Why Julie Walters nearly said No to being Mo Mowlam in major TV drama


Daily Mail online

Julie Walters’ stock-in-trade is batty eccentrics.

There is Mrs Overall, the geriatric tea lady in Acorn Antiques, with her unwavering belief in a macaroon and a nice cuppa as a panacea for all of life’s troubles.

Then there’s the all-singing, all-dancing Rosie in the film version of Mamma Mia!, kitted out in clothes and colours that Julie admits cheerfully ‘made me feel daft because I looked it’, and Ron Weasley’s well-padded mother in the Harry Potter films.


 Julie Walters was unsure about taking on the role of Mo Mowlam in new Channel 4 drama Mo

She plays virtually every part with a glint of merriment in her eyes. As more than one critic has observed, Julie Walters can find the funny side in anything – and enjoys the joke more than anyone.

Now she has taken on the role of the exuberant and cheerfully uninhibited Mo Mowlam in a Channel 4 biopic about the political life, and traumatic early death, of the charismatic Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who brokered the groundbreaking Good Friday Agreement.

It is almost certain to win her a BAFTA, to add to the two she already has for Educating Rita and Billy Elliot, alongside her Oscar nominations, her Golden Globe and her Laurence Olivier award.


The actress was unsure whether her portrayal of Mowlam would do her justice

If so, it will be an irony. For after accepting the role, she panicked. Watching news footage of Mowlam and realising her broad shoulders and swaggering stride was the polar opposite to the ‘little weed who totters along’ that Julie describes herself as, she asked her agent to get her out of it.

‘Our body shapes were completely at odds. My husband Grant described her as being like a hockey mistress, and, well, that’s not me, is it?

‘Then there was the way she spoke, in a kind of shrill way, with her mouth a bit puckered and squeaky, and I thought: “Oh, God! What have I let myself in for?”

‘I rang my agent and asked him to get me out of it. He said I was talking rubbish and that once I’d put on her wig and glasses, I’d be fine. And he was right.’


 Julie as Mowlam and David Haig as husband John on the set of Mo

Walters makes the part her own, milking every line in Neil McKay’s cracking script for shock comedic effect.

Peter Mandelson, whom she suspects (rightly, as it turns out) is after her job, is dismissed as ‘a silly old queen’. She wrong-foots the po-faced Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble by sitting across from him with her legs wide apart. (Mo herself claimed that she was wearing no underwear at the time.)

And to break the ice with the deeply suspicious Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness she whips off her wig – for by now she is deep into treatment for brain cancer – and gives her balding head a good scratch.

‘Yes, it all happened’, says Julie. ‘Mo was a remarkable woman, a one-off with an honesty and a compassion that is rare in politics today. She knew how to charm people, how to get results, and by the time the Good Friday Agreement was ready to sign, she had everyone in Northern Ireland eating out of her hand.’

 Julie shaved her head to play Mowlam

But not, alas, at Westminster. Tony Blair moved in smoothly to take the credit for the agreement and then gave Mandelson her job – offering Mo, as a sop, the relatively lowly post of Cabinet Office Minister.

Disillusioned with politics, and laid low by her cancer, she tried to fight back, but descended into bitter alcoholism, and, after a fall, died in 2005 at the age of 55.

‘The first thing everyone asks me is how I managed to copy her body shape’, says Julie. ‘That’s easy – for the last year I’ve been eating for England and beyond. I pigged out on cakes, bread and huge cooked breakfasts.’

The weight gain, she jokes, will require more to shift than a few strolls around the Sussex farm she shares with her husband Grant.

‘I reckon I’ve put on at least a stone and a half, and anyone who tells me I don’t look as if I need to lose some of it is either being very kind or my corrective knickers are working better than I thought!’

With the voice and figure in place, Julie turned her attention to the most emotive part of Mo’s appearance – her baldness.

Mowlam herself faced her cancer treatment with great stoicism, even though she knew it would result in hair loss and a drastically changed appearance.

‘Twenty minutes on gas mark 7,’ her character cheerfully instructs the nurse in the drama as she lays down for her first radiotherapy session.
‘I could have worn a bald wig, but for the sake of realism, I felt it necessary to shave my head,’ says Julie.

‘Initially, I got a laugh. I looked in the mirror when it had all been cut off and said out loud: “F***ing hell, I look like Harry Hill!”

‘But almost as soon as I’d made the remark, I felt this terrible wave of sadness. Not out of vanity, but because my look reminded me of all the things with which we associate female baldness: the women in the Nazi concentration camps who were dehumanised by having their heads shaved, the French women who had collaborated with the Nazis and were shaved as a punishment and, of course, hair loss through cancer.’


Julie has played a variety of eccentric characters throughout her career, including Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques (left) and Rosie in Mamma Mia!

Her own daughter, now 21, fought leukaemia as a child, but Julie is reluctant to discuss the parallels, saying she made Maisie a promise ‘not to talk about her too much in public’.

The film does not flinch from showing Mo’s robust sex life, ‘almost pornographic’ in its intensity, or the painfully intimate details of her illness and later alcoholism. So how would Julie feel if somebody were to make a similarly warts ‘n’ all film about her?

‘I’d be quite happy about it if it were dealt with in the same way. It’s a celebration of her and is quite uplifting.

‘Yes, it’s warts ‘n’ all, but that was the way Mo was. She liked sex, so we show she liked sex. She had no vanity, and if she could have wandered around naked she would have done. Her honesty, her earthiness, was a major reason why she became so popular with the public and politicians alike.


