Liz Carr is most widely known for her role as the forensic examiner Clarissa Mullery in the long-running BBC TV drama Silent Witness. She appeared in more than 70 episodes, from 2013 until 2020. Last year she won the Olivier award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the National Theatre production of The Normal Heart. Her role was inspired by Dr Linda Laubenstein, a pioneer in the treatment of AIDS and a wheelchair user: Liz was the first wheelchair user to play the part, almost four decades after the premiere. Liz was brought up in Bebington, Merseyside. One of her early stage roles was as the Cowardly Lion in a primary school production of The Wizard of Oz. She became a wheelchair user at the age of 11, after a protracted illness. She studied Law at Nottingham University and after graduation worked as a disability rights adviser. She also became a disability rights activist, and more recently has been a campaigner against the legalisation of assisted dying. When she was 30, Liz decided on a career change after taking part in a drama course with the Graeae Theatre Company. She became a stand-up comedian and a member of various comedy groups, and moved on to theatre and television work, including recent roles in the TV dramas The Witcher and Good Omens. Liz lives in London with her wife. DISC ONE: Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland DISC TWO: Beautiful Dreamer - Sheryl Crow DISC THREE: Sit Down - James DISC FOUR: Rollin’ Thunder - Ian Stanton DISC FIVE: 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton DISC SIX: Something Good - Julie Andrews DISC SEVEN: Palliative Clare (from Assisted Suicide The Musical) - Claire Willoughby DISC EIGHT: I Feel Love - Donna Summer BOOK CHOICE: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry LUXURY ITEM: A pair of ruby slippers CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Sit Down – James Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Sarah Taylor
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
BBC sounds music, radio podcasts Well I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert. Island, for rights reasons them it is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening I The My castaway this week is the actor and activist lease car. Her breakthrough rule was in the bbc. Forensics drama, silent
witness which made her a regular presence in millions of living rooms for almost a decade that was followed by big budget fantasy epoch, the witches and her own musical. Last year she won in bolivia award for her part in the national theatre production of the normal heart. She played a character based on doktor, linda been stein. A pioneer in the treatment of aids in a wheelchair user list was the first wheelchair user to play this role in almost four decades since the place premier acting what her first choice of career. She studied law and was campaigning for the rights of other disabled people when, after taking a theatre course, she discovered a new passion. She joy the famous gray, I fear accompany the company troops, nasty girls and abnormally funny people and present The award winning bbc podcast ouch before london, the role of clarissa mallory in silent, witness she says everything I do is urgent. I'm not grateful for the anxiety that comes with worrying about my health I'd rather not have that
The flip side is that I have lived a life so far. That is, being amazing. Liz car welcome to design discs hello. What a summary! No wonder! If a little bit tired put so many strings to your boys, don't comedy tv film theatre to which discipline is closest to How do you kind of get the urge to scratch the opposite, creative h, if you ve been in one lane for too long? I think partly I have done so many things, because I think I'm in industry with it don't really know what to do with disabled people when you relatively well. We know we ve been around for a long time, but in terms of a com the dense some. What that means is that of one in bolivia, but I haven't done anything else. There too, I haven't been traditions. Where would you like to go? She couldn't take your pick. The rehearsal for theatre is a proper end up working
the people creating a character. You know when I did sign witness you. Basically you we'll onto sat and away you go there's no time to think about who you are. I mean you make that time, but in theatre you know you were, through the carrot you think about who they all who they are to you. He went to present them as and then I'm also a massive show. An exhibition nations so coming out in front of an audience and getting the feedback. I mean it's devastating when it's not the feedback that you want, but you can play the same wrong. Tell the same jokes, whatever is and get such a different reaction each night, but the buzz the high. When you realise that your communicating with people and their hearing here- and there are the fun you funny or that touched or their enlightened or their entertained. When you made your connection, I think it's there's nothing like it.
What's the dream power, the dream part doesn't yet exist because this such a lack of imagination, around disability as well that usually the things that we all cast in awe autobiographical because they have happened, so we don't have to mention them. I would like to open a script and go. Oh, my god. This is amazing. This is better than I could think of. This is not something I've seen before and, of course I do want to be a bond villain. I'd say that any opportunity, my first is somewhere over the rainbow Judy, garland costs, so many reasons but- finds me of a lot of family parties piano in the house. Always playing my dad's play the piano, but he play this. He would play this absolutely, but
I used to sing you, you have to have a party peace plus. I just think the film is fantastic and I played the cowardly lion. Yes, a guy at school and schooling, infant scope think goes about sex and there's a picture that was the world, which is where I am from, and I'm sorry on the stage next to the other big players in another, the tin, man and the scarecrow and dorothy, of course- and I got my little black pump. Son is, it must be home, made this really ropey kind of lions say with with the hoddan, and do you remember the kind of love, an appreciation of the crowd? Were you looked back. I was hooked, but I was all sign filled with envy, because my best friend at the time Helen she got to play dorothy.
