Henri Leclair, former head of display – played by Gregory Fitoussi – who returns to Selfridges a broken man after five years in New York City
Henri falls on hard times at the beginning of this series – what’s going on?
He’s just spent five years in New York and he comes back really different. In the first couple of episodes, I look different and we’ll try to figure out what happened during those five years. We feel that things didn’t go right – you just kno that it didn’t work out. He was there to bring Valerie back and we understand pretty quickly that it didn’t work out so he looks sad and in a bad mood.
How is it between Henri and Agnes after the brief romance they enjoyed last series?
Well, one of the reasons Henri agrees to come back is because of Agnes. When Harry starts to talk about Agnes, he’s really interested in what happened to her.
Even though she’s stolen Henri’s job as head of display…?
Well, she’s very talented and gifted.
Victor Colleano, manager of the Palm Court Restaurant – played by Trystan Gravelle – whose relationship with Agnes fell apart when she moved to Paris to train for two years
Victor’s had a promotion since we last saw him – how’s he finding life as the boss?
I think he fits right in like a fish in water because he was always ambitious during the first series and this is five years on. So he goes yes, I am where I am. I haven’t got my own restaurant but this is where I should be.
And we’re set to see more of the Colleano family this series…
There’s Sean Teale who plays Franco Colleano, my cousin, who’s helping me out as an assistant at the Palm Court and he’s a mischevious little bugger. You see my family as well in east London, Clerkenwell. Uncle Gio is played by Vincenzo Nicoli a fantastic actor from Black Books and The Dark Knight. I’m shameless – a complete fan boy – and the fantastic Crystal Leaity playing my girlfriend Gabriela.
She’s a family friend who comes over to stay with us. She has a bit of a fantasy for me and things get a bit more complicated the more it goes on with people signing up for the war.
Franco Colleano, head waiter at the Palm Court Restaurant – played by Sean Teale – who has started work under his cousin Victor and works his charm on Selfridges’ female shoppers
Give us an introduction to Franco…
He’s a bit cheeky, he’s very good at his job – he’s quite young to be a head waiter but he’s there to really mix things up, to be the yang to Victor’s ying. Victor’s very clean cut and gets his work done to an infinitely perfect degree – Franco’s there to teeter on the edge and be a little more childish and a little more controversial. He’s a charmer.
And quite a ladies’ man?
Although whether or not he gets the ladies is a different kettle of fish…
But the Colleano cousins get a hard time or it when the war begins, don’t they?
The Colleanos are part Italian and the problem with being Italian is that they’re born and bred English and they believe that they’re as English as the next man but they face a lot of adversity from outside. Whether it’s guys in the warehouse or journalists, we get a lot of flack for being Italian and whether or not that makes us sign up or not, you’ll have to wait and see…
Agnes Towler, head of display – played by Aisling Loftus – just returned from two years in Paris and attracting the envy of her co-workers with her glamorous new look
So, what’s new with Agnes?
Agnes has been on secondment to the Galeries Lafayette, the legendary department store in Paris, and has learned her craft, returning to London with a real sense of confidence and creativity. She has also been living as a single independent woman and knows exactly who she is, not just in relation to someone else. Or at least feels like she does. She doesn’t question herself as much.
And she looks pretty fabulous on her return, too…
Agnes has a more sophisticated look but I don’t think it’s contrived. She always had class and made little flourishes to her outfits in the first series. But there’s a real air of self-confidence now. She has been influenced by Parisien style and brought her own creativity to it.
We were rather miffed by the end of her romance with Henri Leclair – where do we find the two of them at the start of series 2?
I think Agnes handled that relationship in the last series with real class and dignity. It was very mature. In the end she was rejected but she had to make peace with that. But then it isn’t a conclusion because he is back, looking dishevelled and with a secret. It’s a huge shock for her. There’s something emotionally dangerous about him being back on the scene and Agnes is now in a position to help him, rather than the other way around. So their roles have slightly reversed. Agnes is protective of Henri in a way that she was never given a chance to be in the last series because he was a very strong, masculine presence that she gravitated towards and leant on. So it’s quite interesting to have her be slightly more stable and less needy.
Miss Mardle, head of accessories – played by Amanda Abbington – whose heart was broken at the end of series one when her long-term lover Mr Grove (Tom Goodman-Hill) ditched her to marry young shopgirl Doris
What’s Miss Mardle’s relationship with Mr Grove like five years on?
