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Alexandra Vandernoot

AlexandraAlexandra did two solo sessions and this covers her Saturday spot. When she came out, there was a collective double take as a slim woman with short cropped dark hair came out and sat down. But no, we’d got the right woman, as Alexandra explained that after ten years as a fake blonde, she’d decided to revert back to her natural hair colouring and have her hair cropped. She had done it for a show she did last year and said the short hair was “more me”. I think most if not all of the men fell in love on the spot and several women were complaining that she looked better now than she had seven years ago when she was playing Tessa. I’m not going to disagree, but Richie’s description of Tessa as “drop dead gorgeous” in Road Not Taken certainly still applies.

Alexandra has mainly worked in France and in French since her days on the show, although she did tell us that she’s just finished an English language film with David Suchet and Stephen Fry called “Sabotage”. This should be released in May, but is an exception rather than the rule, as she now focuses on France.

She was asked about how improvised the coffee scene at the end of Eyewitness was, and confessed that she couldn’t remember it, as she had several scenes with Adrian that she counts as “coffee scenes”. She said someone had asked her about such a scene at Anaheim and had been quite put out when she couldn’t remember. She said they always stuck to the script, as the shows were shot quite quickly, over six or seven days, and there wasn’t time to ad-lib, unless Adrian came up with something.

AlexandraShe said she would have liked Tessa to be more involved in the action, not being the one who always stayed at home and worried. When she found she couldn't find a new way to say, “Duncan, be careful”, she knew it was time to move on. At Anaheim, she was surprised to find how much the fans loved Tessa. She said she really liked the equality in the relationship between Duncan and Tess and the fact that they were on the same level. She said if she had become Immortal in The Darkness and not Richie, it would have changed the show completely. She had enjoyed returning as the bad character at the end of Season 2.

She told us that the wardrobe mistress in Vancouver had let it be known that she was having problems finding suitable clothes for Tessa before Alexandra left for Canada. To sort this minor problem out, she went shopping with the producer’s wife and the producer’s credit card in Paris for two days. She says they had a great time and Alexandra left for Vancouver with Tessa’s wardrobe. At this, there was a collective sigh from the women at the thought of two days of all but unfettered shopping in Paris. She said that, when the crew in Vancouver found that she was leaving after The Darkness, they all kept coming up to her and saying how sorry they were. Alexandra had to remind them that it was Tessa who was to die, not her. Highlander was a big part of her life and she was happy to come back for the subsequent episodes, although she felt that the Tessa we saw in Not To Be was too sad. She said she did Not To Be because she would have the chance to work with Adrian again.

She was asked if, when she started on the show, she ever expected to be at a convention. She said that she had been for a casting call in April 1992, then heard nothing for two months. Then she got a call on a Monday to say that she was leaving from Vancouver on the Friday for two months. She said that it took so long because there were so many co-producers on the first season, all of whom had to have their say in the casting. She said that you never know what a role will bring and that you do it because you’re attracted to the part. Unlike Adrian with Duncan, she didn't know who else had been up for the role of Tessa, but she knew that Tessa had to be European, but she could have been Italian or German as equally as French.

When she arrived in Vancouver, she didn’t know what Adrian looked like, but he had seen a picture of her and introduced himself at the hotel. Alexandra said she saw this handsome guy who came over and said hello. When she called her husband, he asked what Adrian was like and, not wanting to worry him that she’d be spending several months with someone like Adrian, she said, “oh, he’s average”. When her husband finally met Adrian in Paris several months later, he said to her, “that’s what you call average?”. She said that Adrian and her husband became good friends. In fact, her husband, who is a film director, had a project last year in France and wanted to cats Adrian in the lead, but it didn't work out. She said she didn't pull any jokes on Adrian as he needed to keep his concentration for the fights.

