The Good Listening To Show: Stories of Distinction & Genius

A Life in The Theatre Family Spotlight with Actress Finty Williams, Daughter of Dame Judi Dench & Michael Williams: A Journey from Grief, Rehab & Sobriety to Love, Gratitude & the Joys of a Theatrical Family Life & Career

January 17, 2024 Chris Grimes - Facilitator. Coach. Motivational Comedian
The Good Listening To Show: Stories of Distinction & Genius
A Life in The Theatre Family Spotlight with Actress Finty Williams, Daughter of Dame Judi Dench & Michael Williams: A Journey from Grief, Rehab & Sobriety to Love, Gratitude & the Joys of a Theatrical Family Life & Career
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Delighted to welcome Theatre Aristocracy to "The Good Listening To Show" Clearing, as we welcome Actress Finty Williams, daughter of Dame Judi Dench & Micheal Williams.

Finty was 'Passed the Golden Baton' to be in show, by her good friend and previous Guest, Actor, Director & Writer Brendan O'Hea, who has just co-written (with Dame Judi Dench) "Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays The Rent"

You can also Watch/Listen to Finty's wonderful episode, recorded as a FaceBook LIVE here:
https://vimeo.com/chrisgrimes/fintywilliams

As the winter chill begins to thaw, so does the narrative of Finty Williams, whose candid conversation heats up our latest podcast episode. From conquering the flu to basking in the love of her feline companions, Oberon and Titania, Finty's storytelling weaves through the sanctuaries of her life, from the rugged beauty of Scottish camping to the soothing waves of Barbados. 

But it's not just geographical landscapes that shape her tale. Finty tells the profound story of alcoholism born out of grief for the loss of her father, followed by the timely support and intervention of friends and family to reach the life-changing embrace of sobriety in the deserts of Arizona. Finty paints a vivid picture of a woman ascending her personal Mount Everest with grace, gratitude & strength.

Our discussion with Finty turns introspective as we explore the profound transformation spawned by her sobriety, a metamorphosis as dramatic as the desert rainstorms of Arizona. Her revelations about the pivotal role of support networks, including figures like psychotherapist John McKeown & Theatre Impresario Bill Kenwright, offer an intimate glimpse into the fortress of solidarity that has fortified her journey. Arizona, with its spiritual allure, sets the stage for Finty's awakening, just as the wisdom of loved ones, including the influential Herman Barr, fuels her philosophies on life and the indomitable spirit of recovery.

As the curtain falls on our time with Finty, the enchantment of her life spent in the spotlight of Theatre takes centre stage. Whether recounting the magic of a recent 14-month theatrical run or the thrill of discovering unexpected talents in those closest to her, Finty's passion for the performing arts shines through. 

She also shares with us her fascination with criminal psychology and the empowering message of RuPaul to prioritize oneself further reveal the multifaceted layers of her character. 

Before the spotlight dims, the invitation extends to you, our listeners, to bring your own stories into the clearing. Join us, share your narrative, and become part of a community that cherishes the art of listening.

Tune in next week for more stories of 'Distinction & Genius' from The Good Listening To Show 'Clearing'. If you would like to be my Guest too then you can find out HOW via the different 'series strands' at 'The Good Listening To Show' website.

Don't forget to SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW wherever you get your Podcasts :)

Thanks for listening!

Chris Grimes:

Welcome to another episode of the Good Listening To Show your life and times with me, chris Grimes. The storytelling show that features the clearing, where all good questions come to get asked and all good stories come to be told, and where all my guests have two things in common they're all creative individuals and all with an interesting story to tell. There are some lovely storytelling metaphors a clearing, a tree, a juicy storytelling exercise called 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, some alchemy, some gold, a cheeky bit of Shakespeare and a cake. So it's all to play for. So, yes, welcome to the Good Listening To Show your life and times with me, chris Grimes, are you sitting comfortably here? Then we shall begin. Yes, get in, and welcome to a Facebook Live. This is another glorious episode of the Good Listening To Show stories of distinction and genius, the show in which I invite movers, makers, shakers, mavericks, influencers and also personal heroes into a clearing or serious happy place of my guests, choosing to all share with us their stories of distinction and genius. And I'm absolutely thrilled to have theatre aristocracy in the building today. We have Finty Williams, who, I'm delighted to say, was passed the golden baton by Brendan O'Hay, who has recently penned Shakespeare the man who Pays the Rent with your mother, judy Dench, and I mentioned theatre, aristocracy and glycerati. You're also the daughter of Michael Williams as well, so, finty Williams, it's an absolute delight and pleasure to have you here in the Good Listening To Show clearing.

Finty Williams:

I'm thrilled to be here. Thank you for asking me. Thank you, Brendan, for asking me?

