Thinking back some 12 years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet and interview Judi Dench for an earlier production, The Best of British Comedy for American Public Television. I was even more fortunate to be able to interview her a second time for the upcoming program on British comedy writers for PBS as I’m not sure I remember one moment of the first interview experience. Not often does lightning strike twice in the same place. In a lifetime, very few win the World Cup, World Series or Super Bowl twice. That’s why everyone says to soak it all in the first time around because you may never get another chance. Unfortunately, no one ever told me that but, fortunately, I did get another chance.
No matter what I say to describe our final UK interview of this trip with Dame Judi Dench it will be a gross understatement. Everything you’ve read anywhere else about her grace, charm, warmth, friendly manner or sincerity will not do justice to the 90 minutes we were able to spend with her at week’s end.
We wrapped up this set of interviews with a very, very insightful interview with Judi Dench as she discussed writer, Bob Larbey, whom she has worked with over the years in A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By. She also shared her thoughts on what makes a good comedy, the importance of having both believable characters and situations and how it’s vital to have a strong ensemble cast for a successful comedy.
To top it all off, she shared some amazing insights into Judi Dench herself. Her approach to comedy is that you have to have believable characters and then you trust the script and hope people laugh. She did strongly agree with others we have talked to that she does tend to have slight reputation for levity, but that she takes her job very, very seriously. Advice given to her years ago she holds very dear. You have to know why you want to do a part and stick to it.
Perhaps the most insightful comment came during the final part of the interview with the fact that she feels “situation comedy” is that most difficult thing to do for her from an acting standpoint. Standing in the wings, off-stage, waiting to go in front of the live audience for a scene, the fear and nerves set in and her first thought was always “…what am I doing?“.
One can only think that the early on advice of knowing why you want to do a part and stick to it kicks in and you get the usual brilliance that is Dame Judi Dench. From all of us, thank you for sharing your talent with us over the years and, for me, thanks for sharing 90-minutes of your time that I promise not to forget this time around.