She has. She obviously remains in close contact with Mr Grove at work and has seen him get married to Doris and have babies. And that will obviously have had some impact on her, having had the heartbreak of losing the chance to have a child with him. Miss Mardle still has feelings for him. Roger was the love of her life. She gave her heart to him and her time. So it was a big blow for her that she lost him. But she kept her dignity. He also has some regret about what he did. Which is good. Marry in haste. Never has a truer word been spoken in Roger’s case.
We know she receives some bad news at the start of the first episode – what can you tell us about that?
Her brother lives in Geneva and she receives a telegram to say he is dying. So she has to go over to see him. When she returns she has seen all these men in military uniforms on trains across Europe and has an idea of the reality of the coming war and how it is going to change everybody’s lives and the store. How the young men working there will go off to fight.
At one stage you were filming Mr Selfridge and Sherlock simultaneously – how did you juggle that?
It was a hard five weeks. I wouldn’t want to do it too often but it was fine. You simply put one in a box when you go to do the other, so it’s pretty easy dividing the two in your mind.
Kitty Hawkins, head of cosmetics – played by Amy Beth Hayes – whose takes a larger role in this series, newly promoted and dating journalist Frank Edwards (Samuel West)
Things have certainly gone well for Kitty since we last saw her…
She has been promoted to run beauty which was emerging as a major change in the face of shopping. So it’s an exciting position for Kitty and a challenge she relishes. She’s found her calling in life and is very good at it. She knows how to sell beauty products and Mr Selfridge recognises that. Kitty has also matured and is much more of a woman of the world now. At least that’s how she sees herself.
And she’s being romanced by Frank Edwards – what’s going on there?
Frank maybe mis-reads Kitty and has bitten off more than he can chew. He realises there’s a lot more to her than he thought. I think they’re really quite suited to each other. They’re both very strong, individual and don’t like dishonesty. They also stand up for what they believe in, in their own different ways. Kitty is quite clever and streetwise and Frank is as well. They’re both masters at flirting. So they’ve met each other’s match. Things are bubbling along with her and Frank but I don’t know where it’s going to lead them.
Grace Calthorpe and Jessie Pertree, Selfridges’ new shopgirls – played by Amy Morgan and Sai Bennett – who spend their days gossiping, giggling and flirting with the store’s staff
Introduce us to your characters…
Amy: Grace is Welsh and she’s quite a good girl – she’s more of a Doris than a Kitty-type character and is very much part of the gossipy girls on the shop floor. She’s the slightly naïve one, just one step behind. She’s not very good at getting away with things but she’s very sweet and kind. Sai: I play Jessie who is like a mini me of Kitty. I’m a London girl and I love a flirt. A flirt with everyone – any man that I come in contact with.
Do any of those flirtations go any further?
Sai: I’m guessing I will probably have a thing with someone at some point because I’m basically flirting with every man that I come into contact with so I think she must be a bit unlucky in love if nothing does come of it all.
Have you done any period work before?
Sai: It’s my first period drama so I’m finding the corsets really hard to handle – it’s the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever gone through. Amy: I’m a seasoned corset wearer. I’ve done lots of corset work.
Mr Thackeray, head of fashion – played by Cal MacAninch – who comes in as Miss Ravillious’ replacement and ruffles the feathers of some of his co-workers
As a fashion pioneer, your character must have some terrific costumes?
Mr Thackeray looks delicious. Even though there’s a certain uniform he would have to wear for work in the store, he adds a number of flamboyant touches. For example, he almost always has a little bow tie on and a little splash of colour. I like to think of him being fragrant. He’s quite elegant in the way he walks. He moves like a dancer. He has got that elegance and was trained by Paul Poiret, the great fashion designer who transformed ladies’ fashion in Paris and across Europe in the early 1900s.
So, what can you tell us about Mr Thackeray?
Mr Thackeray is a man of exacting standards. He’s been poached from Harrods by Mr Selfridge to come and revamp his fashion department. When I first walked on to the store set I couldn’t believe it. The fashion department looks so beautiful and sumptuous – the dresses, gloves and hats. Fashion may not be my forte but even I could tell it was stunningly dressed. An amazing set. So Mr Thackeray has his own floor at Selfridge’s and he hates it when people come in and try and take it over.
And one of the first people he falls into conflict with is poor Agnes…
A young woman having authority over Mr Thackeray on his floor is not on. And neither is having the ear of Harry Selfridge. He feels undermined by Agnes, especially as she can’t seem to do anything wrong by Harry.