World of Blyton Exclusive Interview with JEMIMA ROOPER

We’ve had this lurking in our drafts for a little while, and we’ve been so excited it was hard to keep it a secret. But finally, to make that first week back at work more bearable, here is our exclusive interview with Jemima Rooper, who are we’re sure you all will know, starred as George in the 1990s Famous Five TV series.

In the Famous Five Annual, it says that it took you a long time to have your hair curled, did it help you get into character?

Jemima as George, with her curly hair. Doesn't she look grand?

Jemima as George, with her curly hair. Doesn’t she look grand?

Yes and no! The first year the perm dropped really quickly so it took ages to tong and looked terrible so wasn’t that useful character wise. The second year was much better and was great for filming… not so good for my teenage social life. The boys would always steal my hats.

Had you read the books before you got the part of George? (If you did, can you remember which was your favourite and why?)

I grew up reading The Famous Five and as a younger kid had tried to be like George (without cutting my hair, though it was in the typical child bowl cut so many parents favour!) Reading Blyton was a massive part of my childhood reading so when the audition came up I was obsessed with succeeding. In fact my mum used to take me to a second hand bookshop on Charing Cross Road and hunt for the old hardback books with Eileen Soper’s illustrations and I have rather a lot still in a cupboard. I think my favourite will always be the first, Five on a Treasure Island. It was when George was her sulkiest which I loved.

What was your favourite episode to film?

There were so many great ones. I think I loved the circus ones the most as we got to meet chimpanzees and elephants. Much more fun than going to school.

The cast washing an Elephant in Five Go Off to Camp.

The cast washing an elephant in Five Go Off to Camp.

There were lots of guest stars who appeared alongside you in the series, out of them all who was your favourite?

Jesse Birdsall who played an evil gypsy in one as a few years later he played my dad in As If. He’s a brilliant actor and was really fun and interested in all of us. Not dismissive just because we were kids. But we were very lucky and pretty much everyone was lovely. I recently worked on a film and bumped into Sion Tudor Owen who had played a baddie in series one and he was exactly the same nearly twenty years on and we had a very good giggle together remembering stuff.

Do you still get recognised by fans of the series?

Said Fan (PippaStef) with Jemima.

Said fan (PippaStef) with Jemima.

Weirdly, yes. I never expect to but I guess there’s a small number of people who watched it as kids and have kind of grown up with me. I’m always half embarrassed and half proud!

And what would be your favourite ever spotted moment?

Probably covered in mud at a festival, slightly worse for wear with someone pointing and yelling “George!”

Do you have any funny stories from filming? Any pranks that you used to play on each other?

We were very naughty is all I can really remember. We used to sneak out of our rooms and run around the hotel all night and our chaperone had no idea. We used to put things in our tutor Steve’s mouth when he fell asleep during our on set lessons.

Jemima with Connal

Jemima with Connal

What is your a favourite memory from your time as George?

It was literally my dream. It was my dream role in the job I wanted to do. It felt so exciting and I learned more about my job and myself than at any other time I think. But probably Connal was the best thing. What a dog he was.

How closely could you relate to George then? And do you relate to her now in anyway?

Back then, the lines were slightly blurred between me and George. Though the life of the Famous Five was a little more privileged and a little more innocent than our lives are – but I’m a tomboy through and through and that will always remain.

Had you seen the 1970s Famous Five TV series before or after you got the role of George? If so, did you base any of your characterisation on what you had already seen?

I had seen it as it satisfied a small need to have FF on screen when I was little but I was so happy ours was set in the period the books were written in. I actually adored the Comic Strip Presents series more (it is brilliantly rude) but didn’t channel Dawn French (sadly) when I was thirteen!

You had a lot of roles after the Famous Five, which has been your favourite?

Lost in Austen was the best part I’ve ever had and I was also obsessed with the BBC Pride and Prejudice as a young teen so I got to scratch that itch. I’m often told I look too modern for period things so it was literally like it had been written for me when I read it. I howled with laughter when I read it and sadly, that doesn’t happen very often.

Jemima Rooper in Lost in Austen. In modern clothes on the right, and in period dress on the left. We think she rocks the period look, don't you?

Jemima Rooper in Lost in Austen. In modern clothes on the right, and in period dress on the left. We think she rocks the period look, don’t you?

Many of your characters on TV seem to be strong independent women, did playing George influence your decision to take on these roles at all?

