Who is Beatie?
‘She’s a 22-year-old from rural Norfolk who has been living in London with a young man called Ronnie, and she comes back to see her family, her head full of these really big socialist ideas and not really understanding them. She’s this vibrant character – it’s just a fucking amazing part and a million miles away from the very reserved one I’ve been playing on “Call the Midwife”.’
Though weirdly, isn’t it set at the same time as ‘Call the Midwife’?
‘It’s a fascinating era. I find I have a lot of information at my fingertips having played a woman from the ’50s already. If they’re having trouble deciding what props to use, I can say, “well there’d be Spam, there’d definitely be some Daz… Horlicks is a bit too “Midwife”.’ You’re filming ‘Midwife’ by day while appearing in ‘Roots’– are you a bit shackled to it now?
‘I’m not shackled to it. I think my dream would be to move into film, purely because there’s a definite beginning, middle and end to a project. I struggle a bit with such a big series that’s going all the time. But the part is just great.’
Have you met Arnold Wesker?
‘No, but he might come and see it. I have been looking a lot at his biography and also Dusty Wesker, his wife, who Beatie is based on. She wrote a cookbook, and that has been the most amazing piece of material because you just get a sense of the vivid energy of the woman. And she’s very into her liver and bacon, which I have to eat in the play every night, eight shows a week.’
Didn’t you have to eat loads of pudding in your last stage part, ‘The Changeling’?
‘The trifle! I can’t touch trifle now, I actually can’t!’