Tracey discusses Mrs. America, being a grandmother, and the current global pandemic in the September 2020 issue of Austrian magazine, Maxima.
Here is a rough translation of the article:
For forty years TRACEY ULLMAN has been the undisputed Queen of Comedy. It all started with a crisis.
Tracey's comedic talent was triggered by the unexpected death of her Polish father, who had a heart attack while reading a bedtime story. “When you experience such a tragic thing as a six-year-old child, it affects you the rest of life,” she says. The carefree childhood was over, the painful loss from then on became a burdened on family life. Depression tied their mother to her bed. Just one cure seemed to work: the funny sketches of her daughters Patti and Tracey. Neighbors, teachers and classmates were impersonated. Comedy was a life saver, so to speak. Then it happened in quick succession: Tracey received a scholarship for the Italia Conti Academy of Theater Arts in London, where she was trained in singing, ballet and acting.
In 1981, she won the London Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Young Actress for her performance in Four In A Million. It was the first of more than 30 international awards. The BBC then offered the young actress a role in the sketch comedy A Kick Up the Eighties. Ullman's versatile talent became apparent. Offers from the music business followed. In the 80s she even conquered the international music charts. In 1983, Ullman married producer Allan McKeown, who was looking for a career in the United States for his wife. Two years later, the couple actually moved to L.A. and sent videotapes to producers. James L. Brooks recognized Tracey's talent and offered her her own comedy series for the FOX network. The Tracey Ullman Show launched in 1987 and became an immediate ratings hit. Tracey has been in the entertainment business for almost forty years. Shows like Tracey Takes On ..., Tracey Breaks the News and Tracey Ullman’s Show - are successful worldwide. Their trademark are parodies of celebrities and powerful people - Camilla Parker Bowles to Theresa May, from Judi Dench to Renée Zellweger, from Angela Merkel to Melania Trump. At 60, Tracey Ullman's personal dream finally came true: in the drama series Mrs. America, she portrays the American women's rights activist Betty Friedan.
How do you see the future after the pandemic?
I see the crisis as an opportunity to connect with my own family, to communicate that you like each other. On the positive side, I noticed the neighbourhood assistance. I live in London, where the anonymity of the big city usually shapes everyday life. In the crisis, neighbors helped each other out, and my street took on a village character. For me personally, it was important to spend as much time as possible with my 15-month-old grandson Elijah.
How do you see yourself as a grandmother?
Babysitting is the ideal fitness program for grandparents. A toddler keeps you busy all day. I of course have a more relaxed approach as a grandmother. I play with my grandchild very differently than I did with my children. In the evening I go home - exhausted, but then enjoy a glass of red - cry and lie down to sleep. Parents don't have the luxury.
Where are you strict? When it comes to sweets, soft drinks and fast food. None of that are there with me. That comes from my own upbringing. I'm on woke up in the country. My mother pulled our vegetables from our home garden. No more than what was necessary. My mother took the view: "You must not trample Mother Earth." I also raised my children with this philosophy."
How do you assess the global changes on our planet? The curfew has reduced our air pollution in London by 40 percent! The air felt so pure. Nature could recover, and I felt healthier. The desire to return to normality is understandable. Nevertheless, I hope there is a rethink. We must save our earth from destruction so that our grandchildren also live on a healthy planet.
How important is humour in times of crisis?
It's necessary for survival. Laughter is the best medicine. Even if we forget our worries only for a short time, the healing effect has on body and mind.
Since the 1980s, you have been one of the most internationally successful comedians. Do you have a secret to success?
My credo was from day one: Work hard and have fun! You really have to like the entertainment industry to survive. I'm also an exception because I have all the rights to the sketches, produce the shows themselves and determine the distribution.
The history of the women's rights movement in America is the subject of the series Mrs. America, in which you portray the women's rights activist Betty Friedan. What successes do you find in emancipation?
I vote every election, even if none of the candidates appeal to me. I never forget what we owe to the suffragent movement. We owe it to the women who sacrificed their lives for women's rights, like the Englishwoman Emily Davison, who threw herself in front of the king's horse. Another leader was Betty Friedan, whom I portray in Mrs. America. The series explores why the Equality Act in the United States is not enshrined in the Constitution.
When was the last time you were underestimated?
When I auditioned for the role. Producers see me as a cabaret artist and comedian. Countless times I have heard you are not a drama actress. The resistance against me was very great. It wasn't until after a long tug-of-war that I got the role. Now, at 60, I hear for the first time: Tracey, you're a good actress.
How do you see equality in the salary question? For a few years now, wage inequality has finally been debated. I can say with a clear conscience: In my company are men and women are equal in terms of remuneration.
Are Women Better Bosses? That's a good question. Women appear calmer, are more logical and more sensitive. Unfortunately, women still attach more importance on appearance than men. Fortunately, the number of women in traditional male occupations is increasing. Many doors are finally opening for women, and every woman can decide which way is best for her.