In the 1960s super spy James Bond was given a run for his money, as cartoon character Modesty Blaise appeared in comic book form and made the heroine an instant star. Her exploits attracted a huge audience and since then novels based on here adventures have proven to be hugely popular ones.Now fans can rejoice as the feisty female is brought back to life in a new Radio 4 drama based on the novel ‘A Taste For Death’ by Peter O’Donnell.
Fame caught up with actress Daphne Alexander and chatted to her about this new role and what the iconic character still has to offer modern day radio listeners.
Hi Daphne. So what can you tell us about these new Modesty Blaise episodes?
Modesty Blaise is a character from the sixties, often described as a female James Bond.
The character started from a comic strip written by the talented writer Peter O’ Donnell, who then wrote several novels charting Modesty’s adventures with her side-kick, Willy Garvin.
Radio 4 in collaboration with Stef Penney chose to adapt one of these novels, the marvelous A Taste For Death. It is adventurous and a lot of fun, with some deliciously evil villains!
Did you research the character much for the radio play?
I did indeed. I went to the British Library and unearthed this immense book called The Modesty Blaise companion written by Lawrence Blackmore.
I was astounded, and a little overwhelmed, by the wealth of information, and the fascinating character details!
I was particularly taken by the beginning of her story – how she was found wandering in a refugee camp in Greece after the war, became an expert at the art of survival, saved an old Hungarian professor and took care of him while he taught her everything, and then became terribly rich and successful running The Network.
“She had the skill and the will to make her plans work!”
Modesty is an iconic 1960s character. Is she still relevant today?
Oh absolutely! She is the definitive female heroine, absolutely in charge of her life. All men are second in command. She has wit, physical strength, humanity and charm. She is brave and intelligent.
I was quite taken by the feminist way Peter O’Donnell, a male author in the 60’s, wrote. She is a fantastic stand alone heroine, brimming with grace and style, but who is also naughty and fun loving.
Radio dramas can often be more inviting and interesting to listeners than TV shows of the same genre. Is it more difficult to do radio work?
You have to convey the whole story with just your voice, so it’s pretty challenging and different from stage and screen.
There’s a lot more talking, obviously, and lots of secondary sounds need to be conveyed in order to make the story clear, such as opening a car door, entering a lift and so on. It’s also a challenge not to rustle pages while you’re speaking!
Is this your first radio drama work?
It is yes and I was thrilled to get this job. Hopefully lots more to come!
Can you give our readers an insight into how long it took to make the drama and what your typical day was like?
It was an absolute pleasure from beginning to end! It took a week. A typical day was in the studio nine till about six, recording scene after scene, with the actors and the lovely and meticulous director Kate McCall, writer Stef Penney and producer Eleri McAuliffe.
What is next for you acting wise?
A lot is going on right now, which I am very excited about. I am working on a script that is set to be filmed in March, and am also looking forward to another film I am involved with that will be shot in Greece hopefully around May.
Meanwhile, I am off to LA in February for a gruelling few weeks of meetings.
How did you get into acting. Was it always a dream of yours?
It was my grandmother who’d always talk to me about the theatre, and actors she loved – she’d always take me to see plays she had seen and loved when she was young.
I come from a family of lawyers, which is why I read Law initially, and was struggling towards the end, because it was really not for me! It was a dream to act ever since I watched Gone with the Wind at the age of about ten.
Have you a list of people you would love to act with?
Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Damian Lewis, Laura Linney, and the list goes on…
Finally where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully working with some of these people, and lots more talented and inspiring writers and directors. Working a lot, travelling a lot, and spending quality time with family and loved ones.
Photos by Karina Lidia