Best known as Sharon in Birds of a Feather and Susan Wright in Broadchurch, Pauline Quirke has a habit of playing women who look (at best) ordinary and (at worst) dowdy. Her role in Sky1’s You, Me and the Apocalypse is no different — Quirke’s character, Paula, languishes in shapeless cardigans and lots of beige. But, says Quirke, she never yearns for sequins and glamour.
“God, no,” she says firmly. “The first conversation I have with the costume department is, ‘Please, can I just be comfortable?’ I’ve got enough to think about, learning lines and standing in the right place.”
In Apocalypse, Quirke was certainly given some choice words to remember — especially in her scenes with Father Jude, played by Rob Lowe. “I had the immortal line, ‘Would you fancy another finger, Father?’” she recalls. “There aren’t many people who have said that to Rob Lowe, are there? Well, not that I’m aware of.”
Viewers can look forward to the eye-popping spectacle of Quirke driving Lowe around Slough, in a battered old bright-green VW Polo — and, says Quirke, Lowe was “very, very charming” to work with. “We were just chatting about London, about the weather, and I was rabbiting on about my beautiful granddaughter, who’s only a few months old,” she says. “And even if he wasn’t that interested in her, he appeared to be. Very polite of him.”
For characters such as Father Jude — a Vatican bigwig — to be thrown together with characters such as Paula — an ordinary English nurse — is, says Quirke, part of Apocalypse’s appeal. “When I started reading the script, I thought, ‘Hang on, how can someone from death row in America be in the same world as Paula?’ But of course we are,” she says. “Everyone is linked.”
Apocalypse itself is a co-production between Sky in the UK and NBC in America, but Quirke isn’t expecting to be catapulted to Hollywood stardom. “I wouldn’t count on it, to be honest,” she says. “It’d be nice if there was a little publicity jolly for the British actors to go over there, but I can’t see that happening really. They wouldn’t have a clue who we are — there’s not much point.”
Quirke does already have at least a modest American following, though — Broadchurch was shown in the US, and her Apocalypse co-stars Megan Mullally and Jenna Fischer had seen it. “So I’m kind of there in spirit, if not in body,” says Quirke.
But she confesses that she still doesn’t know if Susan Wright, who wandered off during the second series of Broadchurch (below), will appear in the third. “As of this moment, I haven’t had a phone call or anything,” says Quirke. “I really can’t say. God knows where she’s disappeared to now. She’s like a bad penny, she’ll just turn up. I’d love to be involved in the third one; we’ll see.”
And, Quirke points out, she’s not the only member of her household who could get recalled to Broadchurch. “My dog, Bailey, was fantastic in it,” she says. “He deserves another crack of the lead. Stardom hasn’t changed him — he’s still quite grounded, for a labrador.”
You, Me and the Apocalypse is on Wednesday 30th September at 9.00pm on Sky1