Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Ruth Connell - Supernatural

Fans of long-running cult American fantasy series Supernatural will have spotted a new arrival in its tenth season, currently airing on E4 in the UK. The red-haired woman called Rowena may not have said anything during her first appearance sitting in her hotel room at the end of the episode, Soul Survivor, which aired last month. The two men hanging from the ceiling above her impaled by stakes, however, spoke volumes about her demonic intent.

As fans of the show will find out when Rowena makes her presence fully felt in the season's eighth episode, Girls, Girls, Girls, on November 25th, what turns out to be a 400 year old matriarch with some very important progeny also speaks with a Falkirk accent. This comes in the form of thirty-six year old actress Ruth Connell, who was last seen on these shores playing Mrs Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh back in 2008, but who now seems to have entered an even more fantastical realm.

“Rowena is this powerful witch trying to reclaim her power-base,” Connell says on a break from filming the eleventh series of Supernatural in her first UK newspaper interview since she first appeared on American screens a year ago. “She turns up and creates havoc, and gets caught and tortured, but she's not just a baddie or nasty for the sake of it. There's humour there, and I can be playful with Rowena., especially after a manager I had a couple of years ago told me that I looked like I probably should play a witch.”

Connell's career was marked out from when she was a child growing up on her parents farm in Bonnybridge, when, having been packed off to accompany her younger cousin to dance classes, Connell found a natural aptitude for it. She appeared as Clara in Scottish Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, and danced in pantomime before studying drama in London.

Connell toured in a production of Ena Lamont Stewart's play, Men Should Weep, played Helen of Troy in Faust at the Royal Lyceum, and appeared in Alex Norton's production of No Mean City at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow.

Once she moved to America, it was Connell's voice which initially paid dividends when she was picked to be voice match for Merida, the flame-haired princes played by Kelly Macdonald in Disney Pixar's animated feature, Brave. With Supernatural, however, it is Connell solely in the spotlight.

“It's honestly been one of the best years of my life,” she says. “Eighteen months ago I couldn't get an audition, and now here I am, this girl from a farm in Bonnybridge on network American TV and going to fan conventions all over the world.”

One of these brought her back to the UK for an event called Asylum, held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

“I really was pinching myself,” says Connell, “because six or seven years earlier I'd done a convention when I was working for a PR company, and now here I was signing autographs in the same room I'd helped set up.”

Given that Supernatural is known for killing off its characters in the goriest of ways, both Connell and Rowena's future with the programme is far from certain. While Connell won't be drawn on how things pan out, the fact that Rowena is known to fans to become integral to future plots suggests she'll be haunting our screens a while yet.

“She's involved in quite a pivotal way,” Connell teases. “especially in the finale. Rowena's a lot of fun to play. It's definitely the most fun I've ever had in an evening gown.”

Despite such high profile exposure, Connell expresses a desire to work more in Scotland, particularly onstage with the likes of the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Lyceum. Filming prevented her taking up an invitation to appear in a scene that formed part of the latter theatre's recent fiftieth anniversary celebrations, though a couple of years ago Scotland came to America when Connell was asked to be voice coach on a production of Linda McLean's play, Sex and God.

“That was one of the best things that happened to me before Supernatural,” she says. “I'd admired Linda's work for years, and suddenly I'm sitting next to her in a little black box theatre in L.A. But it would be great to do something like that back home as well, and why not? I've a house in London, a family in Scotland, I'm filming in Vancouver and I'm living in L.A, so I don't see why I can't combine all that with working in Scotland as well.”

Supernatural airs on E4 on Wednesdays at 10pm.
www.channel4.com

The Herald, November 17th 2015

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