself. As an accomplished 30-year-old actress and model, it’s something she’s perfectly capable of.
“I have to do my own make-up now too.”
We get it. We get it. The Hollyoaks make-up department is no longer on tap and she has to slap her own foundation on. Got it.
“Doing all that has given me loads of confidence in many ways. It’s built my career.”
“There’s a big difference between TV and theatre. In TV, you have to pull out emotions and cry for a minute, but you can go again, but the theatre is live. Woah. It’s live. You can’t afford to mess up. Fame will be full of dancing and things with jazz routines and all sorts. Great. I love the pressure of it.” And we love her. She’s priceless.
We ask her about being a stunner. After all, there’s no denying her beauty and not without reason did FHM place her in their list of 100 Sexiest Women In The World in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. “I never expected to be going into that,” she says modestly. “But I don’t look at myself in photoshoots and think ‘that’s me when I wake up’. To be honest, I look nothing like that in the morning.”
And there’s a pause. And we both rewind what she just said. And then we laugh. She’s great.
“I’m proud of everything I’ve done,” she adds. And so are we. We are charmed. She’s our new favourite, favourite.
At awards ceremonies, she’s been nominated more times than Colonel Sanders has eaten finger-lickin’ chicken. The British Soap Awards, TV Quick And TV Choice Awards, National Television Awards and others have all put her on their shortlist – though the only thing she appears to have won was Hottest Female Soap Star from her friends at FHM.
Nonetheless, the experience of attending those events and being in the running for The Big Prize was an eye-opener.
“They’re so surreal those awards ceremonies. You forget what you’ve achieved in day-to-day life. But then, when you go to those things, you realise what you’ve gone through. When I’m 70, I’ll look back and think about what I have been up to. I’ll tell my grandkids. But they’ll probably think I’m making it up and am mad.” Perish the thought.
We move on to her eating the crocodile penis to see what memories she has of that. It is the first time in five and a bit years of Weekend that we’ve been able to ask our ‘what’s it like to eat a crocodile penis?’ question, and we’re just as thrilled to ask it as she is to answer.
“I’m not interested in that stuff.” It’s more deadpan than Jack Dee. Brilliant.
“Eating cockroaches was never on my list of things to do either. But I did it. I conquered my fear of spiders. One was on my face when I was asleep, apparently, but I didn’t know about it. They told me at the wrap party.” Thank God for that. Imagine what might have happened if they’d had to stop the cameras rolling because Jorgie was too freaked out to continue because of an encounter with an Aussie arachnid.
As interviewees go, Jorgie is right up there with our favourites. She might not be as big a name as Sir Rod Stewart, Sting, Michael Parkinson or Noel Gallagher, and she might not quite out-do Sean Ryder (but who does?) on a scale of one-to-surreal, but she’s fizzier than a bottle of Fentiman’s and has persuaded us to buy our tickets for Fame – The Musical.
We have a final question and we ask her whether there’s any difference between the bubbly Jorgie that we see on the box and the one her friends and family know off-screen.
“Do you know what?” she says . . . and there’s a pause. She’s probably eating more tuna.
“Do you know what. I think I’ve got so much energy I literally can’t hide it.” And she bursts into laughter, again.