It was a time when flared jeans were fashionable, children bounced along on Space Hoppers and men thought they looked cool with blow-dried bouffant hair like the Bee Gees. The 1970s was a colourful era, and BBC1’s new family comedy The Kennedys (Friday October 2, 9.30pm) takes a nostalgic journey back to that time…
Humans and IT Crowd star Katherine Parkinson plays Brenda Kennedy, who lives on Jessop Square in a Stevenage council estate with her husband Tony (Dan Skinner) and her Star Wars-obsessed daughter Emma (Lucy Hutchison). Based on the memoirs of writer/actress Emma Kennedy, Katherine took time out on set to have a chat with us about filming The Kennedys…
Tell us why you think viewers will come to love The Kennedys?
“Because this is such heart-warming and feelgood comedy. The charm of characters is very unforced. The show centres around 10 year-old Emma played by the brilliant Lucy Hutchison. She’s incredible. There are different generations covered, and classes, and it reminds me of a lot of things like The Wonder Years and 1970s sitcoms such as Ever Decreasing Circles and The Good Life.”
What’s Brenda like as a mum?
“She’s just fabulous and very lovable, although she can be quite a hypocrite at times! She has aspirations to be a feminist but there are big contradictions within that – because she believes in the cause but she also likes things done for her by her husband! In the first episode, the Kennedys hold a dinner party and it’s up to Tony to cook! Of course everything goes disastrously wrong.”
The estate in Stevenage where The Kennedys is set has a big part to play in the comedy doesn’t it?
“Council estates get a bad rap these days. They’re always represented as places of drugs and drama but they can be great places to live especially where there’s a strong community spirit, and I think the writer Emma Kennedy experienced good times as a child on a council estate so she’s reflected that in The Kennedys.”
Your real-life husband Harry Peacock plays Brenda and Tony’s womanising neighbour Tim? Was it nice to work together on a project like this?
“We met in a workshop when I had a non-speaking role and I was playing a dog. That was years ago, but it wasn’t a paid job so we haven’t worked on a proper job together, so it’s been really nice to be with him. As we’ve got young children, when we’re both working it’s usually just information exchange and you don’t always make eye contact. Working on The Kennedys we actually had conversations in the car on the way to set and it’s like oh you’re a person and we’re not just doing nappies together. But it was great having my parents to help out with childcare while Harry and I were working on The Kennedys. The shoot was seven weeks, so they’ve been amazing.”
How odd was it filming with Harry playing such an eccentric character in a show like this?
“It’s lovely because as well as fancying Dan Skinner as my on-screen husband, I quite fancied my real husband as well – my off-screen one!”
Did you like Harry’s look in 1970s clothes and a moustache?
“I’m used to seeing him in weird moustaches and different sorts of facial hair in other projects. I’m ashamed to say I loved his 1970s look in this which is so wrong and I actually liked him wearing double denim.”
So do you and Harry have any memorable scenes together?
“We had a great scene together for the Opportunity Knocks episode. Brenda and Tim recreated Saturday Night Fever, but with him in his pants and me in a leotard with awful Ronald McDonald hair! It was bonkers.”
What other stand-out moments are there for you?
“I really enjoyed filming scenes with Emma Pierson, who plays Tim’s partner Jenny, because there’s a female comedy dynamic where it doesn’t feel there’s a normal one and a funny one. Quite often there’s a funny best friend in comedies, but here it’s nice to have two very clear characters that are both comic. We’re not playing second fiddle to the men.”
If you did the same as Emma Kennedy and wrote about your childhood, what highlights would you choose?
“I just remember getting stung by wasps in the summer and having so many rows with my brothers. We had loads of squabbles but now we’re all older we’re very close. You realise you can be very different personalities in a small house growing up sharing a bathroom and things like that. I thought I was a volatile person growing up but I’m not now I live with someone who matches my personality.”
Take a look at our behind-the-scenes photographs from when inteviewed Katherine and the rest of the cast on set in Surrey…
A lively chat with Katherine and Emma Pierson, both in hair rollers!
Now it’s the boys’ turn! Dan Skinner and Harry Peacock telling us more…
Dan and Harry rocking that 1970s Bee Gees look!
Our writer Nick Cannon with The Kennedys writer Emma Kennedy and the Jessop Square sign
Nick Cannon with the Kennedys’ 1970s Cortina
The Kennedys starts on Friday October 2 on 9.30pm on BBC1.