Fancy heading off to a sun-drenched island cut off from electricity and complete with charismatic locals? Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty, Ashes to Ashes) does just that in her latest role as Louisa Durrell in ITV’s brand new six-part drama The Durrells. Set in 1935 and loosely based on Gerald Durrell’s trilogy of memoirs, including My Family And Other Animals, Louisa is a middle-aged mother whose life is in meltdown – but will her plan to make a fresh start work?
Louisa’s husband died years ago and now his money is almost gone, so with her four unruly children, aged 11 to 21, going off the rails and her options in Britain limited by her gender, she decides to uproot her family and move to Corfu in an effort to heal the family and escape the world of uptight Englishness. Over six episodes, we follow the Durrell family as they adjust to their new life – and make new friends, rivals and even lovers.
Written by the creator of Men Behaving Badly, Simon Nye, the brilliant cast also includes Leslie Caron, Alexis Georgoulis (My Life in Ruins), and Lucy Black (Jericho, One Day). We were allowed a sneak peek at the action and we’re pleased to say, there’s charm, escapism and humour aplenty – just what every Sunday night needs. We spoke to the star of the show herself, Keeley Hawes, to find out more…
What appealed to you about The Durrells?
The scripts are fantastic and so funny. I love the books, so that was the one thing I was most relieved about. I came to Corfu on a family holiday when I was around nine or ten. It was the first time I had been abroad. I had just read the first book and it was literally like stepping into the pages. It was amazing. So I’ve always been very close to it.
There’s a wonderful chemistry between you all as a family on screen – did that happen straight away?
It was very natural. We met at the read-through and then of course, we all arrived to film in Corfu and by it’s nature, when you’re thrown together filming like that and everybody is away from home, you socialise. But I’ve never known anything like it personally with anything that I’ve done. Everybody just fell into it and everybody wanted to be there.
Were there any moments that made you laugh out loud because of your own experiences as a mother?
There was one; my own children came over and we all went out for dinner – there were my four on-screen children and my actual children, seven of them sat there with me. And it just occurred to me afterwards – I am Angelina Jolie at this moment! Some of them are my adopted guys, some of them are my own – it was lovely.
Can you tell us about your love interest, Sven [Ulric Von Der Esch], and your scenes with him?
That was all very easy – I’ve already asked for a spin-off! The series is just full of gorgeous men. We’ve got gorgeous Greeks and sexy Swedes! With Sven, there were no love scenes or anything like that – it’s not that sort of show – but it was very lovely to play all that.
How do you think you would have coped as a real life Louisa?
I often think what a massive undertaking it was for Louisa – everything about what she did is quite extraordinary, particularly being a mother on her own in the 30’s – no easyJet, nothing to make her life any smoother going into this huge journey and taking four children, a dog, and all their worldly possessions across the world. It’s so brave. I’m in awe of the fact she did that. One of the wonderful things about this story is that it actually happened.
Has there ever been a time in your own life where you had no money?
Yes, there has. I’m pleased I had a time like that because it does make you appreciate things more. Also with acting it’s feast or famine and if you’re not very good at putting something aside for when you’re not busy then that’s that. There’s no holiday pay for actors. If you’re not working then you don’t get paid at the end of the month.
The Durrells starts on ITV this April.