It’s amazing how a character can change dramatically from first script-read to the rehearsal period, and I think Leila has been the most drastic reimagining of a character I’ve had. When most of your lines are followed by ‘my dear’ or ‘how weird’, it’s difficult to view the character as the brightest crayon in the box. Textually, Leila is not the most complex of characters and, as a result of the first reading, the Leila that I initially presented was a dim but kind socialite. Cue collective dumb jokes from the cast, including myself.
Zoom to two weeks later. During one rehearsal, Cordelia empathically and sincerely voices my thoughts aloud: ‘I don’t think she’s dense. I think she’s rather intelligent’. She’s also transitioned from kind to somewhat manipulative. Moreover, an unlikely relationship has surfaced with someone I very strongly believed that she intensely disliked.
Brandon describes her as ‘normal’, which automatically translated in my mind as ‘average’. Oddly enough, normality is a vastly complex state of being and, therefore, a challenge to convey. No one in real life is true to type: everyone experiences various emotions simultaneously and conflicting feelings can be confusing. Having my own opinions of the character challenged early on and taking on the new information given in the scenes has been an immensely refreshing experience, allowing myself to discover Leila from moment to moment. With one week left, I’m intrigued to see what new things I have left to find with her
Kirsty Mealing (Playing Leila Arden)