Despite her three-year starring role as Nikki Wade in Bad Girls, the hit British prison drama about to begin its third season on Logo (AfterEllen.com’s parent company), actress Mandana Jones rarely received serious attention from the British media.
That was painfully evident in a rare TV appearance Jones made with cast mate Helen Fraser (who played Sylvia Hollamby) on a British variety show. The interviewer asked Jones just one direct question (negatively phrased, of course) about her character: "Did it bother you at all that your part is a lesbian part?"
Jones gave an articulate answer that opened up a rare opportunity. The interviewer could have had an intelligent exchange with an actress who was clearly willing to speak insightfully and unabashedly about playing one of the most fleshed-out lesbian characters in the history of television. Instead, without so much as a polite pause following Jones’ response, the interviewer turned to Fraser and abruptly changed the subject to footwear: "It’s quite interesting … they always say [shoes are] the key to every part. Is that true?"
As Jones proves here on AfterEllen.com in her most extensive interview to date, you can learn a lot when you don’t change the subject. Jones talked to us at length about the show’s lasting impact, her chemistry with co-star Simone Lahbib, her opinion of the show’s third season, which premieres on Logo this Thursday, Aug. 30 — and what really happened in that potting shed.
AfterEllen.com: Nikki Wade is stubborn, moody, prone to jealousy — not to mention she’s a sexual minority and killed a cop. Yet she was adored by, it seems, both a gay and straight audience. That’s quite a trick.
AE: Were there any types of scenes in Bad Girls that were especially challenging for you?
AE: Because of the heavy makeup and earrings and such?
When I got to the second series, I found my stride and got more comfortable playing Nikki. I went with my gut, which is that she’s just a person and what you play is the truth. It’s just feelings. Forget about what she looks like; forget about the labels. If you want people to understand her, what makes her powerful is being somebody who breaks prejudices.
AE: By the third season, Nikki appeared to be a little less involved.
AE: So her journey in the third season wasn’t as complex?
AE: The sharp-tongued, rebellious, political Nikki.
AE: There’s one line that sticks with me from the third series. Nikki tells Helen: "You were always more than someone I just fancied. You were my hope."
Perhaps it sounds like a needy line because we’re told all the time that we should be happy on our own, but I don’t think man is an island, and I think we’re born and we’re meant to meet people along the way that do give it all meaning. When you don’t have that … I think being connected to somebody makes you feel like you’re not alone; it makes you feel a lot more supported by the universe and a lot more hopeful, really. I think that’s what that was an expression of.