ONE IS AMUSED!
Judy Rankin enjoys playing a right royal character!
Judy Rankin reels off the various jobs she’s had in the last 50 or so years: Air New Zealand cabin crew, primary school teacher, massage therapist, tutor, first-aid instructor, Shortland Street actor, Queen Elizabeth II.
The last has seen her putting on right royal performances at 100th birthday parties, retirement roasts, in TV adverts and, one Christmas, on a float in the Farmers Santa Parade through central Auckland. It was on that occasion she perfected the regal wave, described by one royal watcher as “a classy affair that oozes decorum but doesn’t get too excitable”.
Whether it’s mere coincidence or a more meaningful quirk of fate – she’d like to think the latter – Judy ( 70) was born the same year the then Princess Elizabeth married her dashing fiancé, Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. A life member of Howick Little Theatre,
Judy’s first-ever appearance as Her Majesty dates back to the late ’80s when she played the part in Alan Bennett’s Single Spies. A local business approached the theatre looking for someone to take part in a Queen’s birthday promotion. “Someone said ‘ Why not Judy?’, and that was it really,” she explains.
Her inaugural outing as The Queen was spent snacking on cucumber sandwiches and sipping tea to the amusement of a steady stream of passersby. Although the reaction from a group of camera-toting tourists – on Auckland’s Queen Street, no less – was somewhat more animated.
“They were so excited – I’m still not sure even now whether they thought I was the real Queen or not,“laughs Judy. “Generally you get a lovely response. People will often do a double take, but they totally buy into it. They’ll bow and curtsy. They are very polite.”
Judy prefers to call herself a lookalike rather than an impersonator. “The Queen and I both have blue eyes and we’re similar in build, although I’m not quite as busty,” she laughs. “Impersonator suggests you might be trying to take her place. The Queen can’t be everywhere at once, so I’m a sort of clone, if you like, who can stand in for her.”
Judy’s go-to guise includes a wig, a formal white gown made by a friend, over the elbow gloves, a faux ermine shoulder cape and plenty of what Judy calls second-hand “bling” – a tiara, sapphire watch trim, bracelet and necklace. She also wears the famous blue sash of the Order of the Garter.
And to ensure she captures the Queen’s true character, Judy – who most Kiwis will
LOOKALIKE JUDY GIVES SPECIAL EVENTS THE ROYAL TREATMENT ‘ The Queen can’t be everywhere at once, so I’m a sort of clone, if you like’
know as Mona McKay, mother of Shortland Street hospital CEO Callum McKay, has studied her every little quirk, from the way she switches her handbag from arm to arm, to her slightly pigeon-toed stance and the way she holds her head. She even has a Corgi – of sorts. It’s a stuffed one, named Susan after the Queen’s first ever pet Pembroke, gifted to her on her 18th birthday.
While she’s not an ardent royalist, Judy thinks the Queen is “lovely” and does a sterling
job. She has a “bit of a soft spot” for Prince Charles –
“he’s an interesting character and seems very sincere” – and she admires Princess Anne’s independent spirit. “She is who she is,” says Judy.
Given her background, it’s only natural that Judy should namecheck Dame Helen Mirren as her inspiration – the star’s portrayal of the Queen in the film of the same name won her an Oscar for best actress. Judy’s also a huge fan of another actress with royal connections: Dame Judi Dench, who was seen here recently in Victoria and Abdul, a film that delves into the relationship between Queen Victoria and her young Indian attendant, Abdul Karim.
Closer to home, however, it’s Judy’s partner David who gives her encouragement and, on occasion, a supportive arm. “He frequently comes along as the chauffeur,” she grins, “and he sometimes stands in as the duke, or the security bloke. He has what looks like a wire [ear set] and he lurks about until it’s time to take me home. He is extremely supportive of Her Majesty.”
Judy’s partner David sometimes accompanies her in the role of the Duke of Edinburgh. Judy has been dressing up as Her Majesty since the late ’80s (below), although the actress is best known as Shortland
Street’s Mona McKay.