Gwen Taylor takes passenger seat in Driving Miss Daisy at Theatre Royal Plymouth
THERE is one thing missing from Gwen Taylor's lengthy and wide-ranging list of credits.
From long-running police drama Z-Cars to eternal soap Coronation Street and sitcoms Duty Free and Barbara, she has never lacked variety or high-profile exposure.
While her face is familiar on screen, away from the TV she is rarely identified, for one reason.
"I have never really had glamorous roles, usually only quite ordinary characters, so I don't get recognised when I've got my glad rags on," she says.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"It's only at the checkout or the bank when I am recognised, for my voice."
For her latest role the voice won't be recognised, either. She plays the wealthy southern US lady of the title in Driving Miss Daisy, the stage play that preceded the hugely successful 1989 film, which is at the Theatre Royal Plymouth next week.
Again, glamour is not to the fore. Gwen must take Daisy from a not entirely fit but still feisty 72-year-old to her decline 25 years later.
The ever-patient black man doing the driving for the forthright white Jewish lady is Don Warrington, as Hoke. Don's arrival on our TV screens was as Philip Smith in 1970s sitcom Rising Damp, and he's currently on BBC1 playing the police chief in Death In Paradise.
Gwen is in awe of the contemporary and classical actor and director who was awarded an MBE in 2008 for services to drama. "He sings, too; a real renaissance man."
That admiration extends to long-suffering Hoke and the play.
The action takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, where Miss Daisy's son insists she have a chauffeur after she becomes unsafe to drive.
What starts as a prickly relationship develops into a lifelong friendship. The backdrop is the prejudice against blacks and Jews in the southern United States and the growth of the civil rights movement through the 1950s and 1960s.
"It is lovely, beautifully written," Gwen says. "You are aware of the history going on but in a subtle, domestic way.
"Hoke is a lovely character, so stoic. He is the brightest button in the box, very astute. He would have made a very good psychotherapist."
The original play won a Pulitzer prize for author Alfred Uhry, who picked up an Oscar for the screen adaptation. The film's other Academy Awards included Best Picture and Best Actress for Jessica Tandy as Miss Daisy.
She will be a "quite different" Miss Daisy, she says with a laugh, contrasting her fuller figure with that of tall and slender Tandy and Vanessa Redgrave, who took the role in the 2010 stage revival.
It's all about glamour again, a trend that was started with her professional debut – as a vegetable.
"I was a jumping bean in Jack And The Beanstalk in Derby, my home town," she reveals.
"I was 31. I didn't go to drama school until I was 26.
"I started working in a bank and I knew I would have to take a lot of exams to take the men on at their own game and get a senior job. But I was enjoying am dram and I realised I would be much happier doing that."
She is best known for playing Amy Pearce in Duty Free from 1984-86 and the title role in Barbara from 1995-2003.
She was dishonest Peggy in Sunday evening drama Heartbeat from 2005-2010 and then just under a year in Corrie as Anne, killer of her rapist son, Frank Foster.
"I have had a fun-filled career but never made millions," says Gwen, 73, in summary.
It is a decade since she was on the Theatre Royal stage, in George Bernard Shaw's Arms And The Man.
She and playwright husband Graham Reid are frequent visitors to Cornwall, however, to see friends in Polruan.
They go by road although the actress does not like being behind the wheel. So if you spot them, that will be Graham driving Miss Gwen.
Driving Miss Daisy is at the Theatre Royal Plymouth Monday-Saturday next week