As a child, I suppose I lived a bit of a nomadic life. I was born in Germany to Welsh parents but after returning to Wales, and following the appalling winter of ’62, we emigrated to New Zealand. I was thirteen and very into school at that stage and had I stayed in Wales, I probably would have gone on to become a biologist or something medical.
Once in New Zealand I became interested in drama and I found I was good at it so I left school at fifteen and never looked back. Then when I was 22, I returned to the UK.
I was incredibly lucky, working steadily in theatres up and down the Country and then I was given the part of Stephanie Beecham’s sister in the tv series ‘Connie’, but it was ‘The Darling Buds of May’, which was filmed around Pluckley in Kent, that really opened up my career.
Later, I went to Hollywood to star in ‘Matilda’, with Danny DeVito. He had no idea he was casting Ma Larkin as the scarey Miss Trunchbull. Recently, I was thinking about all those cockneys in ‘Darling Buds …’. We were all Welsh! David Jason and Philip Franks, they are both fifty percent Welsh, and of course, the lovely Catherine Zeta Jones – she’s a superstar now.
These days I love working on ‘Rosemary and Thyme’. We have visited some lovely locations like a Surrey Vineyard and wonderful houses like Garston Manor in Hertfordshire, which was designed by Sir John Soane, and Loseley House, near Guildford, Surrey.
And, of course, meeting Felicity Kendal at this stage of my life has been such a joy. Although our backgrounds are so dramatically different, we both seem to have the work ethic. We’re not afraid of hard work and we keep each other’s spirits up. We enjoy working together, which is a delight. I am thrilled to have met her.
An actor’s life always involves travel and I’ve travelled everywhere. I love the mountains of Wales, and I love Norfolk but foremost, I am a big lover of the Isle of Wight. It takes me back to my childhood. I was brought up near the South Wales coast and on the Island, there are all those rocky beaches that have got a bit of sand, a bit of rock, loads of old seaweed thrown up by the sea, and they remind me of when I was a child.
I love being near the sea. I recently read a book about the idea that human beings developed on coastlines. There is a whole theory of evolution called The Aquatic Ape. For years I’ve not understood why I feel better near water. There was one night I spent in a hotel and I remember having the best night’s sleep I’d ever had in my life in that room. The hotel was built out over the rocks and the sea was splashing below. …
This interview appeared in full in ‘In Britain’ – Mar-April, 2007
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