Chris Grimes:

Not at all. And Brendan has blown some very happy smoke at you, saying you are an absolute force for good and angel and how majestic you've been in forging a life with your own path, which is the really important thing as well. So he's blown some very happy smoke at you, but I'm delighted. So House Morale. When we first met, about well, two or three weeks ago, we were going to do this, but about 10 days ago you had a dreadful snotty flu condition.

Finty Williams:

So it was truly horrific. It started on the 30th of December. Yeah, had great plans for New Year's Eve and it was the first time in 51 years that I have seen the new year in on the sofa in my pyjamas. It was pretty grim and I'm just coming through it now. So it's lasted nearly three weeks.

Chris Grimes:

Well, I'm glad you're the right way up on the other side of that then.

Finty Williams:

And I'm sorry about your New.

Chris Grimes:

Year's Eve, wonderful. So what's your story of the day, beyond the cold, by the way. So, house Morale, what's your story of the day today?

Finty Williams:

My story of the day is that I'm just trying to make our house warm enough for our cats, who may or may not make an appearance at some point, so thus implying that the cat is the queen of your domain. The two cats. Two cats, and what are their?

Chris Grimes:

names, just to sort of get a shout out for the cats.

Finty Williams:

Their names are Oberon and Titania. They were named before we got them, but in our house, I'm afraid and please don't anybody come at me but they are called Ron and Tits.

Chris Grimes:

Ron and Tits, aka Oberon and Titania. So what's the abbreviation of Oberon? Again, orb, did you say?

Finty Williams:

No, Ronny.

Chris Grimes:

Oh, ronny, because I've got the abbreviation of Titania and Tits, but Ronny and Obbs, oberon, obbs, obbs, that's brilliant. So how come they were given a new name? Because Oberon and Titania is suitably theatrically, shakespeareanly majestic.

Finty Williams:

I think that's why we wanted to give them a new name. It seemed a bit naff to call them Oberon and Titania, although to any small friends that we have they are still Oberon and Titania. I don't want them shouting down the road house Tit.

Chris Grimes:

Or maybe we do, by the way, the other thing that Brendan said. He said you will so enjoy the architecture and the curation of this show. So I'm really, really excited to be able to take you through the journey, which is going to be a clearing a tree, a lovely juicy storytelling exercise called 54321. There will be some alchemy, some gold, a couple of random squirrels, a golden baton, a cheeky bit of Shakespeare and a cake Absolutely all to play for. So shall we get you on the open road of that then you bet and you're invited by the way, there is an invocation to go as deep as you like, when you like, where you like, and so take it wherever you'd like to take it, and really looking forward to finding out the story behind the story of the lovely 50 Williams. And you've just finished an 18 month tour before you got ill over Christmas, Is that right?

Finty Williams:

Yeah, 14 months 14 months.

Chris Grimes:

Yeah so what was that show?

Finty Williams:

It was called the Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman and Joel Horwood, directed by Katie Rudd, and we went all over the UK and Ireland and then finished with seven weeks in the West End and it was. I do touch on it during my journey today. I'm glad you will.

Chris Grimes:

Wonderful. So let's get you on the open road. So, first of all, what is? Where is a clearing or serious happy place for you? 50 Williams, where do you go to get clutter free, inspirational and able to think?

Finty Williams:

So this was. This was quite tricky, because I have two. That's okay. One is when I was little, we, because of my parents' jobs, we only ever went camping on the West Coast of Scotland for the summer holidays in a tent, away from everybody, and I loved that. But when I was I think I was 19, we went to Barbados for the first time and I had never, ever, ever, been anywhere like that and I remember getting off the plane and crying because my dad said to me what are you crying for? And I said it's so beautiful and colourful and the, the sea and the animals and the birds, and it just blew my mind so much. And I've been lucky enough to go back a few times and there's a particular place on the beach, just by the steps from the hotel, that when I have to be calm or, you know, relax or or or clear my mind, I think about a very particular evening where I sat there and I looked out at the sea. It was actually it was the last holiday that we had before COVID and my mom very, very generously took her and her partner and me and Joe, my partner and my son and his best friend, alex, and we were all there together and it was so magical, chris, I can't begin to tell you. So that is. That is like an, an idyllic happy place.

Chris Grimes:

And, by the way, I so love the fact. Your first memory of that was in the company of your great father, now sadly departed. But then your most recent re-immersion in the same magic memory is just before the pandemic. So we're coming back to the same place, in Barbados. That's right, isn't?

Finty Williams:

it yeah, always the same place.

Chris Grimes:

Yes.

Finty Williams:

And it really is very anywhere that contains my dad is very special to me and we took Sammy there when he was, I think he was, 18 months old, and on the first evening he, my dad, picked him up. He was in his pajamas and he tapped my dad on the back and he went oh, gampi, barbados. And then, when we got back, brendan O'Hays said to him now, sammy, what do you like more, barbados or Waitrose? And there was a pause and he went Waitrose.