The way that I want well. The I love the skies, oh judy garland, into and over the rainbow. So less car want to hear about your family and I think, we'll start with your piano playing father peter. He was a rugged rather wonderful by the sounds of it he's also a scientist by profession. Yes, he was a research chemist
unilever pay eight day made it from first generation, as was my mom, to go to a higher education to go to university nick, I am dad had to go to work. You know when you finish school, he did so well that they then sent him to light the local college and then they paid framed do phd at bristol. You don't use soup, asleep Not so tell me more about your mom pats issues, a teacher before she returned right. She was supply teacher until she had me. where the Jonathan and that meant that she can teach When we were a little and we would come to school, so I went to school from night, I think from vat three the base, my parents are really funny and they they was very well together. I feel like it's a slight cliche, because I'm from the north west to sort of go yes, I live
I know of humor, but I did the time for some of the music as your second choice, to say what have you gone for? I have gone for a song about my parents really very connected with them, and it's the song beautiful dreamer. but the version of it, his shovel crow and its southern, because I mentioned about big many days. So when my mom met my dad, she would go round and they'd have these big dos and it's a papa whoa. What he's saying what and she's like marina I can't sing, and then it got to one point where she couldn't put it off anymore smith as hello, let's go into the front room where the piano is course and that you just sing to me, so he still at play beautiful. dream and she's like the t v g and when you get the beautiful choke I was singing yet you realize how bad that was a madman, apparently just
closed the piano laid out and said this will never be discussed again, beautiful dreamer wake to me. Starlight and dewdrops I waiting we. Some of the rude were in the text goodbye, past beautiful dream. Cheryl crews, version of beautiful dream. What were you thinking of outlay still not track when none might and was dying for years ago now and he was unconscious and it was
We didn't know if it was hours or days or anyway, one day mum. She was. I asked her pizza. You know I was just wondering. Would you like me to sing beautiful dreamer and from nowhere? He just goes. No. I don't like nothing. Absolutely my mom had loved the hollywood.
Movies. You know growing up in the forties fifties. Sixties. I remember being devastated on my last day at school of course cause I loved school as really popular. I was not disabled and case. That's not clear. I was a regular kid regularly, attracted smart. I had a lot of things going for me. I remember crying my eyes out and not wanting to go, but then we had this new adventure, children that you know fate, bounce back resilience and did you make friends? How did you fit in at school? With your english accent, loved the english accent and all was good, and then I got tired and I got a rash. I am, I got really a really bad bout of measles, a virus, and six months later I became very well said the reason that you notepaper aware appearance having grown since I was seven because I was on stuff.
it's really high dosage ass. He was six in a million with my condition so comes out of nowhere, nor able to go to school because I'm on such high doses of steroids, so I can catch a mini so to them you know, come
promised? I used to work until I was eleven, so it's a gradual process of gradual price in my lower spine, just collapse, cause steroid sort of a no good for your bones, a weaken your bones. All of those things meant that year from eleven I become a wheelchair user, for that was really difficult because you know we all have such does such negativity around disability. I think you'll notice that I've not labeled the medical condition. I have gone, not really that a big choice for your choice be conscious choice because it becomes something that obsesses the media. That's all I want to know or public. You know if you, if you put my name into google and not saying I've ever done that, but I have
The top questions will be what's wrong with this car. What condition has less cargo and it distracts? It's not an interesting ask me the right questions and I'm a fairly interesting person going back to win. We were a little girl. I know that you've said that you were told then, when you were very small, that you weren't gonna live very long. I mean I can't imagine what it's like to hear that as a child. Since in my early teens and I used to be a patient of a very fearful doctor, you would go to consultations and the big booming woman I was like, I didn't know. I was scared. I was very ill. What's gonna happen, We don't know, but you won't leave to be old. Harry affected may is every night
I went to bed, I won my mom was took him out like I will I die tonight and she'd say no and I'd go yet, but you don't know that I need realism and when you told that by a doctor and because we believe doctors now to this day, I don't think there's a day goes by when I dont think about that. I have huge anxiety of the time, but I have lived so far with that. I've got to do it now because he knows. I am taking james's sit down. If anything, I wanted to take james with me the banned because they have been abandoned me as an adult. So when I go to uni, I really discover myself: it's mine, he ninety indeed I loved it. James I didn't know which song used to go to the irish club.
