The Durrells has been extremely well received from the off – was that a surprise?
“You just have no inkling how things will be received. You make a series you love and believe in, and can only cross your fingers that the public will feel the same. Sometimes they don’t!
“ITV and the producers were pleased when we were filming it, but nobody ever says, ‘Wow, this is looking rubbish!’ So I’m just thrilled and relieved that people like it. It was a passion project for me and I wanted it to be successful for the child actors, because they worked really hard. I know it doesn’t look like it, but they did!”
Your character Louisa Durrell and her children don’t always see eye to eye – how was it off screen?
“They’re revolting to her! But that was one of the things that I genuinely loved about the show. Everybody is always very polite to each other in costume dramas, but within 30 seconds of reading the script for The Durrells they were all having a row, and someone was throwing a plate at the wall! It spoke to me because it seemed real, families don’t get on all the time. Nobody throws plates in my house, though!”
Louisa is edging closer to love interest Sven and fans love their unromantic, unusual courtship, but how do you see it?
“It doesn’t really look like it’s going to work out between them at all, but there’s something quite real about that – I like that their eyes didn’t meet across a crowded room. They’re very different people, but they form a really lovely relationship and we’ll see whether it works out or not. It’s good because there were lots of lovely gorgeous Greeks and now there’s a sexy Swede, so there’s something for everyone!”
In real life, Sven was actually gay, and a much more fleeting presence in the book than in the series, wasn’t he?
“I’m absolutely fine with the changes – they liven things up a bit. They’re also completely necessary because some things simply wouldn’t translate from the books to a TV show.”
The series also focuses on Louisa’s story much more than the books, which were told from Gerry’s perspective. As a fan of the books, how did you feel about that?
“For all sorts of reasons I think it’s best that way and certainly it’s wonderful for me as an actress. She’s a fabulous and extraordinary character. How did she get away with moving her family to Corfu? I try to get my kids out of school for two days and the police come round! I’m full of admiration for her.”
They’ll be a second series next year, is there anything in particular from the books you’d like to see on screen?
“My one hope would be that Gerry’s badly made boat, the Bootle Bumtrinket would be involved somewhere, because that image has stuck with me from the books and I loved it.”
The family’s stunning but dilapidated house on Corfu certainly looks authentic – how is it in real life?
“It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful. Going to work there every day was unbelievable. Inside it’s falling to bits, but it’s owned by a family who don’t want to change it, and who go and have picnics in the area in the summertime. It’s not really habitable, so we had to shoot the interior scenes in Ealing Studios, but the production values are so high you really can’t tell. Even my husband, [Ripper Street star] Matthew [Macfadyen], wouldn’t believe it when he watched it. He was saying, ‘No, that’s not filmed in a studio!’ It’s the magic of television!”
You’re currently filming the follow up to BBC1’s hit thriller The Missing and we loved your shock return as disgraced detective Lindsay Denton in Line of Duty – was it difficult to keep that a secret?
“Keeping it quiet was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! People kept asking me about it and I felt really awful. It was such a relief when that episode aired. I had no idea that it would be screened at the same time as The Durrells but they’re chalk and cheese, so I think it’s allowed!”
‘I don’t want to work with anyone BUT children and animals!’ WATCH whatsontv.co.uk‘s video interview with Keeley Hawes below…