Chris Grimes:

Wow, great comic timing, and that's great. A wonderful comic reverse there. We were all expecting Barbados. Yeah, waitrose, waitrose.

Finty Williams:

Loved a bit of Waitrose. But my, my seriously happy place, which is where I feel even though I don't live there, it's where I feel that I've gone home is Stratford Ponneven, because when I was little my parents were there at the RSC and we lived just outside Stratford in a village called Chalkett and we lived there until I was 12. And like the pavement contains my dad there and and such memories. And in the summer I was doing the show in Birmingham and I, joe, my, my partner, drove to meet me in Stratford and I drove from Birmingham after the show and as I came over the hill into Stratford I just burst into tears because it's like I don't know, you know when, like the sky looks familiar and the sounds are part of such happiness that. So I think, as much as I love Barbados, I think I'd have to choose Stratford.

Chris Grimes:

The pavements of Stratford, or are you going to sort of park up at a particular building or whereabouts in Stratford?

Finty Williams:

I think maybe in like the Bancroft Gardens, so I can see the theatre, even though it looks very different to when I was little, but I can see Waterside and I can see Chapel Street and I can see the Avon and, yeah, I think that's where I'll be.

Chris Grimes:

Lovely, so say the names of the gardens once again, and I'll arrive with my tree there.

Finty Williams:

The Bancroft Gardens.

Chris Grimes:

Beautiful. So here I am now, a bit existentially waiting for Godot Esk arriving with a tree. Now to shake your tree to see which storytelling apples fall out. How do you like these apples? And this is where you've had the chance to think about. You've had five minutes to have contemplated four things that have shaped you, finty Williams, three things that inspire you, two things that never fail to grab your attention and borrow from the film up, that's a bit more squirrels you know what never fails to grab your attention, irrespective of anything else that's going on for you. And then the one is a quirky or unusual fact about you. We couldn't possibly know about you until you tell us. So over to you to shake the canopy of your tree as you see fit to interpret that exercise.

Finty Williams:

Well, five minutes definitely wasn't long enough. I pondered over this and, yeah, I could have come up with 15 things, but I think I think the first one and and bearing in mind where we are, I think the first one has to be my childhood, for so many reasons Because it always seemed to be the summer. I don't remember it being the winter. I remember it being the winter in London but not in Stratford, and it was always that sort of wonderful sort of sunsetty glow. And I remember being at the Mop Fair with my, with my mum and dad, and well before you know all the great inventions of you know CGI and things like that, they had this big dome in the middle of Sheep Street and they basically just projected a film of a roller coaster onto one of the walls. And I must have been I thought I was about eight, but I must have been six because it was no full, because it was the summer of 1976. And it was when my mum was doing Macbeth, the famous Macbeth with the ear McKellen, and we went to the Mop and we stood in this big bubble and it was a roller coaster, and afterwards I got very upset. Apparently my dad was like oh, finn, you know, don't be upset and my mum had to go for the matinee of Macbeth and she felt so sick she had to go like hand over hand down all the railings along the wall. She was like never mind the child, I've got to go and do the show. It was such a happy, such a happy childhood. It was filled with, you know, extraordinary people that my parents worked with, wonderful, you know, adults, of course, and I was only little but wonderful, inspiring, playful, kind people Nick Grace and Roger Reese and Donald Cinden and Francesca Annes and and Ian McKellen, and it was just, it was just golden. Watching, watching my parents do something that they loved so much was deeply inspiring. It's why I went on to choose to do the same thing, rightly or wrong way. But I think when you have that sort of exposure to something, I think that it's very hard not to want to do that.

Chris Grimes:

Of course, yes, well, literally it's in your DNA. So and the streets of Stratford feels completely natural.

Finty Williams:

Yeah, and the first time I ever on stage was they did a same year, 1976, which of course was the great heatwave Maybe that's why I always think it's the summer but they did a musical production, a comedy of errors, and at the end I can remember what I was wearing. Chris, I was four, I was wearing a tartan dress and my dad came down into the audience and picked me up and took me up on stage and that was the first time I'd ever been on stage and I remember thinking, oh, this is this is quite nice, very special.

Chris Grimes:

And is that? That presumably isn't your first ever memory, but the four? That's your first memory of going on stage, and I hadn't thought of asking this before, but what would your first first memory be?

Finty Williams:

First memory would be lying in a hammock in the garden at Childhood and it was yet again. It was one of those golden sunshine days with my mum with these great big patchwork cushions and my dad swinging us in the hammock. So I must have been to, I guess. Maybe.

Chris Grimes:

Yes, and I'm loving the through line of your dad always being ever present. Actually.

Finty Williams:

Yeah.

