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At 28, Dame Harriet Walter Was the Only Woman on Stage



In Bustle’s Q&A series 28, successful women describe exactly what their lives looked like when they were 28 — what they wore, where they worked, what stressed them out, and what, if anything, they would do differently.

“It’s so deeply in my DNA that people who are judging me are male,” says British actor Dame Harriet Walter, who turned turned 28 in 1978. In her early career, she faced make-or-break reviews from theatre giants Frank Rich, Michael Billington, and Benedict Nightingale. Was that tough? “It was the norm,” she says over Zoom from New York, where she’s travelled for a wedding. “Authority was male. Judgment was male. If there were women, they were filtering male judgment. I accepted their criteria as the criteria, and now of course, Frank Rich is a cuddly producer on Succession. I can’t believe he was the Butcher of Broadway, but there you are.”

Her reviews were outstanding then — “galvanizing” (Rich), “impressive” (Nightingale), “remarkable” (Rich, again) — and still are, though she doesn’t read them with as much weight. “It’s very different [now],” she says. “There’s a diaspora, into social media, into blogs. Anybody can say anything, and it’s almost too exhausting to get the feedback.” At 71 years old, Walter has earned the right to ignore them. Her theatre work is legend — she’s won an Olivier and been nominated for a Tony — but those of a younger generation will probably recognise her as Dasha from Killing Eve, or Rebecca’s mother in Ted Lasso, or Lady Caroline from Succession, even if these roles were the easy ones. “I’d love to do something very complex on screen,” she says. “I’m still ambitious to do certain things that I still haven’t done.”

At 28, Walter’s life was plenty complex offscreen. Her sister was pregnant, which was when she realised her own periods had stopped. She was subsequently diagnosed with anorexia, though she credits a voracious commitment to work with pulling her through.

What do you remember of your life at 28?

Well, it was actually a turning point. [I was] a really late starter; I was turned down [by] five out of five drama schools the first time I tried when I was 18. And then I went back a year later and I was obviously a bit more mature and a bit more confident, and I got in. And then I spent the first five or even six years of my career doing what I really wanted to do at the time, which was political and community theatre, which meant poor theatre out the back of a van. You did all the props, you did all the costumes, and you earned the box office takings divided by however many there were of you.

What kind of plays were you in at the time?

There weren’t many parts for women [then]. They were plucky little housewives and sentimental dying women. But around 28, I did this wonderful show, which was called The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, about the beginnings of the trade union movement. They decided I should play the apprentice boy. I’d watched boys all my life because I wanted to be a boy when I was a kid. There’s no film record of it, so I can say it was one of my better performances in life. I got an agent out of it and I got my next job, which was doing a film for television written by Ian McEwan about Alan Turing called The Imitation Game. I remember having my 28th birthday [on set] in the canteen with Richard Eyre.

In your book, Other People’s Shoes, you talk about not wanting to be cast as the posh girl, but in Succession, you’re playing a pretty posh English lady. What interested you in that role?

Well, I was right to avoid that early on because I could have easily played posh little girls on the West End stage and I wouldn’t have had nearly such an interesting career. And second of all, I did a lot of Shakespeare, [and] it’s not a defining point within Shakespeare. When I finally did get cast as a posh girl in a TV series, I couldn’t remember how posh people spoke. I had to go to my sister and my mother and get my accent back because I’d been all over the place. I also don’t subscribe to the stereotyping of posh people. I have recently played some horrible posh people, but I’ve also played some nice posh people.

What camp do you think Lady Caroline falls into?

She’s damaged, rather than cold and horrible. To me, she grew up as a lonely child in a very frosty, aristocratic country cold house where nobody knew how to show affection. And she was mostly brought up by her nanny, and life was pretty dull. So when she got the chance to run off and get into the drug scene, which she did, and then go to America, I made her a party organizer in New York, and then she meets Logan Roy and she thinks, “Wow, on that kind of money, I can live the way I want to live.” She also has a very, very, very small boredom threshold. She’s not horrible nasty; she’s enjoyable nasty.

And as to the way she treats her children, there was a scene that was cut from the first season where Kendall says to Caroline, “I’ve been seeing a shrink and he says I should say, ‘I forgive you.’ So I want you to know I forgive you.” So that scene [in Season 2] where she doesn’t deal with Kendall’s problems and disappears at breakfast the next day, she’s got a feeling that if Kendall’s going to talk to her, he’s going to be psychoanalyzing their relationship and giving her a hard time about what a bad mother she’s been.

