BBC Two's blog

For actor, comedian and writer Andrew Clover, playing Gary, dad of the Swann family, changed his life.

“One of the things I’ve got from the show is the excitement of music. It’s made me start having piano lessons and take a lot more interest,” reveals Andrew.

“Whenever I hear music I’m listening very carefully to what they’re doing with their guitar, what the rhythms are, when the music fades in and out and what the beat is. The show’s all about the love of music and I’ve got that from being in it.”

What does Andrew think of Gary?

“He’s essentially a loveable, intelligent and musical father. However, he’s also prone to getting extremely worried about the family being late or things going wrong,” he says.

“He’s the son of a famous rock star so his childhood was spent watching heavy metal freaks throwing TVs out of hotel room windows and being left behind in Germany halfway through a European tour!

“So he’s developed an absolute obsession with wanting to keep his family together. His family is everything.”

Is Andrew, who writes a column called Dad Rules in the Sunday Times Style Magazine, anything like Gary?

“I’m not at all a pushy parent but the one thing I do want my daughters to do is learn music. It’s so amazing when you watch someone playing, it’s like they’re fluent in a whole different language. They’re learning piano at the moment.”

Having three daughters, Andrew was also really excited about the prospect of having a ‘son’ in the show:

“I was interested in the idea of having a fictional family, particularly one including teenagers, step-children and a son,” he reveals.

“I’ve always wanted to have a son and it was very exciting to think that a casting director had scoured England to find someone who’s suitable. And there was Angus – he exceeded all my expectations and he’s a very plausible son.”

How did Andrew get on with the young cast?

“They were lovely. It’s strange how quickly we began to treat each other like a real family. I adored them all in different ways.

“Rachel is mischievous; Matt is an incredibly cool character; and Angus was probably my best mate on set.

“I was a bit scared of Dominique at first as she plays her character so brilliantly and I thought maybe she’d have that diva-esque quality of Aretha, but she doesn’t at all. She was the one who noticed I’d be working on Father’s Day and asked what we could do to celebrate. I told her a song would do it. It was just banter but two-and-a-half weeks later, on Father’s Day, she came up and sang a song she’d made up just for me. It slightly broke my heart.”

Established actress and ex-Holby City star Rakie Ayola couldn’t resist the opportunity to play glam mum Shalondra.

“The script made me laugh out loud when I read it,” she reveals. “I’d describe the show as a modern-day Partridge Family, to anyone old enough to know what that means. It’s really colourful, funky and so much fun.

“I also like the fact that there were a lot of politically-correct boxes being ticked, but the writers and producer haven’t been restrained by that,” she continues.

“So, instead of bowing to this altar, they’ve said, ‘Okay, we have this family that’s half-black, half-white, half-American, half-British. We have a mix of boys and girls, one character who’s mixed-raced and deaf – but we’re not going to be restrained by any of that. We’re not going to tiptoe around Martha’s disability or anything.’ I liked that. It wasn’t some sort of reverential hands-off approach to what we’re presenting.”

So what does Raki think of Shalondra?

“Shalondra Swann is glamorous and a great mum – and like all great mums she messes up sometimes. She doesn’t always get things right but she certainly tries to do what’s best for everybody,” she explains.

“She’s caring, very talented and always looks great – first thing in the morning and last thing at night Shalondra looks fantastic. I am not like that! She’s a mum with false nails who likes to bake cakes – they’re quite a rare breed.”

There must have been quite a lot of pressure singing, dancing and acting all in one show?

“I can sing. I’ve done a couple of Children In Needs – if anyone asks for someone to sing, I’ll put my hand up.

“So to play a character who can sing has been a joy. Whenever it looks like Shalondra singing, it is me,” reveals Raki.

“There was pressure though. In one episode I play Shalondra and her triplet sisters! On top of the usual costume changes I was getting dressed and becoming somebody else. My head was exploding.”

What was it like for Rakie working with a predominately young cast?

“They’re fantastic. They’re a hugely-talented group of people. You’ll hear so much about all of them because they’ve all got a funny bone, particularly Angus and Dominique – if they don’t appear in sitcom after sitcom I’ll be very surprised.”

The Love Of Money is the definitive behind the scenes account of the crash of 2008 – what happened, why it happened and how generations to come will be affected by its legacy.

Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Lehman’s collapse in September, the series chronicles the interlinked events of a crisis that took capitalism to the brink of collapse.

The Love Of Money features an unparalleled range of eye-witness contributions from most of the major players at the centre of the storm including: Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, Mervyn King, Tim Geithner, Alan Greenspan, the Finance Ministers of France, Germany and Iceland, the CEO’s of Merrill Lynch and Barclays, Lehman’s lawyer Rodgin Cohen and its bankruptcy lawyer, Harvey Miller, as well as US Congressional Leaders.

The programmes show how many believed they had found a way of eliminating risk, and therefore ending boom-and-bust economics. They explain how banks dabbled in new and complex investments which they believed offered risk-free rewards, only to discover this was wrong; how the whole system began to unravel as, first, banks and, then, entire countries teetered on the edge of collapse, and how our political and financial masters struggled to regain control and to pull us back from the brink.

The Love Of Money peels away the cultural layers of the housing boom, the easy-money society and the consumer dream that inflated the global economic bubble.

It examines the influence that the world’s media had on events, simultaneously reporting and shaping the story, and it tells the emotional personal dramas that played out in extreme circumstances as well as the incredulity and humour that greeted the events as they unfolded.

And it will explore the role of the politicians and business leaders who helped created the problem by sweeping aside financial regulations designed to protect us – but now claim to have saved the world.

The Love Of Money also examines the story of how the rescue of the financial system has saddled us with a legacy of debt for generations to come and whether this huge investment will be enough to stave off further economic collapse.

The Love of Money is executive produced by Dominic Crossley-Holland and series produced by Michael Tuft. The series is co-produced by BBC Factual and the Open University.

A season marking the anniversary of the collapse of the Lehman Brothers bank will air next month on BBC Two and includes a unique collaboration between two BBC departments – factual and drama.

Crash Season begins with The Love Of Money, a three-part series that chronicles the interlinked events of the Lehman Brothers’ crisis that took capitalism to the brink of collapse.

The Love Of Money features an unparalleled range of eye-witness contributions from most of the major players at the centre of the storm including: Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, Mervyn King, Tim Geithner, Alan Greenspan, the Finance Ministers of France, Germany and Iceland, the CEO’s of Merrill Lynch and Barclays, Lehman’s lawyer Rodgin Cohen and its bankruptcy lawyer, Harvey Miller, as well as US Congressional leaders.

The series will also reveal exclusive footage showing former Lehman Brothers’ CEO Dick Fuld struggling to keep his bank afloat in the weeks leading up to its collapse.

The Love Of Money is executive produced by Dominic Crossley-Holland and series produced by Michael Tuft.

As previously announced BBC Two will also broadcast The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers, a work of fiction inspired by the real events that saw the bank go to wall on the weekend of 12 September 2008.

This one-off 60-minute drama was written by Craig Warner (Maxwell, The Queen’s Sister), executive produced by Ruth Caleb (Short Stay In Switzerland, Born Equal, Judge John Deed) and produced by Lisa Osborne (Little Dorrit).

The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers is the result of an extraordinary collaboration between the BBC’s factual and drama departments.

During the drafting of the script the two teams worked together to ensure the drama had its feet in fact while still giving the drama the licence to give its own unique interpretation of the events.

Dominic Crossley-Holland, who has overseen the season, says: “The BBC Two’s Crash Season provides the definitive account of the causes, consequences and cost of the greatest financial crisis for 80 years.

“To start with there’s an exciting creative collaboration in a gripping double bill produced by BBC Factual and Drama departments. We deconstruct the collapse of Lehmans, a seminal moment of the crash which had a devastating impact worldwide.

“Combined, The Love Of Money series and The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers drama offer viewers an exciting way into one of the most important moments in the history of business.”

Ruth Caleb says: “The drama simply could not have happened without cooperation from the Factual team. Their advice, support and huge generosity were key to us proceeding, and collaborating at the research stage enabled the writer, Craig Warner, to get access to an in-depth and detailed account of events.

“The drama was conceived, written and produced at great speed and this could only be done with considerable input from Dominic Crossley-Holland and his team.”

Other programmes in the BBC Two Crash Season include:

Warren Buffett: How To Be Rich – Evan Davis meets the one of the world’s richest men, a hugely successful and legendary investor.

Bonfire Of The Bankers (working title) – the story of the Lehman Brothers’ collapse.