one wednesday in nottingham, went to north community and I learned how to be free. I think and sit down felt like a protest sign is getting more political, but it was just a great dump. I just want to say genes and sit down. Soulis car, you got you first pilot chair when you a scene. I think you're in
schools, sixth form. What difference did that make to you, and how did you feel about her at the time when you think about what not having a power chair means it shocks me, and it was my life, so it means I can we get from a to b you're sitting at one desk, but you want to go and talk to the the girls at the back of the class, I mean all you want to go to the toilet. You just want to move, and that was because at that point couldn't get a decent out torture on an a chess and the chair that they had couldn't get up on the sly incline that wasn't my school, the I'd break down on the incline and does not solve our eyes if the wheelchairs that eat they in weeks time in the end, I have annual china, icon self propel, my and a gang of friends by then and the site gang that suggests were really cool. We would like the odd bots from school, really wonderful, wonderful friends, and they were horrified that
It's I didn't have a wheelchair and we're all going off to university. unbeknownst to me, they were raising money for me, the entire school. So I turn out one day. I was an assembly in the six form. Common room and my mom and dad turn out like and then a big car, that's pretty much as big as me and they will in a chair- and I was thrilled and mortified. in equal measure, and it was very confusing for me, my friends. The whole school was doing this because of the injustice but I never felt really different. I was the objective charity, but that's can see I'm confused yeah, I feel,
friend, I don't really want to fail at and the local paper again the world globe wanted to do the story and only wanted was to talk about me. What was wrong with me- and all I wanted to do- was to talk about what my friends had done and the whole school, which was amazing, we were able to do that. They let you know so. I didn T. We're gonna to hear his uncle rolling funded by Ian Stanton When I was nineteen, I got very, very involved in what is known as the disabled. People's movement and part of that was going to these cabarets disability cabaret, if we leap ahead to ninety ninety six. I live in Nottingham, I'm very involved.
some equal, damn disabled people's direct action network. I believe in protest, I believe, in taking direct action, if that's necessary- and we have a three day- action in nottingham, partly against the mp ken clarke, because we were in his constituency and it isn't possible, sir. He said it was steps into it to sit out. Don't worry I'll, come I'll meet you in the car park and we were right now. You find another venue, he is not acceptable, but we took the appointment and we all turned up and does a brilliant picture got a tannoy and it's like I mean fifty sixty overs at the bottom of the steps and just shouting Build a ramp, build a rough and there's a wheelbarrow spent an isp. and after the second night of protest, we have a cavalry and this song was sung by in and carry parker.
That woman, who does sign song. I can't hear it without being present that night and at the end of it, imagine just on and on and on the words, proud, angry and strong and went on four minutes and minutes minutes and it felt like forever and I've never felt anything like it before it was. A real homecoming and a real sense of community and power and pride.
The I just knew that we had, away from home, and you ve had our love, my parents, but I knew tat if I didn't. That was it for me. I live at home. What would happen when my parents got older than
I was terrified really so I knew I had to make it work. My parents were like if its not working come home. We ve got our support whatever you want to do, but I just couldn't I that that first year was really unpleasant, didn't know how to make friends to me a long time at school and so uni. If everybody wants to go off in the off doing stuff, I've done a yeah, I've survived, I've been drunk and I've made some friends and
Nineteen, ninety one it's december and my mum used to subscribe to something called arthritis care. I don't have arthritis no stop guessing, but it was similar in some ways. So mum read about this thing is called a personal development course and I go and they provide assistance. So I don't need to worry and there I am the first evening and it is all disabled people and we are asked, do you think you're a disabled person or person with a disability? I am a person first and absolutely that, yes, absolutely that's me, and then we go for dinner and there's this woman. I've seen wheelchair user blondes and she's with like a friend and it comes to dinner and they up according to sue they've sussed me out and they are desperate to
Written me and pull me into political disability and help me find myself. This was somebody that I really got and they got me and so by the end of the the week it was like we asked you you, the beginning, you sable person a person with a disability. I am a disabled person because- I'm disabled by the barriers in society. I know that. Not me. That's the problem, I'm not the one that needs to change, but we need to change their the structure of society. so this is that the socialists easier isabella, that's exactly and learn about the at the social model of disability, a different way of framing the problem and looking at the solution and the solution, then becomes about one that we can all contributed
and it really made sense, remember travelling to san francisco and I got on a bus than that point. The buses want accessible in nottingham where I lived, but I could get on the bus there, and it tells me that disability, like discrimination is now inevitable, because I can't get on the bus in the uk, but I can in san francisco I've not changed. I don't need to change the buses, the public policy, what we do with our resources that has to change. I think we'd better hear your next piece of music tell us right it s. Neck song is good old, dolly pardon, which ones ago. If I have gone with ninety five lots of reasons, but a big reason is it the yes, I mean my wife, Joe and a bunch of us We're gonna see what happens when wheelchair using women want to learn how to strip.
