A quick chat with Gina McKee

The Our Friends in The North star tells us about going back to her roots in a new TV play…

Can you describe the drama in a nutshell?

“It’s called Care. You meet three generations of women and the theme they have in common is that they all need care in different ways. It’s a half-hour story in the Playhouse Presents strand which I think is brilliant, because it’s a collective creative process with the actors, writer and director. It allows people the freedom to explore things creatively in a way I can’t think of another outlet for on British TV.”

Your character is a district nurse…

“Yes, Natalie’s a district nurse who, in the line of her work, gets close to one of her patients, Elsie, and through Elsie’s eyes she meets a young neighbour. Those two women in their situation make Natalie question her own.

“Some of the things we wanted to look at was how you face middle age. You’ve got a character who is at the beginning of her adulthood and her sexuality and she’s still shaping her adult identity. Then there’s a woman who is coming to the end of reproduction, shall we say. And she’s also inert in her personal life. She’s in a marriage that is failing. There isn’t a love there any more and how do you deal with that? And then there’s a woman coming to the end of her life and she doesn’t want to live the last part of her life knowing that it’s going to be difficult – her physical health is going to fail and probably her mental health. How do we deal with those things and how do we deal with an ageing community? One of the things I like is that it leaves you with some questions to ask and makes you want to know what happens after. I don’t want to spoil it!”

It’s set on the notorious Byker Estate in Newcastle, and you filmed it there, didn’t you?

“We shot the entire thing in Byker apart from Natalie’s house. We used two flats on the Byker Wall [a huge block of flats]. The co-operation we had from the residents was great. The Byker Wall estate is typical of urban regeneration and often studied by architecture students. It was actually built as a soundproofing building from a big road that was being built. It was brilliant being there because you get an authenticity. I really liked the community having such a strong identity.”

Was it good to be back in the North East, where you grew up?

“Yes, we only had a six-day shoot, but it was great being back there. Recently I’ve been working on a new project there too. It’s a six-part comedy for BBC2 called Hebburn [created by stand-up comedian Jason Cook and co-starring Vic Reeves]. I’m loving it. We have a fantastic cast and Jason Cook is hilarious at bringing out the lifestyles and people that you do meet in the North East.”

*Playhouse Presents… Care is on Thursday, May 17 at 9pm on Sky Arts 1 (Sky channel 129 and Virgin 281)