Rebecca Wheatley is an actress, presenter and cabaret singer; she is best known for her role in BBC’s hospital drama Casualty.
Rebecca grew up in Teddington, South West London, where she attended St Catherine’s convent school. She was singing and performing from the age of nine; when she was fifteen, she started classical singing training by attending Opera Workshop on Saturday mornings. After this she joined a band and did more pop material.
In complete contrast to Teddington, Rebecca read English literature at St David’s University College, Lampeter. Despite missing out on theatre school, she has said ‘I wouldn’t change anything because I think university is a massive growing time. It’s experience and it’s life.’ She returned to London and spent two years working as assistant box office manager at the Piccadilly Theatre, in the West End. While she was there, she earned her Equity card working as a drag queen at Madame Jojos. Wheatley’s friends encouraged her to use her talent professionally, taking her to piano bars and insisting she performed there. She left her day job and spent seven years singing full-time, with little bits of television acting. She performed in a huge variety of styles and venues, ranging from singing as a man in drag to touring Germany as part of the cast of Godspell and Cabaret. At one point, she had thirteen residencies a week, performing twice a night.
Her great break came in 1997, when she was awarded the role of Amy Howard, the Holby City Hospital receptionist in the Saturday night TV drama, Casualty. She commented ‘Getting into Casualty was a big thing for me. It was totally different from anything I’d done before and it was life-changing in all sorts of ways.’ Wheatley was involved in the twelfth to fifteenth series of the show, filming around thirty episodes a year. She said of Amy ‘She’s good fun and provides a broad shoulder to cry on. Most people love her, especially children … She’s vivacious and larger than life and can be quite flirty.’ Amy’s highlights included giving birth to her son Milo in a petrol station on Christmas Eve and singing Everlasting love at Charlie and Baz’s wedding. Following this, the cast of Casualty released Everlasting love as a single with Wheatley as lead singer; it got as high as number 5 in the charts. She followed it up with an album, Time Stands Still; this included her first solo single, Stay with me, which peaked at number 10.
Wheatley left Casualty in 2001; she commented, ‘ … I did not go into acting to be rich and famous. I loved Casualty, but I need to do other things, even if they make me poorer.’ She went on to appear in the West End musical Fame, playing the strict English teacher Miss Sherman who is determined to make the lead character finish his education before heading for the limelight.
She twice toured with Mum’s the word, a play about parenting written by six mothers who had once been professional actors. She felt ‘I had just had my son when I auditioned for Mum’s the Word and so much of it was about my life, I just had to be part of it all. So Fred will be joining me for the tour. I think he’ll be our official mascot really!’ She has hosted a one-woman show Big Pants and Botox, written by Louise Roche. The sole character, Barbara, is clearing up the remains of her fiftieth birthday party; she confides her deepest secrets and worries to the audience. The sell out national tour ended with a short run at The Arts Theatre in the West End. Wheatley has also completed four tours of Menopause the Musical, followed by Menopause the Musical 2. Four middle-aged women, seemingly with little in common, meet in the lingerie section of a department store. The show, full of one-liners about hot flushes and memory loss, has a soundtrack of innuendo-laden rewrites of 60s, 70s and 80s pop classics.
In complete contrast, Wheatley was also involved in Grange Park Opera’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, playing the Jewish matchmaker Yente, alongside Bryn Terfel. This was repeated as a BBC prom, transmitted live for Radio 3.
Rebecca also enjoys presenting. She says of it ‘A lot of actors don’t like it because they like playing other people. I think I can bring my cabaret into presenting and I’m happy to be myself.’ Just after she left Casualty, she filmed the health programme Body Beautiful for the Living Channel. The production team wanted someone ‘friendly’ to cover fitness and dieting. Wheatley says ‘I have always been big, so it was important to do something that wasn’t patronising to big people. I enjoyed doing that because I was learning a very different skill and I was meeting people who were changing their habits and their lives.’
Wheatley was a regular panelist on ITV’s Loose Women in 2002; she has been a regular presenter on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff. She comments that she is happy to give her opinion on any subject that may arise! She also says of herself ‘Acting, singing, presenting, its all telling stories. I love to tell stories.’
Rebecca Wheatley. (n.d.) In: Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 21 2020 from https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0923700/?ref_=nmbio_bio_nm
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Why I just love Fame. (2002, March 8). Liverpool Echo. Retrieved from https://infoweb-newsbank-com.ezproxy.uwtsd.ac.uk/resources/doc/nb/news/0F326208389F1BB3?p=UKNB