BBC World Service will also be investigating the impact of the global recession in Aftershock, a new season broadcasting across the BBC’s international news services, with BBC World News and, in September.

Opening the season on 5 September, The Day That Lehman Died on BBC World Service is a new 60-minute radio drama which marks the anniversary of the collapse of this banking giant.

It is a fictionalised account of events over the weekend prior to the bank’s demise, where bankers argued and negotiated, all too aware that Lehman was not the only one of its kind in trouble. This drama looks at how the critical decision to let Lehman die was made.

Written by Matthew Solon, an award-winning writer whose work has featured on BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4, the play is directed by John Dryden, whose previous credits include the 10-part serialisation of Vikas Swarup’s Q & A (Slumdog Millionaire) for Radio 4, which won the 2008 Sony Award for Best Drama.

The drama was recorded on location in and around Wall Street, including at the New York Stock Exchange, with cast members including John Shea and John Rothman. It was made with the assistance of WNYC Public Radio in New York.

The Day That Lehman Died was commissioned by Tony Phillips and executive produced by Jeremy Skeet and Marion Nancarrow.

James Cromwell (Six Feet Under, 24, W, LA Confidential), James Bolam (New Tricks), Ben Daniels (Law And Order: UK, The Passion), Michael Landes (Love Soup, Material Girl) and Corey Johnson (Spooks, United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum) will star in The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers, a BBC Drama Production for BBC Two.

A work of fiction inspired by the real events that took place on the weekend of 12 September 2008, The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers tells the story of what happened the weekend that Lehman’s Bank went to the wall.

Executive Producer Ruth Caleb (Short Stay In Switzerland, Born Equal, Judge John Deed) says: “In the year following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, writer Craig Warner has written a very engaging script inspired by those events.

“We are also very fortunate that we have an exceptional cast, including James Cromwell, Ben Daniels and James Bolam to bring those events to life.”

By Friday 12 September 2008 confidence in the American bank Lehman Brothers had plunged.

Its clearing bank was demanding more collateral, its attempts to raise money from a Korean bank had stalled and credit agencies warned that, if it did not raise more capital, it would be downgraded.

The heads of Wall Street’s biggest investment banks were summoned to an evening meeting by the US Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson (James Cromwell), to discuss the plight of another – Lehman Brothers.

After six months’ turmoil in the world’s financial markets, Lehman Brothers was on life support and the government was about to pull the plug.

Lehman CEO, Dick Fuld (Corey Johnson), recently sidelined in a boardroom coup, spends the weekend desperately trying to resuscitate his beloved company through a merger with Bank of America or UK-based Barclays.

But without the financial support of Paulson and Lehman’s fiercest competitors, Fuld’s empire – and with it, the stability of the world economy – teeters on the verge of extinction.

The Last Days Of Lehman Brothers (1 x 60-minutes) was written by Craig Warner (Maxwell, The Queen’s Sister) for transmission on BBC Two this autumn.

It also stars Alex Jennings (The Queen, The State Within), William Hope (Aliens, Sherlock Holmes), Michael Brandon (Dead Man Weds, Dempsey And Makepeace) and Peter Polycarpou (Holby City, Empathy).

It was commissioned by Janice Hadlow, Controller, BBC Two, and Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning.

The director is Michael Samuels (Caught In A Trap, The Curse Of Steptoe) and the producer is Lisa Osborne (Little Dorrit).

BBC Sport provides extensive, live coverage of this year’s largest international sporting event – the World Athletics Championships from Berlin, Germany – across TV, radio and online.

Coverage features on BBC Two and BBC Radio 5 Live from Saturday 15 August to Sunday 23 August.

Triple Olympic champion Usain Bolt starts as red-hot favourite, with his showdown against reigning World 100m and 200m champion Tyson Gay set to light up Berlin on the first weekend (BBC Two, Saturday 15 August: 10.00am-12.30pm, men’s 100m heats; 4.45-8.45pm, men’s 100m quarter-finals; Sunday 16 August, 5.00-9.00pm, men’s 100m finals).

For Britain, Jessica Ennis also goes for gold in the women’s heptathlon over the opening weekend, while defending 400m champion and Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu hopes to beat her arch-rival, Sanya Richards of the USA, as she did gloriously in Beijing last year (BBC Two, Saturday 15 August, 10.00am-12.30pm, women’s 400m heats; Sunday 16 August, 5.00-9.00pm, women’s 400m semi-finals).

