Helena Bonham-Carter: “This is one of the best parts I’ve ever played!”

It’s been far too long since we’ve seen Helena Bonham-Carter on the small screen, so we’re delighted she’s making a return in Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Nina Stibbe’s award-winning book, Love, Nina. The surprise bestseller was written as a collection of letters between sisters, describing a young nanny’s experiences caring for an eccentric North London family in the 1980s.

The adaptation, which will air in five parts, unites a stellar cast including Faye Marsay (The White Queen, Game Of Thrones) as Nina, the nanny suffering from the culture shock of moving to one of London’s most Bohemian streets from her home in the East Midlands, and the brilliant Helena Bonham-Carter as George, the beautiful, forthright single mother to Joe and Max whom Nina is tasked with looking after. Plus, Bafta award-winner, Jason Watkins (The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies, W1A) will play local author Malcolm Tanner, while Joshua McGuire (About Time, Mr Turner) stars as Nunney, Nina’s on-off boyfriend.

Nick Hornby describes his time working on his first TV drama as truly unforgettable: “Nina Stibbe’s book Love, Nina has already established itself as a much-loved piece of comic writing and I love it. Her observations and worldview were the inspiration for a show that we think captures the same spirit. It’s been a joy to write and we’re thrilled with the quality of our cast.” If he hasn’t made it sound tempting enough, Helena Bonham-Carter shares her own experience working on the series….

What was it about Nina Stibbe’s book that inspired you?

What I love about the book is that it’s ordinary domestic life. A lot of it reflects my life. Nina has a way of seeing the magical and the quirky in the ordinary. It’s fun, charming and ‘happy-making’. Then there are Nick’s scripts: they’re little episodes of ordinary life that we live every single day. For me, one of my main relationships in life is with my nanny. It’s certainly one of the most important things in my life. This is a story of this friendship and relationship between the nanny and the mother.

Did you study the real Mary-Kay who your character is based on?

I could write a thesis on Mary-Kay Wilmers, who is a fascinating, multi-layered, and amazing woman. I got completely obsessed and stalked her and read up [about her] and I got a real patchwork of this very complicated person. I thought, great – this is one of the best parts I’ve ever played! Mary-Kay speaks very quietly. She lets others talk and she guides and steers them. She herself is somewhat in retreat and I had to be louder for the adaptation!

Did you enjoy working with Faye [Marsay]?

Nina as a character is incredibly flawed, which I’m sure is by her own admission, but she has to be likeable and Faye is hugely likeable and lovable. She has a huge charm and is very funny. Faye’s a natural clown.

How was working with the director, S.J. Clarkson?

I knew that it was in great hands with SJ. She’s got a very similar aesthetic to me. We love the same things. We love the same clothes, the same socks; have the same point of view, a similar sense of humour. We understand each other and can afford to be very rude and direct to each other. She’s a filmmaker – I totally trust her judgement. She has extraordinary energy and she’s as obsessive as me in our need for absolute detail. SJ also has a great sense of mischief.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the series?

I hope it’ll make people happy and spread the happiness that I found when I originally read the book. It might make people look at their everyday, ordinary lives with a bit of magic rather than the greyness – life can be pretty dull and a grind, but this is showing that there is magic in the ordinary, if one’s not too tired to see it!

Love, Nina starts on BBC One on 20 May.

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