Heather Chasen. One of television’s first big “super bitches” of the 1980s Valerie was getting into catfights at Crossroads before Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington in Dynasty had even had a chance to appear.
Heather made Valerie the women everyone loved to hate.
Do you remember when you first came into Crossroads as Valerie?
Well, I can’t remember the year dear, but I remember the first thing I did in Crossroads was they asked me to play a journalist, so I did an episode where I played this journalist which they must have quite liked because they got back to me about a month later “Would you come back and join the cast and change the colour of your hair?”
Well, I said okay and so I changed my colour from red to blonde and I looked exactly the same! I didn’t look any different at all. And so then I came back as this naughty lady, Valerie Pollard.
What was your relationship like with your screen husband, Michael Turner?
Oh, he was pure gold! He was a very, very nice man and a very good actor, very nice to work with. He was a first-class actor, Michael.
And what about Claire Faulconbridge who played your screen daughter Miranda?
Well, that happened much later on when they brought her back in and I must say it was a lot more fun before they brought her back, because before I was the naughty lady who got into all sorts of things (mostly involving gentlemen!) and when Claire came back I became a rather boring wife and mother. And it wasn’t nearly so much fun.
I mean she was a very nice girl, it was nothing to do with her, but it wasn’t nearly so much fun.
The Pollards came and went from Crossroads on a regular basis. Would you have liked them to have become a more permanent fixture?
Well at the time when I first joined there were some very good actors in Crossroads, I mean I thought the standard was pretty good. I remember some time before that I was in something called “The Newcomers“, we had longer to do it – say Crossroads took a week, “The Newcomers” took a fortnight. I must say we thought ourselves rather a cut above Crossroads! But when I actually came to play it with people like Tony Adams and Michael Turner and Sue Lloyd and Ronald Allen, there were some very, very good characters in it and some good actors in it and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
As I say when I became the rather dreary wife and mother it wasn’t so much fun and also it became less good. The man who was the producer, Jack Barton, he was quite bossy but he knew exactly how to keep the animals happy, exactly what he wanted when he wanted it.
We didn’t have much filming [outside shooting] which was just as well because the filming was appalling, very low standard. And it worked, everybody knew they could get their weekends off, knew when they could go to the dentist or have a baby or, you know, do the things they wanted to do and the amount of time they could spend on their script. I mean I used to commute from London and I used to learn my lines on the train! And everybody was happy. But what happened later was they kept moving our rehearsals which got worse and worse because you spend a lot of time in rehearsal. And everybody got rather stressed and bad-tempered.
And they started putting in more filming which as I say was a waste of time because it wasn’t very good. And it was pretty tacky and not very well done. And then you didn’t know when it was going to happen. And then later on when Jack went, which was a shame because he was very experienced and knew exactly what he was doing and how best to get the best out of the material he had, and the time he had to do it in and after he left I thought it went downhill pretty rapidly. There was more filming and more episodes and people were working harder and there were very unpleasant rehearsals and I think it went downhill.
Well another thing I was going to ask was, did you not think at the time that Valerie being such a jet-set type of person she was, that staying at the Crossroads Motel was kind of a bit downmarket for her really?
It didn’t seem quite believable that she’d stay in one of those chalets! (Laughs) Well it was rather tatty, wasn’t it? You could be right!
And J. Henry as well, he was this multi-billionaire property tycoon…
(Laughs) No, it didn’t make a lot of sense did it really? But it was fun and I think when it got sent up a bit it became more fun.
Where did your wardrobe come from?
I used to provide my own clothes. Well I mean the wardrobe had about two pairs of knickers in it and that was about it (laughs)! I used to go with my friend Amanda Barrie to Browns in South Mouldon Street on Saturday and up and down Bond Street and I spent my whole salary however much it was on clothes! They did actually give me something towards it, later on, they were very decent and I said: “Well look here, it’s costing me a lot and you certainly can’t provide me with the sort of clothes I think she should be wearing.”So, in the end, we came to an arrangement and they helped out.
But I loved shopping anyway so that was fun!
Did you find that people in real life expected you to be a bit of a super-bitch like Valerie?
Oh yes, yes they do expect you to be that character. But you know I never had anybody be nasty to me, people were always very, very nice and I had very nice fan mail. And I remember once I was coming up to Birmingham and I got off the train and a young man had been talking to me and then he got off the train after me and I said: “You get back on the train this is not where you’re getting out is it?” And he said: “I just want to talk to you, I want you to go out with me!” and I was about old enough to be his mother and I said: “Don’t be so silly get back on the train I am not like Valerie at all!” (Laughs)
Do you think Phillip Bowman wasn’t really the right person to take over from Jack Barton?
Well, he may have been quite a nice chap but I don’t think he had the touch that Jack had. Or the experience. Because a show like that you can’t mess about or try and be clever. You’ve just got a certain amount of time to do it in and the other thing is it’s very important to keep the animals happy. And if we the cast are happy and basically we all used to get on pretty well, but you see when you get depressed and you don’t have enough time to rehearse and they keep bringing in all this filming, everybody just gets so tired and bad-tempered and the standard goes down.
But certainly to start with it was great fun. We had lovely actors to work with and the scripts.. although they were a bit outrageous (laughs)! But I think the main thing that I brought to it was humour and a bit of camp. And I must say I did send it up rather! And I think it gained by having it sent up a little.
Did people ever take exception to your storylines?
No, no they didn’t. I had very nice fan mail. I personally took exception to my storylines sometimes, when I wrote poison pen letters and things like that, I thought that was very naff and I didn’t like the storylines when I became mumsy. But I always tried to get some humour out of them, to say it with a twinkle or something. (Laughs)But the most fun I had was when I was helping out behind the bar which is a very good place to be if you’re in a soap because you’ve in every scene.
Did you think that J. Henry treated Valerie badly or do you think she deserved it really?
I think she probably deserved it. But you know I always felt that she was very fond of him despite her failings, I think she really loved him.
And he really loved her?
Yes, I think if you play that underneath and you have that in your mind it softens it, takes the nastiness out of it.
Did you have a favourite storyline or a favourite moment?
Well, I did enjoy the storylines I had when I first came into it, I did enjoy those and I did enjoy taking the piss out of Mr Paul, I enjoyed sending him up!
Did you see any of the recent revivals of Crossroads? What did you think of them?
Frankly, I didn’t watch it.
Final question, how would you sum up your time on Crossroads?
Well very happy, it was a fun time, I enjoyed it. At the beginning, not at the very end. When I first joined it, for the first few months I was in it was great fun but after Jack went it became less good and less fun and I didn’t enjoy it so much. People did make a bit of a joke of Crossroads but I was quite proud to be in it and of course, it had a bit of quality to it but it certainly didn’t by the end.
You’d be amazed the people that used to write to me, you used to think “Good gracious!” and the people who stopped to talk to me and just occasionally though I look very different because I’m fat and old now and white-haired occasionally somebody stops me: “Weren’t you in Crossroads?”
Interview conducted by Daniel Landsberger for the Crossroads Fan Club, 2003.