White Heat’s Claire Foy and Lee Ingleby on getting old before their time

Two stars of the BBC2 drama set between the 60s and the present day discuss coming of age


Paula Milne’s drama White Heat follows seven flatmates across six decades – so did its stars Claire Foy and Lee Ingleby find themselves thinking about their own mortality?


Claire Foy (27) on playing Charlotte – “It’s made me think I’ll have to get some work done!”

Has White Heat made you think about getting older?

It’s made me think that maybe I’ll have to have some work done! To age us, they painted our foreheads and around our eyes with what looked like PVA glue — amazingly realistic but terrifying. I’m sure by the end I had more wrinkles because my skin had been stretched so much. Hopefully, I’ll take a little more care of myself than my character Charlotte does.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Eventually you’ll have a boyfriend. Stop worrying!

Moving in with six fellow students changes Charlotte’s life for ever. What’s changed you?

I was supposed to go to university when I was 18 and couldn’t because I was poorly. I had a growth in my eye, which meant I had a ginormous, ugly eye for quite a long time. That really put things in perspective and helped me mature. Every chance I’ve had since then I’ve always made the most of. I see my life as Before and After it.

How does your generation differ from Charlotte’s?

It’s not so much my generation that worries me: it’s the younger generation. You worry that they don’t find politics very interesting; that they think being famous or playing Call of Duty on their Xbox is more exciting than being out in the world or reading a book. But back in Charlotte’s day, people were probably saying: “Oh, the younger generation don’t know they’re born” — as I am now.

What do you hope to be doing in a decade?

Holding babies! At least two. Career-wise? [In American drawl] “I’m going to Hollywood, yes siree…” No, I won’t be. I’ll be here. But I’d like to be acting still and I’d love to direct theatre.

Who plays the older Charlotte?

Juliet Stevenson. Can you believe it? I love her. I remember seeing her in The Seagull the weekend before I went to drama school. I sat on the front row, jaw on the floor, thinking, “I want to be able to do what you can do.”

Lee Ingleby (36) on playing Alan – “It wasn’t half as bad as turning 30”

Has the role made you think about ageing?

It’s a bit shocking looking in the mirror and thinking, “Hello Dad”. But it wasn’t half as worrying as turning 30. I didn’t celebrate. I tried to slip it under the radar, hoping nobody would notice. I think even my mam and dad forgot!

What’s changed you?

Moving to London when I was 18. I didn’t have a clue — just as Alan doesn’t. I’m from near Burnley in the North West where everybody looks and sounds the same and suddenly I was in college in west London with people from all walks of life, from different parts of the world. I was walking around with my eyes popping out of my head.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

I lacked a hell of a lot of confidence as a kid. I was so zitty — ridiculously acne-ridden — that I stayed in the shadows. I was fast approaching 20 and I still looked 13. That really threw my confidence. So I’d say, “Have faith. It’ll be all right in the end.”

What do you envy about Alan’s generation?

The lovely thing about the 60s, where we start this story, is that it had taken so long for the country to get back on its feet after the war that it was as if 20 years of change had to be packed in. So everything seemed to explode at once: music, clothes, technology, attitudes… It must have been so exciting to be a part of that.

How does your generation differ?

Certain things are brilliant about the era we live in. The advent of the internet means you can find out anything at the click of a button. But it’s sad that the world is getting smaller, there’s no place to hide and that we’ve lost the art of conversing. It’s too easy to text, too easy to have your face buried in a phone.


White Heat starts tonight at 9pm on BBC2