Chris Grimes:

And I in researching you, by the way, I did know that that when he died that's partly when a path towards alcoholism started and all that that same era. So I know that you invariably go into other stuff later on, but I just love the through line of the fact that your dad is ever present in you know where you've decided your clearing is, and and in the pavements of Stratford. It's lovely, definitely. So that's a beautiful first shape. What would you say would be a second thing that shaped you over the four things?

Finty Williams:

They don't have to be in order.

Chris Grimes:

No, no not at all. It's a canopy rich with fruit to shake as you see fit.

Finty Williams:

Well, in that case I will. I'll take what you've just mentioned. So one of my other things was was getting sober that's, I mean, that has changed my life in more ways than they always say. You know, when you're in the, when you're in the depths of addiction, they always say you can have a life beyond your wildest dreams if you can give up. And when you're in the depths of that, I think it's very hard to envision that, because it seems like you've got Mount Everest in front of you and the easy thing to do is stay at base camp one. And if you can and I don't use words like if you're brave enough or if you're committed enough I think if you, if you just get it because it took me a while to get it and if you can get it and you're lucky enough to have a support system around you to help you get through that, then you have the life beyond your wildest dreams. And if, if, if the life beyond your wildest dreams is not just waking up in the morning and feeling shame and guilt and pain because it is pain, if that's the one thing that changes, that's a miracle, it's an absolute miracle and I have a lot of people to thank for getting me through that. I was lucky enough to meet the most incredible man called John McEwen, who I met through Bill Kenright and I've always said that the two of them between them pretty much saved my life and, and through John, I went to a rehab facility in Arizona called Cottonwood, which I'll tell this story very quickly. I have told it before, but I went out there and I was still really fighting. I was fighting with everything I had, and and I got to Arizona, which everybody quite rightly goes, or it's the desert, it's going to be hot, and it wasn't hot, it was gray and it was colorless and it was frightening. And and on the first evening we had a conversation given to us about how we could encounter tarantulas, black widow, spider, scorpions and rattlesnakes. And I thought, well, I'm, I'm, this is not the place for me. I'm, I'm going to go. And I spoke to a wonderful woman who worked there, called Rami Katz, who was just the most extraordinarily spiritual woman that I've ever met, and she said will you give it 36 hours? And she said, if you still want to leave after 36 hours, I will drive you to the airport. I said, okay, fine, now I don't know what this woman knew, but I went to bed that night and it rained and it pounded, pounded the earth, and I woke up the next morning and it was like that moment in the Wizard of Oz after the tornado, and I opened the door and, like I don't think I remember this with rose-tinted spectacles. I think this is actually what happened Because of the rain rain roses had suddenly bloomed on like all over and bourgenvillea and ground herbs and there were little quails and there were in all the cactuses, there were little tiny owls and woodpeckers and these great giant wild pigs called havelinas, which I loved and it it was. It was like somebody just said just hold on, just hold on, keep going. This is a glimpse of what it could be. I get very emotional when I talk about it, just because it was such a pivotal moment in what was a very rocky and scary part of my life.

Chris Grimes:

How long was the trajectory from going to Arizona to then finding recovery?

Finty Williams:

Well, I was there for 28 days.

Chris Grimes:

Oh, and that one airlock then put you on the path of sobriety, and that's the airlock that did it.

Finty Williams:

Yeah, it's an extraordinary place.

Chris Grimes:

And, of course, very brave and extreme to send you so far away to recover, because in Britain there's the stereotype of going to other places that you might go to. But going to Arizona is an unusual, or maybe it's not, I don't know. But how unusual is it is a better question.

Finty Williams:

Well, I think at the time it was the only what's known as dual diagnosis centre in the world which treats the addiction but also treats the underlying problem, if you like, because nobody well very few people, just want to self destruct, I imagine.

Chris Grimes:

I think there is always a reason why that happens, and I read it was the grief for you, which was your catalyst, but maybe that's, maybe that's not how you'd interpret it.

Finty Williams:

It was. It was definitely that it was. It was a few things, a few things which I actually talk about a little later on. But yeah, I just everything just heard. It just heard, and I couldn't imagine getting through a day without having a drink. I just couldn't, because I didn't like the person who I was enough.

Chris Grimes:

And your story of the flowering of the desert, by the way, is incredibly profound and I think the way that nature conspired as well to do the flowering whilst you're giving the 36 hour punt on the new experiment Very seminal.

Finty Williams:

It's an extraordinary spiritual place and apparently it's. It's one of the few places in the world where all the spiritual lay lines cross and it. You know how, in New York, like, you feel energy coming up through the ground and that's because of the subway, and we know that, the electricity that it generates. But there's something in Arizona, there's something about the, the magnificence and the ancientness of the mountains that make you feel this big and therefore your problem, or problems, if you really think about it and analyze it, are tiny as opposed to all encompassing. Yes, yeah, it's a very, very special place. My third thing that has shaped me is is my Sammy, my son, who I love more than I could possibly say. If this podcast could last for 100 years, I could never, I could never accurately tell you how much I love him and how proud I am of him and how he just Well, I said to my mom the other day. I said if I wasn't Sammy's mother, I think I want to be, want to be his best friend.