Presenters Hazel Irvine, John Inverdale and Jonathan Edwards are joined by a BBC team of expert commentators and analysts including: former multiple Olympic 200m and 400m champion and current 400m world record holder, Michael Johnson; former Olympic heptathlon champion Denise Lewis; and double 110m hurdles World champion and 60m hurdles world record holder, Colin Jackson.

Describing the action from Berlin is a team of expert commentators including Steve Cram, Jonathan Edwards, Paul Dickenson, Steve Backley and Brendan Foster. In addition, Phil Jones will be on hand to carry out interviews with all of the big names.

Approximately 50 hours of TV coverage is planned across BBC Two, BBC HD and BBC Red Button.

The extensive BBC Two coverage will keep viewers bang up to date with all the latest live action as well as previewing all the key events and big stories coming up.

The service on BBC Red Button complements the main TV programming: there are looped repeats of BBC Two’s live coverage and a daily 20 to 30-minute highlights programme in which viewers can catch up on all the very best action, from both the morning and evening sessions [see Notes to Editors].

Radio 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra also have extensive coverage, starting with a special 5 Live Sport Track And Field previewing the Championships with John Inverdale (Thursday 13 August, 9.00pm).

There will be commentary on the opening day’s action in 5 Live Sport (Saturday 15 August), with coverage every evening in 5 Live Sport throughout the Championships, as well as early-evening coverage on Sports Extra from 5.00pm on 17, 18 and 19 August.

John Inverdale will present live from Berlin alongside 5 Live athletics correspondent Mike Costello, Allison Curbishley and Sonja McLaughlan, with expert opinion from former javelin world record holder Steve Backley and Olympic Gold medal sprinter Darren Campbell.

The BBC Sport website will feature between five and eight hours of live video coverage every day, as well as extensive on-demand daily highlights (UK only).

The video will be accompanied by a daily live text commentary, featuring blow-by-blow updates from the text commentator, texts from readers and updates from journalists at the stadium in Berlin.

Blogger Tom Fordyce will be at the stadium each day, blogging and sending updates via Twitter and photos via Flickr.

And there will be analysis from top BBC pundits such as Steve Cram, Michael Johnson, Colin Jackson, Denise Lewis and Darren Campbell, as well as 5 Live athletics reporter Sonja McLaughlan.

How did you come up with the idea of Home Time?

I think it was around the time I came back home to my mum and dad’s house again, after yet another failed life-change. I realised I couldn’t put ‘only’ in front of my age any more. Saying “I’m only 17” is a great excuse. “I’m only 21” works too, but when you’re heading towards “I’m only 30” – that’s just getting daft.

Also, I was thinking about the importance of people who’ve known you all your life. Having gone away and attempted to start new lives quite a lot, I realised anyone can move away and reinvent themselves, get cool hair and a good music collection. But the people you grew up with know the truth, they saw you through first perms, shell suits, doing a rap about recycling in whole-school assembly. They know that you once thought you could get pregnant from a toilet seat, and that the first boy who kissed you did it for a dare. They know the truth and like you anyway – they’re good people to surround yourself with.

Increasingly, people who left home a few years ago are finding themselves returning. It could be because of redundancies, house prices, it’s something that’s happening more and more. Parents thought their kids would be pretty much raised and out the door by 18. But there are still people living at their parents house well into their twenties, sometimes thirties and it’s OK. I do feel sorry for the parents though.

What is Home Time about?

It’s about a girl who, at 17, suddenly left home with big but very vague ideas. She was feeling very special and now suddenly finds herself at 29 back in the exact same situation she left, and with nothing to show for it but a lot of smudged mascara. So it’s about living in your teenage bedroom at the age of 29 and facing up to the fact that somewhere everything went wrong.

Home Time’s about being lost, getting stuck and finally growing up, and I think that that’s happening a lot later. It’s about recognising the benefits of belonging in and being part of a place and not feeling entirely anonymous. Finally, it’s about realising that you can let go of that exhausting teenage sense of special separateness. Those thoughts of “Nobody gets me, everybody’s looking at me, I’m so different”. Actually, you’re not that different and no one’s got time to look at you, they’ve got lots of work/childcare/shopping to do.

What was it like writing with Neil Edmond and working with the cast?

