An Interview with Lord of the Ring's Rebecca Jackson Mendoza aka Galadriel
Tell us about your background...
Rebecca: Some background? My father is Filipino and my mother is Australia/German. I was born in Melbourne, Australia, and then moved to Sydney… but we were a gypsy family. We've lived or traveled everywhere, actually. My parents first met in Hong Kong, and we lived there for a while… we moved back there when I was a kid, because my parents loved the city so… my sister, Natalie, was born there. And I've grown up to be a bit of gypsy, too: England, Germany… even Canada; this isn't my first time here.
Why all the moving around? What did your parents do?
Rebecca: Music. Performance. My father is a jazz musician and my mother is… was… a dancer. They had six kids... and we're all in the "business" now, too.
All six of you?
Rebecca: Everyone! My older sister runs a performing arts school in the U.S. right now, but she's performed in musicals and on cruise ships. My sister Natalie is as actress, singer and dancer, same as me… she's working in London right now. My two brothers… one's a musician, dancer and singer and the other is an amazing writer and actor… and the baby - actually, she's 19 now - the "baby" is studying film editing and she's a singer and dancer as well. We're a very musical family.
So, you all grew up singing and dancing?
Rebecca: Yes we did. Singing and dancing at home and at parties… I remember singing The Shadow of Your Smile at a party once when I was 8 or 9… and I knew all the words! Performing was just part of everyday life. I used to think that was a normal thing… that everybody was just like us. Now… wow, I really appreciate the unique background I had, especially when I look at other actors, singers and dancers who've really had to struggle… not having much encouragement at home and having to fight that "when are you going to get a real job" thing. It really makes me appreciate the upbringing I had.
Growing up like that, in a home full of music, did you ever think you should have any formal training?
Rebecca: For music and singing, not so much… it was just always there, part of our lives… but, for dancing, yes. I started dance training when I was 3, and I trained really seriously in ballet from the time I was 12 until I was 16. Back then, I really wanted to be a ballerina and I thought that was the path I would go down, even though I was also singing and acting… but a back injury put an end to that… but that's when my singing career really started, too… when I was 15 or 16.
How did that come about?
Rebecca: I was in ballet school, and we - the ballet students - used to get free tickets to the opera. My dad and I went to the opera one night and, on the way home, stopped off at a bar where some of his friends were playing, and they said, "Why don't you get up and sing a song?" So, I got up and sang That Old Devil Called Love. When it was done, the owner came over to my dad and said, "Bring her down once a week. She can sing 10 or 20 songs and I'll pay her $50 a week." Hence, my music career! From then on, things just sort of snowballed and I was singing 3 or 4 nights a week.
And where does theatre come in?
Rebecca: Miss Saigon. That was because of my sister, Natalie. My older sister, Racquel, and Natalie and I were all in the Australian production of Miss Saigon… not all at the same time, but over the course of its run. Natalie had done a couple of musicals already and she said, "Why don't you go and audition for Saigon?" And I said, "Oooooh, I don't know..." There was a lot of dancing in Miss Saigon and I hadn't been dancing for a few years, then, but Natalie made me go. She pulled me out of bed and made me go to the audition… and that's how I got seriously into acting and the theatre.
And there was more after Miss Saigon?
Rebecca: Yes. I did Saigon in Australia and in Germany… and there was Hair and Showboat in Australia and We Will Rock You in Tokyo and on the international tour. I almost did Gigi in London. I had the opportunity to play the role of Gigi, but I got a recording deal in Australia at the same time. Make records or perform in the West End? It was a hard choice… being in a West End show and making records were the two things I most wanted to do, but I had to choose. And I picked the record deal.
Not a bad choice, considering the two hit singles that followed.
Rebecca: Yes, it's all worked out for the best. I made my records… and even if I didn't get to play Gigi, now here I am playing a queen in the biggest stage musical ever.
And not your first time playing a queen…
Rebecca: No, interestingly enough, I played a queen in Star Wars III, too. The Queen of Alderaan. That was a dream… just like a dream… to shoot a huge Hollywood film. It was an awesome experience. I remember being taken to meet George Lucas for the first time when we were shooting Star Wars… in this elaborate costume, with handmaidens holding my dress. I was so nervous. I couldn't think what I could possibly talk to him about. The only thing I could think of to say was, "If this is the only movie I ever do, I guess it's a pretty good one, isn't it? Star Wars!" In the end, we just talked about kids and being parents.
Thanks for answering our questions - anything else that you'd like to add?
Rebecca: One last thing… I told you I'd been to Canada before, a few years ago? Do you know what I missed the most about Canada when I went back to Australia? Tim Hortons! The sour-cream donuts! When I came back to start rehearsals for LOTR, the first thing I did when I got off the plane was find a Tim Hortons and get myself a sour-cream donut!
Lord of the Rings is currently running at the 2,000-seat Princess of Wales Theatre. For more information, visit www.lotr.com.