You mention briefly in your book that you were diagnosed with anorexia in your late 20s. If you were to speak to 28-year-old Harriet now, would you recommend therapy to her?

I probably would, though I don’t think anorexia is very easy to understand. I mean, even now I don’t because people say to me, “Can you help my daughter or my granddaughter?” and I can’t really, even now. There are so many things going on. And obviously the person I saw was not a psychologist. The person I saw was a GP who, in those days, there wasn’t [much] knowledge; there wasn’t even a phrase called “eating disorders” as far as I knew. And so his theory was “buck up and eat something.” But I think I was on the brink of wanting to get out of it myself. I’ll tell you what got me out of it is work.

It was the same for me. I remember my dad just being like, “You’re going to have to get on with this.”

I mean, it’s probably unfashionable to say it because I do believe we ought to know ourselves and analyze. We really ought to be honest with ourselves. But at the same time, I’ve found what little counselling I’ve ever done got me rather too obsessed with myself, when actually what I needed to do was to get out and look at the world and get concerned with other people. What stopped me being obsessed was work and the difficulty of keeping up the lie because you have to do a lot of lying, like, “Oh, I’ve eaten already. Thank you.” To do that over several years with a theatre company is quite hard stuff. And in the end, you’re longing for someone to say, “Look, give yourself a break. Have a meal.”

Did you want to be married at 28?

Oh, that’s a good one. I think I’d only been asked to be married once in those times when I was about 20. And I was very in love with him, but I said, “Marriage is a dirty word to me.” I remember saying it just because everyone in my family kept getting divorced, and I just didn’t really believe in the institution. And those words have come back to haunt me because I think… not that particular person, but it is an area of my life that I’m not sure, like, did I want children? Those are all questions that I can’t sit here and absolutely tell you I know the answer to. It was always a bit more problematic than that. And I know they say you’ve got to be honest with yourself. I don’t know how honest I was with myself.

When I was 28, I was in a happy relationship that I’d been in for about four years, and we carried on for another four years, and we are still friends to this day. But I knew I didn’t want to marry and have his children. And that in the end, I ended it. I just wasn’t ready. And then I think what happens to a lot of women is right about the end of my 30s and early 40s, that was if ever [the moment] I was thinking, “Oh God, I really ought to have kids.” Certainly in my late 20s, I was deferring, deferring, deferring.

And my older sister, she got pregnant when I was 28. And it was around then that I went to see the doctor because I wasn’t having periods. And that’s how the whole anorexic thing came out. But it was very much a trigger, “Oh, my sister’s gotten pregnant, and I’m not having periods. Well, how am I ever going to get pregnant?” So that must have been in my brain. But I also think that it worked out the right way for me, that the journey I needed to take was to do a lot of work through acting, work on myself through acting, grow up through acting, and meet all my relationships I’ve had through acting.

That’s oddly reassuring to hear as a 33-year-old who is terrified of marriage.

Really? I love young people and I work with them all the time, and I’ve got nephews and nieces, and I get a lot of feed from them. But I’d probably be a terrible mother. I don’t know.

What do you think your 28-year-old self would think of yourself today?

She would not believe what’s happened to my life. I think I would think, “Thank God you’re still doing it. How amazing that you’ve done what you want to do for 45, 50 years.” What else would I think? I would just think I’d still be ambitious to do certain things that I still haven’t done.

What are those ambitions that are still bothering you?

Well, I think I’d love to do something very complex on screen. Obviously if you’re doing a cameo role, you’ve got to be recognizably consistent because in the storytelling: “Oh yes, that’s her.” If you’re playing the central role or one of the more central roles, from scene to scene, you can show the complexity of a human being. And I’m determined to show that we don’t get less complex as we get older.

Was there anyone you knew in your late 20s who’s gone on to have a career that you wanted?

You’re going to laugh, but I came to attention about the same time as Meryl Streep. And so I watch her, not with any rivalry obviously, but just an awareness that circumstances can make things happen. Obviously, she’s a genius, and I’m not going to compare myself to her, but she was a late [bloomer]. She was 30 or something when she hit the news. She’d been doing fantastic theatre work up till then.

