• Actress travelling from Bolton to Iceland

    The Bolton News. 7th March 2008

    For actress Julie Westwood, the trip from Bolton to Iceland is a familiar one. The TV star has just packed her bags and will today embark on the annual journey, which will see her become one of the most popular characters on children's TV. Since 2004, she has played Bessie Busybody in the hit C-Beebies TV show LazyTown. Every year, she spends time in studios just outside Reykjavik where the hit show is created.

    Julie is both the voice, played with a mid-American drawl, and the operator behind the character in the international series which combines computer generated images, puppets and live characters. "It's all great fun", she explained, just prior to her latest seven-week filming trip, "and I just love Iceland - it's fabulous!"

    This latest reincarnation is certainly a far cry from the local girl too shy to even go to auditions.

    Julie, now in her 50s, is a member of the Duckworth family originally behind jewellers Prestons of Bolton. She is one of five children and attended Beech House and Smithills School before going to boarding school until she was 15. Her mother was a repertory actress at Bolton Hippodrome, but Julie had no plans to follow in her footsteps. When she married and went to live in the Lake District, however, Julie got involved in folk-singing. This led to her joining the Comedy Express improvisational comedy group - "and that certainly got rid of the shyness!" she recalled.

    She learned about puppetry when she auditioned, unsuccessfully, for The Muppets. The new skill brought a series of job offers which took her into children's TV programmes. Her list of credits includes being a talking box and as Morag the Cow on Saturday morning programmes; she was also Tula in the popular series The Hoobs. Alongside this work, Julie has had an enduring career as a more conventional stage and small screen actress. She has appeared at the Octagon and in various shows and pantomimes as well as taking TV roles in Cracker, The Bill, Doctors and City Central. Most recently, she was the headmistress of a posh girls' school in Emmerdale and has also been in Coronation Street.

    She auditioned for LazyTown - created by Icelandic Magnus Scheving - in London. The series is filmed with an Icelandic, American and UK crew, with voices later dubbed into other languages. Julie is the rather demanding Miss Busybody, great friend of Mayor Meanswell, in the colourful make-believe town. The programme contains a mix of music, comedy, action and storytelling, and is popular with children and adults alike because of its entertaining, healthy lifestyle messages.

    For Julie - who has two sons, Tom, aged 22, and Nigel, 20 - it has not only opened up a different career but given her a new "family" of friends from around the world. She even went to the American wedding of the actor who plays character Robbie Rotten. As for her LazyTown role, Julie reckons that there is definitely one important element. "You need really strong arms," she laughed. "That puppet is almost life-sized and really heavy."
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