Julie alongside Gary Lewis, who plays Mowlam’s friend and fellow MP Adam Ingram

‘She didn’t try and hide behind any kind of mask. So many of them do, which is why I have so little time for politicians. At the General Election later this year, I shan’t know who, if anybody, to vote for because I simply don’t trust any of them any more.’

Despite her own status as national treasure, Julie is not tempted to opt for a career change as an MP.

‘I don’t think I could bear to work with people who I found so untrustworthy,’ she says.

But she still worries that the next acting job will be her last, despite the fact that several major studios have made it clear that if ever she wants to move to Los Angeles, they will keep her busy.

‘Well, it’s very kind, but I can’t see myself uprooting to settle over there. You see, dear, Hollywood isn’t my cup of tea.’
And for a moment, she sounds just like Mrs Overall.

Mo is on Channel 4 on Sunday at 9pm.

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Gail Porter's hair growing back?


alopecia universalis.

Gail Porter’s hair has apparently began to regrow.

The TV presenter started to go bald in 2005 after being diagnosed with stress-related alopecia.

However, new reports claim that the 38-year-old has begun sprouting hair on the crown of her head.

Porter was allegedly snapped outside a screening of The Princess And The Frog at London’s Mayfair Hotel yesterday, says Now magazine.


Last October, the former children’s TV host started performing some low-key
stand-up comedy dates.

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Star Julie loses hair as TV Mo


SNF2601TVMM-280_973746aJulie Waters

JULIE Walters yesterday revealed how she hated having to shave her hair to play tragic politician Mo Mowlam.
She takes on the role of the Labour MP who died of a brain tumour in 2005 in Channel 4 show Mo.

Julie had to shave her entire head except for a small strip at the back.

She used that to attach various wigs which showed the different stages of Mo’s hair loss.

Julie told Radio Times: “The strip of hair was white at one end and dark at the other. I looked like a badger. Or Harry Hill.

“I didn’t mind when I was at work, but as soon as I’d get home I didn’t want the family to see me. I hated it.”

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What Are Various Reasons Behind Women's Hair Loss

21.01.2010 in FEMALE HAIR LOSS


It seems men aren’t the only ones who suffer from hair loss (alopecia). Various studies reveal that over a third of women i.e. 3% to 6% of Caucasian women under 30 in the USA and UK, and 29% to 42% of 70-plus women are affected by hair loss during their lives.

Certain medications are responsible for triggering either temporary or permanent hair loss in some women, occurring in patches or on the entire scalp. Permanent hair loss needs to be treated in time.

There are two kinds of permanent hair loss i.e. hair loss caused by scarring and female-pattern hair loss, with the second being more common than the first. An increase in male hormone levels can be blamed for this type of hair loss, and as it happens with men, one is more prone to it as one ages, including a family history of hair loss.

Women have a different hair loss pattern from that of men, with their hair gradually thinning out at the spot they part it, even as overall volume of hair decreases and hair loss spreads across the top of the scalp, affecting large areas of in severer cases.

One can treat this type of hair loss with medication, such as a 2% solution of minoxidil sold under the name of Rogaine. No prescription is required and minoxidil often stimulates a new growth of fine hair in some women. Although the normal density of the lost hair is not restored, it does minimise further loss by helping women retain their remaining hair.

However, dry and irritated skin, including hair growth in other places, such as, on the face, are some of its unwelcome certain side-effects. Moreover, it does not stop hair loss immediately and any significant differences are only noticeable after two months and 6 months to a year to get a complete effect. If the treatment proves efficient it must be continued since stopping it will resume hair loss.

About 3% to7% of the population are affected with the other type of hair loss caused by scarring i.e. hair follicles are damaged by an inflammatory process that leaves scar tissue in their place.

Gradual and without symptoms for some people, hair loss is not only rapid but also accompanied by severe itching, burning sensations and pain. Currently, there is no available treatment for hair loss caused by scarring, and the anti-inflammatory medications and topical steroids used as a part of the treatment only relieve symptoms and prevent further loss of hair.

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Female hair loss: Causes and what treatments are best.

14.01.2010 in FEMALE HAIR LOSS

The signs are subtle: a too wide parting in your hair or more strands than normal in your brush. Or they could be obvious: an overall thinning or balding spot.

Picture 44310th Dec 08July 2008

Female hair loss is fairly common, trichologists and doctors say, and in some cases, it could signal a potentially serious medical problem.

What causes hair loss?

Blame the three H’s: heredity, hormones and health problems. In addition to your genetics, the doctors said hormone imbalances after childbirth, during menopause and at puberty can cause hair loss. So can certain types of lupus, thyroid problems, low iron stores and vitamin deficiencies. Other triggers include too tight braids or ponytails, stress, rapid weight loss or following a vegan diet without taking supplements.

How common is it?

This problem is more common than most people think. “About 50 to 80 percent of women will experience some hair loss in their life, although official numbers probably say it is 20 percent,” Hair loss is very common among older women, but it is the younger women who come in for treatment for vanity reasons.

Is the problem getting worse?

There is no hard data on women’s hair loss, and there is no reason to believe it has been increasing. Permanent hair loss caused by stress to the hair may be decreasing, because hairdressers and beauticians are more aware of the hazards of pulling hair too tight when braiding or using relaxers to straighten your tresses.

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