Review by Ian McArdell
Carolyn Seymour in Conversation is the latest in an occasional range of in-depth interviews with Big Finish’s biggest stars. Perhaps best known in cult television circles for her starring role in the first series of Terry Nation’s Survivors, Carolyn Seymour has worked extensively on both sides of the Atlantic, on both stage and screen. In 2014 she reprised her role as Abby Grant in the audio continuation of Survivors, and has since appeared across a number of their ranges, most notably the Doctor Who spin-off Counter-Measures, where she plays the returning villainess, Lady Suzanne Clare.
The interview begins with Ms Seymour’s unconventional upbringing, a fascinating mix of Russian, Estonian and Irish, filtered through Aylesbury and then the Isle of Wight. They dwell for a while on her formidable paternal Grandmother, the remarkable Moura Budberg who was a strong influence.
With a desire to act from an early age, and grandmotherly support, she gained a place at The Central School of Speech and Drama – an experience she hated, where she was picked on for her posh voice and repeatedly told she would never work. Proving how little they knew, she landed an agent and her first job within three weeks of leaving and never looked back! Rarely asked to audition and often turning work down, she appreciates her fortunate position in this regard, though laments that she was barely present as a mother – taking six weeks off in ten years!
Toby Hadoke’s thoughtful questions lead us through the various phases of Ms Seymour’s career. First, stage and screen work in the UK, then, in the 1980’s a move to the US where she worked extensively in episodic television, guest staring in shows like Hart to Hart, Quantum Leap, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Cagney and Lacey, Magnum PI. Later, she moved into the realm of audiobooks and video games, working on franchises such as Star Wars, Mass Effect and Gears of War.
Seymour describes herself as an open book and throughout the interview she speaks candidly about her alcoholism, which shaped the path of her career. The discussion leads to wider reflections on the drinking culture prevalent in the arts. She talks freely about confidence and her nerves too, saying that the first three days of any show or film shoot are the worst – and talks about competing with Tyne Daly for possession of the sick bucket when they did a show together.
Naturally, plenty of time is spent talking about Survivors, a show on which her time was troubled; right from the outset she was at odds with producer Terrance Dudley who was resistant to her casting. Despite this, she speaks warmly of her fellow cast members, now reunited on audio, and of the crew – particularly director Pennant Roberts who was responsible for the gripping opening episode. There is also a fascinating insight into the memorable episode ‘Law and Order’, whose storyline dealt with the contentious subject of capital punishment, to which Seymour had strong objections.
Across more than two hours, Carolyn Seymour in Conversation is a fascinating and frank insight into the actress’s life and career. It truly does feel like a conversation too, rather than anything overly pre-planned; Toby Hadoke is ideally suited to his role, with his wealth of experience (not least through his epic Who’s Round Podcast) and a seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of film and television. Additionally, he comes incredibly well-prepared with details to hand, prompting the discussion with facts where appropriate.
For anyone who wishes to know a little more about this Survivor, this interview is surely a must-listen!
Carolyn Seymour in Conversation is available on download from Big Finish.
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