When the Burnley Empire Theatre Trust first asked me to support the project of bringing the theatre back to life I didn’t know how I could help.
I thought about it for a while and decided I could interview actors and artists from Lancashire about their successful careers and how they started out and what they thought of rescuing the theatre.
That was approximately a year ago and the project has taken on a life of it’s own as I discovered how far and wide the people of Lancashire have travelled and how successful they have become, not only from this generation but going back to the 1800s.
The first person I wanted to interview was Jane Leeves about her casting as Daphne Moon on Frasier.
It always really shocked me as a child to hear my accent in the middle of a glossy US TV show. It made me realise that I could do that if I wanted to.
As I was in Los Angeles at the time I called the man who cast her on the show and he very kindly invited me to his posh office on the backlot of Twentieth Century Fox to talk about how her casting came about.
During the interview I discovered many amazing things about many amazing things, most importantly that Jane Leeves is actually from Essex!
But also, John Mahoney who played Frasier’s dad was from Blackpool and helped Jane with her accent!
Next I interviewed the showbiz reporter from CNN who is from Blackpool, who then put me in touch with a writer who had just written a book about a man who built half of Los Angeles in the 19th Century, who happens to be from Bolton!
I have always been a proud northerner but this journey has taught me that people from Lancashire are some of the most adventurous, passionate people in the world.
Each of these people has taught me that not only should we want to save the beautiful old Empire Theatre, but that everyone in the town will be very proud of it.
It isn’t over. Every person I have interviewed has opened the door to another person who is a born and breed northerner and has been supported and loved by their roots, and has used that to spread their wings and achieve great things around the world.
Next week to kick-off these interviews, we will meet Jeff Greenberg who cast Jane Leeves on Frasier. It was impossible when I met him to just talk about Jane because this gentleman has achieved so much in his own life. He is an Emmy-winning casting director who has brought us not only Frasier, but Cheers, and now Modern Family.