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Jayne Wisener: I’m no longer on my Todd


Jayne Wisener

Jayne Wisener

Jayne Wisener

She may have acted alongside Hollywood royalty in Tim Burton’s gothic movie Sweeney Todd, but there is nothing starry about Coleraine girl Jayne Wisener.

Although she outshone Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter on the red carpet, the 21-year-old still feels something of an imposter in this world she has suddenly found herself in.

“I still get really nervous before going to awards ceremonies or red carpet events,” she says.

“I keep wondering ‘why do they want me here? I’m not a big name, I’m not famous.’ I can’t quite get my head around that.”

Jayne’s story has been well documented and reads like a fairtyale. The former Antrim Rose was an unknown drama student when she was plucked from obscurity and invited to audition for the role of Depp’s on-screen daughter Johanna.

“I was performing in West Side Story at the Millennium Forum in Derry at the time, with Musical Theatre for Youth,” she says.

“This casting director came along scouting for someone for Sweeney Todd and asked me to audition.

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“To be honest, it seems like a lifetime ago now and I can’t really remember that much about it all. But it was a great experience.”

Jayne was swept up in the hype that surrounded the movie’s release and found it all slightly overwhelming.

“I was a bit surprised at all the interest in me at the time,” she says.

“I really didn’t expect it. But it’s all died down now.

“Thankfully I didn’t have to deal with the paparazzi too much. I don’t know how I’d cope with that — it’s something I’m really not looking forward to. But I guess it’s the downside to fame.”

At the moment Jayne is living outside London and attending regular castings. A few months ago she landed a role in the television series Minder, which will be shown early next year, and has also made a guest appearance in a music video.

“I’m just doing one casting after another right now,” she says.

“I’ve just done a music video. It’s for a band called Archive. They’re not well known here but they are big in Europe, I’m told.”

It might not be as glamorous as acting opposite heart throb Johnny Depp, but Jayne is pragmatic enough to know that the bills still must be paid.

“I’d love to do other roles like Sweeney Todd,” she says.

“I’ve no idea what the future holds for me but I just hope that there are a lot of jobs out there and that I’m kept busy.

“Actually I have a casting today and another one tomorrow, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

Although Jayne comes from a musical background and had to sing in Sweeney Todd, she says she would prefer to do straight acting.

“I probably started singing before acting, but for some reason I feel much more comfortable acting,” she says.

“When you’re acting, you can be someone else, but when you’re singing, well that’s just you.”

Jayne was born to be a performer. From the age of five she attended speech and drama classes, progressing to amateur dramatics when she was older.

“I sang at school, on stage, in the church, anywhere really I could,” she says.

“My brother John and sister Gillian sing too. We’ve all sung together before. If the three of us like to sing, it must be in our family somewhere ...

“I did loads of festivals and amateur dramatics as well — any excuse to perform. I had to get involved in everything going.”

When Jayne was a teenager she joined Musical Theatre for Youth in Northern Ireland and made her debut performance in My Fair Lady, in the middle of her A Levels. One of the other girls in the group was Bangor’s Niamh Perry, who went on to become a star of the BBC talent show I’d Do Anything.

Jayne’s extra-curricular activities didn’t interfere with her school work — she studied during rehearsal breaks — and went on to pass her exams with good grades.

She then moved to Scotland to study drama, enrolling at the same college as a certain Colin Morgan, the young Armagh man who is one of television’s rising stars.

“He’s great as Merlin, isn’t he?” she says.

“Colin was a year above me at college. When I saw his showcase, I knew he was going to be famous.”

While at drama school, Jayne flew home regularly to Northern Ireland and appeared in several more MT4Uth productions, including Jesus Christ Superstar and Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama didn’t suit Jayne. She doesn’t give too much away about her time there, only to say that she wasn’t happy.

“It wasn’t what I expected and I couldn’t wait to get home,” she says.

At the end of first year Jayne secured a part in MT4Uth’s West Side Story and it was during this production that she came to the attention of the casting director for Sweeney Todd.

“I left drama school during second year to do the film,” she says.

“It was the right decision for me.”

As far as Jayne is concerned, getting home to Coleraine is one of life’s little pleasures.

“I love coming home,” she says.

“I just love that smell, you know, when you get off the plane. Northern Ireland has a distinct smell. It may rain, but the rain here is better than anywhere else.”

This weekend Jayne was back in Belfast to attend the 7Up Go Awards at the Europa Hotel.

“The last time I was home was for a fleeting visit back in June,” she says.

“I’m so excited about being back again. I miss my family terribly.”

Helping her overcome her loneliness is new boyfriend Wayne Austin and as she talks about him, it’s clear she’s smitten.

“I met Wayne at a birthday party. He was the old school friend of my mate’s boyfriend,” she explains.

“He is English and has the strongest accent I’ve ever heard. Fortunately he’s not an actor. He’s a project manager at Barclay’s and it’s great not having to talk to him about work.

“Wayne’s gorgeous — well I think he is. He’s also very stable, he has a proper job whereas I’m all over the place. I can’t plan a week ahead, let alone a month.”

So it seems this budding star has found her perfect leading man then?

“Yes, I think I have,” she laughs.

“Although I wouldn’t mind working with Prince Caspian star Ben Barnes. He’s lovely.”

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