Miranda Richardson tells us about her new three-part drama series, Mapp and Lucia, where she and Anna Chancellor play a couple of fearsome snobs fighting for supremacy in a small English village…
Had you heard of the Map and Lucia books before?
“I knew of them but hadn’t read them. I remember the original series from the Eighties [with Prunella Scales and Geraldine McEwan] which was massive at the time.”
Have you enjoyed sparring with Anna Chancellor, who plays Lucia?
“Yes, because they are both cut from a similar cloth in that they are both competitive. We can have fun at the same time as warring. It’s very satisfying to both of them and they’ve become like a co-dependent couple by the end. You can’t imagine one without the other. I think it’s interesting that it’s set between the wars – the 1930s. There was an awareness of having a purpose in both wars and this is a rather heady period in between where it was never meant to happen again, everything is light and bright.
People were just getting on with their lives but I think boredom – although she wouldn’t know it as such – forms part of what Mapp’s character is. Everyone is making their life, their day, little things, but it’s also little courtesies, looking out for people in your community, that kind of thing. She’s been used to doing that in her way, then this interloper – Lucia – comes in and tries to take over all the jobs. Mapp has to fight her ground!”
Steve Pemberton plays Lucia’s camp devoted friend, Georgie Pillson – have you worked with him before?
“We worked together on a sketch, in a benefit evening for the tsunami. I was completely enamoured by The League of Gentlemen, particularly when Papa Lazarou came along, I just thought it was genius. When I was told the sketch was with Papa Lazarou, I said, ‘I’m in! I’m absolutely there!'”
What are your favourite scenes?
“There’s a lot of laughter. I had fun on the fete day. This wonderful fete takes place in Mapp’s own garden, but it’s being set up by Lucia and she’s never let anyone in her garden before except the gardener! You can imagine the torn nature of having to humble herself to go to the fete she says she’d never go to and also she has to pay to go in to her own garden! It’s all supposed to be for the hospital so she has to give in. Then she tries to take over.”
Do you prefer small towns or bigger?
“I’ve done a version of village life but I’m rather itinerant. I like what a big city can offer, which is also a kind of anonymity. That’s not possible in a village, everybody knows everything. It could feel claustrophobic.”
Which is your favourite role you’ve played?
“I’ve done stuff on stage which I’ve really enjoyed. I know people are very familiar with Blackadder and I had a lovely time doing that [as Queen Elizabeth I] and because it’s television, people tend to respond more specifically to that, as it’s funny. I’ve loved doing lots of different things. If you’re making a film, the process is enjoyable then the end result is the cherry on the cake. I really loved working on Spider, the Cronenberg film.”
Were you aware of the impact Blackadder would make?
“Not really, no. It’s timeless and it’s repeated all the time so I’m astonished and happy to have been part of it. None of us knew what that was going to do. On a Thursday afternoon, before the recording, everyone was depressed, nothing was happening and it was horrible, but then you’d get to the live performance and it would be fantastic. Then you’d be, oh what were we worried about?! The same thing week after week. There was progress, thank God.”
What TV do you watch?
“Not very much. Documentaries and a few notable dramas recently but I don’t watch Netflix or anything. I like some really childish things like How To Train Your Dragon and Brave, I thought was fantastic.”
Mapp and Lucia begins on BBC1 on Monday 29th December at 9.05pm