Evening Standard InterviewSource
Nigella's double helping
by Luke Leitch, Arts Reporter
Nigella bites - slowly, ever so slowly, into a single sprig of parsley.
A lock of her midnight-black mane falls across her face but with the practised assurance of a seasoned pro the coquettish cook stares on into the camera - a seductive glint, as ever, shimmering in her deep brown eyes. Boiling point is just a gas mark away.
Except this isn't Nigella at all. It's Ronni Ancona, the uncannily accurate impressionist who has already unleashed devastatingly on-the-mark parodies of Carol Smillie and Posh Spice - and who turns her attention to Nigella Lawson in the new series of Alistair McGowan's Big Impression.
The series will also unveil new impersonations of Neil and Christine Hamilton and Anne Robinson - and bumbling TV interviewer Louis Theroux is lampooned in a magical sketch called Louis Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Lawson is famous for dousing all her programmes with a liberal portion of sex-appeal, and Ancona spent weeks studying her languid mannerism.
"I always have to find my take on what drives a person before I feel happy that I can do them properly," she has said.
"You can't improvise on a musical instrument until you've mastered the fundamentals and have something to build on, and it's the same principle with an impression."
Ronni be good
Sep 7 2001 By Kellie Redmond, South London Press
WHEN I ask Ronni Ancona about details of her planned role in a new comedy drama for Steve Coogan's Baby Cow production company, she suddenly runs off.
The TV funnygirl has evidently gone to check with Mr Coogan himself if she can spill the beans. Coogan is standing arms folded chatting to another journalist, and it's clear he's told her to keep schtum.
He smiles as Ancona runs back to the sofa where I'm still sitting, and says "...so yes, I'm doing this thing with Baby Cow," as if nothing's happened. Ancona, by her own admission is an eccentric. But she's a likable eccentric, whose sense of childlike vulnerability helps her make instant friends.
Like later, when I find myself comparing nose sizes with her for several minutes.
The discovery of our mutual big hooter complex sprung from my innocent inquiry 'Would you like to do films?'".
"I would love to," she says animatedly, then checks herself. "Not in an egotistical way though. I know I'm no screen beauty - the old caboodle," says the Clapham-based star, pointing to her nose...
[ No screen beauty ? WTF ???? Women...... It doesn't matter if they're clever, gorgeous, sexy, talented and funny. They'll always find something really minor about themselves, like a mole on their arse or a patch of rough-skin on their big-toe, and think it taints everything else. ]
Proboscis talk aside, the real reason for our chat is to discuss The Sketch Show, in which she appears alongside fellow south Londoner Lee Mack, plus Tim Vine, Jim Tavaré (minus the double bass) and Karen Taylor.
The five were hand-picked by two of the show's producers - legendary comedy writing duo Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge, Paul Calf) and Henry Normal (The Royle Family).
"Tim, Jim and I started off on the circuit together years ago," reveals Ancona during our chat, following the press screening at posh hotel in Covent Garden.
"So it's quite ironic when people say we're new talent. It makes me laugh, because we have all slaved away on the circuit for years.
"I was nominated for Best British Newcomer at the Comedy Awards last year and I could almost feel the ripple of laughter.
"It's a misconception that if you're not a household TV name then you've not been around long." It was back in 1993 that Ancona won the prestigious Hackney Empire New Act of the Year, before going on to write and perform across TV, theatre and radio.
But for the public, sketch-based TV comedy will be seen as a departure for Ancona, who has become a TV favourite with her sparkling impressions of Posh Spice, Cher, and 'Smillie, Smillie, Carol Smillie' among others on Alistair McGowan's Big Impression.
And not many people know that it's Ancona who plays screen legend Marilyn Monroe on the After Eight Mints advert, also featuring Stephen Fry and Naomi Campbell.
Are there any impressions she can't do? "Lots. Alistair's a much better impressionist than I am.
"If I can't do someone perfect then I will go in on it on a different angle. "'Cos I believe impressionism should be in the true sense of the word: impressionism.
