How Do I Look? Sinead Cusack, 54, Actress
"AS A BLONDE I don't think I'm typically Irish, although I was born with beautiful, lustrous black curls. I was a gorgeous baby. But when I was two years old, it all fell out in the bath. I was bald as a coot. My mother was deeply ashamed of me and made me wear a bonnet. Eventually it grew back white-blonde, although I've kept these black eyebrows. So maybe I was black Irish to start with.
"I do think my face is informed by my Irishness. My sisters are the same - the way we speak so much and have huge enthusiasm and our foreheads get all creased. Very busy, our faces are.
"I'm horribly cavalier about how I take care of myself. I smoke, I drink wine, I lead a stress-filled existence juggling my children and my career. But every time I accept a new role, I adopt a physical discipline. When I was playing Kate in The Taming of The Shrew, I started pumping iron, and for Beatrice in Much Ado, I learnt ballet. For Cleopatra I considered belly dancing, but then I thought, `No, she wouldn't want to show that much.' So I took up Pilates. I wanted to convey a woman who knew exactly where her core, her strength, lay. In real life, my left shoulder is one and a half inches higher than the right, so in times of stress I bear a striking resemblance to Richard III. But Pilates has transformed my life both on and off stage.
"There's a huge problem inherent in playing Cleopatra, because, as an actress, you're usually cast about my age, which is 54. You're expected to turn yourself into this famously seductive, beautiful woman just as you're facing the wrinkles, the crows' feet, the sagging tits. So I said to the designer of the play, Es Devlin, `I know how we're going to deal with it. You're going to come to my house and I'm going to stand in front of you stark naked and you can look at me from every angle completely objectively. …