Celebrities share their luckiest showbiz breaks

·5-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 30: Charlene White attends the
Charlene White attends the "Boxing Day" World Premiere at The Curzon Mayfair in November 30. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Warner Bros)

When is an audition not an audition? And what if the person you went to do some babysitting for ended up being an Hollywood director?

We take a look at some of the most unexpected breaks in showbiz, as told to Kate Thornton on her White Wine Question Time podcast.

Read on for Hannah Waddingham and Arlene Phillips as they described where their unexpected breaks came.

Arlene Phillips babysitting for Ridley Scott

Proving you have to have heart on St.Valentine's Day, at the Pineapple Studios in London today, is choreographer Arlene Phillips, launching the British Heart Foundation's 1983 'Slimathon'   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Arlene Phillips at the Pineapple Studios in 1983 launching the British Heart Foundation's 'Slimathon'. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

Dancer, choreographer and one of the original Strictly judges, Dame Arlene Phillips had made the decision to teach dance in Manchester to be near her family after her mother had died. 

Her dance teacher persuaded her to go on a course in London, and lent her the money to go.

WATCH: We take a look back at some of our favourite White Wine Question Time moments of 2021

By chance, one day near the end of her trip, Phillips had attended a class led by American dancer Molly Molloy and was hooked. She was offered a scholarship by Molloy but couldn't afford to stay in London and didn't have anywhere to live.

Phillips explained that Molloy had told her she knew someone who was looking for somebody to live in and help with babysitting and a bit of cleaning, and offered to call them.

That person turned out to be Ridley Scott, who at the time had a company directing commercials with his brother Tony.

From a Milk Maid advert that Ridley asked her to do – which also starred Miriam Margolyes and a dancing cow – her next job was a contract dancing in Dr Pepper adverts which took her to America.

She said: "Suddenly, I had money, I had a life. And it's all that little pivot, the chances I took, to stay in London and to take the job for Ridley."

Catch up on all the past episodes of White Wine Question Time here, including Gary Barlow, E L James and Vernon Kay

Charlene White's autocue audition

EMBARGOED PICTURE: FOR PUBLICATION FROM TUESDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2021
From Doc Hearts Productions

CHARLENE WHITE: EMPIRES CHILD
Thursday 21st October 2021 

Pictured: Charlene White

Charlene White embarks on a journey to uncover the roots of her connection to the British Empire, as she tries to figure out why so many black Britons, despite all their positive contributions, are still fighting to be recognised as British.

CharleneÕs father and uncle both served in the British armed forces, alongside many other black servicemen and women. In a revealing and emotional journey, Charlene travels across Britain and Jamaica to investigate her own heritage and the relationship between the Empire and her family.

A moving, surprisingly funny film, this is ultimately a quest for the truth of Britain in a racially charged world. Can the country ever truly emerge from the shadow of empire? How do we get through this present tumultuous period? And where does the future lie for CharleneÕs children and their generation as black Britons?

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Mob 07831460662 /  peter.gray@itv.com

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Charlene White (ITV)

News At Ten presenter Charlene White didn't realise when she anchored the show for the first time that she was the first Black woman to do so.

Her audition into broadcast from radio also took her by surprise, when she was working in Sheffield helping to set up for a Radio 1 roadshow before heading back to London for a night out with her friends, which she was determined not to miss.

She was asked to get up on stage before leaving with another person who was there, in theory to check the distance of the autocue.

White explained to Thornton: "We did that, that was literally five minutes then went on with the rest of the roadshow.

"I left, got the train back to London, went raving, didn't think anything of it."

She said she got a call around two months later from the editor of BBC Three's 60 Seconds news show, the person who had asked her to get up on stage and read the autocue.

She explained: "He said to me: 'From the moment you walked in to the marquee to do the roadshow, I knew there was something different.

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"'So I got you to get up on stage to read the autocue, just wanting to make sure. And I'd like you to come in and do a screen test.'

"And I went in, read 60 seconds of news. I got out of the studio to do the screen test and he just went: 'Have you got your diary so we can start booking you some shifts?'"

The rest really is history.

Hannah Waddingham's Ted Lasso role

Hannah Waddingham in Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Hannah Waddingham in Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)

Hannah Waddingham won one of seven Emmys for Apple TV's hit series Ted Lasso.

While she was well established as an actor before the show came along, both on stage and on screen, her role in Ted Lasso came about after she had shifted her priorities in terms of work. 

Her daughter had fallen ill and she had been unable to get home from Belfast where she had been filming Krypton for Warner Brothers.

She said: "I said to my management, both here and in LA, on a conference call that day: 'This is not happening again. Whether that means that I have to dumb down what I'm doing, or be less committed to work that might have a possibility of taking me abroad or whatever.

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"'I'm perfectly happy to be here to be doing bits and pieces. I'll do concerts, I'll do voiceovers...' That would be brilliant for any actor, but where they were wanting to take me and where they felt I was moving into, the phone went silent.

"And I said: 'Look I get it. I don't want it this way either, but I'm first and foremost a mum. And more importantly, a single mum, and I'm happy with that decision.

She said that a month later she was in her garden and looked up at the sky to say thanks for pulling her daughter through the illness, although they knew then she wasn't yet totally better.

Read more: Ellie Taylor didn't dare tell anyone she was in 'Ted Lasso' until she'd seen it

She continued:"'But I'm really grateful. Is there any way you could give me something that will really just fill our lives and let me do things with her and as a single mum will keep us financially?

"'And also, can I be so cheeky as to say, could it be something that shows everything that I can do and things that I don't feel like I've been able to do yet? And is there any way it could just be here, maybe around the corner?'

"And I'm not joking, within two months, the audition came in for Ted Lasso that shoots 40 minutes away from my house!"

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