Emma Samms: Love Actually

Emma Samms - The Colby's wedding

Emma Samms - The Colby's wedding - Credit: Archant

Why those on-screen romances might not be all they seem!

It’s easy to be cynical about love and romance when much of you career has been spent portraying tragic and unhappy relationships. Popular opinion is that happy couples on television series are boring (look what happened to the show ‘Frasier’ when Daphne and Niles finally got together) so everything and anything that can go wrong in a relationship is thrown at a couple the moment they get together.

In a feature film’s shorter format, all the obstacles placed in a couple’s path seem to be miraculously whisked away in time for the end of the third act. A passionate kiss can seemingly resolve any differences and ensure a ‘happy ever after’ as the music swells and the end credits roll.

You should know that those on-screen kisses are not what they seem at all. They will have been meticulously choreographed as to whose nose goes to the right or to the left, where your hands are, how many seconds the kiss will last, etc. Bed scenes are even less romantic. In fact, for actors and actresses, good bed scene etiquette is a must. The essentials are as follows:

Firstly, if nudity is to be implied but not revealed, the man must use his body to shield the woman from the camera. If I have to clutch the sheets to the front of my chest to comply with pre-watershed guidelines, this does not indicate much enthusiasm.

Secondly, it still needs to look pretty. Kiss me with great passion but don’t squish my nose, if you wouldn’t mind.

Thirdly, if the camera can’t see it, don’t do it. Any improvised and unnecessary, under-the-sheet shenanigans are strictly discouraged.

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Most of the romantic moments that you see in films are so awkward or uncomfortable at the time of filming that the truth would ruin the story for its audience. I remember a film I did with the very well respected actor Bruce Greenwood. The love between our characters was supposed to blossom as he recues me after an accident. He had to pick me up off the floor and carry me away in his arms. It turns out that lifting the dead weight of a person up from the floor is quite a herculean feat. Every time he did it he inadvertently groaned with the effort in a most unchivalrous manner. I couldn’t help him by bracing myself or clinging on to him, as I was supposed to be unconscious. Ultimately, in the final film, the music had to be loud enough to disguise his grunts. And my responding giggles.

Lavish screen weddings are often the climax of a long-term television series storyline. Sometimes the loyal viewers have been rooting for the star-crossed lovers to finally unite in matrimony for months or even years and the audience, quite rightly, are seeking satisfaction for their investment. In reality, these scenes are long and arduous to film and frankly, would put anyone right off the whole thing.

When we filmed the wedding of Fallon and Jeff on The Colbys I was wearing an enormous, pink blancmange of a dress that was lovely to look at but when I was wearing it, I literally could not sit down. The wedding took so long to film that two complete sets of flower arrangements were required. By mid afternoon, all the bouquets and the spectacular garlands that dressed the sets were wilting under the lights. I was also wilting a bit too. I had been at work since 5.30 am and we didn’t wrap until just before midnight.

So this is why I am rarely swept away by a romantic film or a novel. I look for inconsistencies, implausible plot-twists and I feel only empathy for the actors having to do love scenes or weddings. Yet, surprisingly, all this cynicism about contrived romance has not entirely marred my appreciation of the real thing. Not when it’s done with sincerity or when it’s done right. Right for me, that is. I have no interest in diamonds or over-the-top, flashy gestures, but occasionally surprise me with flowers, make the effort to make me laugh, pay attention to the details of my day that I share with you, or write beautiful words to me in a text just minutes after we’ve parted. That’s what I call romance and that’ll do nicely, thank you very much.