She said that she hasn’t played any roles where she would have liked to be the character, as she says that you only get to see a part of the person’s life, never the whole thing, and doing different things appeals to her. She said acting gives her the chance to play someone who’s braver and stronger, as she did for a series on French TV last summer, where she played a character she described as complete, a woman who was strong, yet fragile at the same time. She said Tessa was very generous and understanding, more than she felt she would be, citing her reaction to Grace Chandel in Saving Grace as an example where Tessa was more than human. Alexandra felt that she wouldn’t have been as tolerant. She felt that Tessa had a grown-up relationship with Duncan and was perhaps the only one who understood him so well.

AlexandraFilming on the barge was romantic, but very cold in winter. The first scene she had with Adrian was the first scene in The Gathering, where Duncan and Tessa are making love. She said there are worse things than a love scene with Adrian. She has had several such scenes with Georges Corraface, (Carlo Sendaro in Saving Grace), who she first met on Highlander, but they have worked together four times now, most recently on a series last year where he was her leading man. They did a movie together in Greece last year. She says love scenes only work when there is no sex or love involved, as it’s better to keep things clean between the two actors. She said that she found a natural chemistry with Adrian and felt that the fact that they were comfortable working together showed on screen.

She said she had gone to Anaheim with no preconceptions as to what to expect, as she didn't know that conventions existed. When Adrian had described them to her, she had envisaged something like a congress or academic symposium, with people in ties and suits. Somehow, she couldn't picture Adrian at such an event. She said Anaheim was fun, but crazy. Conventions aren’t something done in France and she felt that they were much more a US or UK event. For the same reason, she hasn’t got a fan club, as it’s not something people have in France and she’s too modest to think that people could be interested in her.

Of the directors on the show, she said she enjoyed working with Dennis Berry, who she described as fun, easy going and simple, not a description that fits well with his reputation! She said that Dennis is very busy in France. She also enjoyed working with Tom Wright, who did the early episodes of Season 1. She said she wasn’t surprised at how Tessa was written out, as she’d told them that she didn't want to go on and the writers had two months to work out how to make a clear end to Tessa. She had not watched all the episodes since, as she was out of Paris for two years during the time that Highlander was showing. She said she doesn’t enjoy watching herself, but likes to see what’s happening to old friends. She has watched occasionally and critiqued Duncan’s new girlfriends, although she admits she’s not very objective.

She said that the most challenging scenes for an actor are the simplest ones, which can be harder than a fight or an argument, such as if you’re ironing or cooking whilst talking. She says she finds eating and talking at the same time difficult, because you’re always conscious of the timing of the lines. She learnt a little about sculpture and metalwork for the show, but not enough. One of the props guys showed her how to use the tools and she said that it was always like that on TV. In film, they would train you to do something properly.

She said her work has mainly been in France, although she has just finished “Sabotage”. Before Highlander, she had been doing theatre work in Bruxelles. She has done a French thriller called “White Fright”, which was shot in Romania and she said that the place that they filmed at was frightening. It was about 30km from the real Dracula’s castle and they were quite isolated, as they were filming in the middle of winter. Her work has not appeared stateside as the US is very protectionist of French TV and film. She said that the one genre she would like to work in is horror, which can be good when done well. They don't do it well in France, leaving it to the Americans.

She said that Highlander was Stan Kirsch’s first work on TV and he kept missing his marks, so Adrian and Alexandra had to rehearse with him and shepherd him into the right spot. Alexandra has a younger brother, so she had that kind of feeling towards Stan, which spilt over into the Tessa-Richie relationship. She said she wasn’t good with computers, citing that as a French trait, although this was disputed the French fans there. She felt that Paris was a great city, even if you live there, and she felt it was both beautiful and safe. Her favourite part is along the Seine and round Montmartre, although she warned everyone against buying paintings in the Place du Tertre, as they are mostly done in the Philippines!

