Having played Mrs. Donatelli in the first two The Princess Switch films, Suanne Braun reprises her role in the third instalment Romancing The Star, which is released tomorrow on Netflix, with the cast having filmed during the pandemic and she will also be seen playing the character in next week’s release of A Castle for Christmas. Amongst her many screen roles, Suanne will play Sharon in the short film All The Things You Are, appeared in Summer of Rockets and Revealing Mr. Maugham and is well-known for playing Hathor in Stargate, with which she attends Comic-Cons and presents Hathor Hosts. On stage, Suanne made her West End debut playing Tanya in MAMMA MIA! and she performed on stage with the musical for their 20th Anniversary in 2019 and some of her recent stage work has included Sailing Somewhere at Live at Zedel and The Cherry Orchard. With her varied career, Suanne has performed her own stand-up show The Braun Identity which won her the Funny Bones award and she has voiced a number of projects including adverts and video games. Ahead of tomorrow’s release, Suanne talks about being in the cast of The Princess Switch films as Mrs. Donatelli, playing Hathor in Stargate and performing in MAMMA MIA! for their 20th Anniversary in 2019.
Can you tell us about your character Mrs. Donatelli in The Princess Switch films and what is the character like to play?
Mrs. Donatelli is the head of the household and right-hand woman to Queen Margaret. She has been with the family for years and watched Margaret grow up. She has a very soft spot for both Margaret and Stacey and is immensely proud of the women they have become. She is a joy to play. So organised and completely unflappable. Not like me at all – I am the opposite, so I love slipping into Mrs. D mode and being the calm, cool and collected woman she is for a while.
You worked on The Princess Switch 3: Romancing The Star during the pandemic, what was it like to film and why would you recommend watching it?
Firstly, it was a JOY to be able to work during such a tough time globally, and the pandemic absolutely changed the way we all work. I was blown away by our production team and their commitment to everyone’s safety. The COVID protocols were followed to the letter, and we were kept safe. Such an enormous challenge during these trying times but they did it!!
I think the most fun thing about the third instalment – Romancing The Star, is that it’s not what people are expecting. It’s got delicious tongue in cheek moments, romance, and it’s a fun heist movie. A proper caper. Plus, everyone gets their happy ending.
What do you enjoy most about being in the cast and working on the Netflix films?
We’ve been so lucky as a cast to work together for the past three years, so the best thing is that it’s like a big family now. And the new characters that are introduced in this third film slotted into the family right away. Such a great group of actors to work with. The crew also felt like family as many of the crew were returning to the project and, of course, our fantastic director Mike Rohl, who has been with us from the first film, was there to guide us through it all seamlessly. I love too that Netflix has totally embraced Christmas movies and that these films are enjoyed by people all over the planet. How cool is that?
Is there anything you can tell us about A Castle for Christmas?
Well…… I think if you look closely, you might find out who Mrs. Donatelli ends up with.
You play Sharon in the upcoming short film All The Things You Are, what are you able to say about it?
This is a project that some friends were working on and the screenwriter (who knows I love to play diverse, interesting characters) asked if I’d be up for playing a middle-aged Goth who works in a charity store. I was like – you had me at Goth. The story is beautiful and poignant and it’s always fun working with friends. And the brilliant Simon Callow is in it too.
How was it being part of the cast of Summer of Rockets and seeing the viewers’ response to the show?
Summer of Rockets was a genuine thrill and privilege to be a part of. Stephen Poliakoff is such an iconic English director and watching him work was an absolute masterclass in action. I have wanted to do something quintessentially British for a while, this was that vehicle for me. Loved the period too (1950s) and so the costumes, set dressing – all of it were stunning. The entire experience was fantastic, and I’m delighted that the show was so well received on both the BBC and Netflix.
Can you say about playing Hathor in Stargate and what was the show like to work on?
How much time do you have? Just kidding! Hathor and Stargate have been INCREDIBLY kind to me as it’s the role that just keeps on giving. You know as an actor, you never know when people will or won’t respond to something, you just show up and do the work. Stargate had such an incredible team behind it, from the creators Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner to the incredible cast, crew, and guest stars that it felt so easy, and I loved my time on set. It’s been such a delight and thrill to know that people really responded to Hathor and still do all these years later. I think it’s 27 or 28 years later now and the fandom is still as passionate about the show as they were when it was released in the nineties.
What is it like attending Comic-Cons and running Hathor Hosts?
Cons are extraordinary things to attend. I genuinely had no idea what to expect at the first one I went to, but I was blown away. I have said this before and I will say it again – I love the Stargate fans. They are the most inclusive, fun, kind, and awesome people ever. I’ve loved meeting people from all over the world and hearing what the show and my character means to them.
Hathor Hosts has been such a surprise. It started as this small idea to just keep busy over lockdown and developed into this lovely show where amazing actors, showrunners, writers, directors all came and chatted so freely and easily about their incredible careers. The fans TOTALLY embraced the show and so many people gave so much to the show. From the theme tune to the posters to the actual show being produced and managed on YouTube by people who just volunteered and gave their talent freely. I was/am blown away. My greatest wish is to take the show to the next level which I believe should be an in-studio show with a live studio audience and hopefully interviewing multiple guests at once. Watch out Graham Norton – I’m coming for ya! (KIDDING) But that kind of idea is precisely where I see the show heading.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from working on screen over the years which has seen you on shows such as Red Dwarf, A Royal Winter and UnPacking?