I met Neil three years ago when I was doing my first play and we got on really well. We’ve worked together ever since really. We did a project called WhereAreTheJoneses?, which involved driving around Europe in a small car, improvising a three-minute comedy episode every day for three months. By the end of it we were really psychotic. I thought, “if we can get on under those circumstances and not physically harm each other, then we’ll be alright for most things.” It’s a joy to work with Neil.

When we were writing, we ended up with thousands of Post-it notes, with lists of characters, ideas, locations and plots. I stuck them on every available wall space. Then, when my flat needed a re-wire, I’d open the door to fear-struck electricians who saw a lone female stood in a flat with wall-to-ceiling Post-it notes of female names and maps. I looked like a stalker slasher psycho! Neil and I have known each other for three years, he was the first person I ever showed my writing to and I trust his opinion over most people’s. We’ve spent so much time together, we have our own sort of shorthand language now of mainly grunts, swearwords and scribbles.

Neil and I thought that it would be funny if Kelly had caned it so hard she looked 50. We thought that a 50-year-old actress should play her. It’s a nice visual gag, but it’s a sketch gag. Across a series if you miss that one bit where there’s an explanation, you’ll spend the rest of the series wondering who this older woman is, is she an aunt or a teacher that couldn’t let go? We resigned that one to the ideas graveyard, along with a stray dog called Levi and a detailed theme of doomed chimpanzee cosmonauts.

As for working with the rest of the cast, at the end of the first week we did a scene where the girls walk out of a nightclub and down the street looking for chips. The director genuinely didn’t recognise us for a moment. She said “Oh my god, you’re a group! A really scary looking group”, and we felt like one. We still meet up for dinner – Hayley’s very good at finding two-for-one vouchers.

Everyone took part in the series, my parents, my brother, my niece, my neighbours, my friends, ex-students, my best friend’s dog. And not one of them moaned on the 4am night shoots when it snowed and we developed frost on our costumes.

Were you involved in the casting process?

Having been on the other side of the desk as an actor, you can tell if people are interested or not within a few seconds. There’s a light in their eyes that quickly goes out. It really hurts and it’s hard not to take it personally. But, having now been on the other side of the table, I wouldn’t take it personally any more because you write these characters with specific ideas in your head and someone can be brilliant but just not how you imagined it.

Also the accent was tricky. It’s like the Coventry City song says: “We speak with an accent exceedingly rare”. People assume we all have really thick Birmingham accents. We did say, “If you can’t do a Coventry accent, don’t worry about it. Yet”. So it was useful for the cast to work with a Coventry-based accent coach.

I knew that I wanted to work with a couple of people but didn’t think it would happen – Phil Jackson as my Dad, that was just a daft daydream, but he agreed!

Sometimes, the initial ideas we had for a character’s physical appearance went right out the window. For example, Kelly was supposed to be really short and scrappy, but with Rebekah playing her, she ended up taller than me. And I’m tall. She had some Nineties platforms that the costume designer found for us, they were in fact Mel B’s cowhide moonboots from the first Spice Girl’s tour!

The key thing with the cast was that they play the characters three-dimensionally. You can take a character like Becky and on the page she’s just brutal, but if you’ve got a good actress playing her you can see that she’s incredibly vulnerable. She gets hurt a lot and things really knock her confidence. She’s just got this stupidly thick aggressive armour and it’s nice to see moments when she is vulnerable, so we needed an actor that could do that. They’re not nasty characters, they’re just hurting in their own way, a bit lost and embarrassed like we all are.

Are you Gaynor?

I have been, I’ve been all of them. I’ve certainly felt as lost as Gaynor, I’ve certainly felt as sad and foolish. I was always leaving with some hare-brained half-notion of starting a new life somewhere else, but it always went wrong and I always came back. The difference between me and Gaynor is that I was always in close contact with my friends and family. Plus I was never away for very long because I always managed to fail miserably, but quickly.

Gaynor left abruptly and cut all her ties. The people that she’s returning to aren’t being nasty, they’re just hurt because she left in a really brutal way. She never meant to stop contact, she was just waiting for something brilliant to happen so she could get in touch with good news, but it never did. And the longer you leave it, the more impressive this ‘good thing’ has to be, until it’s too late just to call and simply say hello.

Why is Gaynor back?

