‘Sweeney Todd’ star Jayne to return to where it all began

Actress Jayne Wisener who will come to Derry next weekend to teach a masterclass with young actors from the city.
Actress Jayne Wisener who will come to Derry next weekend to teach a masterclass with young actors from the city.
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Coleraine actress Jayne Wisener is living the dream.

Plucked from obscurity in a Millennium Forum production six years ago to star alongside Hollywood legend Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s adaptation of ‘Sweeney Todd’ she is establishing herself as one of Northern Ireland’s most up and coming young actresses.

Following her success in ‘Sweeney Todd’ in the role of Johanna, she has gone on to feature in a host of TV shoes including Casualty and The InBetweeners and The Runaway and on film in Jane Eyre and Life Just Is.

But she has not forgotten where she has come from and will return to the Forum next week to hold a masterclass with the 30 cast members of the Forum’s own production of ‘Sweeney Todd’.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Jayne said revealing she will try and give as much advice as possible to those actors currently preparing to walk the boards where she was first spotted by a casting agent.

“We were doing a Musical in a Weekend as a part of MT4UTH at the Former and I had a solo to sing. We knew there was a scout in the audience but we didn’t know who he was scouting for - although a rumour did start to do the rounds.

“At the end of the first day some of us were called back to record our pieces on tape and it was shortly after that I got the call to go to London.”

Starring alongside the likes of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter was at first daunting for the Co. Derry girl, who was just a teenager. “I was blown away and shell shocked. It was tough to try and keep it together. It was very exciting indeed - even to spend time on the set with my fellow cast members.

“In fact the only cast member I didn’t actually meet while filming was Sasha Baron Cohen, who I met at the New York Premiere.”

Such a high profile role of course garnered a lot of interest in Jayne and her acting and she said there were times when it was hard to read people saying negative things about her performance. “My director was happy with my performance and the critics said some nice things. It was hard not to get drawn into reading about yourself so I had to step away from that and remind myself of who really mattered.”

And if Hollywood big shot Tim Burton thinks you are up to the job, you have to be doing something right.

Now relocated to England (“where the work is”) Jayne says her ambitions are to continue working and she certainly has a busy schedule ahead of her. Her latest movie ‘Life Just Is’ is in post production and she has recently starred in the TV adaptation of Martina Cole’s The Runaways. She will also be filming a guest slot in the Channel 4’s Misfits in the coming months.

Aware that she will looked up to by many of the young actors and actresses on the Forum stage when she comes to give her masterclass, her advice to them will be simple. “Just keep at it and work really hard. Go where the work is and be resilient.”

‘Sweeney Todd’ which is the Forum’s Youth Theatre Group production for 2011, will be staged at the Forum 4th – 6th August. A free film screening of ‘Sweeney Todd’ the movie will also run at The Nerve Centre cinema on Monday 25th July @ 6.30pm as part of InterAct Youth Arts Festival.