The Radio Times logo

Susannah Fielding on This Time series 2, Steve Coogan and "hoping" for more presenting gigs catches up with the star of the latest hit comedy featuring Alan Partridge.

EMBARGOED: Susannah Fielding and Steve Coogan, This Time with Alan Partridge series 2
Published: Friday, 30th April 2021 at 9:00 am

Alan Partridge is back on the BBC for another series of This Time, which allows the hapless broadcaster to dig himself into more comedic holes in a setting similar to that of The One Show.


In addition to reuniting Steve Coogan's iconic creation with long-suffering assistant Lynn Benfield (Felicity Montagu) and sidekick Simon Denton (Tim Key), the series also introduced a new face to the Partridge pantheon: co-presenter Jennie Gresham, played by Life star Susannah Fielding.

Despite a major bust-up in the series one finale that put their working partnership in jeopardy, the duo will share the sofa once again in this fresh batch of episodes. Alan's life generally moves in real-time with the rest of the world, meaning that he and Jennie have somehow managed a lengthy stint in each other's company by the beginning of series two. Nevertheless, their dynamic remains less like a well-oiled machine and more like a car with its engine light flashing.

"The relationship is still relatively strained," Fielding tells "I think at this point they've slightly learned to live with each other, but this series actually has even more complexity in terms of the relationship and what they both need for their careers at this point."

In series one, Jennie occasionally drifted towards being a Dave Clifton-style antagonist for Alan, but it's hardly difficult to see why she would quickly tire of his gaffes on her otherwise slick primetime show. Certainly, she's a more nuanced character than Alan's former sparring partner and Fielding approaches her as such, viewing Jennie as a polished personality who has fought to forge a path into a profession that has historically been stacked against her.

"It's often the case with women who succeed in this industry that you have to be incredibly ambitious to even get noticed," Fielding says. "Up until relatively recently, those few roles where you got to be a lead female presenter were very few and far between. Thankfully, that's changing now and we're seeing things more equally represented.

"But, to me, that's the most important angle for her," Fielding continues. "Yes, she might appear to be go-getting in a negative sense, but that's how she's got to where she is today. And she uses various different tactics for that, whether it’s being very friendly and sexy or being slightly more Machiavellian, or a bit more backstabbing, or just, ultimately, this consummate professional."

Describing British comedy as her "first love", Fielding was a casual admirer of Partridge when she joined the cast of This Time, albeit not quite on the same level as those die-hard fans who can recite virtually every quote. For her, that actually took some of the pressure off when it came to creating something new in Alan's world, but she does admit that sharing the screen with Steve Coogan was still a daunting prospect initially.

"Steve is an incredibly impressive performer and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pretty intimidated the first few times that I met him and worked with him," Fielding recalls. "But he's such a great actor first and foremost and I think, especially in recent years, that's something he's really proven. So working with him is, creatively, an extremely enjoyable process. And I really, really like sitting next to him on the sofa and making the scenes and the moments we have together as funny as they can be."

EMBARGOED: Steve Coogan and Susannah Fielding in This Time with Alan Partridge

It's lucky she feels that way because This Time has a rather relentless production cycle, consisting of 14-hour days under those hot studio lights. If that weren't enough, the nature of the project requires everyone to stay on their toes in order to keep up with last-minute script changes, harking back to the chaotic process behind 1997's acclaimed sitcom I'm Alan Partridge. Fielding's background on the stage, where she tackled a variety of classic and contemporary works, proved a helpful grounding in this area.

She says: "In theatre, you're often asked to change things at the last minute and you're really thinking on your feet according to what the audience gives you or what might go wrong on the stage that night. And Partridge is filmed in a similar way, in that the script is changing all the time, you're being given different lines each time you do a take. So having that kind of confidence to be able to mix things up, change things and just kind of throw yourself in has probably been advantageous. I think anyone who's used to having lots of preparatory time would have found it more challenging."

The fluidity of the scripts meant that This Time's two main hosts were reliant on an autocue at times, offering a fairly accurate simulation of a real presenting gig. That proved particularly exciting for Fielding, who has always been interested in the job and hopes this comedy could lead to more opportunities in that area.

"Being a presenter is something that I've always wanted to do and having this opportunity to do the closest thing to it through my acting has been amazing. I would really like to take that further. Lots of actors do that as their career becomes more diverse, so I'm really hoping that, after series two, a few offers might come in. You never know!"

What tops her wish list? "I’m a big animal lover and I love the British countryside, so something like Countryfile or my latest favourite programme which is Interior Design Masters. Alan Carr's been presenting that brilliantly, but I would love to do something like that because interior design is my other passion. Anything along those lines would be great fun."

In addition, there could well be more projects in the pipeline for her This Time alter-ego Jennie Gresham, as Fielding is enthusiastic about the idea of reprising the role in future Partridge outings.

"It would be really interesting to see what role Alan Partridge takes on next, whether we do more of This Time, or whether he has some other job at the BBC or starts some other show himself," she says. "There are infinite possibilities, but I think Jennie's definitely got legs and there's so much more to explore with her. So I’d absolutely love to continue playing her and I think Rob and Neil [Gibbons] write really well for me and that character. That's any actor's dream really, to have people writing for you at that level."


This Time with Alan Partridge returns to BBC One on Friday 30th April at 9:30pm. While you're waiting, visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


Sponsored content