Something terrible’s happened and she realises that, when things go wrong, the one place you want to return to is home. It’s the place where you feel safe, where people know the bones of you, where you’ll be looked after. Whatever’s gone on down south, it must be pretty bad because the shame of staying there outweighed the shame of coming back to her home town a failure.

There are increasing clues as the series goes on as to why she’s back. Mel and mum Brenda are particularly keen to weedle it out of her, but Gaynor soon becomes re-entwined in being 17 again, settling old scores, chasing the one that got away, which is more comfortable than having to think about whatever it is she ran away from.

How did you get Home Time commissioned?

My first acting job was Ideal which was with Baby Cow Productions. Then Neil and I did WhereAreTheJoneses?, an online sitcom, for the same company. Henry Normal from Baby Cow asked if I had any ideas and I had Home Time and a comedy set in World War One. He said go for Home Time ‘cos period costumes are pricey. We sent in a pitch and it went from there – I still can’t believe it.

What scenarios or themes in Home Time are like your own experiences?

One theme that runs through it that I found was true of people my age is that however nice the people you went to school with were, there’s always a fear of seeing them again. The last time you saw them you were 17, full of dreams, your skin was good and you were wearing fashionable clothes. But now you run into them in the supermarket and they’re all successful and sorted and you’ve got no make-up on. You’re wearing the free PlayStation t-shirt you use for decorating and you just don’t want them seeing you like this. At that point you hide behind the dairy produce and think, “Something’s gone horribly wrong in my life, this isn’t how I thought it would be, it hasn’t turned out right”.

When you feel deep down you haven’t achieved all that you should, you can become very quick to big up any success you have had. All four girls are like that in Home Time, the rest of their class or year have moved on, but these four are still trapped in the past, in this cycle of constantly trying to demonstrate that they’re achieving all the things they said they would under the title ‘ambitions’ on their school-leaver’s report card.

As for the female characters, I’ve been all of them at different times in my life. I’ve been Kelly, a bedroom DJ with aspirations who’s too old but can’t let it go. I’ve been Becky, I did an MA in Creative Business and Marketing just so I could dress for success and carry a laptop to work. And, on occasion, I’ve been exactly like Mel, doing nothing myself but happily sitting with a posh coffee, using other people’s lives as a spectator sport. I’ve tried and failed at lots of things to try and emulate the successful, beaming people I’ve seen in magazines.

The dad, Roy, is basically like both of my parents. I’ve got a ridiculously understanding tolerant, good-natured, sweet mum and dad, but if you write both parents like that it just becomes The Waltons. So, Roy is both my parents and the mum Brenda is a work of fiction. We wanted to come up with the most difficult mum for someone in Gaynor’s situation. Someone who can’t help but drag her daughter over the coals, and who is compulsively sociable and gossipy, when Gaynor just wants to hide and keep everything a secret.

Why did you want a female ensemble cast?

I wanted to write something about a group of women who’d been friends all their lives. I think the reason her closest friends are all female is because they met when they were about seven (during the ‘yuck boys’ stage) and she left at 17 (before they’d got into serious relationships). Gaynor hasn’t seen the girls since they were 17 and that gap of 12 years is an important one. Over the years, everyone else has gradually learned lessons and moved on without even thinking about the fact they’ve all grown up. The girls have missed out on that, so at that moment of meeting they’re right back to being 17 again, full of childish regression, conformity and hurt teenage pride.

The series is partly about women who’ve been encouraged to feel like they can put life on hold and behave like teenagers for as long as possible. They’re going to Prague to get their eggs frozen, so they can avoid responsibility until the last possible minute.

I think there’s a big difference between the kind of friendship groups formed at, say, yoga, where you meet once a week in a wine bar and talk about telly and shoes, and the kind of friendships forged in the playground that last a lifetime. These women have gone through every stage of growing up together, know everything about each other and have come to define each other. Next to family, they’re the most enduring and influential relationships they have. And like family, it’s not always pretty.

What’s your relationship to Coventry like?

I love Coventry, it’s the place I’m happiest. It’s the only place I really feel I know what I’m doing and where I’m going – both emotionally and physically. It’s the only place I don’t need a sat nav. Mastering the ring road was one of the proudest days of my life. My friends and family are all there and I’m very proud to still be working with some incredibly-talented young performers and writers that I used to teach – they’re going to do great things. Coventry is a beautiful place and we made sure we captured that in Home Time. The memorial park and the canal basin look stunning. For all the outdoor scenes, the lighting designer washed everything in a ‘Coventry Blue’ in homage to Coventry City football team.

