The line between theatre and film is becoming increasingly blurred of late, with several stage productions being reimagined on the big screen, and vice versa. Well now triumphant plays are even being aired on the big screen release, and the latest to do so is Billy Elliot. We had the pleasure of speaking to Ruthie Henshall, who plays Mrs. Wilkinson, about the unique experience.

So I was wondering if to begin with you could tell me a bit about your character and what you had to think about and do to get yourself into the role?

It’s Mrs. Wilkinson and she is the one who really sees the promise in Billy as a teacher and really nurtures his talent. But the wonderful thing about it is he’s just lost his mother so she then sort of slips in to being a bit of a mother figure for him. Which is incredible, to work with the boys this closely is phenomenal. But really, for me it was trying not to be as emotional as Ruthie is. Because when they cry I want to cuddle them, albeit in the piece. Me, I find it very very difficult to put up that wall that Mrs Wilkinson has and the discomfort she has about showing her emotions around him. But she loves him, she grows to love him. So for me it was just being less vulnerable and a bit more tough.

With the filmed performance coming up on Sunday has there been anything you’ve been asked to do differently for that and what kind of preparations have you been doing for that filmed performance?

No, we’ve been asked to do nothing differently, the people in the cinema will the see the show as is every night. The only thing we’ve been doing really is a more extreme version of what we’ve been doing anyway, which is to keep tidying it up and rehearsing it. It’s a very different show anyway because you’ve constantly got a different boy with you every night so it varies just ever so slightly depending on what personality it is. But no I can’t say that we’ve been asked to do anything differently. But I do get to work with Stephen Daldry this week, which is a bit of an honour.

We know there’s going to be a special mash up performance at the end so have you seen any of that, can you tell us anything about that?

Nothing, nothing. I have seen nothing. That’s the first time I’ve seen all the boys all together. And it blows me away because you can really see the ages; you know how they, over the last ten years – those little boys are growing up into men. And it’s fascinating to me.

You’re doing 8 shows a week for Billy Elliot, which is very physically demanding. Do you have any routines or preparations that you go through daily to keep up with that?

Well, physical and vocal warm up. My problem is I don’t get home until one, and I get to bed about two and then I have to get up for the school run. So, really and truthfully it’s trying to snatch maybe a couple more hours sleep during the day, which very rarely happens. And making sure that I’m physically and vocally warmed up because for all of us in this show it’s really quite physical. Even the boys who haven’t been physical before, who are not dancers, they’re being required to dance.

With the filmed performance, it’s not just going to be going to the 1500 people in the theatre its going to be going to audiences all over the country and lots of other countries as well. How are you feeling about that? Are you feeling any extra pressure?

Not yet. I think we definitely will on Sunday, but I think it’ll be more about the excitement. Because we do live theatre all the time and we know the show so it’ll just be a case, if things go wrong of maybe a slipping over or maybe… I don’t know. I mean we know our lines by now, so I think we’ll be alright. It’s terribly exciting to do something like this. I mean, my children said ‘ooh can we go and see it in the cinema’ and I looked it up, and our local one is Ipswich, and there’s two showings and we got the last four seats for the second showing because it was completely sold out in the afternoon. So people really are getting on board.

Billy Elliot obviously addresses some very serious issues. Is there anything you think it’s important for the audience to take away after seeing the show?

I think basically that you have a choice in life. It’s that age old thing of you can always achieve your dreams if your want them enough. But also by changing your life, you change everybody else’s around you because Billy changes his whole family. His father is a totally different father at the end than he is at the beginning. I think that’s very, very wonderful and I think to just look at that thing of can you make a difference to someone’s life as well? Can you be that teacher? I hope that the boys take away ‘I can be a ballet dancer if I want to’ because they have to be athletes and butch as hell.

You’ve been in this role for about four months now. What do you find most challenging about staying in the same role for a long period of time?

I think it’s keeping it fresh. Because it’s a new audience coming every night, and 90% of them won’t have seen it before, so it’s trying to give them an individual performance, a full on performance. I think this is very different, this show, because you’ve got new boys coming in all the time. You’ve got Michaels, Billys, Debbies, Ballet girls, so it shakes it up all the time. You can’t get bored. I always say it’s remembering that people have paid a lot of money to come and see it and they don’t want to watch people giving it half cop and you know, pissing around.

Billy Elliot The Musical Live is out on Blu-ray and DVD now.