Jo Joyner: ‘Why I love vil­lage life’

For­mer EastEnders star Jo Joyner chats coun­try life and danc­ing in her wellies – and re­veals her act­ing in­spi­ra­tion

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Contents -

When she was asked to star in BBC1’s new day­time drama Shake­speare & Hath­away – Pri­vate In­ves­ti­ga­tors, ac­tress Jo Joyner found it an of­fer she just couldn’t refuse.

For starters, her char­ac­ter – for­mer hair­dresser Luella Shake­speare – was a breath of fresh air.

‘Lu, be­ing bright and bub­bly and happy and pos­i­tive, is what re­ally drew me to her,’ grins Jo, ‘be­cause I can play some quite mis­er­able, fierce peo­ple.’

The scripts were fab­u­lously funny, with in­trigu­ing mys­ter­ies and an added layer of ref­er­ences to the Bard. Her co-star, as gone-to-seed pri­vate eye Frank Hath­away, was Mark Ben­ton of Water­loo Road, North­ern Lights and Strictly fame.

But the ic­ing on the cake? As Jo, 40, tells Woman’s Weekly, it was filmed on her doorstep, so she could still spend time with hus­band Neil Mad­den and their twins Fred and Edie, eight.

Shake­speare & Hath­away was filmed in Strat­ford-up­onAvon, Wil­liam Shake­speare’s birth­place, just down the road from your home…

I live in a vil­lage equidis­tant from Strat­ford, Leam­ing­ton and War­wick, so it was a 20-minute com­mute. I hadn’t planned to be work­ing as I’d been away so long film­ing the Channel 4 school drama Ack­ley Bridge. I was go­ing to be at home be­ing a mum. But when they said, ‘It’s Mark and it’s in Strat­ford,’ it was all a bit too brilliant to say no. I could have friends meet me for lunch, and my kids met me af­ter school for dinner.

Strat­ford’s quite touristy. Did you film on the streets with an au­di­ence?

We did! I had one long scene by Shake­speare’s orig­i­nal home. We had to do the entire scene walk­ing along – all in one go. Sud­denly, we had a bus­load of Ja­panese tourists with their wheelie cases, so you could hear them com­ing from a long way off! They all de­cided to stop and watch. No pressure…

What’s life like in your vil­lage? Mid­somer without mur­ders?

I’ve never watched Mid­somer Mur­ders, so I don’t know! The thing about vil­lage life is it’s incredible to grow up there, then you get to 15 and re­alise ev­ery­body knows your busi­ness. You get claus­tro­pho­bic and want to leave. You come back when you’ve had your own chil­dren.

So there’s a real sense of com­mu­nity?

It’s a re­ally strong com­mu­nity. There are 400 peo­ple in the vil­lage, and we all know each other. All the kids knock for each other and are out play­ing down at the field – it’s price­less. I grew up there, so no­body’s in­ter­ested in what I do. It’s not like any­body would ask for a photo at the park on Sun­day! I can to­tally re­lax in a way I couldn’t in Lon­don. If I was

tak­ing my kids to the park there, I’d end up put­ting on make-up – which isn’t me – as I’d know I’d prob­a­bly get asked for three or four pho­tos.

Do you grow your own veg?

Turns out I’m ‘brown-fin­gered’! We were brought up on my mum’s or­ganic veg from birth. Pur­ple sprout­ing, green beans, ar­ti­chokes, asparagus… You name it, my mum grows it bril­liantly. Then I try, and ei­ther I’m brown-fin­gered or ev­ery­thing just dies. Or, if I’m hon­est, I tend to say, ‘I’m go­ing to plant this…’ Then I get a job and I’m away. I don’t tend to it or pick any­thing. So there is mur­der in my vil­lage – it’s me, mur­der­ing my veg­eta­bles [laughs]. I do like to garden, though. I find weed­ing ther­a­peu­tic, ac­tu­ally. My daugh­ter Edie en­joys it, too.

Can you see your chil­dren Fred and Edie fol­low­ing in your act­ing foot­steps?

I don’t know. I’m not hugely en­cour­ag­ing it. They’re not in a drama class – they can’t fit one in at the mo­ment. If they said, ‘I want to go to Dance & Drama…,’ they’d go. But I wasn’t a child ac­tor. I didn’t come to act­ing early, so there’s no rush.

What do they en­joy?

Edie loves writ­ing and is a real bookworm. Without a doubt, she’ll be some­where in the creative world, but not nec­es­sar­ily front of stage. She’s learn­ing piano and Fred’s learn­ing gui­tar and drums. He’s learn­ing piano unof­fi­cially, too. Yesterday, we were both on the piano for ages. I was on Grade 8 when I had fin­ished learn­ing.

Who would be your ul­ti­mate fan­tasy co-star?

Julie Wal­ters. I just love her en­ergy. She’s in­stinc­tive. She’s in­nately funny – it’s in her bones, isn’t it? She’s such an in­spi­ra­tion, ab­so­lutely one of my idols. Ali­son Stead­man, too – they’re both ter­rific char­ac­ter ac­tresses. They can do drama and be funny. They can re­ally twist the knife and, min­utes later, have you in bits. You be­lieve them in any­thing.

You turned 40 last May. How did you cel­e­brate?

I was go­ing to have a ‘40 and fab­u­lous’ fes­ti­val. I re­alised all my friends were re­ally tal­ented, so their present to me would’ve been a stint in the main tent – ‘You’ll do a yoga ses­sion, you’ll do some stand-up comedy, you’ll be a DJ, and we’ll have a fes­ti­val.’ But then I was work­ing so much, I didn’t have time to or­gan­ise any­thing. My hus­band sur­prised me by or­gan­is­ing a few of my near­est and dear­est and their fam­i­lies to stay. We all went for a big dinner and had a party at mine. And we did go to Lat­i­tude Fes­ti­val. It was my 10th wed­ding an­niver­sary at the same time, so we went with the kids, my mum and my aun­tie. We were danc­ing in the woods at mid­night in our wellies!

Shake­speare & Hath­away – Pri­vate In­ves­ti­ga­tors con­tin­ues on week­days at 2.15pm, BBC1. The entire se­ries can be seen on BBC iPlayer at

‘When they said, “It’s Mark and it’s in Strat­ford,” it was all a bit

too brilliant to say no’

Jo with Edie, Fred and hus­band Neil

With Mark Ben­ton in Shake­speare & Hath­away

With Jake Wood as EastEnders’

Tanya and Max Bran­ning

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