No other star could match Glenda Jackson’s success in her second act. It may be said that President Ronald Reagan, who is perhaps her ideological antithesis, was more successful as a politician. He was not as good of an actor as she was, he did not win two Oscars, and, in contrast to her, he clung to his celebrity status while living in the White House. Glenda Jackson came to represent the more sombre aspect of the “Swinging Sixties” than any other female artist of the era. She was from the North, from a working class background, and she was not what one would call conventionally beautiful, but she dominated British television and film throughout the 1970s. It was a golden age for both of those mediums at the same time, which is not a coincidence. She won acclaim as an actor once more in her 80s, this time for her performance as King Lear, which was praised for its traditional brilliance.
In the time that passed between her two reigns as the reigning queen of the theatrical arts, she worked as a serious, very serious, politician during another golden age. As the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hampstead and Highgate, and afterwards for Hampstead and Kilburn, she served in that capacity continuously from 1992 until 2015, during which time she contributed to the ascent and success of New Labour. Because of the iconic impact that her acting had already left on you, meeting her in her capacity as a Member of Parliament at Westminster was a one-of-a-kind event. Glenda wasn’t interested in hearing about her glamorous past at all, and she cursed anyone who brought it up in conversation with her.
She was so busy working in Hollywood that she was unable to attend any of the Academy Award ceremonies for which she was nominated or won, including the two she took home. She was an actress who did not stick around or mingle after her performances since she was practical, down to earth, and hard-working. As soon as the task was over, she left and walked back to her house. She was more industrious than many other MPs or ministers, and she was never one to schmooze. She brought the same single-mindedness to Westminster. She was a minister at the time, but she did make an appearance on a programme that I hosted alongside the American actor Daniel Benzali.
At that time, Benzali was at the pinnacle of his TV career, playing the lead role in the series Murder One, which was created by Steve Bochco. He was a serious individual who had launched his career in Britain, performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Old Vic, respectively. He shared with us that the thought of interacting with someone he greatly admired was making him feel overly enthusiastic. I went ahead and briefed Glenda about him and made sure she was aware that he could be waiting outside the studio door when she left. Just in case. He was. She did not look back at him as she passed by.
Jackson was polite but impatient with interviewers, and she would occasionally tell them, with a hint of satisfaction in her voice, that she did not understand why she had a reputation for being “scary.” To be honest, very few people would have the guts to oppose Elizabeth R. She was unquestionably forthright, realistic, and grounded in reality. During a different interview, I was on the receiving end of her concern over the use of energy saving measures in government facilities. She complained that the lights and the heating would turn off when she was working late alone in her office, and that she had to keep getting up and waving her arms in order for the sensors to identify that she was alive and turn the lights and the heating back on. The surveillance cameras really wished they could have captured such acts.
Jackson joined the Labour party when he was 16 years old and remained a member throughout his life. But from the beginning of her acting career, she was very active, lending her talents to causes such as feminism and the Anti-Nazi League and supporting charities such Oxfam, Shelter, and UNICEF. from this time, she had a successful acting career. She also earned a degree in the social sciences and seriously contemplated switching careers to work in social services or international help instead of performing.