How do you feel about receiving the BAFTA Fellowship?
“This is the big one! It was a really exciting letter to receive and I’m just thrilled. It’s going to be a great night.”
Have you prepared your speech yet?
“I’ll just be myself and I’ll think of something to say!”
Have you had any worries about your career in the past?
“I thought I was dreadful in Educating Rita. When I first saw the film I just said, ‘Oh God. It’s awful. And I’m awful in it.’ I went straight to the toilets and started crying. When our lovely director was talking about possible Oscar nods I genuinely thought he was mad! I did meet Sean Connery at the premiere though. I had a crush on him as a teenager and he walked past me and slapped me on the bum – it was really funny!”
How would you describe your partnership with Victoria Wood?
“Meeting Vic was massive for my career and it was wonderful because it happened around the same time as Educating Rita, Boys from the Black Stuff and working with Alan Bennett. There was a lot happening, but it felt heaven-sent when I first worked with Vic. I just knew she was perfect for me and her scripts were wonderful to do.”
Do you remember what your family’s reaction was when you left nurse training and said you wanted to act?
“It was a vocation, I just knew I wanted to act and I really had to do it, but my mother was dead against it. You can understand it, she just thought that nursing was a respected profession and that acting was a juvenile wish of some sort. Once I got a pension she was fine!”
Did the glare of the spotlight and the rave reviews ever go to your head?
“Well, my success wasn’t overnight – I’d worked in theatre and done West End runs before, but I think it probably affected me more than I realised at the time. Saying that, I knew I had to stay grounded and my background meant that somehow I could just see a lot of it was hype – I knew not to believe in it too much. I’d worked really hard as an actor before any of the fame came along and I knew it was the work that was important.”
What have been your personal career highlights?
“I loved playing Mo [politician Mo Mowlam in Channel 4 biopic, Mo], but it was a bit of a gamble. At one point I rang my agent and said I didn’t think I should do it because I didn’t look enough like her, but he just said, ‘Get the wig and the glasses on and you’ll be fine!’ It was a challenge, but that made it special.”
Do you feel as though you have a good work/home balance now?
“I’ve worked constantly since I was 24 and my career has been fantastic, I couldn’t complain about anything at all. Even though I’m 64 now and there aren’t the same central thrusting roles around as when I was younger, I could actually still be working all the time if I chose to. But I really don’t want to. I’m not a workaholic – I’ve got a home life and a husband, Grant, who I value far more than my job. My time is very important and so I don’t want to be working like I did in my thirties, doing theatre at night and telly in the day.”
We’ve heard you’re a fan of Coronation Street. Can we expect to see you on the cobbles any time soon?
“I don’t know – I really shouldn’t talk about it because every time it’s mentioned the producers get on the phone to my agent! I love Corrie, I’ve watched it since it started and maybe at some point I would love a bit of a cameo on it… But I’m too busy with other work at the moment.”