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She’s Done it her way

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 - Sunday, 16 October 2005, 00:00

by Marie Benoît

Louise Doneo plays the attractive lead in Solitaire on Super One which is produced by her husband Mark. This is the family drama about a mysterious car burglar (Solitaire) who steals high priced exclusive super cars from crime lords and drug dealers and uses the money to supplement the ailing Dar Jacob, a children’s hospital catering mostly for children with ‘special’ needs.

Louise started her career as a singer when she was some 14 years old. “I took part in various local festivals and then in 1986 I met my husband Mark. He was a singer and a musician and he used to write and compose songs for me,” says Louise. With these songs she participated in local festivals.

Soon after Mark and Louise were married, Louise’s singing tutor Phylisianne Brincat introduced her to musical theatre. “Mark and myself both landed roles in a musical composed by Tony Scott. I dragged Mark along with me but when we finished our performances, we got hooked and one musical led to another and we ended up doing some 20 musicals altogether in Maltese and English.” Her favourites, says Louise without hesitation are “Sette Giugno in which Mark and myself had the leading roles. We also enjoyed doing Scrooge very much. These two come to mind instantly but of course there were many others.”

In 1999 Louise made the transition from stage to TV. “Il-Mandraggara on PBS, was my first series. In it I played the part of Sina, one of the leading roles. It was a challenging role and I loved every minute of it.” Other roles followed. “I played Shelley’s mother Lyndsay in Shelly Rayner, the clairvoyant Sarah Green in L-Ispettur Lowell and more recently the leading role in Id-Dar tas Soru.” And for one whole year Louise played the role of Tina in Ipokriti.

On the more personal side Louise has been happily married to Mark for 15 years. “I must say that Mark is not only my husband but my workmate and my best friend. Together we lead a very busy life and sometimes we find it so hard to communicate with our families which we love very much, as we are always busy. But at least we can look forward to Saturday nights which we have all to ourselves.” This is when they go out and enjoy an intimate dinner and maybe watch a film afterwards.

But to go back to Louise’s career? Was there anything else besides musicals that she did and enjoyed? She searches her memory: “Yes, I also presented a children’s programme on Super One, Ir-Remissa, together with Julie Pomorsky,”

With acting being their very life, it was bound to happen. This year Louise and Mark started their own drama school, The Actor’s Workshop, where tuition is focused on acting for the camera. “We have different classes and age groups. The youngest student is six years old and we also have a ‘mature’ 52 year old as well,” says Louise who is obviously enjoying every minute of this new venture.

Let’s take a closer look at Solitaire. How many months has she lived with this new series? “Mark takes things very seriously and since he is always producing ideas from his fertile imagination he bounces tons of them off me, for my feedback. I’ve been living like this for six years now, that is, since he started writing. But I have been ‘living’ with Solitaire for the past six months.”

Six months ago Louise and Mark started researching their respective roles and Mark had the added burden of researching the story and all its components.

So this couple happily lead a life of ideas, writing, acting and now teaching. Louise comments: “Life changes for us with every new series! Never a dull day!”

What does she like best about Solitaire?

“Solitaire’s ‘forte’ is its storyline. It has a solid dramatic plot which keeps you guessing till the very end and characters that you’d like to get to know. I guess what I like best is the way all the characters and subplots are linked to one another but you don’t necessarily notice this from the start. And although the story is about sick children and you have a massive crisis on your hands, the series manages to remain upbeat and fun.”

What is it that she likes best about her character, that of Valerie Demajo, who heads the children’s home? “I like the way Valerie Demajo – I choose my own names in Mark’s series – uses her assertiveness to protect ‘her’ children.

What is it that she likes least? “Well! Due to the nature of her work, Valerie can sometimes be very vulnerable and naïve. Mark enjoys giving his characters an Achille’s heel and Valerie has her own and she can be very shortsighted sometimes.

There are many beautiful cars in this series – Ferraris, Maseratis and so on – do any of them get wretched? “Well…yes but you will have to wait to see which one!” she replies mysteriously.

She must have some anecdotes to relate which happened while they were filming. “But of course. Here’s one. One day we installed a garage door on one of the empty abandoned garages at the White Rocks Complex because the scene entailed a garage door being ripped out of its place by car thieves. We left the door for a couple of hours while we got on with some filming. When we returned we found the door removed and thrown away with the rubbish. Only sheer determination and massive help from our friends made the shoot possible that night but we wasted a great deal of precious time because of that door!”

Apart from acting does she find time for any interests? “I love travelling and if I had lots of money I would definitely spend it on visiting interesting places around the world. Till now, my favourite destination has to be Los Angeles. I just love everything about it: the weather, the shops, the places of interest…having said that, London is also one of my favourite cities. I always manage to drive Mark crazy when we go there ‘cause I have to go to nearly every shop in Oxford Street!”

Apart from Mark, what about members of her family? “There is my mother Rose, two brothers John and Joe (Dimech, the newscaster of PBS) and two sisters Miriam and Margaret. Miriam died on the 22 March last year in a car accident. She had just turned 48. It is very hard for me to speak about her death because strangly enough I still think she’s alive and well. I just don’t ‘see’ her anymore. Mark thinks I still haven’t gotten over the fact that she’s gone. It was the tragic way she died and the questions left unanswered which make it harder.”

Louise also has 10 nephews and nieces, a few of them living in the U.K. “My eldest brother John, who resides in the U.K. was an actor too when he lived in Malta, and I remember when I was very young he would take me with him to watch him on set while filming The Brothers. It was an interesting experience for me, and I have to say that at that time I didn’t think that I was going to follow in his footsteps!”

Louise goes back to Miriam. “Ironically when my brother was here on holiday before Miriam’s death, we decided to go out to dinner – just us brothers and sisters. It was the first time ever we did that and we had such a great time we promised each other that we would do it again whenever he comes to visit us. That was the first and the last time such a dinner took place because now Miriam has gone. I miss her so much. I still cry sometimes.”

Louise believes that this tragic experience has pulled the family even closer. “My ‘English’ brother John tries to come to Malta as often as he can now and me and my other brother Joe, have promised ourselves to be more available to each other. When tragedy hits you, you realize how fragile you are and how dear your family is. People all over the world should always make time for their loved ones. Now, not tomorrow. “

Does she have a motto, a pensiero, something which motivates her and keeps her going?

“Yes, a quote from Norman Vincent Peale: ‘Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.’ I believe in that and try to put it into practice.

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