I think it’s just that sometimes there are girls like Anne, and there are girls like George. The Annes are often the romantic leads, the more vulnerable, traditional ones. And the Georges are the ones that don’t quite fit the mould.
George Kirrin is possibly one of the most famous tomboys of all time, what did it feel like to be able to play her on television?

Bloody marvellous!

Jemima at the 2014 BAFTAS in a Stella MaCartney dress. Via the Daily Mail

Jemima at the 2014 BAFTAS in a Stella McCartney dress. Via the Daily Mail

We get a lot of people searching for you on the blog, how do you feel to know that people still remember you as George?

I’m mortified in a sense. It’s like loads of people digging up those embarrassing family photos. But I’m also so pleased that the character still means so much to people and I was a part of that. It took a lot of getting over when we had finished filming all the books and I will always remember it.

The majority of the EBS (Enid Blyton Society) members think that you were the perfect George, how does that make you feel?

Incredibly happy. Before I became an actress and way before I played the part I really did pretend to be her (I’m an only child like George and had a lot of time on my own!) so I had actually done unconscious Daniel Day Lewis method acting in preparation! I will probably never research a role so well again.

Jemima can be seen most recently on the BBC One show Atlantis as Medusa, and will be appearing with Angela Lansbury in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit at the Gieguld Theatre from 18th March 2014 for 15 weeks. She can be followed on Twitter Here.

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18 Responses to World of Blyton Exclusive Interview with JEMIMA ROOPER

  1. Pete says:

    A great interview.Thanks for posting it here.

    My wife and I are currently watching the 1996 BBC series of Pride & Prejudice and also Lost In Austen back to back and are thoroughly enjoying the contrast.between the two versions!!!!




  2. Francis says:

    Oh Stef and Fiona – how did you manage this!!!!!!
    How did you manage to ask such great questions – I would have been gibbering!
    Lovely interview and thank you so much.
    ps I hope she reads this blog – love to have her comments on the site.
    Envious Francis


    • pippastef says:

      Luck and guts I think had a lot to do with it Francis!
      We didn’t actually meet face to face but, emailed Jemima some questions and she got back to us. We spent hours phrasing the questions right!


  3. Fab interview! I really enjoyed reading it! She’s so down-to-earth and nice isn’t she! Personally I think she is great in period roles – I really liked her performance in Poirot – Third Girl. It’s a role that isn’t mentioned much but I thought she was fantastic! 🙂


    • pippastef says:

      She’s fantastic in EVERYTHING! 😀 And she’s definitely the nicest star I’ve ever met and always has time for a chat. So lovely.
      Glad you liked the Interview Cathy!


  4. Sarah (Spitfire) says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed the interview. This probably isn’t the place to admit that I haven’t actually seen the TV series… (either of them – have had a sheltered life!!)… but I really admire Jemima Rooper as an actress, and it was great reading the interview and realising that she really kept faith with Famous Five fans over her depiction of George.
    What a thoroughly down-to-earth and attractive person she is!


    • pippastef says:

      Either series is well worth a watch Sarah, both series have whole episodes on youtube if you wanted to get a flavour of them before buying!
      And Jemima staying true to George in such a way is just wonderful as it really really came across in the series!


  5. chrissie777 says:

    Thanks to Stef, Fiona and Jemima!!!
    This interview really made my day. I have to re-watch the 90’s FF TV series now…


  6. chrissie777 says:

    Sorry, I keep forgetting to check “Notify me”.


  7. sandie8 says:

    Great interview! Jemima is my favourite modern actress, the best in Britain. This has made me want to dig all of her DVDs out of my cluttered cupboard, especially The Famous Five! The best ‘George’.


  8. Lydia says:

    Please could you try and get an interview with her other co-stars, such as Laura Petela, Paul Child and Marco Williamson, it would be great to more about the filming and what it was like. Smashing interview.


  9. Anonymous says:

    I really want to meet you jemima rooper.
    You were the prefect person to act as george and I want to meet all the members of famous five 1990’s serie.
    Love you 😙😙😙


  10. Sean J Hagins says:

    Thanks for posting this. Such a shame that there’s no interview of Michele Galagher *(the 70s George) I still wonder what happened with her. It all seems so mysterious


    • sandie8 says:

      Sadly, Michele was in a tragic motorbike accident which left her paralysed and in a wheelchair. She turned to drugs and became addicted. The poor girl must have been in a terrible state as she took an overdose. When the 1970s Famous Five got back together, it seemed like a huge hole was there from that wonderful gang. I wish we could find out about Michele’s life after the series but everything is hush hush and I feel she is grossly ignored.


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