"There's no point in doing a photocopy of somebody - why don't you just listen to that person." What made her sign up for The Sketch Show? "Steve [Coogan] made a good point. He said that I've got all these work offers on the table, but because my reviews have been so good for impressionism the knives will be out, ready for me when I do character comedy.
"So he said 'Why don't you do this comedy for us as there are other comics you know, like and admire'." Ancona says she is keen to do more comedy acting 'because character comedy was my thing, I was a comedienne, first and foremost'.
She then launches excitedly into some of the new projects she involved in. "I've done this thing called Cinerama for the BBC. It's a spoof comedy history of cinema with all the genres from the 20s - it's my dream.
"It's a mixture of impressions and characters. So we've got impressions of Alfred Hitchcock's younger brother who had a penchant for cameo roles, and gossip columnists, and I do all the real movie stars. "Audrey Hepburn is my favourite." She adds: "And I'm writing another thing called The Friary, which is a spoof of the Priory rehab clinic. It's with Jan Ravens, who does Dead Ringers [on Radio 4].
"Different celebrities come to the Friary, mixed with characters who are staff or various inmates." And of course there's her much-publicised bizarre casting as a lesbian vampire in Steve Coogan's forthcoming Dr Terrible's House of Horror spoof for the BBC. Then, quite unexpectedly, Ancona suddenly divulges 'forbidden' details about Coogan's other hush-hush project, in which she plays the lead.
"It's going to be like a British Ally McBeal," she says.
"I play a woman who fantasises about doing different jobs every week.
"She meets a male friend and she tells him about what's happening during the week. So I'll say things to my friend like 'I want to be a barrister' and he'll imagine the scenario of me being a barrister, and then I'll imagine it.
"It's like a psychological Mr Benn, like 'This week I've decided to be...' It's about different people's perceptions." And she promises her character is going to be more realistic than the annoyingly sickly-sweet lawyer played by Calista Flockhart in the US show. "I'm going to do true neurotic," announces Ancona proudly. "Not American sanitised neurotic but neurotic with a capital N.
"You see these girls on American TV, and it's very funny and very beautifully scripted. But it's all sanitised with them dropping their shopping in a certain way, so they still look very adorable at the same time." And the inspiration for her walking disaster area character is none other than . . . herself. "I'm a desperately clumsy woman," she confides. "People are just amazed at how clumsy I am. "Henry Normal says he keeps seeing me at the Tube station with the entire contents of my bag on the floor, looking for my purse or whatever. "I'm very, very accident prone - so I have to get some of that across." But perhaps, thanks to her enthusiasm about her work, one Mr Coogan might argue she already has.
*** The Sketch Show is on Mondays (starting this Monday) 10.30pm on ITV.Source
Actress - filmography
Born 1968, Scotland, UK1."Waiting Time, The" (1999) (mini) TV Series (as Ronnie Ancona) .... RMP Colonel
2."Big Impression" (1999) TV Series .... Various Roles ... aka "Alistair McGowan's Big Impression" (1999) (UK: complete title)
3.Debt Collector, The (1999) (as Ronnie Ancona) .... Valerie's sister
4."Comedy Nation" (1998) TV Series .... Various roles
5.Inspector Derrick (1997) (TV) (voice)
http://us.imdb.com/Name?Ancona,+Ronni 1."Holby City" (1999) playing "Anna Griffiths" in episode: "Trouble With The Truth, The" (episode # 3.7) 11/30/2000 2."Mark Lamarr Leaving the 20th Century" (1999) (episode # 1.2) 7/11/1999 3."Space Cadets" (1997) playing "Herself"(episode # 1.7) 8/26/1997 4."Fist of Fun" (1995) (episode # 2.4) 1996 5."Fist of Fun" (1995) (episode # 1.4) 1995 6."Fist of Fun" (1995) (episode # 1.3) 1995 7."Ben Elton: The Man from Auntie" (1990) (episode # 2.3) 2/10/1994 8."Imaginatively Titled Punt and Dennis Show, The" (1994) (episode # 1.4) 1994 9."Imaginatively Titled Punt and Dennis Show, The" (1994) (episode # 1.5) 1994 10."Imaginatively Titled Punt and Dennis Show, The" (1994) (episode # 1.6) 1994