Not only did Ailsa Davidson lead the West End cast of Heathers for 10 months, but the Aberdeenshire actor also stars in the filmed version of the hit stage musical that will arrive in UK cinemas later this month.
“It was everything I ever wanted all at once,” said Ailsa about portraying Veronica Sawyer in Heathers for almost a year.
“It was a very overwhelming experience and at the start, I was like a deer in the headlights. I wasn’t able to take it all in.
“But as I got further into the run, I really started getting into the groove of the role and so many amazing things happened. I won an award for playing her (Best Actor in an Off-West End show at the West End Wilma Awards), I met my partner on the job and I also get to film it.”
Based on the cult teen 80s film, which starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, the production follows Westerberg High’s “nobody” Veronica Sawyer whose dreams of finally becoming popular come true when she joins the beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers.
Things take a wild turn when Veronica’s new boyfriend – mysterious teen rebel JD – teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody.
Ailsa Davidson on starring as Veronica in Heathers
Ailsa, who’s from Ellon, played Veronica from November 2021 and was delighted when she heard that the producers wanted to film the production in May 2022.
“The show was essentially closed for two weeks and we went back to rehearsals with the director Andy Fickman,” said the former Aberdeen Youth Music Theatre member.
“We were rehearsing with some new cast members – that was quite daunting for them.
“At that time I played Veronica for six months so I knew the part like the back of my hand but we made some tweaks for the filmed version.
“Then we filmed for three days. We got call sheets like you would normally get on a film set and we filmed certain sections.
“There were a lot of cameras with me on stage a lot of the time to get all the shots.”
Ailsa described it felt “quite odd” when the whole auditorium was taken over by the crew.
“We did a take after take after take… which was really tiring on my voice and mind. But it was an amazing experience since I never had to work in that way before.
“It also meant I had to think on my feet. I played the part for so long but on set I was asked ‘Oh Ailsa, can you try it like this?’ and I just had to change it which was quite discombobulating because I was used to doing it a certain way a night after night.
“After the three days of filming sections, we filmed two live shows in their entirety with the audience and after that, we went straight back to the show running live in London (at The Other Palace).”
Date set for UK cinema release
Heathers: The Musical premiered on The Roku Channel in the US and Canada back in September 2022 but this will be the first time the filmed version of the stage musical will hit UK cinemas. The live capture will be released in select cinemas on March 28.
“It’s really exciting and it’s been highly anticipated,” said Ailsa.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to get to Aberdeen to see it but I’ll definitely see it in my local cinema (in London).
“My family is really really excited. Most of them came down to see me in the show live quite often. But my grandad wasn’t able to come so it’s amazing he’ll be able to see the show.
“A lot of my friends and people that I know of will be able to go and watch it so that’s really exciting.”
Grateful for the experience
Looking back at her time as Veronica – a role she last played in September 2022 – Ailsa said she was incredibly grateful for the experience even though she found it a bit overwhelming at the start.
“It was a whirlwind,” said Ailsa.
“The whole casting process was very very fast. I was in Aberdeen and I taped for the job on a Wednesday. I got it on a Friday and had to move back down to London on the Monday to start rehearsals. It was a really really quick turnaround.
“From the start it was very high-octane. We rehearsed for 12 days.
“It was a very overwhelming experience and at the start – I was like a deer in the headlights. I wasn’t able to take it all in because it was everything I ever wanted all at once and I didn’t know how to compute it.”
But once she settled into the role, she enjoyed the experience immensely.
She said: “There are so many amazing things to be grateful for.
“In terms of my exposure in the industry, it really really boosted me.”
The gifted actor would love to do more filming in the future.
“I would definitely like an opportunity – or several – to come my way,” she laughed.
“We saw it during the pandemic – film and TV is really where you can survive as an actor. Work could still go on on screen no matter what is going on.
“That was a gear shift for me during the pandemic and I really wanted to tap into that industry so hopefully those opportunities will start coming along more regularly now that I filmed Heathers.”
So what’s next for Ailsa?
“I can’t really disclose anything,” she said.
“At the moment I’m a working actor so I do lots of different jobs to pay my rent.
“I’m teaching kids and I’m working at a gym. Actors between jobs are jack of all trades. We are always very busy.
“It’s a really nice experience. I always like to embrace the inbetween of jobs because you get to experience life and that ultimately makes you a better artist.”
Heathers: The Musical starring Jenna Innes – who’s also from Aberdeen – embarked on a UK tour last month (February 2023). The musical is currently not scheduled to visit the north-east but will stop in Glasgow in June.