Tamzin Outhwaite is probably best known for her role as Mel Owen in EastEnders but you’re about to see her again in East London, this time going back to the 1960s, as she plays hair salon owner Barbara on BBC1. Ridley Road.
The four-part drama begins on BBC1 on Sunday, October 3 at 9pm, and the four episodes are then broadcast on BBCiPlayer. It will be shown in the US on PBS and we will update it with the US release date in due course.
The events are set in 1962 when support for the neo-Nazi group The National Socialist Movement (NSM) and its leader, Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear) was gathering momentum.
A young Jewish woman Vivien Epstein (Agnes O’Casey) follows her lover Jack (Tom Varey) from Manchester to London, where she gets a job in Barbara’s salon. Vivien soon discovers that Jack has infiltrated the NSM, working undercover for the Jewish resistance organization The 62 Group, and when he disappears, she is forced to go undercover.
Here, Tamzin Outhwaite talks more about her role in Ridley Road…
Tamzin Outhwaite on her ‘Ridley Road’ character Barbara …
“Barbara is a hairdresser who owns and runs Oscar’s salon,” says Tamzin Outhwaite. “I have made up this backstory that she names Oscar as the father of her son, who was possibly in the Navy and she got pregnant from a very short relationship, but was very much in love with him. Obviously, he was the love of her life and she named her room after him.
“When I read the scripts and realized that it was written by Sarah Solemani, of whom I am a huge fan, I had to participate. She said that when she was writing the role, she always had Barbara in her head played by me. The script In itself it was brilliant. I knew it was based on Jo Bloom’s book, so I read the book, which I thought was amazing. Then I looked at the cast of actors which at the time consisted of Rory Kinnear, Eddie Marsan, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Danny Hatchard and Sam Spiro, it was really a no-brainer. “
Tamzin on filming the London East End location and hair salon …
“Ridley Road as the market was a place that my mother used to take me throughout my childhood and my father knew many market traders, ”says Tamzin. “The East End of London, Hackney, was a place I was very familiar with and Ridley Road the market brought back very good memories. ”
“I loved being in the living room. It took me a while to feel like I really owned it, but in the end I felt like it was really my hairdresser and I was a hairdresser. Smoking in a salon in those days was a sign of the times in the early 1960s, and just as representative of what it was like. You’d be combing someone’s hair while you smoke and then spraying hairspray everywhere. I loved that because it was a moment in time that we obviously don’t experience in these times. It is the atmosphere of the place. I imagine in the early 60’s women coming to get their hair done and out of the house and out of housework was a real treat. The gossip and socialization that must happen, the atmosphere. I will say that I was the ‘cheater’, organizing mischief, that’s what felt really good. Barbara is like the core of the place, which encourages the women to come and have a great time while they do their hair.
“The set design was amazing. First of all, I loved my hair. When the hair and makeup team told me what they were doing and showed me the pieces, it just transformed me back to that time. I have pictures of myself. mother at that time and when we were on set, I saw so many pictures that could have been of my mother with those haircuts. Everything looked familiar. The colors, the oranges, the browns and the swirls, the designs are incredible. It has been A real I try to be on a set like that, I don’t do a lot of period work and the 1960s felt like home. “
Tamzin on her ‘Ridley Road’ co-star Agnes O’Casey …
“Working with Agnes is simply a pleasure. It is his first job. When we started working together, I thought he was a real talent and someone to look at, ”says Tamzin. “She is still very cool, humble, open and wide-eyed. In the little time I’ve spent with her, you realize that she’s not just those things, but she’s also smart, wise, and a brilliant actress. It feels like a real pleasure and a pleasure to have watched her grow through this work and I know that in the future I will hear people talk about her and I will be able to say: “I was with her in it. first job. ”Agnes didn’t need to be under anyone’s wing, she really stands up for herself. But it was a pleasure working with her. I still feel like I’m Agnes’s age, but I’m twice her age so it was really lovely to spend the hang out with her. We laugh a lot, but she’s also a lovely actress, so I was drawn to her. She’s very special. ”
Tamzin talks about playing Stevie’s mother, a mixed race, at a time when racism was rampant …
“Barbara has gotten used to the racism that happens to her son, but it is still heartbreaking. I think she is still broken every time he is beaten, thrown into a cell or there is some kind of racist comment, ”says Tamzin. “Never mind the actual violence and prejudice that comes with it from being born into a family where the mother is white and in a predominantly white environment with home and business. It’s really heartbreaking for Barbara to experience her son going through this, but at the same time it becomes second nature to her. She spends a lot of time licking his wounds, literally repairing him.
“I talked to my dad about the era because he seems to remember that ‘black shirts and fascists’ are hitting the market. My dad was a black taxi driver, and in those days he was one of the only non-Jewish black taxi drivers out there. I grew up surrounded by many Jews, in a very Jewish area. We were the only non-Jewish people on our street, so all of my friends were Jewish. I always knew there were a lot of biases, but I didn’t realize how bad it was in the 1960s. When I talked to my dad about it, he was telling me that a lot of his friends were market traders in those days. Remember the arrival of the fascists to Ridley RoadSo I found out a lot about my dad. ”
Tamzin talks about what she hopes audiences in Britain and America will take away from ‘Ridley Road’ …
“I hope the public takes away the feeling that this kind of fascism was happening not too long ago,” says Tamzin. “Actually, it is extremely moving right now, it is very appropriate. Besides the style, acting and brilliant writing, the message is that this is still happening and this was in 1962 and it is still happening. I guess I would like you to take home that this is a great job and you might remember that I was in it.
“The 1960s are a very attractive time. I’m sure Americans will think: that’s the Beatles, that’s this era. All over the world, I imagine London in the 1960s was a really expressive time and place. When you look at the design, the hair, the costumes, and the writing, I think it will be a triumph. People should watch Ridley Road because the story comes from the truth. Agnes, who plays the lead, is fantastic and the women in her are full of style and cheek. “