Joely Richardson

Posted by Dean Piper On May 8th, 2008

Nip/Tuck actress Joely Richardson tells www.deanpiper.com about her recent charity trip to Malawi, why she’d consider adoption and why she wants to bed Mr Big!

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Adopting a child from an African country is just as fashionable as prancing around with a Birkin bag in the celebrity culture nowadays. It’s the must have.

But Nip Tuck star Joely Richardson isn’t one to jump on the celebrity bandwagon – but after a moving charity trip to Malawi she admits it’s tempting. She says: “I would love to adopt. I’m in that transition point now where my daughter Daisy is a teenager who’s becoming self reliant and I have a lot of friends who’ve adopted.” But she’s sceptical about ‘doing a Madonna’ and adopting from an African country like Malawi. She adds: “I think it’s hard to work out whether to take a child out of its natural environment. I would like to help on as many levels that I can.”

You would have thought the actress would have been asked to visit Africa to raise awareness on the poverty a truckload of times by various charities – but you’d be wrong. In fact, Joely, 43, has only just made her first trip to African country Malawi. And she hopes she can raise the profile of the country’s plight for clean water.

Joely, complete with a folder of pictures from her trip, is shy and immensely private about her relationships and her 16-year-old daughter Daisy – the result of her failed marriage to film producer Tim Bevan. In real life she’s thankfully not half as painfully thin as she looked when she stepped out on the red carpet last October at Fashion Rocks and was labelled “skeletal and ill looking “ by the tabloids. She actually looks healthy, is impeccably polite and you can imagine her being a great mother. But today she’s before me to talk about Africa. Joely says: “It’s the first time I’ve done this kind of thing. I’ve been to Africa before but only on holiday with my father so it wasn’t quite the same.

“To go back to Africa in this capacity was far more extraordinary. It was so funny when I got back because my nephews were like: ‘Did you see any animals when you were in Africa?” And I said no and that was incredibly disappointing for them. I wanted to say I saw hospitals, clinics and people living in poverty.”

The film star, who famously dated radio DJ Jamie Theakston in 2000, has joined forces with Ariel to promote their new campaign. For every box of the washing detergent sold the company will donate 10 litres of clean drinking water to communities that are desperate for clean water. The trip has clearly affected her. She says: “I’ve never been offered to go out to do anything like this before – I really haven’t. A small child can live on 10 litres of water for about a week. It’s such a fantastic idea that uses this technology where you put a tablet in a bucket to clean the water. I saw it work with my own eyes. There was a dirty ditch for people to drink from or a stream running through a rubbish dump and they collect the water and go back with it and them you add these pills to it and it literally draws all the dirt, worms, diseases, sediment out of it and you are left with clean water. I drank it myself. There’s been a huge drop in diseases where they are drinking water with these pills. It’s amazing.”

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But unlike some stars that visit Africa on charity expeditions, Joely was fully prepared for the tragic sights Malawi had to offer and she didn’t see the point in crying for them. “I think I’m a bit older than younger people that visit Africa like some younger celebrities,” she said. “I’ve probably spent more time in hospitals. You are there on a trip for a bigger purpose. Yes it’s hard, but I felt like I had to be strong. I’m not totally naïve to the world today and what’s going on everywhere. I read the news as lots of us do and I knew that it would be hard. I was prepared for what I saw. Saying that it was hard – when I saw the sectioned cholera patients I did feel like I had gone back in time and I couldn’t understand how things could be like that. It is shocking. Like something out of world war two. I almost dissolved into tears once on a hospital visit but I managed to hold it together. Being in tears achieves nothing – getting fresh water for a community achieves miles more and that’s what I was there to raise awareness about.”

The only time she almost lost control of her emotions was when she visited a baby unit at a Malawian hospital. She adds: “Seeing the Chloera unit, the critical ward, the children with HIV and the packed cots. They looked full with two babies per cot and then the head nurse told us the most they’d fitted into the cot was nine. Literally stacked in. My dissolving into tears wouldn’t have stopped anyone dying. I had to keep my emotions in check. Just seeing all the young mothers and the hard working nurses and all the love they have to give despite the conditions really broke through my defences.”

Joely, who’s mother is esteemed British actress Vanessa Redgrave, is now back in Los Angeles finishing off her work on a new season of US drama Nip Tuck. I lighten the mood slightly by asking the question every girl has to comprehend when watching the show following the beautiful people in a plastic surgery clinic. Who’s hotter out of the two lead characters – Dr Sean or Dr Christian? She laughs: “Sean, he’s nice and sexy and he has lovely sparkly eyes.”

And working on a show so jam packed full of plastic surgery speak – would she go under the knife herself? “I’m not sure about surgery and I’ve obviously been asked it a million times” she smiles. “I’ve been working on a show about surgery so it’s in my face a lot. And we’ve all seen the disasters. I know older actresses who have had things done. There’s one presenter in America who said she hated looking at herself in the mirror as a child. So it’s helpful. To be honest I really don’t know. I see good things in it and bad things about it and it would be nice if everyone would be happy with what they have. I can’t say I would never ever ever.”

Joely is sure of one thing though – she hasn’t abandoned UK shores for the Hollywood lifestyle in Los Angeles. “The UK is still my full time,” she reveals. “I miss friends and family when I’m away and I miss the green. My life in England is much more shambolic and messy. I’m not actually good at LA life and the lawns being perfectly manicured with everything looking perfect.

“I like aspects of life out there. I love walking but I still don’t understand ‘hiking’. When I first arrived there I was talking to someone who kind of boasted: “I was hiking earlier.” And I asked what it was and she explained that she’d been for a walk. It’s bizarre. Why don’t they just call it walking?”

Although she doesn’t watch soaps like EastEnders and Corrie through fear she’ll get “hooked”, there is one show she watched avidly – Sex and the City. So to finish out time together I play a favourite game of mine – shoot, shag or marry using the show’s main male characters, Mr Big, Smith Jarrod and Harry Goldenblatt. She immediately says: “I’d marry Harry, shag Smith. Erm. Actually, oh no, I would love to sleep with Big. But maybe he’s just hotter with Carrie Bradshaw.” She nervously then laughs: “Oh I don’t know – can I not have them both?”

That’s not how the game works cheeky Miss Richardson!