I think the thing about my career thus far, is that it’s been pretty varied. It’s never gone the way I think it’s going to go but it has and continues to feel fresh and has been interesting. I feel lucky to have worked on such different projects like musicals, plays, films, hosting at the Oscars and even spending a few weeks in the charts with Goldfish. All these various experiences have had their own sets of highlights and challenges but I’m grateful for them as they have helped shape the performer I am today.
You appeared in Revealing Mr. Maugham, how was this?
This was a fabulous afternoon. I spent the day with some incredibly talented actors reading excerpts from Somerset Maugham’s books and plays and it was just glorious. The director, Michael House was so kind and generous, and I’m thrilled for him that the film was so well received and then BAFTA nominated.
What is it like working on voiceover and can you say about some of your projects?
Yeah sure – I love working on voiceovers and during 2020, voiceovers really kept me sane and employed. I’ve done everything from voicing ads for tea, Apple, Moo and the New York Times. I also work in gaming and have a major game coming out early next year. SO excited for that and can’t wait to share it with everyone.
In 2019, you performed at the 20th Anniversary of MAMMA MIA! in the West End after playing the role of Tanya previously, how was the experience and what are some of your favourite memories from playing the role for your West End debut?
OMG – again – how much time do you have? I could bang on about MAMMA MIA! endlessly. It’s such a joyful show to be a part of and the role of Tanya is sheer heaven. Camp, glamourous, she gets to sing Does Your Mother Know AND she gets to snog a younger man – what’s not to love? On a more serious note, the whole experience was an epic one. The MAMMA MIA! West End show is so well run and managed. You are exceptionally well looked after as a company member and to have a standing ovation nightly is a truly special thing.
The 20th Anniversary was INCREDIBLE! The audience didn’t know that we were coming on and they went completely crazy when all these ex-Dynamos started filling the stage during the final number. Benny (Andersson) and Björn (Ulvaeus) were there, as well as Judy Craymer, Catherine Johnson and Phyllida Lloyd (the original Dynamos). It was an exceptional night, made even more poignant after the pandemic shut theatres down across the world not that long after.
How was it starring in Sailing Somewhere at Live at Zedel?
This was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. My incredibly talented friend Matthew Hurt who I have worked with several times now (he was the writer of UnPacking) had written this extraordinary solo show about a woman who is a singer on a cruise liner but who is harbouring an enormous and painful secret. It’s funny, painful, bitchy, traumatic, and beautiful writing. We were then so lucky to get Ivor Novello winner Conor Mitchell to write five original songs for it. Matthew directed it and the wonderful Noam Galperin accompanied me on stage.
It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before in that you are all alone on stage and so if it goes wrong, there’s nobody to help you and that was TERRIFYING. But when it worked it was utterly incredible. It’s had the most remarkable response from people. I received so many amazing letters, DMs etc because of this piece. It really struck a chord with people. So, thank you Matthew and Conor for taking a chance on me.
Can you say about playing Lyubov Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard?
This was one of those serendipitous pieces that came to me just at the right time. I was about to have a significant birthday and was convinced it was all over for me career-wise. And then this gift of a part and play arrived where I got to play this incredible character in one of the most phenomenal plays ever written, with a stunningly talented cast. An absolute highlight.
What was it like winning the Funny Bones award in 2017 for your show The Braun Identity?
Well, I came to stand-up very reluctantly. I don’t think I am a stand-up but I do think I can do funny. I was just never given the opportunity in my youth to play the “funny” character and so out of desperation I joined some improv and stand-up classes at The Groundlings in LA. It changed my life. I LOVE improv and comedy but it still took another seven years to write a solo act. Winning was the cherry on the top. Maybe I’ll get to perform an updated version in 2022.
Where does your love of performing come from and how did you start?
I think I was born with it. I have wanted to perform from as far back as I can remember. I vividly remember being about three and making someone laugh and that was me – I was hooked! When I was five, my mum took me to see The Sound of Music on stage, I pointed to the kids on stage and asked her what they were doing. She replied – they are acting, and I said without hesitation – THAT’S what I’m going to do when I grow up. And it’s never changed…
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
I love series and have just recently re-watched The Sopranos. What an incredible series it is. It still holds up and the writing and performances are phenominal. I loved Breaking Bad, Ozark, Call My Agent, Vigil, Gentleman Jack, GLOW and The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel. I’m also a sucker for a Scandi thriller of any kind. As for theatre – I haven’t been back since theatres were shut so whatever I choose to see first will be the best thing ever because it will be such a celebration of being able to be back in a theatre and among my tribe.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
My husband and I own an artisanal bakery and deli, Christopher’s in South London. We bake bread on site, throughout the day and it’s been such an incredible experience to own this business. When not working on bakery/deli things, I love travelling (cannot wait to do more of it in 2022) and having meals with friends. I love London and spend a lot of time walking and exploring our magnificent city.
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