When Pauline Black makes a career choice, she follows through. When the British singer’s ska-punk ensemble The Selecter disbanded in 1981, she made a lateral move into acting, starting with the children’s TV quiz show “Hold Tight” and eventually expanding into stage roles, including Billie Holiday in “All or Nothing at All,” for which she won a 1991 Time Out Award for best actress. When she decided to reform her group, she was all in, and future acting auditions were out, allowing for The Selecter’s 2017 album, the politically-vitriolic “Daylight.” “Acting-wise, I did most of what I wanted to do,” she says. “I played Billie Holiday, I did a good account of Cleopatra in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ and I did Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’ and no parts have tempted me since.”
So your last televised work was a BBC TV series called “Grownups.” And seriously, no assignments since?
No, no. But I’ve been doing some writing, normally these kinds of opinion pieces for radio and magazines. I keep getting asked to do these things, and the most recent one was a script for BBC 4 on the history of British pop. Each person that was asked to do it took a particular decade, and my decade, of course, was the late ‘70s to the late ‘80s.
Susanna Hoffs recently said that when she and The Bangles were making music in the ‘80s, they despised the decade. But now she listens to nothing but ‘80s-retro Sirius Satellite stations in her car and loves them.
Yeah. We all listen to the music of our youth, regardless of whether or not we liked it at the time. It seeps in, doesn’t it? Then later, you prick up your ears and go, “My God! That’s Boy George, doing ‘Karma Chameleon!’” even though you didn’t like Boy George at the time. The main thing I learned while writing that script was about the influence that The Clash had on many of the bands that were around at that time, like post-punk and early 2 Tone bands, and on into the ‘80s. There was an amazing depth to Joe Strummer’s work.
He was angry. But so were you, right?
I was concerned, and I had the temerity to talk about the politics of sexism and racism. And I was right to be concerned, because here we are in the #MeToo generation and racism rears its ugly head again, on your side of the pond and on ours. And there’s this little thing called Brexit, which drove a lot of songs on our last album, like “Frontline” and “Taking Back Control.” When you’re writing a new album, you should start with what’s going on around you.
IF YOU GO
Where: Mezzanine, 444 Jessie St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Nov. 10
Contact: (415) 625-8880, www.ticketmaster.com