[02/01/10 - 12:14 AM]
Interview: "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" Star Billie Piper
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

Last week, in order to help hype the third season premiere of its UK import "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," Showtime aired a special half hour interview between series star Billie Piper and Brooke Magnanti, who, under the pseudonym Belle de Jour, wrote the "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" book that would later be adapted for the show. It was the first on-air interview that Magnanti had ever done and the chat between the women, if anything, showed that the series has remained faithful to much of Magnanti's experiences when she was a London call girl.

As the new season unfolds, Hannah (who uses the name Belle in her call girl endeavors) has written a tell-all book about her experiences as a call girl and, as a result of its overwhelming success, sees her life getting more, not less, complicated which bodes well for an entertaining third season. To find out more about the upcoming episodes and how Piper, who is also an executive producer on the show, feels about what people say about the show and if the explicit scenes on the show have gotten easier to do, our Jim Halterman rang her up in London for a chat.

Jim Halterman: A lot has changed between seasons two and three of the show in that you are now an executive producer on the show and you've also had a baby. Like your character says in the season premiere, have you bitten off too much?

Billie Piper: Yes, quite often I feel like I have taken on too much but I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm really fortunate in that I like busying myself.

JH: Has anything even been adjusted for the different UK and American audiences?

BP: It's exactly the same. I think there are certain things... when it's shown on campus or something along those lines we have to change the words. We can't use certain swear words but the stories and the characters and the sets all stay intact.

JH: Hannah/Belle always seems to have some kind of secret - first being a call girl and now being an author writing about being a call girl. Do you think she can ever live without having secrets to protect?

BP: She is secretive and I think she's gotten so used to living that way that she hides a lot of things about herself and I think once you begin keeping secrets it's really hard to stop. What's so annoying is that she has to hide this new side of her life - the published author side of things - and she has to keep her anonymity and she's under a kind of pressure. It's all very tricky for her.

JH: How complicated are things going to get for her once her sister, who knows nothing about her call girl life, moves in with her?

BP: Of course it's so problematic; it's a nightmare. She's having to see clients in her flat between her sister's shit so it's just out there.

JH: The show is definitely explicit in its content of a call girl's life but as an actor have you gotten more comfortable with those scenes than when you first began the show?

BP: I think I've felt pretty much the same about them. I found them harder at the beginning but I just got on with it and I felt the same. You'd rather not do them but they tell a big part of the story and they're often very funny and, well, you're playing a call girl so it's part of it. I don't get too stressed out about it anymore.

JH: In the show, this new career as an author is going to not really take over her call girl pursuits because one is going to fuel the other, right?

BP: It becomes quite problematic because she has to fuel her writing by seeing more and more guys and her editor is very keen and very encouraging to invite these weird and wonderful people into her life. It becomes a problem for her.

JH: How closely is the show following the Belle de Jour books? Are you still pulling from them or have you strayed away?

BP: We pull from them but we do look elsewhere as well. We interview other call girls and hear their stories. It's always very interesting and always a little shocking.

JH: The show was getting a lot of negative criticism from feminists when it first began. Are you still hearing from those people who are against a show about a call girl?

BP: Oh, they're still kicking off. I think if you don't like it, don't watch it. You can't ignore a call girl or a prostitute or a whore or whatever you want to call them. You can't ignore the fact that there may be one in the world who has a very different experience with prostitution. She wrote things about it and compiled a book and it's her story. We're just telling a story as an adaptation. We've adapted it for the screen and so I think it's really hard because you never really get dragged into the debates whether our show is irresponsible, whether we're inhumane and how could there be a walking call girl who doesn't see herself as a victim; of course she's a victim. As an actor, I am not really the voice of prostitution but I do find it taxing. There's a part of me that thinks well, if you don't like it then don't watch it. The show will continue and you just don't have to be privy to it.

JH: When you're looking for outside projects, are you looking for something completely different from Belle/Hannah?

BP: Yes, definitely. I did a film called 'A Passionate Woman' and that airs over [in the UK] this year. It's another true story about a young girl in the '50s who is very poor who falls in love with her neighbor. It's a very tragic tale about love but it's also a true love story. It's always nice to mix things up.

JH: Since the show's success has happened, has it opened up a lot of new doors for you?

BP: Not really. [Laughs.] It's pretty much the same. More people know who I am, I suppose, and I do get recognized but I feel like I'm just at the beginning of my career.

The third season of "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" premieres tonight on Showtime at 10:00/9:00c.

  [february 2010]  


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