Chris Grimes:

He's an incredible friend, he's 26.

Finty Williams:

Yeah, he's. He's an influencer and he's one of the kindest people I've ever met in my life.

Chris Grimes:

I think I noticed he also went viral with your mother during the pandemic as well, doing TikToks as well. Is that right?

Finty Williams:

He did. I don't know whether that was the genesis, that becoming an influencer, but maybe he was one already. He sort of dabbled in it, yeah, but then he is. It's another illustration of his kindness at the beginning of the pandemic. He well, we both realized very quickly that Mar was on her own. I was very lucky in the fact that I recorded a lot of audio books during the pandemic, but one of the the deals was that, you know, I isolated at home and and then I could go into the studio and that was the only thing I could do. And Sammy so Sammy would have been 23, I think, and he went down as soon as we were allowed to. He went down to my mom's house and stayed there for 10 months, which I'm not sure how common that is. You know they don't. You know, don't be under any illusion that they didn't have some pretty big scraps. You know, I'd have Sammy Sammy on the mobile going your mother is just so tricky.

Chris Grimes:

So the Shakespearean scale.

Finty Williams:

Yeah, and then I'd have my mom on the landline at the same time going. Well, I don't know about your son, of course. You know when there's something bad, it's always your son.

Chris Grimes:

Yes, of course.

Finty Williams:

You know, ownership changes. Yes, you know, but he's, yeah, he's a. He's a truly exceptional human.

Chris Grimes:

That's a wonderful shape. It's the most perfect shape I think you might have. One shape is left now, unless that's all for it.

Finty Williams:

I have one shape. It and it's excuse me, because my my cold is bad, but the other shape is a friend of my parents. When I was very little they had a great friend called Herman Bar, who I'm not even sure how they met. He just seemed to be around and he was an incredibly wise person and he said to my mother and father in life you must always look for the pluses. In whatever situation you're in, you must look for the pluses. And that has really stayed with me. I think in every situation and you know I don't mean to be flippant about it in any way I understand totally that very often we're in a situation and you can't see the pluses and there are no pluses, and that's kind of okay. But at some point in your life to be able to look back and see why you are in that situation or what you got from that situation in a positive way even if the positive thing is, I never want to be in that situation again, and that's really stayed with me we always say it look for the pluses.

Chris Grimes:

And what was his name? Was Herman Herman Barr. Herman Barr, is he still with us or you don't know?

Finty Williams:

No, no, very much not. I mean he was as old as Methuselah when I was finding. I mean he probably wasn't, he was probably like in his fifties, but it came from the elder.

Chris Grimes:

I love that and it's.

Finty Williams:

David.

Chris Grimes:

Deyonsons.

Finty Williams:

And.

Chris Grimes:

Testament, as we all experience. Somebody says something to us once in our life and we never, ever forget it, and that was the inspirational quote which links Butteley to more inspiration coming further down the line as well. So now we're on to three things that inspire you. Now we've done the shape itch.

Finty Williams:

OK, so the first thing, obviously and it sounds trite, but the thing that inspires me the most is my mother. She's an 89 year old force of nature, and the reason, the reason, one of the reasons she inspires me so much is because she has never allowed herself to be defined by society or anybody else's rules or, and she's unafraid to follow her initiative. She's funny, she's brilliant. I remember going to see Anthony and Cleopatra when I was 16, I went with my dad. He'd seen the first night and then he took me, I think maybe 15. And I remember turning to him at the interval and saying it's great, but when does Mark come on? Because she'd managed to become somebody so different that I didn't recognise her. You know, and also, apart from the acting which she never ceases to amaze me in what she does, how she can just trample depths that I didn't know were there and be daring and so clever, apart from all of that, she's a top person and she's I'm really lucky. I'm really lucky that she's been my mother.

Chris Grimes:

And I love how that is a beacon of gold and of light as opposed to a shadow, because it could go either way.

Finty Williams:

I suppose if one is under the shadow of someone so heralded, and obviously being the daughter of Dame Judy Dench must be very profound in any case, yes, I think I touch on this later as well, but I think that you, if you're lucky enough to have a parent that is in the public eye and is loved and adored, I think that you have to learn to separate what other people think and how you perceive that person, because it would be very easy to go oh God, you know and I have had this in my life you know, I'm never going to be as good as her, I'm never going to be as successful, I'm never going to have the career that she's. Well, no, I'm not, because there's only one of her and she has had a career that 99% of the acting profession would give their right hand for. But I can't. I have no control over what people think of me when it comes to her. If they think that I'm, you know, riding on her coat tails, if they think that I've used her name, if they think all of those things, I have no control over that. I'm not saying it doesn't hurt because it hurts so much, but for my mother, who, I mean, she's incredible, she's just an incredible human, and that's the bit that matters to me.

