‘There will al­ways be a need for old ladies with wrin­kles’

Love, Lies & Records ac­tress Ashley Jensen tells Gemma Dunn it’s re­fresh­ing to work on a show that ad­dresses life’s many im­per­fec­tions

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - WEEKEND TV -

Ashley Jensen is mus­ing over her tran­si­tion from side­kick to lead­ing lady. “It’s a shift earned. I think, be­cause I started at the bot­tom, I was the day player who came in for the day, so I’ve done all that. I feel as if I’ve very much served an ap­pren­tice­ship,” she con­fides, hav­ing made her name as the hap­less Mag­gie Jacobs in Ricky Ger­vais’ Ex­tras over a decade ear­lier.

“I know how to con­duct my­self and I very much feel that a job should be a col­lab­o­ra­tive thing. I just hap­pen to be the per­son who is, I sup­pose, in all day ev­ery day. And that’s fine; I feel ready for it,” she adds, be­fore turn­ing to whis­per, “I think”.

Jensen is be­ing mod­est, of course. For only last year she shone as the front run­ner in Agatha Raisin, the Sky One com­edy based on the much-loved books by M C Beaton, about a glossy Lon­don pub­li­cist who turns ama­teur Cotswold de­tec­tive.

“Des­per­ate Housewives crossed with Mid­somer Mur­ders” is how she de­scribed it at the time — a wel­come change for the ac­tress who, her­self, ad­mits she’s made “an en­tire ca­reer play­ing peo­ple’s best friends” in such TV hits as Catas­tro­phe and Ugly Betty.

But fast for­ward nearly 18 months and Jensen (48) is set to flex her dra­matic mus­cles as the star of the show in brand new drama Love, Lies & Records.

Penned by Kay Mel­lor (the BAFTA award-win­ning writer be­hind such hits as Fat Friends and In the Club), the BBC One se­ries fol­lows Kate Dick­en­son (Jensen), a town hall reg­is­trar who, like many of us, is torn be­tween her home and work life. In her case, a part­ner and de­mand­ing teenagers ver­sus the daily dra­mas of births, mar­riages and deaths.

“It’s the work­ing mum thing, isn’t it?” asks Jensen, who has an eight-year-old son with her hus­band — and fel­low ac­tor — Ter­ence Beesley. “It’s the whole, ‘I’m do­ing a job and I want to do it to the best of my abil­ity, but I’m also some­one’s mum and I’m also some­one’s wife’, which a lot of women do. It’s a re­flec­tion on so­ci­ety.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing, some­body asked me the other day about re­al­ity tele­vi­sion — I have to ad­mit I don’t watch it, but they said: ‘Don’t you think it is a re­flec­tion of the so­ci­ety that we live in?’ And I said: ‘No, I don’t re­ally, be­cause I think quite a lot of it seems, to me, con­trived and a lit­tle bit forced’.

“But that’s what I think good Bri­tish drama does. When it’s writ­ten as bril­liantly as the stuff that Kay writes, it’s hold­ing up a mir­ror to so­ci­ety and hope­fully peo­ple can tap into that and un­der­stand it, rather than ‘I’m A Celeb, Here’s My A***’.”

In the same vein, Jensen praises Mel­lor for scratch­ing be­neath the sur­face when it comes to peo­ple and their pas­sions, stat­ing “there’s no bad­dies and no good­ies, it’s just about truth”.

“It’s very per­ti­nent to the world we live in, with peo­ple from dif­fer­ent cul­tures, trans­gen­der, fam­i­lies on sec­ond mar­riages and fam­i­lies with stepchil­dren,” she says of the themes that res­onate be­tween the muchloved cast, which in­cludes the likes of Adrian Bower, Kenny Doughty, Re­becca Front and Mark Stan­ley.

“In some ways it’s all quite messy, ev­ery­thing’s quite messy, but peo­ple’s lives are all a lit­tle bit messy,” she notes.

“I think that ev­ery­body as­pires to per­fec­tion, but if we all ac­tu­ally dig a bit deeper, ev­ery­body is floun­der­ing a lit­tle bit.

“But looking at peo­ple’s In­sta­gram pages, ev­ery­one is liv­ing a per­fect life. I don’t do In­sta­gram, Twit­ter, Face­book. I’m a Lud­dite, I take my­self away from it. But from what I per­ceive, that’s what it is.”

Jensen, who grew up in An­nan, in Dumfries and Galloway, al­ways longed to act, first spend­ing a few weeks in Lon­don with the Na­tional Youth aged just 14; and later study­ing drama at Queen Mar­garet Univer­sity.

From land­ing her first big TV break in the 1993 drama Down Among The Big Boys to spend­ing a six-year stretch in LA for Ugly Betty, and strip­ping off in front of Colin Far­rell for dystopian film The Lob­ster, Jensen is, in­deed, com­mit­ted to her craft.

“In Amer­ica, ev­ery­one had a five-year plan, but I have never had a plan. I don’t even know what I am do­ing to­mor­row. I don’t worry about the fu­ture. They will al­ways need some­one to play the old ladies with wrin­kles.”

Judg­ing on re­cent moves, how­ever, Jensen is sure to be — de­servedly — front and cen­tre. Love, Lies & Records, BBC One, Thurs­day, 9pm

LEAD­ING LADY: Ashley Jensen feels she has served her ap­pren­tice­ship

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