Keeley Hawes on The Casual Vacancy: lingerie shop mix-ups, fake tan and the need for an ample bosom

The Line of Duty actress on playing an underwear boutique owner in the BBC adaptation of JK Rowling's novel

We all expected the set of JK Rowling drama The Casual Vacancy to be impressive but it turns out that the fake village of Pagford might have been a little too real-looking.


The cast and crew revealed at the BBC premiere that the (very sexy) lingerie shop owned by Keeley Hawes’ character Samantha Mollison looked so genuine that a local complained about it to the parish council.

“It was seen as a disgrace on the one hand,” said the director Jonny Campbell, “but then there were old ladies with white hair walking past, and when we tried to explain it was just a set, they said, ‘oh, I’ve got all that stuff’.”

Another local from the Cotswolds area in which the drama was being filmed came in to the shop and started looking around, thinking there was a sale on.

Hawes’ Samantha is a brilliant character –  provocative and fed-up, she’s stuck in a near-failed marriage with Miles (Rufus Jones) but is trying to salvage what she can of the relationship.

“When I read the books I was very keen that she should be very large-breasted,” Hawes said of her character. “I think that’s a major part of Sam’s personality. She’s probably gone to these lengths at some point, when keeping things alive, when she started her underwear boutique. It’s all part of this look.

“They’re not in keeping with the rest of her, in the same way that she’s not in keeping really with the rest of Pagford. I was very keen on keeping that from the book. The outfit Samantha wears is all very top-end but it looks very cheap.”

But low-cut tops and lingerie are nothing compared to how she could have looked.


“In the book she’s permatanned. She’s got stained hands where she’s just constantly rubbing fake tan all over her at every available opportunity. That was quite difficult to maintain and I was also finishing off another job where I couldn’t be perma-tanned, so the logistics of that were too difficult.”