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Stabroek News

Sweet memories from 'Lime Tree Lane'
published: Sunday | November 25, 2007

Dorothy Cunningham (left) and Peter Heslop in a scene from Aston Cooke's 'Country Duppy'. They played 'Miss Zella' and 'Pastor Bellyman' respectively, on 'Lime Tree Lane'.

Sadeke Brooks, Gleaner Writer

Television series come and go, but have you ever wondered what happened to some of the actors and actresses whom we used to invite into our homes on a weekly basis?

Most of the cast members from one of our favourite home-grown shows are still alive and kicking. Some are very active in the media, while others prefer to have a life far from the scrutiny of the public. Nonetheless Lime Tree Lane, which was on JBC TV (later TVJ) from 1988 to 1997, has played a major role in the career development of most of the actors and actresses who appeared in it.

While citing that the series has opened many doors for his career, Christopher 'Johnny' Daley says he has moved on from being the child star.

"You can't go anywhere in the Jamaican diaspora that I am not known. It (the character) can limit you, because some people can't see me outside the character 'Johnny', but I am not afraid to use the name and embrace the character. As a performer you want to move on and show diversity," says Daley.

Performed in several plays

He is very active in mainstream media on the televised Comedy Buss talent contest and has performed in several plays in Jamaica and overseas, including Yard '99, Dis Ting, Oliver and the Genie, Cindy Relisha and the DJ Prince and Jamaica 2 Rahtid. He was also a cast member in the movie, One Love. He has worked with Going to the Extremes for ABC television and Bill Murray in Comedy Central. In addition to all that, he is heavily involved in stand-up comedy.

Gracia Thompson, who played the character 'May', says being in a series of that nature can be disadvantageous to some people. For instance, Marc Martin, who played the role of 'Bones' in the series, is a brilliant actor, but was limited by the character as people could only see him as 'Bones'.

Not to be totally outdone Dorothy Cunningham, who played the role of 'Miss Zella', is still highly involved in the Jamaican theatre scene. She is a preliminary judge on 'Comedy Buss' and also helps in the grooming of the comedians before the show is aired.

She has done National Pantomimes and plays such as Bedward, Country Duppy, Not About Eve and The Burglar. She has written and produced Body Language, which was nominated for an Actor Boy Award, and Clergy in Comedy 2: Feel Like Dancing, which will be on show later this year.

While she is still remembered as 'Miss Zella', Cunningham has graduated from the role and is grateful for the popularity the show has helped her to gain. She says television made her more visible to a wider group of people and helped to land her other roles.

Other cast members are no longer in the Jamaican limelight, but are still happy for the opportunities Lime Tree Lane created for them.

Andrea Anderson, who played the role of 'Tiny', is no longer involved in acting she loved the role which she landed by mere coincidence, as she is not a trained actress. She received the role because a girlfriend was needed for 'Donald' and the creator asked her to play the role because they had worked together for Jamaica Cultural Development Commission competitions in the past.

"I don't like the stage work 'cause back in the days we didn't use microphones so I had to strain my voice and I lost my voice in the middle of a performance once," said Anderson, who currently does life insurance sales.

Mothers and 'son'

With 'Johnny' having been the youngster of the cast, it was probably only natural that a special relationship developed between him and the older women.

"Chris is really my son. I see him on a weekly basis," commented Cunningham.

It seems as if he has two mothers, as creator and director of Lime Tree Lane, Melita Samuels, says Daley is like her adopted son and she still speaks to him when she goes to Kingston or when Daley visits her in Montego Bay.

Still, the relationship among the former cast is not always as good as some people expect.

"A lot of people don't understand that you don't see the rest of the cast when you aren't acting, 'cause most of us had full-time jobs. So when we went to the studio (for filming) there wasn't much time for frolicking and socialising apart from that," commented Anderson.

Peter Heslop, or 'Pastor Bellyman' as he was called in the series, says the experience was great and, like everybody else, believes it has opened several doors. In addition, it gave him a family away from home.

"It was very fun, theatre, showbiz doing things on the spot the socialisation among the cast members. It was like a family on set or off set. It was always dutiful, 'cause we went into wee hours of the morning," says Heslop, who is a teacher at Kingston College, where he was instrumental in the formation of the JCDC award-winning poetry group, Nomaddz.

Samuels believes the show was helpful for the Jamaican society, especially after Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 when most persons were devastated.

"It focused on moral values and humour, with each story capturing some of the Jamaican old-time values. 'Mass Gussie' and 'Miss Zella' had certain standards that people in their age group would have cherished," adds Samuels.

Relevant in today's society

Cunningham says there are areas of Lime Tree Lane that could have been expanded on if it were not stopped. She believes it would work in today's society, as it had nothing immoral and helped people to deal with their problems through laughter, unlike soap operas presenting dysfunctional people with dysfunctional lives.

Clive Anderson, who played the role of 'Donald', left Jamaica in the late '90s and now lives in Bronx, New York, where he is involved in writing books and has intentions of publishing one soon. Gillian Hue, who played 'Honey', daughter of 'Miss Uptown', is in the final stages of finishing her Ph.D. in neuroscience at Emory University. She is married to Ian O'Neal Beckford, a network engineer at the corporate headquarters of Home Depot, and resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

Unfortunately, Judith Thompson, who played the role of 'Miss Uptown', died.

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