Actress and singer Annaleigh Ashford has revealed how she got into the character of Irene, wife and business partner of Steve Banjeree, in the series Meet the Chippendales, true crime series on Disney+ from January 11th.
From Broadway to male stripteases. The actress and singer Annaleigh Ashford joins Kumail Nanjiani in the series Meet the Chippendales, available on Disney+ from January 11th. Fresco of an era, biting biopic, explosion of music and sex, but also a story of crimes and madness (here you can read our review), the series describes the multifaceted nature of the show which, in eight episodes, tells the rise and downfall of the founder of the Chippendales empire, Indian-born entrepreneur Somen “Steve” Banerjee.
Blonde Annaleigh Ashford plays Irene, Steve Banjeree’s wife and business partner and mother of his only child. “It is an interesting and complicated story, a fresco that embraces the 70s and 80s, which forces us to ask ourselves questions about the way we live life, the era and the role of women” explains the actress in connection from Los Angeles. “I play a woman who is also a business partner of her husband, but navigates the patriarchy and has to stand up for herself. The story is complicated, it is about sex, magic, love, but also crimes, murders and many other surprises.”
Recreate the atmosphere of the 70s and 80s
Annaleigh Ashford researched getting into the character of Irene, despite having very little material available: “When I play real people usually the first thing I do is try to figure out what the public thought about them, but in this case Irene wasn’t famous, I had a lot of freedom. I only had one photo of her, but I tried to place her in an era where she navigates in a world of men. I wanted it to show how special their love was. If Irene loves him, I wanted the audience to be on her side too and if it happens it means that the series does its duty “.
As for the noir dimension of the series, linked to the crimes committed by Steve Banjeree, Annaleigh Ashford explains that she knows the story well: “My mother is passionate about true crime so he had told me the story years ago. It’s a complicated story that intertwines dance, sex, business and crime. What’s really special is that the series doesn’t just focus on the male protagonist, but it also strives to give their voices to female figures who, ironically, find themselves customers of a market created by men to make money.”. Precisely for this reason, the main challenge for the actress, “It was about making Irene have her own arc. I wanted to make sure the audience saw her grow and change”.
Here you are the Chippendales, the review: Kumail Nanjiani king of the striptease between money, sex and crimes
The female rebellion against patriarchy
For Annaleigh Ashford, working on a show where men are sex objects was a real liberation. As she jokingly admits: “Since the dawn of time women have stripped down for men. Why did we have to wait until 1978? For the show we went back in time and recreated that energy, we were electrified on set, it was so much fun picking a millennia old taboo. In the 70s women were in full fight against patriarchy, but the real upheaval was determined only by money”. The actress then goes on to describe the work of reconstructing the scenes in the nightclub, with the cast “full of professional dancers who joined the actors and did an incredible job of recreating this hot atmosphere. This is one of my favorite eras to explore in movies, I love the costumes, the look and the hairstyles”.
For Ashford, a key point of the series is Irene’s role in her husband’s business: “She struggles to be recognized for her role. At the time, there were few opportunities for women. Irene’s love for her husband is separate from business and that’s important, but it’s also true that their bond is a complication I think a lot of women didn’t get the credit they deserve, they were belittled at the time. But Irene is more comfortable than her husband with wealth, he’s almost embarrassed by it, while she’s always been the grown-up in the room And she loves being rich.”
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