Joanna Lum­ley: “I’ll al­ways adore Ab­fab’s Patsy.”

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Stellar - - contents - In­ter­view by MEG MA­SON

When you were of­fered the role of Patsy in Ab­so­lutely Fab­u­lous, is it true you asked your agent to get you out of it? Only be­cause I thought [co-star and cre­ator] Jen­nifer Saun­ders didn’t like me! She was very, very shy and wasn’t able to com­mu­ni­cate the part at all ‒ com­pletely mono­syl­labic and gloomy ‒ and I thought I bet­ter with­draw grace­fully be­fore she could sack me. But as soon as we started work­ing and re­alised who this char­ac­ter was, it was glo­ri­ous. Are you OK with the fact you will for­ever be Patsy to so many fans? I love her so much, and I’ll tell you why: she made peo­ple laugh and, since be­ing en­ter­tain­ing is my num­ber one goal in life, I was thrilled to be there. I’ll al­ways adore her. Of course you are show­ered in awards and all those things, but it’s re­ally about the peo­ple who take the DVD out of the li­brary. That’s my re­ward. For a time, you were a sin­gle mother as well as an up-and-com­ing ac­tor, nei­ther of which is easy or glam­orous. Do you re­mem­ber some par­tic­u­larly lean times? My par­ents bought sec­ond-hand ev­ery­thing, with the £2 sticker still on it, and I think if you’re a snob and you’re anx­ious about what peo­ple think about you, you’re al­ways go­ing to be mis­er­able. But if you haven’t got a jot and you don’t care, you sim­ply get on with it. If you can only af­ford bread, you just eat bread. You were born in In­dia, moved to Malaya and were sent to board­ing school in Eng­land by the age of eight. Do you ever won­der how you sur­vived? If ev­ery other eight-year-old is go­ing to school, that’s what you do. You’re not be­ing brave. I have al­ways be­lieved in chil­dren be­ing in­de­pen­dent. My par­ents were bril­liant at let­ting us off the lead – if there was a lead at all. But I was home­sick for Malaya. Eng­land was so cold and the food so chok­ingly dif­fer­ent and to be in this for­eign land, freez­ing, eat­ing beet­root… I could cry now just think­ing about the beet­root. Alone at age eight… it doesn’t seem way too young to you now? [It’s] much less odd to me than peo­ple pho­tograph­ing plates of food and show­ing other peo­ple what they are eat­ing. Or pho­tograph­ing them­selves in front of it. With a long stick, dar­ling. It’s ab­so­lutely ghastly. You also went to the Lu­cie Clay­ton fin­ish­ing school, where cur­ricu­lum cov­ered get­ting out of an E-type Jaguar with­out flash­ing your knick­ers. Has that turned out to be help­ful in later life? It wasn’t so much a fin­ish­ing school as a mod­el­ling school. There was no flower ar­rang­ing or that sort of thing and ac­tu­ally, I don’t think I ever met any­one with an E-type Jaguar.

“If you’re anx­ious about what peo­ple think, you’re al­ways go­ing to be mis­er­able. But if you don’t care, you sim­ply get on with it” “Dar­ling, this is aw­ful, but I don’t know any­thing about the Kar­dashi­ans”

Do you ever think those Kar­dashi­ans could do with a spell at Lu­cie Clay­ton? Dar­ling, this is so aw­ful to say, but I’ve never seen them so it would be ter­ri­ble to com­ment. I don’t know any­thing about them, ex­cept there’s so many and all start­ing with K. You once said you’ve al­ways wanted to be older than you are. Now you’re 71, is there an urge to go back­wards? Oh no, I’ve al­ways wanted to do the next thing. When I was 12, I wanted to be 18 be­cause then you get to drive a car and travel to Italy on your own, and as soon as you’re out of your 20s you can break the bounds of be­ing a “pretty girl” and be a fas­ci­nat­ing mid­dle-aged woman in­stead. Then I was in­ter­ested in be­ing a bril­liant, wise old crone. It’s noth­ing to do with age, I have just al­ways wanted to be wiser. It would be such a shame to die not hav­ing lived this life to the full. What made you de­cide to squeeze travel shows into your sched­ule? As I get older I want to know more of the world and bring it back to au­di­ences so they can savour and un­der­stand far­away coun­tries – and re­alise what I have sus­pected all along, which is that we’re pretty much all the same. You have made an en­tire se­ries about Ja­pan. Name some­thing about the coun­try that caught you off guard. I don’t think any­body told me how beau­ti­ful it was. I al­ways as­sumed those won­der­ful draw­ings of Mount Fuji and so on were [inventions], but when I was in that for­est of an­cient cedar trees and snow up to my chest I thought, “Blimey, this is it.” It was like be­ing in Nar­nia. So did Ja­pan turn out to be as rammed with Patsy fans as ev­ery other coun­try in the world? There might have been a cou­ple in Tokyo or Ky­oto, but they im­port hardly any for­eign pro­gram­ming. [And] the re­ally in­ter­est­ing thing is, they’re so cour­te­ous and so dis­in­ter­ested in for­eign­ers that in a strange way that pro­tects them from riffraff like me. Joanna Lum­ley’s Ja­pan pre­mieres 9.40pm, Novem­ber 23, on Fox­tel’s UKTV.

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