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General Jennifer talk

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Mara

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Post 16 Apr 2009, 22:39

General Jennifer talk

As some people might be interested in reading the article I've translated for the Jennifer Saunders forum for the Dutch Vara magazine this week, I'll post it here too!

Part one:

Introduction
The legendary and world famous comedienne Jennifer Saunders doesn’t often give interviews, but magazine ‘Humo’ managed to get hold of her for their well-known ‘’seven sins’’ column. She made it work for two decades with Dawn French, and her biggest success became Absolutely Fabulous with Joanna Lumley: a show she wrote on her own, and in which she crossed all the borders of decency. By kicking, bragging and shouting she made way for all the female violence that has followed her ever since. As Edina, there’s no sin unfamiliar to her. In ‘the Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle’ - the comedy show about a meaningless talk show that is now available in stores – she has strangely not attempted to cross, nor sharp these borders again. Has generosity made entrance? Her looks don’t reveal the fact that she’s already half a century old: she’s tender and very famine, qualities you wouldn’t immediately associate with her, bearing her characters in mind. And she’s especially kind and very modest. So modest, that she prefers not doing any interviews at all. But if it’s about the seven sins, she’s willing to make an exception.

1. Anger
Jennifer Saunders: ‘’Anger and frustration are the main ingredients of British comedy’’. All humor grows from deep embarrassment. English people are very shy: about being English, about their manners, about sex… There is so much deep rooted anger in our country, just because the English people can’t, neither dare to say what’s bothering them. On the outside, the Brits seem quite simple people, but inside there’s a hurricane of anger going on that has quite a lot of comic potential.’’ I’m not very quick-tempered myself, but I do understand the urge not to say what one’s thinking: I suffer from that too, haha. Tanya Byron, with whom I wrote the Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle, is very different. As psychologist, she pointed out to me that I’m always trying to be too kind, avoiding confrontations. I’d rather stay friends with everyone.

while your characters…
… are constantly beside themselves. Yes.

But with your image, you could tell just people to ‘bug off’ anytime?
I know. That’s the reason for me doing this kind of work. Because it gives me the opportunity to do and say everything I would never dare to in real life. Being in actress is actually being a child: it’s Ok to keep on playing and you’re allowed to dress up, shout and rage.

2. Pride
You hate being looked at as soon as you walk out the door. That is so typical about entertainers: if no one would you, you’d probably try to get the audience’s attention ‘till they’d notice you.
Yes, maybe. That’s actually the only thing about being famous that I don’t like: people start to behave differently when you’re around. They look at you, they’re curious while you try to conceal yourself. I often don’t even dare to look up when I’m in the supermarket, that’s why I end up in the shelves occasionally, because I don’t see where I’m walking.

To the question: ‘’what are you most proud of?’’ most people respond with “’my children’’…
Of course, so do I. I was surprised when my second-eldest daughter decided to go to drama school. She’s now touring with a company entirely existing of young girls: they’re television channels who have offered to work with them! Yes, I’m very proud of her. And no one knew she’s the daughter of… My eldest daughter’s a folk singer, she’s very good. And my youngest is still at school, she’s studying French. She’ll be editor of the Vogue: the French Vogue, obviously. But on the creative side I’m especially proud of some television programs I’ve produced. Especially the ones which everyone’s satisfied with in the end, I love getting calls straight after filming with a request for doing it once more. I try to create an atmosphere of a party at my place when I’m on the set. During the filming of Vivienne Vyle, I considered my task to be as the hostess, and I really did my best to make everyone feel comfortable. A relaxed actor is two times better you know.

Your most recent show, Jam and Jerusalem, was harshly criticized in the media. How do you cope with that?
The reviews from the press were mixed. But the audience was very enthusiastic: I’ve hardly ever received higher viewer’s ratings. And never before was I approached by so many fans in the streets. I wanted to address a different audience, the kind, sympathetic type that has never been shown on television before. I’m fed up with the everlasting negativism . And there’s the image I ended up with as a result of AbFab, the press expects me to always vent my bile…

And Joanna Lumley is also involved…
I only asked her to do the pilot initially, because it's fantastic to work with her. She's better at playing old people than real old people are. Great as she is, she agreed to play an old woman driving her bike - it was so funny that I wrote her in all the episodes of the first series. While she had to endure horrible pain in the make-up, for every episode. When the first season ended, she looked at me with pleading eyes and said: ''Darling...'' Before we went on, I put her out of her misery. ''I know, I know, I've used you, I won't do it again.'' Alas. Because she's so irresistibly funny, I could devote a whole show to her character.

3. Speaking of laziness…
I’m terribly lazy.

You’re exaggerating. Acting might be good fun, but writing is hard work.
Very hard work. When I sit down behind my computer, I always start with a game of Solitaire, to put off the confrontation. I do actually everything to distract myself. It runs in the family, I think. We’re all great at vegetating, I think we derive from plants…

So how do you explain the amount of stuff you’ve written then?
Once I start writing and get into the swing, I can’t stop. It’s like the step between standing still and walking, I just have to keep on moving. Nearly all my work is written with a full dose of adrenaline that helps me to get through it. I usually wait until the last moment to come into action. I often finish stories we have to film later that day when I’m in the train to London. I need a audience in order to be funny, then I can see whether jokes work or not. I’m actually more more of a performer than a writer.

Why do you work so hard? You’re happily married, you’ve got three children and you could live upon the interest of your money until you’re 180 years old...
Believe me, I’m bone lazy. My productivity seems more impressive than it is. A show is something you produce with a team. Writing is something I don’t do on my own either. On top of that, someone else can put your work into perspective. Everything you do on your own, is something you’ve done before already.

What did Tanya Byron, co-producer on Vivienne Vyle, add that you couldn’t have done yourself?
Tanya is a psychologist: I met her on the set of French and Saunders. She came up with the idea because she had noticed that a lot of psychological advise on daytime talk shows is given by people who know as much as psychology as a dog knows about cat food. Vivienne Vyle is comedy, but with a very double meaning. We try not to go for the immediate loud laughter: we even work without a laughing track.

On the other hand, it is again based on a empty-headed media monster. Is Vivienne perhaps a bit like Eddie Monsoon?
I've tried to stay far away from Eddie. Vivienne is much more presumptuous – you’ll probably know that type of people. They listen every day to other people’s problems while nodding understandably, while you can hear them thinking: ‘’is my hair still looking good?’’ It’s sad and funny at the same time to see how someone can be so ambitious that one’s prepared to offend other people.

But why choosing a more serious character? Are you fed up with comedy?
I love comedy, but for once I wanted to play a part without any resemblances to Edina. Whether it be conscious or not, you always tend to fall back on the same jokes, so you have to find a part that doesn’t allow you to use the same old tricks. And Edina’s ‘’trick box’’ became so heavy that it wasn’t easy to get rid of it.

Like John Cleese, you work with a psychologist. Is it also necessary for a comedian to focus on the human mind?
No matter how outrageous your characters are, they’ll only become believable only when they react like real people would do. Psychology has always fascinated me – finally you realize that nothing’s stranger than reality. A good comedian must understand what’s going on in people’s minds, even – and especially – in the strange ones.

4. Jealousy
Everyone’s guilty when it comes to this sin, even if they deny so. I’ve also heard myself saying that I felt very happy for someone else’s success while I secretly though: ‘’I’d suffer three days on the toilet with heavy diarrhea to see her screwing something up for once.’’

… who was that about?
People from a far past, who I couldn’t stand or I was slightly jealous at. But I’ve never suffered much from jealousy – when someone writes something that is really cleaver I will think: ‘’I wish I had written that’’ at the very most. When my children were still young, I envied people without kids: they could bloody go on holiday whenever they wanted and they were free. I was especially jealous at single gay’s, they had everything: no responsibilities, no mother-in-law and no obligation to run a family. It’s like a kid’s dream of having no parents: you’d be a lonely orphaned child, but free nevertheless. But that’s just a dream, in reality you don’t want it to be like that. When life gets a little hard , you look around you and you always see someone whose life appears to be a lot nicer.

In your case I assume that won't be that easy any longer?
True, yes. I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve reached so much, and all my children have left home. Initially, I was very sad when they moved out of house, but now I feel like I’ve started a whole new life. Suddenly I’ve got all time to myself and I can do everything I used to dream of. However, you realize that you’ve lived half of your life already, but that there’s still a lot to be done. You should be finished doing everything at sixty I guess, so actually I’ve got plenty of time, while lacking it on the other hand.

You don’t envy anyone. Are there any people you admire then?
Oh yes. Especially those who are different or who have the courage to do something that differs. When it comes to acting or comedy, I can usually see where someone’s heading to, but I - for instance - can admire those American shows that run for years. I’m exhausted after a few episodes, but they keep on going. Jerry Seinfield is a genius: for ten years he kept on making fantastic episodes, without losing strength.

But they can make use of an army of writers…
… that is also admirable. They constantly replace writers but still they manage to keep up the quality. I once made a guest appearance on Roseanne: the filming took place in one of the biggest studio’s – it was like a little city – where three other television shows were filmed at the same time. When a writer left a show, he could just move on to an other. Ideal trainings camps for writers: we should have something like that here too... When it comes to comedy, you need to focus on the joke, I learned that from Ben Elton, who used to read over our scripts. I can still hear him saying: ‘’well ladies, again a lot of missed opportunities’’. And he was right. I worked on Absolutely Fabulous with Ruby Wax, the funniest person in the world. She taught me how to make people laugh while being interesting in the mean time. Playing a certain type of character is something I’ve always managed to do myself, but Ben and Ruby taught me how to compose and work out an idea, and how to make it surrealistic and funny at the same time.

So it really is a profession then?
Absolutely, there are techniques. But if you apply those, you don’t necessarily have a good joke. It’s like fishing: there’s no guarantee you’ll catch a fish if you know HOW to do it.
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Post 16 Apr 2009, 22:40

Re: Jennifer Saunders

And here's the second part!

5. Greed
When I was young, I made part of a company called the Comic Strip. Without having any experience, we were given a lot of freedom and money to make thirty films, each lasting for half an hour. We had such a great time: it wasn’t the money that motivated us, we just wanted to have fun and make jokes while being on telly at the very same time. An important lesson I learnt back then was: amuse yourself if you want to enjoy your job. If it was only about the money, Dawn and I would have done much more promoting, we wouldn’t have stayed at the BBC. (what – by the way – is the best place to work) It was always life that came first, and then our work. We are women, you know? Not cleaver business guys, like our male colleagues Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith and Jonathan Ross. They focus on big companies and become suddenly involved with big business deals, out of which they make huge amounts of money. Oh, I’ve got nothing to complain about. But every now and then, when I see a rare sports car driving past, I can suddenly just call my agent to tell him that he really needs to get me some advertising job, haha.

6. Gluttony
People always want more and more. Who actually still knows what food is actually for? In my day you just had three meals a day, but nowadays children eat crisps for breakfast! Eating can become an addiction, and it’s hard to kick the habit – I eat too much myself too. My parents never taught me how to take only small portions, but at least I KNOW I’m eating too much, haha. That’s why I’ve always tried to learn my children to eat enough, but not too much. People just stuff themselves with everything: they take pills against depression, and give their kids Rilatin or something to drive away their fears. What happened to the days in when men got out to hunt while women gave birth? What are those people doing now? Working in a call center all day long, that’s not a job. People are no longer active, they don’t move nor live. Communities disappear too: in old villages and cities everyone just knew and kept an eye on each other, they knew how to keep up appearances. We’ve lost that feeling of solidarity. People stuff themselves because they’re fed up with life. It’s like a massive suicide.

And to make it even worse: all those ‘’cooking shows’’ on television.
Everyone eats fast food, but they’re still watching those cooking shows on television, while even writing down recipes… Well, I don’t know anyone who cooks. I do try it myself when I’m on holiday, in Sicily. Then you go down to these nice markets and buy the best ingredients, yes, I there I can actually do it. You’ve got nothing else on your mind: no stress and no work.

And if it comes to taking the illegal stuff? You work in a world where extreme excesses are considered as normal.
I’ve never been that wild. People drank a lot when I was young, and yes, sometimes a joint was passed on but none of my friends has ever been addicted. Many of us have probably experimented, just out of curiosity, but I never really did so myself. I’m just not drugs-proof: the very few times I’ve tried to smoke a joint, it made me feel really sick.
I do love medicines. I once suffered from heavy back aches, and the doctor gave me Petadine, a kind of valium. I felt as if I was in heaven: fantastic! I suddenly didn’t feel like tidying up the house at all, and the kids could just do whatever they felt like. And it was safe, ‘cause my doctor had prescribed it, haha.

7. Lust
Saving the best for last…
And now you want to know if I still have sex? Of course I do. I’m not yet menopausal! Ah, menopause, there, I’ve said it. I asked my doctor recently when it’s going to be my turn, and he said: ‘’Some women will never be menopausal. Or they are, but without knowing it’’. The menopause is only discussed so much to make women worried, or to sell some more copies of those womens magazines. One day I’ll wake up with the face of that dead red Indian dwarf, like Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man. He’ll look at me, and I shall think: ‘’This is it.’’ No, I refuse to worry about it.

If your man would allow you to, and there was no influence of any press, would you ever consider cheating?
No. I could restrain myself from doing so when I was young while no one kept an eye on me, so I have really no clue why I should suddenly start behaving wildly and lawlessly now that I’m older.

Your husband wouldn’t be the first to run off with someone else as soon as the kids have left the house. Are you afraid that might happen?
No, I feel sexier than ever. I finally dare to accept my femininity, I used to be way too insecure. In the end it’s all about self confidence, and I’ve got plenty of that now. I feel great.

Confidence is something Vivienne doesn’t lack either...
I usually play characters that are insecure, like I used to be myself. But Vivienne is really fond of herself, also when it comes to her physical appearance. She’s the kind of woman that uses her sex appeal to get what she wants.

Have you ever used YOUR sex appeal?
No. Well, I don’t think so. I’m not that confident either.

Would you ever consider having plastic surgery to prevent yourself from losing your looks?
I usually notice women for whom plastic surgery didn’t work out that well… That alone would prevent me from doing it. I’ve come to an age at which everyone is suddenly accused of having plastic surgery, that’s probably why my facial mimes are getting more expressive. Women who’ve had botox look like their face has been cemented.

I once interviewed Cher who couldn’t smile no longer...
Although she’s a very sweet and modest lady. She’s been on the set of Absolutely Fabulous a couple of times, to see us filming, and she just sat down in the audience, without asking for any special treatment at all. And that – again - makes clear that it’s all about the inner person, not about one’s façade.


It took me literally hours to translate it, so please do not copy it to any other websites without my permission... :wink:
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Post 16 Apr 2009, 23:00

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Thank you darling, that was fabulous.
You've put a lot of effort into this, and it shows :worship:
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Post 16 Apr 2009, 23:08

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Can we get the Dutch version as well ? :lol:
(Now I'm gonna get it ! Just kidding Maartje)

No serious , BIG THX for the article - it shows that you've put a lot of effort into the translation .
FAB job ! :great: :worship:
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Post 17 Apr 2009, 08:23

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Haha, thanks! And yeah, it really was a lot of work, but I'm glad so many people can enjoy this interview now - I was actually suprised how openly she spoke about her private life!

So, let's show some love for the divine mrs. Saunders in this thread!

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She's fabulous! :cloud9:
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Post 17 Apr 2009, 14:40

Re: Jennifer Saunders

:shock: Maartje !! *thud* <-- that was me falling off my chair.
Wow - you're incredible!
Thanks so much for taking the time to translate this! I will make a little shrine for you & worship you ;) .

(Which reminds me of AbFab & Eddie's little shrine...
Patsy: "Oh, you're still doing this?"
Eddie: "Yeah, almost religiously."
:lol: gets me every time.)
Last edited by Sapphire on 17 Apr 2009, 15:33, edited 1 time in total.
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Post 17 Apr 2009, 14:44

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Sapphire wrote:(Which reminds me of AbFab & Eddie's little shrine...
Patsy: "Oh, you're still doing this?"
Eddie: "Yeah, almost religiously."
:lol: gets me every time.)


:lmao: :lmao: :lmao:
Love that!!
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Post 17 Apr 2009, 16:34

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Sapphire wrote:Thanks so much for taking the time to translate this! I will make a little shrine for you & worship you.


Haha, fab! :lol: Anyway - I had actually planned to do some scans of the article (and the cover) today: anyone interested? (although it might have to wait for a couple of days now that I'm ill..)
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Post 17 Apr 2009, 16:44

Re: Jennifer Saunders

I would love to see some scans Maartje , THX ... :happy:

Sorry to hear that you're ill ...
Get well very soon dearest ... :hug:
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Post 17 Apr 2009, 16:46

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Thanks... I shall post them here as well as soon as I've scanned the pages.. :wink:
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Post 17 Apr 2009, 16:48

Re: Jennifer Saunders

I'd really like to see it scanned too ... but don't rush it.
Get well first. :hug: ... Oh wait; are you contagious? ;) ... oh well.
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Post 18 Apr 2009, 22:40

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Haha! Don't worry, it's alright. :lol:

Anyway - great news for French and Saunders, they're getting a BAFTA at last. Finally I'd say, they absolutely deserve one.

Nice quote from the Telegraph website:

Joanna Lumley, who starred opposite Saunders in Absolutely Fabulous, said: "It is brilliant news. I obviously know them and adore them and I can't think of anyone more worthy of the honour."
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Post 18 Apr 2009, 22:44

Re: Jennifer Saunders

^They're getting a BAFTA?? That's great news! Where did you hear that? :grin:

Edit: Stupid question. Must've been on the Jen forum :lol:
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Post 18 Apr 2009, 23:01

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Yes, the Jennifer forum, where else? :lol: Apparently there are some people out there who check the 'Google Alerts' about ten times a day, so I always get my news from there, haha.

It's on the Telegraph online, so it's quite big news for them actually. Do they ever broadcast the BAFTA's?
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Post 18 Apr 2009, 23:11

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Yup they do, on the Beeb. So if you've got a tv, and you don't work Sunday nights (sadly it's a no to both for me), then you can watch it :grin:
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Post 18 Apr 2009, 23:13

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Well, I've got both the Beeb as night's off at Saturday, to that's pretty great.. :d Let's just hope is either on BBC1 or 2, 'cause otherwise it's gonna be a problem for me too... although I'm sure anyone on the Jen forum will be able to upload some video footage by that time.
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Post 22 Apr 2009, 16:24

Re: Jennifer Saunders

I was just thinking about Dawn and Jennifer getting a BAFTA (finally), and then it came to me:
How amazing would it be if Joanna'd be the one to present them with the award?! Now that would be the best thing in the world, wouldn't it?? :squee:
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Post 22 Apr 2009, 16:33

Re: Jennifer Saunders

I know, I've been thinking about that too, so I"ve been checking the BAFTA website like mad, but there's not much on it... She already presented one last year though, so I think it's very little chance...
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Post 22 Apr 2009, 16:37

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Oh yeah, I remember last year. I'd only been living in France for a couple of months, had no television (so no Beeb either), and I was going crazy all evening because I knew Joanna was there and I couldn't watch it :lol:
Just a quick reminder of how gorgeous she looked (even though this is a Jennifer thread)

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Post 22 Apr 2009, 16:38

Re: Jennifer Saunders

''I love awards I couldn't possibly win myself.'' Pricless, haha. :d

She looks lovely - how on earth does she do it? The dress is ORANGE...
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Post 22 Apr 2009, 16:42

Re: Jennifer Saunders

I love that dress! I love that it's orange! I love how it's draped! I think that's one of the best and most original red carpet dresses I've seen in years. I remember when I saw it I thought "Finally, someone got it right." She's got most Hollywood actresses beat choosing it.
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Post 22 Apr 2009, 16:46

Re: Jennifer Saunders

What can I say? It's very Dutch. :lol: It does suit her though, I absolutely agree. But I just don't like the colour I'm affraid.

Can I spam this thread with a 'lil bit more gorgeousness?

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Post 22 Apr 2009, 16:52

Re: Jennifer Saunders

^Lovely picture.

As for the dress. I loved everything about it. The way it was draped, the colour, the shoes went perfect with it as did the handbag and her nailpolish (yes I've got an eye for detail :lol: )
It got so much negative publicity because it apparently "clashed" with the red carpet. So what?! Like Timeless said, she dresses better than most Hollywood stars. And I think the colour suited her really well. Definitely one of the best red carpet outfits I've ever seen. :heart:

Aaaaanyway. Back to Jennifer :grin:
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Post 22 Apr 2009, 16:56

Re: Jennifer Saunders

Philippa wrote:^Lovely picture.

As for the dress. I loved everything about it. The way it was draped, the colour, the shoes went perfect with it as did the handbag and her nailpolish (yes I've got an eye for detail :lol: )
It got so much negative publicity because it apparently "clashed" with the red carpet. So what?! Like Timeless said, she dresses better than most Hollywood stars. And I think the colour suited her really well. Definitely one of the best red carpet outfits I've ever seen. :heart:

Aaaaanyway. Back to Jennifer :grin:


Sorry, I'm just about to go off-topic again. Pardon me...

They criticized it because it clashed? WIth the carpet? Erm, I didn't know you had to dress to coordinate with the background. Nice work, there. I thought it was fabulous. So many dresses at the Oscars look exactly the same, but Joanna's was a breath of fresh air. And the colour was so original--it's always black, red, black, red. Orange isn't my favourite colour, but I loved it in that outfit.

I now promise to listen to "I Need A Hero" by Jennifer Saunders to make up for my post deviance. :angel:
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Post 22 Apr 2009, 17:47

Re: Jennifer Saunders

It clashed with the carpet? Well, I'm sure it did, but is that a condition nowadays? You're right about the Oscar dresses though: it's always the same. They had some good ones this year, can't remember who wore them though... Anyway - Joanna can actually quite handle every look, and she did a great job on the accessories, so I think she looked lovely.

Oh yes, I Need A Hero, Jennifers voice! She's a suprinsingly good singer I think, she should do more soundtracks. She's gifted, but so very different from Joanna, that's why I probably like the chemistry between them so much.
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