Amanda Redman can cope with pretty much anything a script throws at her. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine an actor less given to fits of the vapours than the earthy, glamorous star of At Home with the Braithwaites and New Tricks, which continues this week. But nothing in her 30-year career could have prepared Redman for the moment she stepped onto the set of New Tricks with her daughter.
Emily Glenister, 24, the child of Redman’s eight-year marriage to actor Robert Glenister (Hustle), makes her screen debut in this week’s episode of the hit detective drama. And if the new cast member was having butterflies about joining one of television’s most popular shows, her mum was in considerably worse shape.
“The first scene we did together had me finding Emily unconscious, with blood everywhere and a great slice out of her cheek,” explains Redman. “It was a little bit weird, I have to say.”
“Basically,” cuts in Glenister, a slim brunette with her mother’s blue eyes and ready laugh, “Mum got all freaked out and started crying.”
“It was strange enough working with Emily,” says Redman, but actually seeing her in that state… I kept saying to myself, ‘You’re an actress, for God’s sake – just pretend.’”
Fortunately “the old boys” – Redman’s co-stars Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman and James Bolam – were on hand to restore decorum. “They were like three fun uncles,” says Glenister. “I’ve known them for eight years – ever since the show started. I know they like to muck about a bit on set, but they were very well behaved when I was filming because they knew I was nervous. I think at one point, though, Alun did start making very subtle fart noises…”
For all the camaraderie, Glenister wasn’t a shoo-in for the role, as Redman explains. “Julian Simpson, our amazing writer/director, phoned me and said, ‘Look, I’ve written this episode and I think Emily would be perfect for it,’ but he wanted to check, first of all, whether I wanted to work with my daughter, and also if it would cause upset in the family if she didn’t get the part.
“I didn’t quite know what to think, but I said I’d ask Emmy. And she immediately said, ‘Well, if I can’t cope with rejection, I’m in the wrong profession.’ There were six other girls up for the part and I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous as when Emmy went for her audition.”
For Glenister, whose uncle is Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes star Philip Glenister and whose grandfather, John Glenister, was a distinguished TV director, acting seemed a “completely natural” career choice.
“I think that in any vocational profession, whether you’re talking about doctors or lawyers or performers, your job is very much part of your family life,” reasons Redman. “It’s something you bring home and talk about. It’s therefore more unusual, I think, if the child of an actor has no interest in the business.”
That said, Redman is no easy act to follow. As a teenager, Glenister was acutely aware of her mother’s star status. “Did I have a boyfriend?” she says. “Oh no, all the boys fancied her. And parents’ evenings were a nightmare. [“Oh, don’t say that,” pleads Redman.] All heads were turned because there was Mum, this great, glamazonian thing in Armani jeans, and there was me with my big bushy hair and braces.”
Banter aside, the warmth between mother and daughter is unmistakable. Glenister is grateful for the guidance of her parents – “I had so much know-how from Mum and Dad” – and is quick to include her stepfather, Damian Schnabel, in the tight circle of support. (Fifteen years Redman’s junior, and pushing 40, Schnabel will forever be “the toy-boy husband” to Fleet Street.) “Damian got the brunt of Emily’s teenage years when I was away a lot, filming At Home with the Braithwaites in Yorkshire,” says Redman.
“What?” says Glenister. “I was lovely.”
“Which makes Damian,” persists her mother, “officially a saint.”
For her own part, Redman, 54, has no truck with the “we’re more like sisters” school of self-delusion, and fails utterly to understand women of a certain age who feel compromised by daughters who are in the flower of youth. “I know that happens,” she says, “and not just with actresses, but I think maybe that’s women who haven’t fulfilled themselves. When people say to me [about Emily], ‘She’s stunning, she’s gorgeous,’ it’s the most wonderful feeling. Much better than any compliment I’ve ever had paid to me.”
Like her mother before her, Glenister graduated from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School but, as Redman points out, times have changed. “I don’t envy Emily’s generation a jot,” she says. “Things are so much harder for them. There are hardly any reps to serve a proper ‘apprenticeship’ in, there’s hardly any radio drama left, very little television drama and we have no film industry. Sometimes, kids who spend years learning a craft find they’re up against people who have done no training at all, but will get parts because they’ve been in a reality show. Anyone off the street can go into acting now. That’s the truth of it.”
So exercised is Redman on this subject that 15 years ago she founded the Artists Theatre School in Ealing, west London, for children from five to 18, and she continues to teaches there every weekend.
“I just got so fed up with this ‘I want to be famous’ crap,” says Redman. “I was having dinner with a bunch of actors and we were getting so angry at the young kids we were working with because there was no love of the craft, no love of words. And I thought, ‘Why don’t we set something up to try to instil that kind of passion?’ It’s not geared to kids who only want to be actors; quite frankly, child actors bring me out in hives. We’ve had shy kids, abused kids, some who have been bullied or have been bullies. And to see them finding a way of expressing themselves through drama, I cannot tell you how fulfilling that is.”
It’s a “back to basics” philosophy that will find approval with fans of New Tricks. The phenomenal success of the show rests largely on the premise that, however fast the world moves, experience still counts. The programme, with its scenario of ex-coppers coming out of retirement to work for the fictional Unsolved Crimes and Open Cases Squad (Ucos), has become a kind of rallying cry for traditional methods, and it seems it’s as popular with the police as it is with viewers. “These units do exist,” says Redman. “Their clear-up rate is amazing, and I was particularly pleased to learn that, because of New Tricks, they’re known in police slang as ‘Ucos.’”
“It’s such a well-loved programme,” adds Glenister. “I just hope I can do it justice.” Redman catches the serious note and throws her daughter a look of absolute reassurance. Whatever life holds for Glenister, her mum is going to be right there behind her.