Amidst the Mad Men glam of ITV's new drama Breathless is Joanna Page's character, Lily Enderbury. Married to her loveable anaesthetist husband, Charlie, on the surface Lily's life resembles a 1960s domestic idyll, albeit with some questionable clothing choices and social over-enthusiasm.
But beneath the Enderburys' picture-perfect life are cracks - money worries, professional frustration and, of course, a dark secret that is driving a wedge between the loved-up couple.
Despite giving birth in February, Page - best known for Gavin & Stacey - has had a jam-packed year, landing a coveted role in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary on top of her role in Breathless. We found a moment (well, two brief moments) in her busy schedule to sit down for a chat about Lily, Doctor Who, juggling her career with motherhood and what she makes of the US Gavin & Stacey...
What can you tell us about your Lily?
She’s an ex-nurse - she had to retire as soon as she got married - and she’s married Charlie who’s the anaesthetist. She’s a lovely character, very honest and sweet and caring and giving, and what she would absolutely love is to have children and lead this really quaint, gorgeous life with Charlie. In the beginning episode I’m waving him off to work and it just looks picture perfect, but underneath there are so many troubles bubbling. They obviously love each other a lot but there are lots of things she doesn’t know about Charlie, and because he can’t tell her these things he can’t ever really relax in the marriage. They can’t have children because they’re just not clicking – they’ve got chemistry but there’s no chemistry going on in the bedroom, and so she’s got all of that to be dealing with. She’s really brittle - at any moment she’s just about to break - but on the surface she’s really happy.
The cast have some terrific costumes - what's Lily's 60s style like?
She’s much more old fashioned. She desperately wants to be like Elizabeth (played by Natasha Little) and she models herself on her but she always gets it wrong so I’m still sort of stuck in the 50s. I’ve got these amazing little batwing glasses which instantly make me feel like I’ve got a character, and I’m loving all the hair and the hats, but I am quite jealous of the other girls going into the 60s. Zoe Boyle’s got the most amazing, beautiful dresses and I love Catherine Steadman’s little nurse’s outfit. I’m still in the huge petticoats.
Did you always want to play Lily? You weren't tempted by the more glamorous Elizabeth or Jean...
No, this was the character. It was quite nice because I’d just had a baby and she’s really sweet and happy. I thought it would be quite a nice way to ease into work, and then I started getting the other episodes where I realised she’s not really happy and she’s wanting to cry underneath loads of stuff, and I just thought “Oh my god, this is much more dramatic than I thought it would be”.
Has it been hard juggling filming with looking after such a young baby?
She comes everywhere with me, and we just make it work. She comes and stays in my trailer, either with my husband or with my mother, and she’s been in make up this morning - all the costume women love her.
So, you're not tired from sleepless nights?
Oh my god, I’m utterly exhausted. You know when you go past the point of tiredness, so you’re sort of delirious? It’s really good for Lily’s character because I’m like that on the show. Last week I was filming about four days in a row and it got to the third day and I went home after work and just stood in the hallway sobbing as I was getting stuff ready for the next day. But it’s fine, and I think when you become a mum things just change. I think all I did before was watch Dexter and go shopping and hang out, and now... The other day it was Sunday and I was up by ten o’clock, I’d put three loads of washing in, put away all her clothes, sorted out her wardrobe, I’d done absolutely everything. I was putting all the dishes in and my husband was laughing.
Has it been a stress to get back in shape?
Absolutely not at all, I couldn’t care less. The only thing I’m thinking about is whether she's getting enough food, is she growing? Nothing else I don’t think will ever matter in my life ever again. I don’t care what I look like or anything at all, I’m just so happy because she’s so, so beautiful.
And you've recently filmed a role in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary - how did that come about?
They just phoned and said “Will you be in it?” and I said, "Oh my god, yes, definitely!" I’ve wanted to be in Doctor Who for ages and then to be in the 50th. Wow. It was so much fun getting to act with the different Doctors but it was quite scary and intimidating at first. What's scary is your script arrives and on every single page it says "Joanna Page" over it so you know that if you leave it on the tube or if you've forwarded it to someone, you are in the s**t. So doing interviews I was like, "Don't say anything. Make sure you don't reveal anything."
What was it like acting with John Hurt?
He is so much fun. He's got the most amazing stories, he's just fantastic. And you see him on set and he's got that amazing voice and he doesn't do anything - he just starts saying the lines and you're like, "Oh my god, you are the best actor I've ever seen."
Are you worried that the upcoming Gavin & Stacey US remake is going to ruin the memory of the original?
Well no, because it’s going to be so completely different - not story-wise, just the fact that it’s American - it’s a whole other thing. It's like you doing a play and then a couple of years later the play's done again. You don't say, 'No, that's my thing.' It's new people doing it so I don't feel that's our thing. It would be strange if they did it again with somebody with a Welsh accent who was blonde and set it where it was - that would be weird - but the fact that it's in America and they're all completely different, it will be really, really funny to see it and good to see which bits are used and how they do it. I can't wait.
Breathless begins tonight at 9:00pm on ITV