Alison Steadman: “Big Brother was one of the worst things we ever had on television”

The Syndicate actress on being thrilled by Jon Snow and why George Clooney makes her go weak at the knees

Childhood favourite?

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I grew up with the Home Service and the Light Programme and I enjoyed the comedies most: Round the Horne with Kenneth Horne… I still relish comedy on the radio, especially The Now Show. It’s such a relief because sometimes the news is so awful and here’s this light, very witty take on the week’s events without ever being offensive.

What can’t you miss?

Wildlife is a big thing in my life so I’m a fan of all the Watches – Springwatch, Autumnwatch, Winterwatch – and Countryfile. I’m an avid bird watcher and a member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust so I try to grow things for the bees. I think it’s really important because so much of our land is concrete now.

What’s surprised you?

Slightly to my astonishment I found myself completely hooked on Downton Abbey. The only thing I didn’t like was the damn adverts that kept interrupting it every seven minutes or whatever it was. That drives me insane.

How do you keep up to date?

Channel 4 News. Jon Snow just hits the spot. I sound really old-fashioned but I hate it when newsreaders and weather presenters say, “Bye-bye” or “That’s your weather!” I like the way Jon Snow says, “And that’s Channel 4 News, good evening.” I don’t know why but it gives me such a thrill when he says that. It’s polite without being too formal; we’ve become so casual about everything now.

What would you ban?

I’m afraid I can’t stand I’m a Celebrity… and I think Big Brother was one of the worst things we ever had on television. Why would you want to sit locked in a house – like rats trapped in a cage – with other people watching you cry and argue? It was such a waste of everybody’s time. I thought it was evil, actually.

What would you do if you won the lottery, like Rose, your character in The Syndicate?

I’d probably buy a place in the country and keep chickens and perhaps a goat. I’d give money to the charities I support and I’d help my sons to buy houses because it’s so ridiculously expensive now – you need to be a millionaire just to buy a three-bedroom semi in Enfield.

So do you play the Lottery?

I did when it first started because it was so exciting – the idea that you could win all this money by picking six numbers. I played for six weeks, then I got sick of it and stopped.

Who would be your dream dinner guest?

I could talk to David Attenborough forever. I admire his empathy with animals and the fact that he never goes over the top. You see some programmes where they start giving them names, saying, “Oh here’s Jenny, coming to feed Peter” and it gets a bit much.

And if Attenborough were otherwise engaged?

Gareth Malone. He’s got such a lovely, warm personality and he can talk to anyone – young, old, no matter what class or who they are.

Who makes you swoon?

I can still watch Cary Grant’s films and keep on falling back in love with him. George Clooney has the same quality about him: I’d probably collapse if I met him; my knees would give way


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The Syndicate continues tonight at 9:00pm on BBC1