Joanna Lumley: “I’ll always adore Abfab’s Patsy.”
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.
“Darling, this is awful, but I don’t know anything about the Kardashians” “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”