Chris Grimes:

Although I was very struck when I saw you on this programme 20 minutes ago, when you sent me a photograph of you beforehand. But when you turned up today on Zoom, I immediately had the thought gosh, you're really your mother's daughter. You're looking increasingly like her. I'm not just saying that because you're there, but I was very struck with that. You are her mother's daughter. You're looking increasingly like her.

Finty Williams:

Oh, thank you. Well, that means a lot, Thank you. She does keep saying to me why don't you cut all your hair off from peroxide?

Chris Grimes:

I'm like.

Finty Williams:

I'm literally going to turn into your home. That's probably not a great idea.

Chris Grimes:

Yes, the second news bar.

Finty Williams:

So I did this play the Ocean at the End of the Lane for 14 months and I was very much the oldest person, oldest woman in it and there were a lot of young actors and actresses in their 20s who were phenomenal actors. They were phenomenal dancers, they could do anything. They were puppeteers, they could lift people, they could like troubleshoot if somebody went off with an injury halfway through the show. They'd have like this little meeting in the wings and suddenly they'd all be doing different parts seamlessly. You know, and it's a long time to do a show 14 months. But there was a bit at the end of the first half, very, very choreographed big movement thing which I was lucky enough to be able to watch every night. And I can honestly say that in the last week of doing the show I was as excited and in awe of those people as I was the first time I saw it in the rehearsal room in Kennington, Like how, how did you do that? And also how lucky I was 50 when I started doing it. I'm now 370. But how lucky. You know, I've never done a play like that ever that has so much movement and magic and illusions, and I've never done anything like that. How unbelievably lucky was I to be put in that cast of people to watch. I used to refer to them as the kids only because that some of them were younger than Sammy, and I mean that with so much love, and I would walk across hot coals for any single one of them, you know, and they didn't go out after the show and you know they would. They'd go to the gym in the morning and they were so disciplined and so there wasn't a single night where I thought, oh so is those, you know, sitting back a bit and not really doing it. There wasn't a single night, you know, and their support and their care of each other and of me, and, yeah, it was really extraordinary.

Chris Grimes:

So I love that the entire inspiration is the cast of the play, which is fantastic.

Finty Williams:

The cast of the crew.

Chris Grimes:

yeah, and the testament to the nature of ensemble and the beauty of ensemble.

Finty Williams:

Totally, totally yeah. That's a lovely inspiration, my third one slightly is attached to that, but I couldn't not put it in there. There is nothing that I love more when you go and see a friend in a play and they surprise you. I didn't even know you could do that. I remember going to see Joe, my partner in A Tale of Two Cities, in Northampton. I think it was in Northampton, Not again Northampton.

Chris Grimes:

Northampton, I'll believe you, whichever you say. Yeah.

Finty Williams:

I was just trying to remember and it was the first night and he was very nervous and he was so brilliant that I went to wait for him in the bar afterwards and as soon as I saw him I burst into tears Because I was just like that was just like off the charts. I knew he was an amazing actor, but like that was like beyond anything that I'd ever seen him do before and it was so brilliant. And I remember going to see a friend of mine, claudie Blakely, when she was in Peter Pan playing Wendy and she was so brilliant I mean it's almost.

Chris Grimes:

And what's Joe's second name, by the way? Sorry, you didn't say that.

Finty Williams:

It's called Joseph Tims Tim's show. You know, it's sometimes it sort of works against you. You know, I remember seeing Helen McCrory in the Seagull and I did my first job with Helen when I was 18. And she was so brilliant. She was so brilliant. I was like I'm never gonna be able to play that part. I can never play that part because she's to me. If I was ever auditioning for that part I'd have to copy her because she was so good.

Chris Grimes:

But like Of course very sadly. I know she's Damien Lewis' wife who now died a couple of years ago. Very sadly, yes.

Finty Williams:

Yes, that huge, huge, terrible void left by her not being there. I think she was truly extraordinary, like off the charts, extraordinary yeah.

Chris Grimes:

So, if I may, I think we're now onto the two things that never fail to grab your attention, which is the squirrels of distraction, if I've got my yes. Yes, so what are your squirrels that never fail to distract you whatever else is going on for you?

