Here We Go: Interview with Alison Steadman

Next Friday (29th) sees the launch of BBC1’s exciting new sitcom Here We Go, Tom Basden’s follow-up series to his very successful pilot Pandemonium which aired over Christmas 2020 (review here).

Here Alison Steadman, who plays Liverpudlian matriarch Sue Jessop, talks about the show

You’ve played so many brilliant characters throughout your career, what drew you to Sue?

I just read the script and I loved it! I loved the whole family aspect of it and I thought Sue was such a different kind of character to one I’ve played before. She’s warm, she loves her family but she’s also quite selfish in some ways. She thinks about herself, but underneath it all, she’s very loving. I love Tom’s writing and I just thought it was great and as soon as I knew that Katherine Parkinson and Jim Howick were going to be in it I thought “yeah I’ve got to do this!”. When I said I was interested I got asked if I would play it as a woman from Liverpool, and I am from there originally, and I love my home city but I’ve never played many Liverpool parts! I think Shirley Valentine is possibly the only one I’ve ever done so I thought, “Oh, that’d be nice, that’d be great to do that” So that was another reason that attracted me to play Sue.

What do you like about working with the Tom, Katherine and Jim?

They are fun and easy going, you know, they’re all onto it and we have a good laugh together. I don’t know how I kept a straight face work Jim Howick, because he is absolutely hilarious. There were times when he only had to turn his head and that was all he had to do and I was almost on the floor laughing, it was quite tough getting through some days without ruining the shot by corpsing. Tom’s lovely too he is sensitive and considerate to his actors, so it was just a really good experience.

There are some real laugh-out-loud moment this series, what was your favourite scene to shoot?

I loved the scene when we were all in the tub in the garden, I just thought that was a hoot! How many times do you get to do that when you are shooting? I had this great bathing hat on, fully made up to go in the pool, so I loved all that. It was great fun.

How would you describe Sue’s relationship with her son Paul?

I think she loves him so much and he loves his mum, obviously they have moments when they have little arguments as such, but I remember in the pilot there was one moment when she’s talking about a friend that has died with COVID and Jim just put his arm around my shoulder as we were walking along, and it was just so sweet, you just knew that he had a real love for his mum. She loves her grandkids too, she’s a family person. I think one of the most moving moments for me was when she talks to her boyfriend Alf, and he gets really cross when they’re in the restaurant and he says “she doesn’t care about me, all she wants is my food” and Sue says to him “I’m sorry, but since my husband died, I haven’t been able to think about anyone else except my family” and that speech I found so moving that suddenly in the midst of all this comedy, there was a truly a very moving moment and it proved how much she loved her family and that she had really loved her husband, and really misses him since he’s been gone. 

Tell us more about Sue’s boyfriend, what were your first thoughts when reading that script?

I thought this is great fun because some writers wouldn’t think of doing that, they would think “oh she’s too old” but the fact that is this very attractive Italian guy, and all the family are going “What, Grans got a boyfriend?!” it’s really fun.

Have you put any part of yourself into Sue? Can you relate to her in any way?

Not particularly, I don’t think Sue had got much of me in her except we’re both from Liverpool. So that’s it! But I love the family link, because I love my family and I love my two boys and I’m happiest when we’re all together And I think Sue’s like that she just loves being with her family and just popping round there and sitting on the couch.

What kind of Granny are you in real life?

I’ve just got one little grandson who’s four and a half,  I just love him to bits and it’s just such a lovely thing to have in the family and he makes me laugh all the time because he is so funny, the things he comes out with, he sometimes talks like a teenager! They grow up so quickly now with all the iPads and television. We didn’t have a television in my house until I was seven and we didn’t have a phone till I was 15! You look back and you think “oh my God”, but of course it meant that we had other things to be interested in and sometimes I think kids miss out on wildlife and gardens and looking for insects and things, because they’ve got so much fun to have on iPads!

How does making Here We Go compare with other shows you’ve made?

It was shot in a completely different way, and I’ve never shot like that before, so it meant we did very long takes and a lot of them and that is quite tiring but it’s also really good because it means that the scene grows as you do each take but I’ve never worked like that before. I also absolutely adored working with Will our Director, he was such a lovely man and I think Producers and Directors very much set the tone of the shoot, plus having actors who were warm and friendly just made for a really good atmosphere on set every day. I would look forward to going in every single day and I was really quite sad when it finished. Although I was glad of the rest, I missed everybody. 

Does it feel strange to be able to interact with the camera?

Very strange! That took a bit of getting used to I have to say. You’re taught all your life never to look at the lens and never let your eye catch the lens and suddenly we were being told we should talk to the camera, talk to the lens! Oh my God it did take a little bit of time before I got comfortable with that.

Sue has seeing an owl and taking acid on her bucket list. Is there anything you’re keen to try?

Certainly not taking acid, that’s for sure! Seeing an owl… I love wildlife and I’m always hoping that I’ll see this creature or that creature. There is a list of wildlife, a list of creatures that I would like to see. I’ve seen quite a few as I’ve been on safari and I’ve been to South Africa and I’ve seen elephants, tigers and giraffes and that was amazing! It’s sometimes quite difficult to see a certain type of bird, we very rarely see an owl where I live, yet we have the woods and lots of trees and things and it just makes me sad, that years ago there was much more wildlife around than there is now.

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