Alison Steadman and Peter Davison on Life: ‘Ordinary lives explode!’

Alison Steadman and Peter Davison on starring in a thrilling six-part relationship drama, Life, created by the team behind Doctor Foster

Turning 70 might be a time to pause and reflect for some. But Gail – the Alison Steadman character in BBC1’s new drama Life – is only just getting started, thank you very much!

In this thrilling six-part series from Doctor Foster writer Mike Bartlett, Gavin & Stacey star Alison plays a devoted wife, mum and grandma, Gail, who’s about to celebrate her milestone birthday when she suddenly starts to question her entire life after bumping into an old school friend.

Remembering the fun, outgoing woman she used to be, Gail looks back on her marriage of almost 50 years to her domineering husband, Henry (Doctor Who favourite Peter Davison, who’s just been cast in the Call the Midwife Christmas special), with fresh eyes and plans to make some drastic changes…

Gail’s is just one of the many stories explored in this Manchester-set drama, which follows life inside a large house divided into flats, where residents’ complicated worlds intertwine and explode with hair-raising consequences.

Viewers can also expect an exciting crossover with steamy revenge drama Doctor Foster as The Crown’s Victoria Hamilton reprises her role of Anna Baker, who is now calling herself ‘Belle’ after building a new life.

Last Year we visited the cast of Life on set in Manchester, where Alison Steadman, 74, and Peter Davison, 69, told us more…

Tell us about Gail and Henry…

Alison Steadman: “On the surface, Gail seems happy. She and Henry have two children and are reasonably well-off, so she’s got a good life. But she realises she needs to do more before it’s too late, not just cooking and cleaning for Henry.”

Peter Davison: “Henry believes his marriage is perfectly content. He may not have been the best husband, but he thinks he’s enormous fun and he loves to tell stories about ‘Funny old Gail’.”

Victoria Hamilton in Life

Victoria Hamilton reprises her Doctor Foster role of Anna Baker, who is now calling herself ‘Belle’

What makes Gail re-evaluate her life?

AS: “She runs into an old school friend who remembers Gail as lively, adventurous and always telling jokes. But now all her friend sees is a nice, quiet lady whose husband talks over her. So Gail starts to rebel and that’s when the fun begins.”

Does she make some shocking changes?

AS: “They’re not too outrageous. It’s more about her finding her independence.”

PD: “It’s more of a shift, really. But it comes as a terrible shock when she tells Henry how she feels. I think men don’t deal with change well, and Henry struggles.”

Does it threaten their marriage?

PD: “Potentially, yes. Henry tries to talk her round. He just wants the old Gail back, but he may have to rethink his life.”

AS: “It’s a wake-up call for Gail and she says lots of hurtful things to Henry. But I think some women will identify with her, or know people like this couple.”

Is turning 70 also a factor?

AS: “Yes. I’ve had a 70th myself and it’s quite a significant birthday. You do feel very different at 70 than 40 or 50. You suddenly think, ‘Gosh, how many years have I got left? I’ve never done this or that…’”

Adrian Lester and Rachael Stirling in Life

Adrian Lester and Rachael Stirling play husband and wife, David and Kelly

How do their neighbours fit into the story?

PD: “There are stories inside every flat, which are seemingly ordinary, but they become quite explosive at times.”

AS: “Gail does encroach on their lives a bit. But the show makes you think that while it’s normal to just say, ‘Hi’, to your neighbours and that’s it, there can be all sorts of interesting lives going on that we know nothing about.”

Life, starring Alison Steadman and Peter Davison, airs on Tuesday 29 September at 9pm on BBC1 (see our TV Guide for more shows to enjoy).

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