And I suppose there’s a bit of jealousy that I thought, [in the U.K.] we didn’t have a film industry in those days. We had a very strong TV culture, and very good writers and technicians and film directors and lighting people were all in TV. And we still have [a film industry] that is very much hanging on the coattails of the American industry. But I think exposing some of the work I’d done on TV, if that had been the size of The Deer Hunter, I could have been Meryl Streep and I could have had three children and been able to afford a nanny. But no two careers are the same, and I’m very lucky to have had the one I’ve had.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Personal Care

Cassidy Timbrooks on ‘The Bachelor’ Isn’t the Villain You Think She Is



I knew Cassidy Timbrooks was going to be eliminated from The Bachelor the second she addressed a table full of children as “you small people.”

But it wasn’t until Clayton Echard learned she had a “friend with benefits” back home that her number came up. The Bachelor rescinded the rose he had already given her and predictably sent the 26-year-old executive assistant packing on Monday night’s episode.

In the eyes of the show, she had committed two cardinal sins: Not acting overjoyed to be around kids, and not putting her sex life on pause for a man she had never met.

That’s why her ride home from the mansion was more than just another early villain exit. The Bachelor is clearly trying to get back to basics this year — and by basics I mean American sexual politics circa 2002. The fact that Cassidy got the boot so swiftly shows how quickly the show is returning to its traditional roots. In an era of dating apps and delayed motherhood, ABC’s long-running reality dating franchise is recommitting in Clayton’s season to its core tenets: Love, marriage, and family — preferably before age 30.

In the eyes of the show, she had committed two cardinal sins: Not acting overjoyed to be around kids, and not putting her sex life on pause for a man she had never met.

Only against that backdrop would a woman like Cassidy strike anyone as an outlier. Outside of the show, she doesn’t exactly seem nefarious. Since the premiere aired, I have been following her on Instagram, where she’s been posting incredibly lucid and self-aware reflections about her time on The Bachelor, conceding in one of her Stories that she struggled to balance “confidence” with “considering other people’s takes.”

Indeed, like so many hated contestants before her, Cassidy appears to have been the victim of a selective edit and a mocking soundtrack. The unflattering edit began in earnest when she largely ignored the children at a birthday party group date to talk with the Bachelor instead. At one point, seated around a table sipping tea, she told a group of kids, “I spend as little time around you small people as possible, so forgive me…” and then immediately went on the back foot as they latched onto the comment.

I don’t blame the kids for taking offense. But any adult viewer who paid attention to her tone should have recognized the droll delivery. Was it an inartful thing to say? Sure. Children aren’t the right audience for wry humor, especially if you’re joking about avoiding them. But Cassidy didn’t deserve to be demonized as a kid hater, either.

“I knew I was giving villain, but I thought I was far more amusing and harmless,” she wrote in one of her post-show Instagram Stories, “and I think a lot of the hate is based in misogyny internalized and otherwise.”

She’s not wrong. Cassidy was punished, both in the edit and by a segment of the audience, for not going googly-eyed at the notion of spending an afternoon building a dollhouse. She certainly didn’t echo the enthusiasm of a fellow contestant who saw the kids from afar and exclaimed, “Oh my God! I’m so excited! I love children!” while running toward them.

The Bachelor is retreating to an extremely white, hyper-hetero comfort zone in which babies are the ultimate goal.

To be fair, that attitude is more in line with Clayton’s. In the first five minutes of the current season, the new Bachelor was twice moved to tears by the thought of raising a family. He introduced himself in the opening voiceover by saying, “I can’t wait to get married and have kids,” and later choked up while reading a letter from a child predicting that he will “have lots of kids.”

Clayton is nothing if not sincere, but there’s probably a reason the producers picked someone like him in the first place — and why they’re emphasizing childrearing so much this early. After years of controversy over racism in the franchise, culminating in the departure of ex-host Chris Harrison — and after more recent flirtations with progressive casting including the first same-sex engagement, a (gasp!) 39-year-old Bachelorette, and several leads of colorThe Bachelor is retreating to an extremely white, hyper-hetero comfort zone in which babies are the ultimate goal.

I used to wonder whether the horror novel I wrote satirizing Bachelor-style shows would be outdated by the time it comes out later this year, but if anything, this season has felt ripped out of time in the worst way.

Cassidy’s storyline especially has highlighted double standards that should be long dead by now. Clayton himself recently addressed viral TikToks about his dating history by saying that he “enjoyed [his] singleness” for “the last six years of my life.” This is the same Bachelor who confronted Cassidy on Monday night’s episode about allegedly “seeing someone up until the point that you came here,” as though she were beholden to him before then. Hookups for me but not for thee?

