Monday, 30 November -0001


…is a British actress, best known for her roles as Miss Trunchbull in the film Matilda, & on TV as Ma Larkin in The Darling Buds Of May & Sister Evangelina in Call The Midwife. She lives in Canterbury with her husband, Roger Frost, and two dogs, Sta

What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished filming series four of Call The Midwife.

When are you at your happiest?
When I’m working with my hands, either in the garden or the kitchen. I am instinctively a crafts person. I won The Great British Sewing Bee [the Celebrity Special for Children In Need].

What is your greatest fear?
I don’t get frightened generally, but I am reaching the age where losing my marbles becomes a worry. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s and that is my biggest fear.

What is your earliest memory?
Holding my father’s hand, which was way up in the air so I must have been very tiny – about two. We were in an empty room with no furniture, which seemed to me so peculiar. I’d never seen a room without furniture before. I was utterly shocked.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
I am a planner and a worrier – a terrible combination. The worrying leads you to plan and the planning leads you to worry. You get caught in a trap.

Who has been your greatest influence?
A marvellous director called Mike Alfreds. He started a company called Shared Experience. I worked with him for five years and his ruthless search for excellence affected me very deeply.

What is your most treasured possession?
A ceramic sculpture of a hare by Jeremy James. I was walking along past a shop in Cambridge and it brought me to a halt because it was so amazing. I had to have it.

What trait do you most deplore in others?
Not listening.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I have got incredibly broad shoulders and no matter how slim I am I still look chunky.

What is your favourite book?
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

What is your favourite film?
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. It took me about half an hour to stop crying after I saw it. It is very powerful stuff.


And favourite piece of music?

I Heard It Through The Grapevine. You can dance to that for hours.

What is your favourite meal?
A really good curry in a classy curry house.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
An early Roman emperor, let’s try Nero. Then I’d go through a few rulers such as Elizabeth I. Jeremy Bentham, fascinating bloke. Jonathan Swift, a difficult man but I would be interested to hear how his mind works. And Thomas Paine.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has said to you?
One of my first dates said to me, ‘You’re no beauty queen but you have a lovely personality’. I was very vulnerable and it had a long-term effect on me. I’m not that vulnerable any more.

Do you believe in aliens?
I believe in the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere.

What is your secret vice?
It wouldn’t be secret if I told you.

Do you write thank-you notes?
I was terribly badly brought up. I always compose the note in my head but forget to write it. So the intention is there but the practical event never happens.

Which phrase do you most overuse?

What would most improve the quality of your life?
Fifteen acres: I would run the dogs on it. I have two dogs, a Jack Russell and a lurcher.

Tell us one thing people might not know about you.
I spent 10 years in New Zealand. My parents moved there when I was 13 and I came back when I was 22. The theatre made me want to come back – I was obsessed with being an actress by then.

What would you like your epitaph to read?
I don’t want an epitaph. I would like to fall over in the garden and become compost.

Call The Midwife is on BBC One, Sundays at 8pm.

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