A quick chat with Ab Fab’s June Whitfield

Patsy and Edina are back for more alcohol-fuelled misadventures – and ‘Mother’ June Whitfield couldn’t be happier…

When June Whitield first played Mother – or, as Patsy calls her, Mrs M – in Absolutely Fabulous in 1992, she won over a whole new audience. Now after seven years away from our screen, the show is returning for two Christmas specials and finds the veteran actress, who has appeared opposite such comedy greats as Tony Hancock and Frankie Howard in a career spanning more than 80 years, as sprightly as ever. TV&Satellite Week magazinecaught up with her to find out more…

How was it being back together again?

“It was absolutely wonderful. We had not seen each other for a while, but it was like going back to school. We simply carried on where we had left off.”

Why do you think the show still works after 20 years?

“Because Jennifer’s writing is just remarkable. She is so fresh and up to date. It’s just a joy working on her scripts. We also have such fun together and that shows on the screen.”

What can you tell us about the Christmas specials?

“There’s quite a bit about ageing because all the characters are older. Beyond that, we’re not revealing anything because we want it to be a lovely surprise. All I can say is that if the viewers at home laugh as much as the studio audience did, then they’ll have a very good time indeed.”

Does any one thing stand out for you in your remarkable career?

“My favourite thing is always the one I’m doing at that moment. But I have always loved Ab Fab. It’s so silly and so splendid.”

One of your longest-running shows was Terry and June. Why do you think it was so popular?

“It was genuine family viewing. You could watch it with your elderly aunt or your four-year-old child. And the show really rang a bell with people. I’m sure there are still many couples out there just like Terry and June. He was always trying to do something that she was worried about because she knew that he was bound to mess it up. But he would go ahead and try it anyway.”

At 86, do you ever contemplate retiring?

“No, I never think about that. I don’t look that far ahead – I just take one day at a time. I don’t know if I’m busy all the time, but my desk certainly makes it look like I am! It is simply covered with papers which I really should sort out. Once you reach a certain stage in your career, you’re asked to do so many things.”

Finally, how do you look back on your career?

“I know that I’ve been very, very lucky. Not everyone does a job they thoroughly enjoy, but actors do. Working has been my great pleasure and my great joy. I’ve worked with some really wonderful people. As long as it goes on, I’m very happy to be part of it. I’m amazed and delighted still to be active. I can’t believe that I’m still working!”

Absolutely Fabulous is on Christmas Day at 10pm on BBC1