Presented in the weird logic of the show, you’d almost forget that Cassidy is one of 30 women Clayton dated simultaneously — and that, in season previews, the Bachelor will later admit to being “intimate” with two contestants. Somehow that behavior is more “for the right reasons” than having casual sex with someone before filming even began?

Cassidy may be off the air now, but her brief run was telling. This throwback edition of The Bachelor needed a villain, and the producers chose a confident woman with a history of casual dating who said “F*ck a dollhouse” on camera. It’s probably a bad sign when someone that refreshing doesn’t make it to the second rose ceremony.


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Another Day, Another Musk Tweet Pumps Dogecoin up 9%



Musk, who is the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, said he would eat a Happy Meal on TV if Fast food giant McDonald’s starts accepting Dogecoin

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Everything You Need to Know About the UK Government’s COVID Inquiry



On May 12, 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an independent public inquiry into the government’s response to and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Established under the Inquiries Act 2005, the COVID Inquiry will examine the government’s “actions as rigorously and candidly as possible,” according to the Prime Minister, and will aim to “learn every lesson for the future.” It will do so by summoning the production of documents and witnesses to give evidence under oath in order to examine the government’s response to the pandemic.

Rt Hon Baroness Heather Hallett DBE will act as Chair of the inquiry, which is set to begin “sometime in spring 2022”. In the meantime, here’s everything you need to know about the COVID Inquiry and what we can expect from the process.

How Will The COVID Inquiry Work?

According to BBC News, the Chair of the Inquiry can call whoever they want to give evidence, “whether they are witnesses to an event or people with particular expertise.” As barristers’ chambers Doughty Street Chambers notes, witnesses to an event will be asked to give evidence of their experience or direct knowledge of what took place. They speak on behalf of an organisation, like the NHS or the police.

Evidence sessions will be given in public and under oath, per BBC News, and most sessions will be available to watch on TV and online. There’s no time limit to the inquiry either, and they can often take years due to the “huge amount of evidence that needs to be read.”

What Will Be Included In The COVID Inquiry?

The exact aims, issues, and remits included won’t be announced until closer to the start of the inquiry, but the Prime Minister has said his government would work closely with the devolved administrations and governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland before setting out what exactly will be included in the inquiry itself.

Shortly after announcing that an inquiry would take place, the Prime Minister told MPs that the inquiry would consider his government’s handling of the pandemic before the first lockdown in March 2020, per The Guardian. As for other issues, law firm BDB Pitmans suggests that the higher death rate in general, especially among ethnic minority groups, will be a major point of contention, as well as the government’s “procurement processes” of contracts awarded during the pandemic.

What Issues Have Been Raised Around The COVID Inquiry?

Undocumented Migrants

Following the publication of a report by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), it’s vital that the voices of undocumented migrants are properly heard during the COVID inquiry. The report found that the UK “lagged far behind other European countries” in protecting undocumented migrants during the pandemic.

Caitlin Boswell, author of the report and policy officer at JCWI, said in a statement that if the government “wants to learn lessons” from this inquiry and “fully recover from the pandemic”, it needs to “stop prioritising its anti-immigration agenda above saving lives.” An anti-immigration agenda which is more commonly known as the Hostile Environment.

The term “Hostile Environment” is used by many to describe a set of policies that are intended to block undocumented migrants from using public services like the NHS and the police, as well as making work and housing inaccessible; effectively making life as difficult as possible.

Boswell added that the government “must listen to migrants’ voices, including those who’ve lost status, and ensure that in the future, no-one has their life put at risk because of their immigration status.” Boswell concluded that in “doing so will not only protect the most marginalised, it will help protect all of us.”

People With Disabilities

Sense, a charity which focuses on complex disabilities, has also called for the government to take the experiences of disabled people and their families into account. As the charity notes, 6 out of 10 people in the UK who have died from COID are disabled, despite making up 22 per cent of the general population.

“Decision-makers did not engage with us, our needs were often overlooked and communications were largely inaccessible,” Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy for Disability Rights UK, explained. “Health bodies treated our lives as less valued, disabled people receiving social care were inadequately protected, some disabled children were denied education and support, and supermarkets failed to ensure that we could access food.”

There is yet to be a date announced or confirmed for the COVID Inquiry.

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