Finty Williams:

It's funny that you refer to them as squirrels, because any animal will distract me. When we were on tour, a great friend of mine who was in the company, joe Rawlinson Hunt, he was missing his wife and his cats and I was missing Joe and the cats and we both had sons, and so inevitably there would be sort of sad days where you're sitting over a cup of coffee in some new city and you're a bit tired and you'd be having a bit of a sort of sad conversation and literally we could be like oh, I just don't dog, ha ha ha. And then we'd have to have a moment to look at the dog, acknowledge the dog and then go back to the conversation. But cats, raccoons big fan of a raccoon, yeah, pretty much any animal.

Chris Grimes:

And how brilliant that they always yankers to the immediacy of the present because they're so just there, Just totally there. And they Totally there, we know things.

Finty Williams:

Joe thinks that I'll probably be arrested one day because I do tend to slightly throw myself on the floor when I see some small puppy-type person. Ha ha, ha. I think he thinks that the owners think that I'm a psychopath and that I'm probably going to steal it. I won't, I might just give it a hug.

Chris Grimes:

Yes.

Finty Williams:

A very wonderful type of psychopath.

Chris Grimes:

That's great. So any animal that's a great squirrel. And you're allowed a second squirrel that could be non-animal related or could be animal related.

Finty Williams:

It's not animal related at all. My second thing that never fails to distract me is any musical. I'm a musical theatre mad. Are you a good?

Chris Grimes:

singer as well, so that you can tread the boards and hoof along with the best of them.

Finty Williams:

I did. I trained in musical theatre at Central.

Chris Grimes:

By the way we have there in common, by the way I did a teaching degree there between 1982 and 1986.

Finty Williams:

Oh well, there you go. I was 91 to 94. I'm passionate about musicals, absolutely passionate. I'm not good enough at all, but I very much like singing along with them in the car. One of my favourite things to do is to sing along with musicals with Sammy in the car. I will go and see musicals dozens of times, or karaoke. I'm really happy.

Chris Grimes:

So that's another fact coming up. You're a karaoke queen, then probably.

Finty Williams:

I'm not a karaoke queen, but I do love a good karaoke session.

Chris Grimes:

Which, by the way, beautiful. Segue into now the one quirky or unusual fact about you. We couldn't possibly know about you until you tell us Finty Williams.

Finty Williams:

Well, after all this talk about animals and musicals and things, I think this might actually surprise you, if you know, like sliding doors, if I could have my life over again, I'd want to be a criminal psychologist. I am utterly, utterly fascinated by the psychological makeup, the character of serial killers, cult leaders.

Chris Grimes:

Does this include you sort of nom nom nomming, detective novel, crime novel as a genre?

Finty Williams:

No, I prefer the real. Thing.

Chris Grimes:

The real thing.

Finty Williams:

OK, so not in a fictional way.

Chris Grimes:

You actually want to get your sleeves up and get stuck into some criminal psychology.

Finty Williams:

Yeah, when I was ill, Joe came back. He was at work and he came back and I'd watched a program on I think it was called the worst serial killers of all time and he was like Fint, don't you want to watch, like you know, nice Disney film, no no, I don't. I just want to talk about Charles Manson and Ted Bundley, and it's not in a gratuitous way at all. I'm fascinated by them.

Chris Grimes:

That's a cool fact. We have shaken your tree. So now, in the structure of this, we stay in the clearing, which is beautifully in Stratford upon Avon, as you trample the depths of emotion in that environment. I love the word trample earlier on, by the way, which is why I'm saying it again.

Finty Williams:

I'm glad I got it right.

Chris Grimes:

And so now we're going to talk about alchemy and gold. So, when you're at purpose and in flow, finty Williams, what are you absolutely happiest doing in what you're here to reveal to the world?

Finty Williams:

What I'm absolutely happiest doing. I love organising a surprise birthday party. I so I'm not absolutely happiest organising it, but that moment where the person walks in and you get to surprise them with people and music and happiness, that is that's, yeah, that's. I derive a lot of pleasure out of that.

Chris Grimes:

And have you successfully pulled one off your mother in that regard as well? For Dame Judy.

Finty Williams:

I have. I have her eightieth birthday. I think. I told her that we were having lunch at a certain place in London and when she arrived I took her into a room and there was a table laid for I think it was 20 people, and the last person around the tape because her eyesight's not very good I had to say and here's so and so, and here's so and so, and the last person she came to was her best friend, larry Guitard, who I'd met the night before at Heathrow and got him in a hotel in London and she didn't know anything about it and we had this wonderful lunch and then we went downstairs and there must have been, I think, the last count, there must have been about 80 people there, all from different parts of her life. And yeah, that was. That was a pretty special day.

Chris Grimes:

What a great name Larry Guitard Sounds like it's a very good word. An adjective for playing the guitar. So fantastic, I wonder if he had a guitar. I'll stop there on that one. So so, alchemy and Gold. And now we're going to ramp up to a bit of cake, please. And I've got a prop cake, so I'm going to award you with a cake now. Finty Williams, hurrah, do you like cake?