I’m very proud of Coventry and its history. It’s famous for loads of things, music, 2 Tone, punk, The Specials, The Enemy; watch, cloth, car and bike manufacture; Frank Whittle, Philip Larkin, Pete Waterman, Mo Mowlam, Clive Owen, Lady Godiva. Fishy Moores chip shop is the stuff of legend. As for television made in Coventry, Keeping Up Appearances was filmed round the corner from my friend’s grandma in Binley Woods. And The Armstrongs, but that’s not comedy, that’s real.

We’re not trying to capture all of life in Coventry through the series. Coventry’s a very diverse city with lots of different people living lots of different lives. You couldn’t possibly sum up the whole city through a small group of fictional characters.

As the series goes on, Gaynor starts to realise that, as a teenager, you were trying to escape yourself, not your home town. I think that happens to a lot of people. In a way we could have set it anywhere because it’s about everybody’s relationship with their home town, not just mine.

Is Coventry the new Barry Island?

In terms of the brilliant success Gavin And Stacey’s had, I very much doubt it. I hope it captures a similar bitter-sweet quality but Gavin And Stacey’s a happier situation – young love – Home Time starts with Gaynor thinking she’s in the worst possible situation, but as the series goes on she falls back into sort-of-being 17 all over again. Which is nearly a privilege.

What was it like filming? Were there any interesting moments?

It was a really strange feeling setting up cameras and filming in places I’ve walked through a thousand times before and a hundred times since. There were loads of lovely moments on set and some genuine surprises like Marion’s (Gaynor’s mum) proper potty mouth. She’s incredibly elegant and eloquent, but capable of absolute filth. She’s brilliant but when she makes a mistake, her language is remarkable.

What really stands out in my memory is how incredibly hard-working and valiant the crew and cast were. We hadn’t anticipated filming in snow storms and like fools we’d written loads of outdoor scenes with people wearing vest tops. It could’ve been a nightmare but people kept smiling, even with frost on their eyebrows.

Would you like to continue being both an actress and writer?

I’ve been ridiculously lucky. It’s an incredibly rare opportunity to get to do both and, if I ever got the chance again, I’d love to. It’s hugely daunting though, because I’m quite shy and it does involve being in front of many, many people. In a way I prefer the being at home writing, although the catering’s not nearly as good.

I’ve never written and acted before and you have to learn to keep your mind on the acting when you’re acting. But there were a few times when I was trying to learn lines thinking, “Why did I make that sentence so complicated?” And why did I write myself the most unattractive character possible, all smudged, sobbing and bloodshot in Nineties jeans?

How did you get into comedy/acting?

I was a teacher before and I developed a stutter, so I did this all-female comedy night in Birmingham as a dare to myself just to see if I could do it. In typical Gaynor fashion, my poor old dad gave me a lift there and sat outside in the car for three-and-a-half hours. I was so nervous I had a panic attack before I went on and this one woman took the time to chat to me and calm me down. She’s been a proper mate ever since and is in Home Time playing Siobhan Long. I didn’t realise at the time it was a comedy competition but the audience were nice, it went well and everything started from there. I’ve been very, very, lucky.

What are your plans for the future?

It all depends how this goes really. If I get to work again, that’d be great. I’m doing a couple of projects and bits of writing with Neil. One project is about a woman who makes up ridiculous lies about doing good deeds to try to impress her ex-boyfriend who’s saving people’s eyesight in Africa. I always seem to end up playing liars. If this all goes wrong, I’d love to go back to teaching or maybe open a small B&B and learn to do really good fry-ups.

As the girls wake up from a boozy sleepover, Gaynor gets a nasty shock – an invitation to a school reunion. Whether she goes or not, she’s finally going to have to face up to all the rumours about why she went and what went wrong.

As the girls wake up from a boozy sleepover, Gaynor gets a nasty shock – an invitation to a school reunion. Whether she goes or not, she’s finally going to have to face up to all the rumours about why she went and what went wrong.

While Gaynor summons up the courage to run off again, Kelly is the first of the girls to turn 30. Rather than leave her pal in her time of need, Gaynor mucks in with a budget luxury spa day and a night on the town.

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