What a great town London is! Of course, I should have said city to describe that cosmopolitan metropolis, but town gives it a more easy going feel and London can be easy going, it’s not always the bustling impersonal big city many visitors have portrayed it as. The small town sense you sometimes get in the British capital is when you’re with a friend in a comfortable pub or café just passing the time and enjoying the company you’re with.
That’s the way it was when I saw the actress Rochelle Neil. We met for lunch and seemed to chat away the afternoon. She had just finished a stellar run as Mayme in Intimate Apparel at The Park Theatre, one of London’s newest and most exciting venues, and was starting to unwind after working non-stop for the best part of the year. Who could blame her? As she sat across from me looking effortlessly chic in chinos and an oversized silk shirt, you could see she was enjoying a well earned break. Rochelle was scheduled to fly out to start filming in the Caribbean in a couple of weeks and she would be putting her stage combat skills to work. She was set to appear in the BBC’s Death In Paradise and I could see that even though she said she was a bit tired, she was very excited.
Many actors aren’t as lucky as Rochelle. Actors are always looking for work. It must take a toll on a lot of actors to live that way, that is, one month you have a job and money in your pocket and the next month you’re worried about not being able to pay rent. Fortunately, there are some actors who seem to get work on a regular basis and Rochelle is one of those people. She might tour the country for several months, getting rave reviews in shows like Soul Sister, where she alternated the role of Tina Turner in the hit musical about her life. When that’s over, more often than not you’ll find Rochelle preparing for, or on a movie set (The Guvnors), or TV show (Law & Order), getting to also hone her craft in front of the camera.
Rochelle Neil counts herself as “one of the lucky ones” because she is doing what she’s always wanted to do. I wouldn’t say her impressive career is solely down to luck, though. Her undeniable presence and talent aside, Rochelle has had many years of intensive training and practical experience acting on stage and screen. She trained hard and works even harder to master her roles. The transformation Rochelle made when portraying Tina Turner, was particularly impressive, especially in comparison to the disarmingly down-to-Earth woman sitting across from me. Soul Sister and her dynamic performance especially moved beyond imitation, standing strong in their own right. A compliment she playfully receives with a cheeky double shrug of her shoulders, in true Tina Turner style.
From movies to musicals, Rochelle continues to hone her skills with each new role she accepts. She’s always spectacular to watch and she makes a pretty fun lunch companion too.