Why Greece is the word for Joanna Lumley…

Following her tour along the Nile last year, Joanna Lumley’s latest TV travelogue, Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey, sees her head for Greece. TV & Satellite Week magazine caught up with her to find out more…

Why did you want to do a show about Greece?

“Well, there are so many things you think you know about Greece but then realise you don’t. As we started looking into it, it seemed that a whole new world was opening up, both ancient and modern and historical and geographical, and it is all right on our doorstep. Greece is also in the doldrums and everybody is throwing stones at it so it seemed a good time to go and look at the real Greece that still exists no matter what the administrations do.”

Had you been there much before?

“I had been on holiday there with three friends when I was 19 and adored it, and I have been back a couple of times, and even filmed there, but it has only been in fits and starts.”

What were the highlights of the series for you?

“Everything about Greece bewitched me. At the great theatre of Epidaurus, Nana Mouskouri came and sang for the first time ever. I adored all the myths and legends, too, and we went to the gates of Hades and Mount Olympus and the Oracle at Delphi.”

What kind of people did you meet?

“There was one old lady who lives in a completely empty village but she was so bright and brave and strong and humourous, and she never felt alone. She has absolutely nothing but she gave me half her supper and I found the hospitality just overwhelming.”

What was it like seeing the Parthenon?

“I can’t stand on a chair and look up without falling over so I nearly blacked out with terror going up to the top to see the restoration work. There were only two little planks and the Parthenon itself is on top of the Acropolis, which is on top of the city, so you were doubly high up. It was worth it, though. It was extraordinary to watch them working with dentist’s tools to restore it.”

Did you have a favourite island?

“Any Greek island is beyond compare, but there was something about Crete that I loved. It has a massive history and I loved the wildness of it. We met some shepherd boys living off the animals and wearing sheep skins, and there was something quite primitive and thrilling about that.”

How did this compare to your Nile trip?

β€œIt was very different in that Greece is the most scattered country I have ever been to. The Nile was a more simple journey for me because I followed it as it poured itself into the Mediterranean right back to its source, whereas in Greece there is almost nothing to lead you. It is a huge explosion of visual and historical detail.”

Where would you like to go next?

“The countries all round the Middle East are all in terrible trouble now, but that boiling pot where the great rivers are, the Euphrates and the Tigris, has always drawn me like a magnet, because so much of the civilisation of the western world came from there. I would like to study them further.”

Ab Fab is back at Christmas, what has it been like to do more of that?

“It was absolutely fabulous! I couldn’t have loved it more. I am not allowed to tell you a single thing, but everyone was on cracking form. We are all of us back – the five Js, Julia, June, Jane, Jennifer and me – and we just had a ball. It was horrifyingly easy to get back into Patsy mode!”

Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey starts on Thursday 13 October at 9pm on ITV1

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