Finty Williams:

first of, all I love cake and I'm on a diet at the moment, so I love it even more.

Chris Grimes:

And what cake of choice would you like, please?

Finty Williams:

Oh, I'd like coffee and walnut cake please.

Chris Grimes:

Tis yours Beautiful, and now you get to put the cherry on the cake, and this is stuff like what's a favourite inspirational quote that's always given you sucker and pulled you towards your future. I remember you've already said the one about always looking for the pluses, but is there another that could be a revisit of that? But what's your favourite inspirational quote?

Finty Williams:

My favourite inspirational quote is RuPaul says if you can't love yourself, then how the hell are you going to love somebody else? And that that meant so much to me. Because, because you know when you, when you're first getting sober, they say you have to. This is a selfish thing. You have to put yourself first. And I used to kick back against that all the time and go. I don't understand. I don't understand that this is not about me. This is about repairing all the terrible things that I've done Terrible, you know. And then I remember I first started watching Drag Race like season two, I think so a long time ago and I remember RuPaul saying that and it suddenly made total sense to me Perfect, and also I love, I love them and I love the ethos of the show and I loved everything about it.

Chris Grimes:

Yeah, and with the gift of hindsight now, what notes, help or advice might you proffer to a younger Finty Williams?

Finty Williams:

This is really hard. I would say Don't be so scared and don't try and be somebody for other people. Don't listen too much to what other people say or think about you.

Chris Grimes:

Which is a wonderful testament to what Brendan said just to reincorporate this about how you have forged very much your own path and therefore you are a force for good in what you do, about that, which is such a lovely thing to say about you.

Finty Williams:

Well, it's very kind. I would hope that people thought that I've never gone up in competition with anybody. I've never set out to do that. I just want to be able to do the thing that I train to do and that I love doing. I'm not doing it for any other reason than it's what makes my heart beat.

Chris Grimes:

And we're ramping up in a few moments to a bit of Shakespeare to talk about legacy. But just before we get there, this is the past. The golden baton moment, please. So, having experienced this for yourself from within, who would you most like to pass the golden baton along to, to be given a damn good listening to in this way?

Finty Williams:

Well, I thought really hard about this and I thought that more people needed to be able to hear what Sam Williams has to say about the world. So I am passing the baton on to my Sammy Williams.

Chris Grimes:

That's lovely, thank you. And now, inspired by Shakespeare and all the worlds that you'll know, this is telling you how to suck eggs, but you don't have to do any Shakespeare. But this is inspired by all the worlds of stage and all the middle of the really players where we're going to talk about legacy now. So, when all is said and done, fenty Williams, how would you most like to be remembered?

Finty Williams:

I think she was nice to animals, she loved animals, that she was kind and that she did her best.

Chris Grimes:

Where can we find out all about you on the old hinter web? So if you wanted to point people to find out more about Fenty Williams, where would you like to point them to?

Finty Williams:

Instagram probably. I've rather swayed away from everything else, and Instagram is a happy place where you post photographs and, you know, nine times out of ten it's animals. So, yes, I'm on Instagram. I have no idea what my name is on Instagram, but it's Fenty. You know, I don't think there are that many of us. There are a few Finties, but not that many. Fenty Williams.

Chris Grimes:

Oh yes, and I love the fact that Fenty Williams is a derivation of Tara Cressida Fenty Williams, so I enjoyed researching that about you as well. So, as this has been your moment in the sunshine in the Good Listening Two shows stories of distinction and genius. Is there anything else you'd like to say, Fenty?

Finty Williams:

No, just there's only one other thing, and it's it's a piece of advice that I would pass on to younger actors which is, no matter how much you want the job, if you don't get it and you get the phone call to say you didn't get it, always remember that there's somebody who got the phone call to say they did get it. And to support each other, because this business is so mercenary and it sets us against each other all the time. And if there's just one thing that I would just want to write in gold somewhere, it's be kind, choose the people who you love and respect, and celebrate their successes.

Chris Grimes:

Perfect bit of wisdom to drop the mic literally a minute, so you've been listening to the glorious Fenty Williams. Thank you for listening. Tune in next week for more stories from the Clearing and don't forget, if you'd like to be in the show too, then check out the website at thegoodlisteningtouchowcom and check out the various series strands, which will explain exactly how you two can be my guest to be in the show. Thank you very much indeed. Good night and for the next episode of the E-Tact program, that's chrisatsecondcurveuk On Twitter and Instagram. It's all next time for me. Chris Grimes from UK Health Radio and from Stan to your Good Health and goodbye.

Exploring Happy Places
The Transformative Power of Sobriety
Recovery, Arizona, and Inspirational Figures
Theater's Enchanting Surprises
Musicals, Criminal Psychology, and Legacy
Be a Guest on the Show