5 Questions with Charmaine Bingwa and Janine Watson

Charmaine Bingwa

Janine Watson: All five characters in American Beauty Shop are female, ranging from seventeen to eighty. If you were casting the film version, and you could cast any five female actors (dead or alive), who would you cast in each role and why?
Charmaine Bingwa: Great question. I’d cast Viola Davis as Meg, no explanation required. Her back up option in case negotiations went south would be Aunjanue Ellis who can convey unfathomable heaviness without words; one to watch for sure. Hilary Swank as Doll, her rawness and ability to authentically play the underdog has always cemented her as a favourite of mine; would love to see her bring a little Million Dollar Baby magic. Sue, I would cast Julianne Moore, for her sensitivity; that degree of skinlessness is my favourite trait in actors. Meryl Streep as Helen. And Emma Stone as Judy for girlish charm and charisma. That is a pretty damn fine cast if I don’t mind saying so myself!

Your character ends up on the receiving end of some very uncool over-the-counter racism. Have you ever experienced anything like this in real life? If so, do you mind telling us about it?
Yes, sadly. I’ve had people assume I’m the shopkeeper, people call me the help – all sorts. To be honest I actually find the covert incidents worst, as it’s so insipid and hard to pinpoint or call out. But this is what gives my acting ambitions and career purpose. I feel it’s my duty to add to stage & screen diversity. I am often drawn to historical stories about persecution of racial minorities, because as a society I don’t think we have learnt the lessons of the past and it’s important to re-tell these cautionary tales.

Thinking back as far as you can, what’s the biggest beauty mistake you’ve ever made? Did you ever rock a side pony, for example?
Several! As an adult the extent of my beauty routine mastery is limited to applying foundation, blush and eyeliner – so I probably make several beauty faux pas. But yes, if you must know, in the Nirvana days there was purple lipstick, blue army pants and chokers. Before this I rocked blonde hair, which I’m happy to own. I dyed it black for Doubt: A Parable and have kept it that way ever since.

What’s your favourite thing about working with Janine Watson?
Everything! Her level of commitment, her attentiveness… she even comes to rehearsals she isn’t scheduled for just to observe. She is open, giving and all about the work, which is my favourite trait for collaborators. She can access such depth and uses her instrument masterfully.

Your character Meg has big dreams of starting a hair product line. Other than becoming an incredible actor, (nailed it!) what other big dreams have you had or do you still have?
Absolutely. My dream as an actor is to create incredible work on a global stage.

Janine Watson

Charmaine Bingwa: All five characters in American Beauty Shop are female, ranging from seventeen to eighty. If you were casting the film version, and you could cast any five female actors (dead or alive), who would you cast in each role and why?
Janine Watson: Mmmmm …. the options!!! Charmaine has nailed the casting already!! Lemme see – Jodie foster circa The Accused – Doll, Kate Winslet – Sue, Kerry Washington – Meg, Betty White – Helen, Winona Ryder circa Mermaids – Judy.

Your character Doll has a very sentimental attachment to the children’s story book Good Night Moon. What was your favourite story book as a child and why?
I had a book called The Big Book Of Fairytales and it opened with a really spooky intro of a little girl talking to the old wooden rocking chair that her grandmother used to sit in. She’d say ‘Chair of my grandmother, tell me a story…’ and lean on the rocking chair which would tell her the more obscure, sad and scary fairytales by Oscar Wilde, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen. I loved the book. I loved all the outsiders in those darker stories.

Let’s do some character analysis. Your character is named Doll. Is that short for Dolores or is it because she was conceived to a Dolly Parton song? If it is the latter, which song was it?
Let’s pretend it’s the latter and of course then it would be “Why’d You Come In Here Lookin Like That?!”. But really I’ve decided Doll’s name is actually from Dorothy… Doll was a popular abbreviation of Dorothy and it has a more mid-west Anglo connotation and we’re in the mid-west, rather than Dolores which would be from Irish or European derivation.

What’s your favourite thing about working with Charmaine Bingwa?
Charmaine is just spectacular. I saw her in Doubt and was bowled over by her emotional access and truth. She has gravitas, and infuses even the tiniest moments with great nuance. Plus she’s funny, very cool and can do a lot of push ups.

Doll’s a bit of a black sheep. Who’s the black sheep in your family?
In truth, in my family we’re all black sheep who found our flock… both blood family and extended and beyond.

Charmaine Bingwa and Janine Watson are appearing in American Beauty Shop, by Dana Lynn Formby.
Dates: 25 August – 16 September, 2017
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre