From Chico in Isidingo to Warrick Paulse in Binneland Sub Judice, UCT Drama graduate Terence Bridgett is South Africa’s self-confessed “soap slut” – merrily flitting from one soap series to the next. When you realise that he’s also acted in Erfsondes, 7de Laan AND Backstage the title really begins to makes sense.
Bridgett is not just a star of the small screen, however; this sometimes flamboyant, often charming and always talented thespian has also been acclaimed for his work on the stage. He’s equally at home stealing the show dancing and singing in Saturday Night Fever – The Musical, performing in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as well as impressing in his own cabaret production, All Soaped Up. Many will also remember Bridgett from gay stage favourites: Love! Valour! Compassion! (2005) and My Night with Reg (2004). Most recently he donned a four foot purple wig opposite Tobie Cronje in the Afrikaans baroque comedy, Sing.
On the big screen, he’s appeared in numerous films, such as Disgrace, and just finished playing a Cuban drill sergeant in E’Lollipop II – A Million Colours. His voice will soon be heard as Basil, the camp, Californian monkey, in the upcoming animated Jock of the Bushveld movie. He’s won both a SAFTA and an AVANTI award and received a Vita and two Fleur du Cap theatre nominations. Whew!
We thought it was high time we got to know more about the Cape Town born, Drakensberg Boys Choir schooled actor…
Are you really proud of being a soap slut? Do you not feel any shame?
Proud? Absolutely. It’s taken a level of versatility and endurance to have… erm… spread myself over the various small screen suspensions of reality over the years. Shame? Not a chance. If a sash and tiara had come with the title of ‘soap slut’ I’d be wearing them both with pride.
What inspired you to become an actor?
I’d say it’s always been in me on a cellular level. So not so much a choice as a vocation. Having said that, there are many people that feel the same way, who don’t get to experience the magic of a career within their chosen craft. So I feel privileged to do what I love, and love what I do.
Were you always a drama queen while growing up?
I’m not mad about that phrase – drama queen – I think it’s dated and tired. I do, however, think I understand what you’re asking… And the answer would be yes. I was the youngest child of five. The only boy and a ‘laatlammetjie’ nogal, I became the party trick for my sister’s dates. My father has a recording of me singing Don’t Cry for Me Argentina at the tender age of three. I shit you not!
Was this ever a problem amongst your peers at school?
Not really. At Drakensberg Boy’s Choir School, there was no lack of drama, or queens for that matter. Later at SACS –the oldest school in the country and an all-boys rugby school in the colonial tradition – I was pleasantly surprised by the student response. The first team rugby squad approached me to be their cheerleader against an international touring squad. Of course I said yes. So, no, I wouldn’t say that being a ‘drama queen’ was ever a problem at school…
What would represent the pinnacle of career success for you?
To achieve a communicative, if not socially-lubricated, command of Spanish and move to Barcelona to star in a Pedro Almodovar movie.
Have you considered packing up for LA to get really famous?
I would sink my teeth into New York before LA. It has so much more integrity and lack of apology. Although, I find Canada far more appealing than the States. London is also an option before the States but, as mentioned before, Spain still tops the wish list…
Why do you think so few gay actors play gay roles in Hollywood, leaving it to straight actors to actually play the gay characters (and then win the Oscars)?
No one wants to be pigeonholed and typecast. Gay actors would like to be considered viable sex symbols for the mainstream straight roles and run the risk of only playing gay characters should they spend too much time exploring the territory. Every actor likes to consider themselves to be versatile – as a thespian – and so the same applies to straight actors playing gay roles. That has to do with flexing their acting muscles and displaying a fearlessness of prejudice and solidarity with a sub culture that essentially runs the Hollywood machine. It has more to do with ego and career sustainability than it has to do with sexuality.
What the most exciting part of performing in the recent stage production of Sing for you?
The incredibly intimate and specific comedy timing Tobie [Cronje] and I have developed over the show’s journey. I feel so privileged to be working so closely with such a legend.
Wigs, outrageous costumes and makeup? Sing sounds like a drag show to us…
It’s not a drag show. It’s a dark period comedy. It is, to be academic, a restoration style farce set in the baroque era. And God yes, it is VERY camp!
If there is any famous role that you wish you could play, what would that be?
That’s simple. And I will play it. Even if I have to produce the show myself. Iago. He’s the villain in Shakespeare’s Othello. Dark, sexual, sensual, manipulative, twisted…. Yet deeply charming – and ultimately deeply wounded. Such a challenging smorgasbord of opportunity for magic on a stage.
Do you get a lot of flack from your cast-mates for constantly ‘stealing the show’?
Oh stop it… What do you want?
Is there actually any aspect of performance that you feel you’re not very good at? Tap-dancing perhaps? You can’t be good at everything…
Ain’t that the truth… And having worked in the big musicals, my shortcomings are all the more apparent. I’m an actor, who can sing, and dance; in that order of proficiency. My abilities deteriorate as you move down the list. When do I kak myself the most? If I have to sing, dance AND be butch.
What’s the relationship status these days? Involved or single?
Single. Available. Sometimes easy, but never cheap…
How difficult is it to keep a relationship going as a very busy actor?
It’s not easy. I have friends who can keep it together – but then they have a veritable entourage of staff. It is possible. I just haven’t gotten it right yet, not even while dating another actor. And no, you may not ask which one…
Would you prefer to be the world’s best actor working in a little known theatre or a critically-panned bad actor setting the world on fire in Hollywood?
Interesting question… kinda cuts it all down to the bone. Or at least the biltong. I’d say that even though I’m not the arrogant 19 year old I was when I graduated, there remains an essence of purism that would always prefer to be the respected actor on a stage as opposed to the panned actor on a screen. But, I am a working professional who has to pay the bills. I can only hope – as the years go by – for less compromise.
Does appearing regularly on national TV make it easier to get a shag?
Absolutely not. If anything it makes it far more layered, complicated and sometimes even clumsy. Depends on the town of course. The smaller then town, the bigger the ‘gil’. So,