A Conversation With A Rising Star: Georgie Morrell

(24 May 2022 12:00 am)
Georgie Morrell

Visually impaired comedian, writer and an award-nominated actor Georgie Morrell talks with WVS about life as a rising visually impaired comedian and actress, and on her recent appearance on BBC Casualty and what that means for VI representation.

You perform regularly through both acting and stand up, what was it that first sparked your interest in both of these?
For acting, I wasn’t good at anything else. It’s the classic story of being a child that’s a bit precocious, tries out for a school play gets it, then you get the bug - it’s absolutely addictive!
I carried on through secondary school, went to university, then to drama school. Then after drama school, when I didn’t immediately become a star I felt a bit depressed and I had always loved stand up, and secretly always harboured being one but never thought I could be because there are so few female comics let alone any that I saw myself in. However, I had so little money and prospects, I just thought sod it, what have I got to lose? So I wrote my first solo show and just put myself out there and thankfully it paid off and I’m slowly building something. And I started writing around the same time and I really enjoyed that and still do!

By writing, is that more stand-up material, or are you writing for something else?
Both! I wrote 3 Edinburgh shows and I do my own material writing, but one of my shows has been optioned as a pilot for TV which we’re trying to sell to the world. I also write a
number of articles and I’m also working on a film at the moment. A company called Silver Salt Films have been really good to me and have aken me under their wing so I’m
developing a film with them and the BFI (British Film Institute) so we’ll see what happens there. I’m also working on a couple of other ideas too for comedy which I’m really enjoying!

In terms of your comedy routines, how much preparation do you put into them before you feel like it’s ready to go out into the world?
Not long! You know in yourself if something has a chance of being funny or if it has legs. So I tend to get on it pretty quickly. I’m in London so there’s loads of new material nights, I actually co-run one of these with a friend. I’ve noticed that as you get older, you do start to care less and less what people think so you take the chance with it. But after a while you sort of know if it’s going to work or not, you just know in yourself.

In terms of comedy, is there anybody out there right now who inspires you?
Sadly a few of them have passed away but one of my heroes has always been Joan Rivers (rest her soul). To be honest I like a lot of different comedians for different reasons, I like a lot of the US female comedians like Nikki Glaser Ms. Pat, Michelle Wolf. There’s something about American comics that make them a lot more daring then we are. They dance around with some fun ideas, push the boundaries and develop the art form, they don’t pander, change or sell out and I really admire that.

Did you ever imagine as a child that you would be on stage and appearing on TV? Is this something you always saw yourself doing?
To be honest, I know it’s very arrogant but I thought I’d be world famous by now! I was a very confident child and I didn’t think it would go on the path it has. I didn’t think that my visual impairment would play such a strong role which is a bit naïve of me to have thought that when I was younger, but I was young, therefore naïve. You only see the narratives that are presented to you and there wasn’t one like mine. So I am surprised to have got work and to be getting work based on what I was thought was something I had to be ashamed of when I was younger. Thankfully that has changed dramatically in recent years. It’s something to be proud of – it’s unique! And that’s exactly what art needs, originality.

You recently guest starred in an episode of Casualty, how was the whole experience?
It’s crazy how fast TV moves, I had only ever really done theatre or live comedy beforehand and in live shows it can be a bit “lovey dovey” – you can talk about it with your fellow actors afterwards, but in TV, it’s like “Cool. Done. On to the next”. It’s a bit brutal but I quite like that fast pace and I just loved the atmosphere. It was a real buzz and I now feel confident to walk onto another set and know what I’m doing and what’s going to happen and that’s half the battle for actors, to be able to walk in with confidence.

Your character in Casualty was visually impaired, how important is that representation to you?
It’s important because we don’t have enough disabled people or disabled actors on screen and that’s just a given fact. 20% of the population is disabled and only 1-point-something percent is represented on TV, industry, film and stage. We’re in this period where we haven’t really displayed disabled stories either, let alone having disabled characters in things. So we need to start filling that gap. We need to start sharing the lived experiences of disabled people through interesting story telling. So that one day we can have disabled characters who aren’t defined by their disability because people are not. For example, if you asked any of my friends how to describe me, my disability wouldn’t even be in the top 10 things that they would say. We need to get to that, but we still have to fill in the gap. But we still need to help audiences along a bit, we can’t expect them to know what it’s like to live with a disability or the intricacies and frustrations of it. And even the positives - because I live a great life in so many ways. Nobody is immune to disability, so having somebody like my character Julia in Casualty on mainstream TV is brilliant, however we have to keep this up so we can get to the end goal.

When you go up on stage, do you need any assistance at all?
For when I do stand up and it’s a venue that I don’t know, I email the venue beforehand and ask if they can show me how to get off and on stage. Obviously it’s always a bit nerve-wracking before going on stage and what I don’t want is to not be able to find the steps but so far everyone’s been really helpful. It hasn’t happened yet but if somebody ever makes a fuss about it, I will make sure I will make their life hell! It’s a simple request really. But if I’m doing theatre, I will just usually talk to the stage managers and so far everyone’s been really helpful and understanding.

In your day-to-day life, do you use any assistive technology?
I have an Alexa and I like using her both for music and as a timer in the kitchen. To be honest I’m not great with technology, I have everything slightly bigger on my phone and I use a Mac Computer which is great because it allows me to zoom in on everything. I use a digital clock that has big numbers on it next to my bed and if I’m travelling I always check my journey on my computer or phone before I go so I don’t have to keep stopping to check where I’m going.

In your comedy, you talk about your visual impairment, did you find it easy to open up about that or is that something that came to you later?
It was an idea that came to me and a friend sort of planted that seed, and it wasn’t easy initially. When I wrote my first show I had to go back to things that I’d rather just forget and also, audiences are better now, but they can get weirded out about disability. You have to do a bit of hand-holding with them and that got on my nerves! Especially as there aren’t many conversations happening around disabilities, there are around other minorities but disability can seem a bit too scary to people, there’s a bit of a stigma.

Do you think that discussing these topics through comedy can influence social perception and the overall narrative of the public and how people with disabilities are viewed within society?
Totally! And I hope it really does because if you’re giving people a chance to laugh and you’re taking ownership of that, then there’s really no better way to do it. What we need now is more disabled comics to be put to the forefront so they can start filtering through. There’s a lot of positive movements at the moment, there’s people like me, Lee Ridley, Rosie Jones and a couple of others who I’m lucky to know who are getting there and chipping away at it. It’s a bit of a shame though because we’re all ready to go but we’re still waiting for others to catch up a little bit.

What advice could you give to our readers who might be looking to get into comedy or acting but doesn’t know where to start?
Get in touch with somebody like me or anybody you admire in the industry and just say “will you go for a coffee with me” or at least “would you mind responding to an email with some questions?” and just pick their brains. You can get from them all the answers and assurances you need as to whether you want to do it or not because it’s not an easy job, and it’s not as rewarding as you might think. But I think there is a responsibility for people to pass on the information to you because life is already too hard, we should all be sharing the wealth.

You can catch Georgie’s episode of Casualty (Season 36 Episode 20) on BBC iPlayer, and for more information on Georgie visit georgiemorrell.co.uk/

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