She said that she had no one clear memory of her time on the show, but that she remembers the ten months she was on the show stretch out as a nice time in her life. She has only met Cristoph Lambert during the filming of The Gathering and she remembers him flying in in his jet for four or five days work. She said that when they were shooting the fight on the bridge with Slan, Cristoph gave his sword to Adrian off-camera, a handing on of the baton, which she felt was a nice thing for him to have done.

She said she had known “Dust In the Wind” before it was used in The Darkness, but she was very moved when she saw the montage. She said it must have cost a fortune to use the song in the episode. She says when she hears it now on the radio, she thinks of it as her song - “oh, this is when I died”.

Adrian and AlexandraAt this point, a voice asked a question and Adrian appeared, with some flowers for Alexandra. He laughed at the barrage of camera flashes, quipping “Duncan and Tessa back together” or some such. He set the flowers down on the table and Alexandra complained he was hiding her. “Just like the series,” he said, “shut up Duncan!” Adrian calls Alexandra every time he’s in Paris. They were discussing something and Alexandra moved the microphone away from her mouth whilst talking. Adrian immediately started taking the mickey about us not hearing some of what she’d said and Alexandra turned to us and said “that’s why I quit!”. Adrian and AlexandraAdrian had been asked earlier to say something loving in French and he’d said “later” - it came back to haunt him, but he said something to Alexandra, which must have been a nice compliment.

Alexandra said that she had complained that she wanted to go home, but when they arranged the shoot so that she left for France two days before everyone else she cried! She asked Adrian if he’d laughed during his love scenes with other actresses and he denied it. Adrian said that Dennis Berry is fun if you like maniacs. He had directed them in Nowhere To Run and Alexandra described him as a teddy bear. Adrian said that, when they were filming Pharaoh’s Daughter at the Place de la Concorde, the camera had broken. Dennis had a tantrum for five minutes, after which Adrian decided enough was enough and told him so. Dennis nodded gently and said, “yes, but they need to hear it” and carried on where he had left off. They had looped most of Nowhere To Run because of Dennis’ excessive use of the smoke machine, which could be heard in every take. “And actors farting,” added Alexandra, “but not Adrian.” in a voice that implied quite the opposite. Adrian turned, not quite sure that he’d heard right, and she smiled sweetly at him.

The tableclothThey had some bits and pieces to auction for PEACE and Adrian took the opportunity to tell us a little bit about the PEACE fund. First up was a photo of Marcus at the brewery, with barrel overhead, which went for £40 and a hug from Adrian. Adrian wanted Alexandra to auction something, but she declined, saying she was bad at selling things - after all, the antiques store never made a profit. Next item was a montage of MacLeod the Warrior. Alexandra got up to look at it and said “beautiful”. When Adrian took a bow, she said, “I meant the picture!” in her best Tessa voice. That went for £300 and the obligatory hug.

Auctioning the tableclothWhen Adrian had been autographing that morning, he had jotted down what people said to him on the table cloth, (funny, I don't remember any thunder....), and he auctioned that off, promising to add to it in his second autograph session. That went for £470. Next were three black and white stills from the first movie, of the Clan marching to war from Glenfinnan, which he promised to get Cristoph to sign. Alexandra came and looked over his shoulder at them. These reached £350 and Adrian went, “going once, going twice”, then thrust the microphone at Alexandra, who stared at him mutely. The sale went through, but proceedings were interrupted by the news that England had beat Scotland 2-0.

Adrian's jacketThen came the jacket. “Did you sweat in it?” asked Alexandra, innocently. “It’s worth more if you sweat in it.” Adrian carried on a bit, but eventually admitted that he had worn it for quite a while. “Can I smell it?” she asked. She took the jacket off him and held it to her face. “Yes, it’s worth it,” she said to the crowd. The jacket went for £1500 and Adrian promised to have it signed by the cast of Endgame. He turned and said “Thank you very much from me and my...”

“My pleasure,” said Alexandra, sweetly. And there didn’t seem much to say after that.

More from Alexandra in Alexandra, Part 2