Imelda Staunton reveals her top Christmas television and why she loves voicing characters

“I realised how lucky I was to sit in a room and do funny voices when I could have a grown-up job,” says Staunton


What’s your morning routine?


I start the day with either Radio 3 or Radio 4. I don’t watch any daytime television at all. The TV goes on in the evening if we’ve got an episode of something particular to watch. If not, I watch the ten o’clock news – if I can stay awake that long!

What show are you hooked on at the moment?

I loved having Downton Abbey back on Sunday evenings, but I have to say that because I’ve got a vested interest [Staunton is married to Jim Carter, who plays Mr Carson]. I’m enjoying Last Tango in Halifax – great writing, great acting.

Will the whole family watch the Downton Christmas special?

Absolutely. Usually Jim and I watch it together anyway. He doesn’t tell me his storylines in advance because I like to just be a punter and enjoy it.

What else will you be watching this Christmas?

I do like a good Christmas special. Something like The Vicar of Dibley. I’m waiting for my Christmas Radio Times!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Modern Family. I first watched an episode on a plane and now I’m hooked. I was lucky enough to meet the cast at the Emmy Awards this year and was a mad, mouth-dribbling fan. I became a bit of a stalker.

Who controls the remote?

When my daughter [Bessie, 20] was a teenager she loved Friends, so I used to end up watching that. These days I’d say it’s Jim. Luckily we have the same taste, other than he watches sport and I don’t.

You’re the voice of a shrew in Mouse and Mole at Christmas. What drew you to the part?

Richard Briers and Alan Bennett who play Mouse and Mole [the voices were recorded three years ago; Richard Briers died earlier this year]. There’s no living person who would say no to working with them. I said, “Of course I’ll do it. I don’t care if I only get a squeaky sound or don’t have any lines at all.” They’re the best storytellers in the world.

Had you worked with either of them before?

Richard and I lived together for seven weeks in Tuscany in 1992 when we filmed Much Ado About Nothing. Then we did If You See God, Tell Him for the BBC the next year and remained friends after that. I did a production of Alan’s Habeas Corpus in 1994 but I didn’t know him.

What was the atmosphere like in the studio?

We did a lot of our recording separately so only had a day together, but it was incredibly special. We had a laugh but were there to work so couldn’t sit around finding ourselves funny all day. I realised how lucky I was to sit in a room and do funny voices when I could have a grown-up job.

What makes a good voice actor?

You have to focus very hard on how you sound as opposed to how you look. There are lots of wonderful actors doing animated films these days but I prefer it when you can’t recognise them – it means they’ve really become the character.


The Killing or Borgen? The Killing

Question Time or Newsnight? Neither. But I like Any Questions? and Any Answers? On Radio 4

Antiques Roadshow or University Challenge? I like both

MasterChef or Bake Off? Masterchef – you learn more about cooking.

Mouse and Mole at Christmas Time is on Monday at 4:45pm on CBeebies