Bella (UK)

‘I really wanted this part’

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Gemma Arterton is stepping back in time for Funny Woman, about a young actress from Blackpool finding her comic voice in the male- dominated world of the 1960s sitcom. The London she encounters is not as quite as swinging as the one she’d read about and seen on TV, but her uncompromi­sing northern wit proves to be her secret weapon. Gemma, 36, was also a producer on the series and says she loved spending time with her hilarious alter ego Barbara…

What appealed to you about the show?

I read the book, by Nick Hornby, when it first came out and wanted to get the rights to it. Barbara is such a great character, and it was such an iconic time for comedy and for culture, when this whole new wave of comedy started happening. More edgy working-class humour started to come through, and for a woman to be in that world was unusual at that time.

She’s a big fan of Lucille Ball, so were you watching a lot of

I Love Lucy?

I watched the first few seasons and it was just such a huge inspiratio­n for me as an actor, because I got to see what a master she was at physical comedy. That totally informed the comedy Barbara wants to do.

How was it getting your accent?

My best mate is from Blackpool. She has this slightly affected accent, but her son has a proper Blackpool accent and I spoke to him about it. I worked with an accent coach and he found this recording of these women from Blackpool, chatting about random stuff, and I listened to that religiousl­y. We shot it in

Liverpool, Manchester and a bit in Blackpool. They’re so close to each other, but the accents vary so much.

You’re dealing with a lot of the gender politics in a period setting, but so much is relatable now, isn’t it?

We’ve all had our experience­s. Morwenna [Banks, writer], coming up through comedy had so many people say to her you can’t do this and that. It’s way better than it was, but there’s still an undercurre­nt because old-school people still work in the industry. Hopefully people will still be able to relate, since it’s not just this industry that’s affected. One of the things that Barbara struggles with is people judging her physically rather than what she can do, and that happens a lot with women in workspaces.

Funny Woman, Thursday 9 February, Sky Max and NOW

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