Kissing (and more) with Postman Always Rings Twice star, Rae Baker

Kissing (and more) with Postman Always Rings Twice star, Rae Baker

by Phill Willmott

Actress Rae Baker really knows how to kiss.

Ok, I'd better qualify that statement immediately. I have no personal experience, but in her on-stage Val Kilmer smooch in the Angelica Huston role of the Lion tamer, Madge lights up the Playhouse stage. You may also remember the tabloid frenzy over her lesbian snogging scenes in the Bill.

After the show she joined me for supper at Livebait, Covent Garden arriving in full biker-chick garb having whizzed up from the stage door on Northumberland Avenue.

We've been friends for years, she's appeared in two of my plays, and I've directed her twice so we were able to get down to business pretty quickly.

Q. Ok, let's not waste anytime here, what's it like kissing Val Kilmer?

A. He's a big sexy man.

Q. Well... yes but were you kind of "Oh my god, I'm snogging Val Kilmer" the first time?

A. Well, you know when you're about to go in for a snog and you focus in on the person's lips? Well, when he played Batman of course the most distinctive thing about him were his beautiful lips because the rest of his face was covered with a mask. So the first time we did it, I'll confess I got a brief, "Oh my god, I'm kissing Batman" rush. But we're both professional, now it's just part of my job.

Q. So you did lots of kissing women on the Bill? What's the difference between male and female kissing?

A. Phil, you're obsessed with this tonight. With who ever you're kissing, when you're playing a role, it's entirely technical. You're reacting to the situation which the writer's created and you're just trying to make that come to life. People kiss differently depending on the circumstances. You can't generalize.

Q. Tongues?

A. No, I think I'll have the prawn cocktail.

Q. It's good to see you back on stage. Did you miss it during your year in the Bill? Is that why you quit?

A. Well partly but mainly because I didn't feel the material we were doing was strong enough. I was in this ground breaking bi-sexual storyline, getting letters from women for whom this had great significance and yet we weren't tackling the issues in an informed, sensitive or interesting way. We just seemed to be trying to get lots of lesbian snog pictures in the papers to push up the ratings.

Q. But you do love theatre. You really seem to glow on stage.

A. Oh yes, it's great to be back. When I was a girl I only ever dreamed of acting on stage.

Q. You didn't want to be a film star?

A. No, I was a weird, geeky teenager, very tall for my age and living in quite an isolated rural area. It was quiet lonely and I had to create a vivid fantasy life. Acting's just an extension of that. Some of my happiest times were with the local Gilbert and Sullivan society. At school they'd tease me about my height and pouty lips.

Q. But the mean, skinny-lipped girls didn't grow up to snog Val Kilmer for a living!

A. Too right.

Q. You played Hotbox girl Mimi and understudied Sarah in the legendary Richard Eyre, National Theatre production of Guys and Dolls. What was that like?

A. Oh, fantastic of course. Just great to work with Imelda Staunton, Clarke Peters and Henry Goodman. I learnt so much. And a certain person showed me how not to treat an understudy.

Q. Do you prefer appearing in plays or musicals?

A. I love both, but I'm thinking I'd like to do more topical new writing. Plays which have something significant and meaningful to say.

Q. Like your Vanish commercial? Or the Lemsip one where you're an air hostess?

A. Don't be cruel. Those pay the mortgage so that I can afford to do the meaningful plays.

Q. Of course. Back to the Postman Always Rings Twice. Was it intimidating playing a role so strongly associated with Angelica Houston?

A. Fortunately no. I didn't let it become a problem by purposely not watching the film. I based my characterization on reading the original book. She's a blast of the exotic in a dull, grey provincial world. The designer wanted me to be dressed in the same greys as the rest of the cast. I fought to keep my bright costume, I really wanted her to look like an outsider.

Q. I thought it was great that you also played the stenographer in the court. A completely contrasting, dowdy, mouse-like woman. How did you find that characterization?

A. The first costume I tried on for her was too small. It made me hunched over. So I kept it and used that as a starting point to create her walk and even her whole attitude to life.

Q. Was there a difference in the way Val Kilmer approached rehearsals because of his film background?

A. Well, he's definitely used to a slower, more methodical pace. For instance I know he wanted to learn the harmonica for the role, something you could realistically achieve on a six-month film shoot, but not in three weeks of rehearsal. And close up what he does is so detailed, it's magic. It's a shame some of the audience miss out a little. But he's done plenty of stage work and I really admire him.

Q. And it looks like he's a great kisser.

A. Eat your squid.

Buy tickets for The Postman Always Rings Twice

by Phill Willmott
Thursday, June 23

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