Caroline Quentin on her guest role in The Other One: ‘We should all have an Auntie Dawn!’

The actress tells us why she was thrilled to join the BBC1 sitcom...

As Cathy and Marcus’s wedding draws nearer in BBC1’s The Other One, it’s time for her to wave goodbye to singlehood with a hen party. Cathy has planned a weekend of glamping and “organised fun”, with a guest list consisting of half-sister Cat, Cat’s mum Marilyn, a former schoolfriend called Claire, and Cathy’s Auntie Dawn – played by former Men Behaving Badly star Caroline Quentin.

Caroline Quentin, 59, chats to us about the inspiration for her character, and why she was delighted to be back in sitcom-land…

What can you tell us about Auntie Dawn?

Caroline Quentin: “She’s really sweet, and very gung-ho and quite jolly-hockey-sticks. She’s one of those people who never complains, and always sees the best in everything – so, for example, even when she gets food poisoning, she kind of looks upon it as a bit of a bonus. She’s so sweet – she’s just completely bomb-proof. In our lives, if we haven’t, we should all have an Auntie Dawn – she’s a joy. What I liked is that they’ve written her into the story so that, although everyone is slightly dreading her coming, she ends up being a really good thing for the group dynamic on the hen weekend.”

Cathy, Dawn and Cat enjoy a barbecue lunch at the glampsite

Cathy (Ellie White), Dawn (Caroline Quentin) and Cat (Lauren Socha) enjoy some al fresco dining (Photo: BBC)

What was it about this role that appealed to you?

CQ: “I literally read the first 10 minutes and thought, ‘I really want to play this woman! I want to be her, I want to spend some time with her.’ You never really know if something is going to work out – you love reading the script and you really laugh, but you never know whether the making of something is going to be as joyful as you hope it will be. But actually we had a really good time – Ellie White [Cathy] and Lauren Socha [Cat] are so nice, and I’ve known Siobhan [Finneran, who plays Marilyn] for years, so it was lovely to spend time with her as well.”

What was it like filming the glamping scenes?

CQ: “We were somewhere near Manchester, and we were lucky because we had reasonably good weather – and the set was so pretty because all the tents were made to look so nice. There is a scene in the rain in it, so we were very wet that day – but that wasn’t real rain, that was a rain bar and special effects! So we got very wet, but that was organised weather, if you know what I mean.”

Auntie Dawn gets food poisoning, and at one point we see her running into the bushes pulling her trousers down. Was that all part of the fun for you?

CQ: “Yes – in fairness, pulling the trousers down was my idea! That wasn’t in the script, I really did it to make Holly [Walsh, the show’s creator] laugh because she was behind the camera. I only did it once, but I’m glad they kept it in because the whole crew really laughed!”

Caroline Quentin as Dawn

Caroline says that 1980s Sarah Ferguson inspired her character’s look (Photo: BBC)

Dawn’s look feels so perfect for her character – did you get much of a say in what she wore?

CQ: “Yes, entirely – my hair in it is actually a piece. At the time my hair was very short with shaved sides in reality, so I said to the make-up department, ‘I think she should have an alice band and a sort of 1980s feel to her’, and Holly said, ‘what about 1980s Sarah Ferguson as an idea?’ so that came out of that, her alice band and her long bob.”

Later in the series we’ll also see a bit more of her relationship with her sister Tess, played by Rebecca Front…

CQ: “You’ll see how much she annoys her sister. It really makes me laugh – whatever she says, it just gets right up her sister’s nose. I think that sibling thing is very well explored in the whole series.”

It’s great to see you in a sitcom again – was it something you were excited to do?

CQ: “It was so nice! I always love doing a bit of comedy, but I’ve been doing such a lot of theatre. I’ve done a lot of restoration plays, I was at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and then I’ve been doing quite a lot of musicals and things. So it was just really nice to be in that comedy environment where you’re allowed to have fun, and if you have a good idea and you just do it, people go ‘yeah, do that, that’s funny!'”

How have you been keeping busy during lockdown?

CQ: “I garden for a hobby anyway, so actually for me it’s been rather brilliant because I’ve been in the garden every day, and we’re eating all my own vegetables now, and growing all my own flowers. I live in Devon, in the countryside, and I’ve been doing birdwatching, which I haven’t really had time to do for years. This quiet time has been very conducive to the things that I enjoy – just being at home with both my children and my husband has been lovely. Although it’s a scary time and you hear such a lot of sadness about, I’m very fortunate.”

Caroline’s first episode of The Other One airs on BBC1 on 3 July at 9pm. The full series is available now as a boxset on BBC iPlayer.

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