If I mention the name Tupele Dorgu there is a likelihood you wouldn’t be sure who I was talking about. But mention the name Kelly Crabtree and the curly haired ex-Coronation street alumni actress will spring to mind. Yes, this character is her most famous role to date but Dorgu has successfully worked in television and theatre for over a decade.
Currently exercising the role of Paulette in the popular international musical Legally Blonde, The British Blacklist caught up with the actress to discuss her role and acting career so far…
Tupele you play the part of Paulette, the comical, audacious hair salon owner who is lead character Elle Wood’s closest friend and confidante. In the film version Paulette is played by Jessica Coolidge who is famed for the role. The UK musical has seen both Niki Evans (X Factor) and Jennifer Ellison (Brookside) in the role. How did you prepare yourself to take on this character?
I made sure I gave Paulette a background & history so I understood where she was in her life when we first meet her & how she changes her story. As with a lot of colourful characters, there is much more to her.
What new elements have you brought to the character?
It’s hard for me to recall any other portrayals of the character, but Nikolai Foster, the director, was keen we convey the characters through the text so I have tried to approach the scenes truthfully as well as finding the comedy elements. I have also given her an Atlanta accent because that’s how she naturally sounded to me.
Were you a fan of the film and how similar is the musical production if at all?
I had never seen the film, but watched it after I got the part. I don’t like it as much as the musical, I kept wishing they would break into song. I think it would be an amazing musical film.
What was the audition process like for the part of Paulette and was this part your first choice?
I was asked to prepare Paulette’s song Ireland & the scene which precedes it. It was such a joy to learn & perform. Nikolai & the casting director, Kay Magson & Musical Supervisor Sarah Travis made it such a comfortable & enjoyable experience, it was by far one of the nicest auditions I had ever had.
You are best known for playing Kelly Crabtree in Coronation Street, a part that you played for 6 years. She is very similar to Paulette in that they are both quite brash and outspoken. Do you find that you lean more towards these kinds of roles?
I do love extrovert characters but Kelly & Paulette (and to an extent Rita in Educating Rita) are the only roles I’ve really played like that. I am currently playing Dr Berrington in Hollyoaks, which couldn’t be more different! I’ve gone from Velma Kelly in Chicago to Joe’s mum in Billionaire Boy. They are all so different but I love the variety & challenge.
Would you ever consider going back to the Street?
It’s not currently part of my plan.
Working on set in a series is presumably different from working on the stage, are there elements you miss being on set – how does it compare?
I am lucky enough to do a healthy mixture of TV & theatre & I always enjoy whichever I am doing at the time. The main thing with theatre, is you can never get an early night!
What is it about Legally Blonde that you think has made it such a popular musical?
I never understood the fuss about Legally Blonde until I began learning the script & music. Now I have fallen completely in love with it! The wit and clever dialogue, the fabulous characters, the story, the choreography, the costumes & the stunning score. I love it all!
Do you find it daunting to be a part of such a successful production?
I am not often daunted. More excited. It’s an actors dream is be involved with a successful production.
You have quite a few musicals and theatre productions under your belt. If you had to choose which production you enjoyed the most which one would it be and why?
Gosh. That’s hard. Regarding theatre, there are no jobs I haven’t enjoyed. I suppose Rita in Educating Rita & Velma Kelly in Chicago have been highlights. They were huge challenging roles. Mamma Mia was a very special time for me and I was in hysterics a lot of the time during Noises Off. It’s hard to choose, you enjoy each job for different reasons.
It’s always assumed actors want to do it all – have you thought about writing creating your own content, or moving into film?
Film would be great; my career just hasn’t taken me in that direction yet. My friend Leon Lopez is a real inspiration writing, directing & producing his own films. I have begun writing my own material too so watch this space!
What have you learned about yourself during your acting career and which follow actor has had the most influential impact on you and why?
I have learned that we all have something to offer. It may not always be right for every part, but it’s important that actors have confidence they have something unique to bring to a role. Bernie Nolan was a wonderful woman to work with in Chicago. She was dealing with Cancer but maintained such professionalism & commitment to the show. She always had time for everyone & was so supportive & fun despite what she was struggling with. She was an example to the whole cast.
Legally Blonde runs until the middle of May, do you have any more projects lined up?
Yes. A big fat holiday!
Legally Blonde runs at the Curve Theatre, Leicester until 14th May 2016.