As the new series of Birds of a Feather kicks off on ITV (Thursday January 7, 8.30pm) with a huge East End family funeral, What’s On TV’s Nick Cannon caught up the show’s three main stars, Linda Robson (Tracey), Pauline Quirke (Sharon) and Lesley Joseph (Dorien), to find out what’s in store for the Chigwell ladies this time around…
The new series kicks off with the funeral of Tracey’s ex Darryl. Tell us about that…
Linda: “Well, Tracey and her ex husband Darryl haven’t been together for about ten years because of his criminal life. Then there’s a knock on the door and it’s a policeman with the news of his death. It’s a bit of a shock for everybody. Tracey doesn’t really want to organise the funeral because they haven’t seen much of him and they haven’t really got the money. So she’s relieved when old family friend Lenny, played by EastEnders’ Jamie Foreman, says that the Chigwell criminal fraternity will organise it. But the whole funeral turns into a bit of a farce! The entire East End criminal underworld turns up to the funeral looking like real Mafia types with scarred faces and knuckle-dusters.”
Spandau Ballet star Martin Kemp appears as Darryl’s old gangster mate, Vince. Does Dorien fall for him?
Lesley: “Yes! They end up getting fruity in the back of the horse-drawn hearse! Dorien’s thrilled there’s going to be a funeral because she’s seen this very short black dress she wants to wear, plus a hat with a veil! It’s a brilliant first episode.”
Linda, you and Pauline already knew Martin well, didn’t you?
Linda: “Yes, we all grew up together. He and his brother Gary lived in the same street as me and his dad used to work in the local greengrocers. Then we all went to Anna Scher’s theatre school together. We didn’t have a clue that he was being cast for this, though. But he’s perfect for the part.”
So what’s Tracey’s relationship with her sons, Garth and Travis, in the aftermath of Darryl’s death?
Linda: “Garth is much more upset than Travis because Travis didn’t really know Darryl – he wasn’t really a dad to him. But Tracey’s also got a bit of a love interest in the shape of a policeman, played by Mark Powley, so she gets a bit distracted! But luckily he gets on quite well with Garth and Travis and even helps Garth make a shrine for Darryl in the garden.”
We hear it could be the end of the three ladies living together when Tracey kicks Sharon and Dorien out later in the series…
Pauline: “What with Sharon’s laziness and Dorien’s gentleman callers, the two of them end up pushing Tracey’s buttons one too many times and she chucks them out. So Sharon takes Dorien back to her old bedsit in Edmonton. It’s a horrible place with a crack den upstairs, but they have nowhere else to go!”
Linda: “Then Auntie Vera makes a return. She moves in and takes over Dorien’s room, which is very funny and puts Dorien’s nose out of joint!”
And there’s a menopause theme in one episode. How did that come about?
Linda: “Well, it’s which is something that’s obviously affected the three of us. But we just thought, we’re three women of a certain age and, if you’re watching this, you’ll understand what it’s like going through the menopause.”
Do you ever have a problem keeping a straight face while filming?
Pauline: “All the time! The letter H is a problem for me and there’s one bit where I had to say ‘overhaul’, but it kept coming out as ‘overall’! But Linda is normally the first to start laughing.”
Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is a fan of the show and came to the studio while you were filming. What was that like?
Pauline: “She asked to meet us! She loves Birds and knows so much about the show. It was a lovely day.”
Linda: “We were talking about grandchildren, but we forgot for a moment who her grandchildren were!”
Birds of a Feather begins on ITV on Thursday January 7 at 8.30pm