undue burlesque and my act began with me, dressed in kind of office were too plain to ninety five and then there's like a crisis. I spend my chair around and it becomes these. a man, music and strip off an under my shirt and glass and everything and scott I've got a super girl and that, and that was kind ever to Christopher wren becoming a wheelchair user. Ninety five makes me think of that
mama and within the closer black smoke, Joe you pardon and ninety five. So just picturing europe. There is a super, go It does sound bite me while developing this flat. For the dramatic that that would lead inevitably to the stage to life on screen to everything that you did subsequently and also some of the kind of direct actions and protests that even lost minding taking part in at the time.
dramatic funny unit was all about kind of capturing people's attention and telling a story is simply an engaging. Is you can? I think it's about absolutely getting attention. Flamboyance, exhibition is getting in the press having an audience I'm not really thought about it like that, but those skills kind of a massively cross over my first direct action would be like ninety two and there was a lot of coming down to london- didn't live down here at that point, chaining ourselves to buses. It was the the old handcuffing ourselves to london, buses westminster bridge or wherever you know, you're basically saying this is public transport where members of the public we can't get on my yeah. My life is about I'm either invisible. You don't know me from the tele, I'm invisible as a disabled woman. If you didn't
me from the tele. Then people want selfies in a thrill to meet me. I live a jewel life, fascinating. I loved ressler from the minute. I read the script. I got her once he got the part. You really want to have a say in clarissa storylines. What was it that you wanted for her? I want clarissa to have a stable relationship, because what we see on tv usually is disabled people going through that. Will anybody love me because, I'm to say well valid. Don't get me wrong, but that's usually the same story. We say so I wanted to show why me
it's see when I was growing up. While I got when I met soo was that she had a stable relationship and was married, and I needed that so I needed to represent, let myself only other main characters, thomas nikki and jack. They will have all kinds of weird relationships, I'm going to be the one that has the stable relationship less it's time for your next disc. What am I going to hear? We are going to hear the amazing track called something good. It's from the sound of music soundtrack and it's a song that it's me in jail. My life for here you must. When the
Some in my watch child. I must have done something from the soundtrack to the film, the son of me. Some by julianne gs composed by richard verges and lays car for your wife. Joe less alongside you're happy personal life and your very successful career as an actor You ve also been a campaigner, and one of your campaigns is against attempts to introduce an assistant dying bill in parliament's nay travelled to countries where assisted dines legal. You ve made two documentaries on the subject for the BBC world service. It is a hugely contracts.
Shall debate and definitely not an easy thing to campaign on what made you want to put your head above the parapet in the way that you have, I felt I had no choice as a whole group of is called not dead yet to or disabled people who, I think, believe this such a fine line between illness and disability. The often we feel very much this stakeholders in the discussion around it controversial, hugely and people on both sides feel very passionate, and often I am in him. Might be accusingly, why don't you want my loved ones to have this opportunity? I'm kind of at she want everyone to have a good end of life. I have concerns that once we introduce assisted suicide that things will change, that it changes our natures, changes, our relationship with the medical profession and back.
Mine's, maybe other things you ve heard me say today think if you're a disabled person, you ve, probably had a lot of experience with the medical profession, so the wonderfulness and their flaws. I've experienced also the power that I have also a lot of people when they become ill or disabled, and I completely understand this feel, like their burdens, feel hopeless and, of course your life has changed beyond reason, and I know that because I've had that day, so I have complete Sympathy with the empathy. I think I don't even know how many as it took me to be ok with being who I am on the night that I met job we're outside the pub says, visualize it now to blind people guide dogs, the sky with solid. Might
me: disabled women and wheelchair, and the one is about to be my wife and then there's a homeless women outside the shop next door. She comes up to me and she puts apparent coin on the arm of my chair. I met them be saying. I'm fine, but a woman with no home in a beautiful act of generosity thinks I'm more need even her. So I kind of feel that while we have such an inequality have an inequality in how we view certain lives. We have an inequality in healthcare provision. We dont support people. We don't have enough palliative care that I think I will keep speaking out. So I believe that palliative care,
One of my favorite songs. I would say that, because I wrote it in musical theatre when you can't speak your emotions so heightened you got so much. You want to say you so desperate, and Jane and all those things you take to some and that's why I picked a musical. I hoped it would be entertaining it would open people up to some different ideas and am I did sing in it as well. At the end, I had no more words, so this was my attempt.
