Monday, April 27, 2009

Kitty McGeever first blind actress on a British soap opera

From The Telegraph & Argus in the UK:

Bradford actress Kitty McGeever (pictured) has made soap history by becoming the first blind actress in a British soap.

Kitty, who lost her sight months after her baby was born prematurely, plays wayward ex-con Lizzie Lakely in the hit Yorkshire drama Emmerdale.

Kitty, from Wyke, landed the role after producers saw her one-woman comedy show, Luvvie’s Blind, based on her experiences of being blind.

“They invited me to get involved at the character development stage, we talked about the way disabled people are portrayed on TV and how we could do that differently,” she said.

Kitty is thrilled to be playing British soap’s first blind character.

“I thought my acting career would be over once I lost my sight,” she said. “Every day I come up against stereotypes, people say I’m not what they imagine a blind person to be like. I’m just a person whose eyes don’t work.”

Kitty, 42, works with two assistants on Emmerdale. “One takes me to wardrobe then we talk about my scenes and they guide me on to set,” she said. “Sets are quite dangerous, with cables and ladders, so they’re vigilant guiding me around. My assistant walks through scenes with me so I know distances then they stand back when I go for a take. They write down my schedule and record it, with my scripts, on a dictaphone.”

Kitty describes Lizzie as “naughty but nice”. “She’s irreverent but has charm. She’s a joy to play. She arrives in Emmerdale on community service and gets her feet under the table. She’s always looking for money or the next free meal. She struggles but she’d never let you know. I love it, it’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

Kitty, who was diagnosed with diabetes aged 19, finally has reason to smile again, after suffering a series of devastating experiences since her sister’s death from meningitis.

Seven years ago Kitty fell pregnant and pre-eclampsia led to her baby, Felix, being delivered early, weighing just 3lb. While Felix was battling for his life, Kitty started getting blurred vision.

“I went to the eye clinic and they said I was going blind,” she recalled. Within months, she lost her sight and her health deteriorated. “My body swelled with fluid. My blood pressure and diabetes were out of control.”

She and her baby were wards away from each other in hospital. Felix died, aged 15 months, after suffering respiratory problems.

Kitty later suffered kidney failure, leading to a kidney and pancreas transplant. “I felt well for the first time in a long time and I wanted to work again,” she said.

“My parents had been through the loss of a child and they were a terrific help. You can come through that and live life again, however long it takes. I take inspiration from my little boy. If I let his death be the end of me, I’d be doing him a disservice. I was very grateful to have him.”

Kitty’s first Emmerdale appearance is on April 28, ITV at 7 pm.