This week on the Radio Times Podcast, Kelly-Anne Taylor is joined in the studio by actress, presenter and author Dame Joanna Lumley.


The actress boasts a successful career across six decades, from her hit sitcom Absolutely Fabulous to wonderful travel programmes.

In this episode, Lumley talks about why she doesn't have a mobile phone and how difficult she found it to shed the 'pretty girl' stereotype when she moved from modelling to acting.

Plus, she talks about raising a child as a single mother, how playing Purdy in The New Avengers changed things financially for her, and why she wishes sex scenes would be cut from TV and film.

This interview was originally published in Radio Times magazine.

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What's the view from your sofa?

A fireplace! I love open fires. There are also lots of bookshelves and paintings. I'm a maximalist and my husband [conductor Stephen Barlow] is very patient. In rather a bourgeois manner, I keep the TV covered up because I don't like flat black screens.

What do you enjoy watching on telly?

I adore travel programmes – especially with Simon Reeve. He's just great. I love what I call my "Special Pain Television", shows like The Apprentice or First Dates – anything that makes you curl up with embarrassment and horror. We bought a box set of all Shakespeare's plays made by the BBC starting in the '70s – and they're sensational.

Who controls the remote?

You get fond of what your partner likes. I've become fonder of car racing because he likes that. We watch television, but we also read a lot and he's a musician, so we listen to a lot of music. We're not ruled by the box.

Jan Etherington wrote Radio 4's Conversations from a Long Marriage with you in mind. Why is it so popular?

People always ask, "Is Jan listening in on us? Does she have a microphone in our floorboards?" Her genius is finding the sweet spots in marriage. I think people like to listen because it sounds like their own lives. It's funny and light-hearted – but also profound. There's love and loss. Our characters realise they're getting older – as do a lot of our listeners. I feel young – but I know, by years, that I’m getting older. Things go wrong but behind it all is sweet love.

How do you create that relationship with your Conversations co-star Roger Allam?

It's easy peasy! Masses of women come up to me and say, "Can I marry Roger?" No! A) He's married to Rebecca [Saire] and B) I'm first in line!

You've been married to Stephen for 38 years. What's the secret to a successful marriage?

Ade Edmondson had the answer to that – don't get divorced! I think, respect your partner and always treat them as the most important person in the world.

When did you first get the inkling you wanted to be a performer?

I was a show-off as a child! I'm an entertainer really – I wanted to make people laugh and tell stories. If I hadn't been an actor, I'd have been a teacher. I never had a plan or certain ambitions.

When you started out in the 1960s, wasn't having money seen as crass?

When I came to London in the Swinging Sixties, money was considered very vulgar. You never talked about it! If anybody did have money, they'd quietly pay for things. If you didn't, you'd hold your head high, be entertaining and look good. The [current] obsession with money and rich lists – showing how much you've spent on things by having Chanel written on your clothes – is alien to me. I still have '60s dreams in my head.

Joanna Lumley in a blue blazer with her hand on her chin.
Joanna Lumley. Daniel Loveday/Comic Relief/Getty Images Daniel Loveday/Comic Relief/Getty Images

Your career has spanned almost six decades – what are the biggest changes you've seen in the industry?

Who is behind the camera. In the olden days, women on set would be continuity and make-up, all the rest were men. Now we have women editors, camerawomen and women on sound. There has also been a great broadening in work for older women.

You've spoken out about hating performing – or watching – sex scenes.

They bore me rigid! The second you take your clothes off, the audience looks at you, the actor, and your attributes – what your breasts and genitals are like. You've immediately lost the character you've built. There's a playground element to it – pull your pants down and let's see what you've got. I'd cut them altogether. They slow things down. They're rude and horrible. I don't watch people on the lavatory!

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