Make over palliative care? That call me palliative to the jobs and the degrees of pain. You, the palliative, clip from the musical that you wrote, liz call assisted suicide, the musical song by Claire willoughby music by in hill lyrics by liz car in collaboration with the inhale unmarked whitelaw soulis. Last year, you won and Olivier award for best supporting actress feel role as the wheelchair user doktor emma partner in the play, the normal?
but now you were actually the first wheelchair user to play her and when it came to accepting me, would the other home. There was an access problem. How did you deal with that? Now? We ve all seen those exciting award ceremonies. We see the faces in the audience and the strain and the acting when they hear that they ve lost still one or ever, and then they go up the front up. The steps onto this. age. I wanted my moment like everybody else, if any one so, we tried to make it work we couldn't so. Instead. What they did is that before my category we went backstage and what was wonderful is the other nominees we women came back as well. We had somebody with us so that when It was announced a country from the back of the stage and to the front but fisher its accessible.
Please it's almost time to cast your way to a desert island. What so picture do you have about what will greet you then inaccessibility hates, and so Then we could go for a cold on and but you know, I'm not much better with ice and snow. So I'm seeing a bit of a difficult time. I don't wanna fight you on this. I'm going to have to have not as a luxury item but as just basic kit if other wheelchair and all terrain on the island and in the low, no absolute that work. Of course you finish them in the past. It don't worry about it. I got no luxury item right and what about the challenges You'll in council is what you think the biggest will be the lack of an audience. what am I gonna do without me. audience cutting are generally worried for you. I think we'd better have one more track before you go. What's it going to be, I feel love by donna summer. It was the song that opened the normal
So when I hear it, I absolutely feel the nerves inside me and then I feel the joy. It was the best thing I have ever done. It changed. My life I felt, like I belonged, I really did. I was coming up to fifty. didn't feel like I didn't deserve to be there. I felt absolutely I was time, and I was the right person. So I had the tunnel life to every time here I feel loved. It fills me with terror. Nervous, anxiety and joy, much like life
I feel both during the summer soulless car, I'm going to send you away to the island, I'm giving you the bible and the complete works of shakespeare, and you can take one of the book. What will yours be yeah I mean I think the big books will be good if my chair gets stuck at all, so I'm seeing them as access aids, the other books, the book I'm going to choose to take is kind of
consider the children's book the little prince he ends up in the desert and talks about all the different kind of wild that he's visited. When I read it, the first thing I grasped from it was that it is only with the heart that you really say don't see with your eyes problem know through love, untrue feelings, that's how you make connections with people. Well, you ve got you seek to champ yeah, you ve got a copy of the little prince. What about you luxury yeah. I'm gonna take a pair of ruby slippers, perfect, Why? Because I am going to put them on click, my heels together. Three times say: there's no place like home and just as in the wizard of oz, hopefully get back to my wife and my cats. And finally, list which one of the eight tracks that you share with us
today would you saved from the waves if you had to I'm gonna, go with sit down because James have been with me. My whole adult life from eighteen to almost fifty one, and I one them with me less. Thank you very much for letting us here your desert island discs. Thank you. I I hope that loses happy honour island without hover wheelchair ruby slippers with cost many actors away over the years, including dames, de dense and marie duff and richard I grant you can hear their programmes if you search through a desert island discs programme archive on BBC sends the stupid. manager for today's programme with Sarah Hockley and the producer with Sarah Taylor. Next time castaway will be the comedian, dar o Brien. I do hope. You'll join us, then,
the on Gregg jenna on the host of your dad's me, the radio for comedy paul cars that takes history seriously, and I am delighted to say that we are back the siri six once again I'll be joined by fantastic cost of export historians and top notch comedians to talk about a wonderful fastening, in surprising array of historical subjects from all over the world will be puppy, ah biography, hats to look at the lives of cleopatra Sarah, Bernhard, frederick douglass slain adventure and c mon bolivar plus will be exploring some weird and one for subjects, including the history of vital electricity, the jacobites and the columbia exchange by now about aids by listing in august we'll be launching with a valentine's day special about dating and courtship in eighteenth century britain, so that siri, six of your dead to me, make sure to subscribe on BBC sounds so you never miss an episode. By
Transcript generated on 2023-04-18.