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I TALK TO Alison Steadman

Earlier this year I visited the set of Love & Marriage in Coventry, where I spoke to each cast member in their couples. I had a very good chat with Alison Steadman who spills the beans on what we can come to expect from the new ITV series.

Love & Marriage centres around the Paradise family, headed by Pauline Paradise who is played by the fantastic Alison Steadman. The series is a real feel good comedy-drama that fits right in to the ITV schedules, and with a brilliant cast including the likes of Larry Lamb, Celia Imrie and Ashley Jensen, what's not to love?

The five couples are all of varying ages and circumstances and each episode will lean towards one particular. In episode one, we meet Pauline & Ken, played by Alison Stradman and Duncan Preston.

First of all, how would you best sum up your character, Pauline Paradise?

She's a woman who married the first man who proposed to her. She hasn't had a life of going to University, or College or working in this and that. She's very much stayed in Coventry, with this guy, but that's not to say she isn't happy to do that, but she's only had this one marriage and she's had these three kids.

She is a brilliant mother, a very loving mother and totally committed to her family. But she's now found herself at retirement age where she's suddenly going "Do you know? I'm a bit fed up with this." Her kids are lovely but they kind of don't see her. She probably is the kind of woman who's probably done too much. She's always the one that's said "All around to me. I'll do all the Christmas!" They've never taken responsibility so all her family have always assumed that she'll do Christmas, she'll do all the parties, she'll do the shopping, she'll pick the kids up. You know those kids who do, just play on the parents if the parents are very kind. 

So she's done all that, and her husband, for most of their married life has kind of taken her for granted and kind of has forgotten that she's there. He doesn't speak to her very much, they don't really communicate. He does his work, and he brings the money into the house. He's not sort of horrible, he's not violent to her or anything, but, she just suddenly looks at her life thinking - "I am just being taken for granted here. By everybody. And I'm fed up with it. I've had enough". So she takes this big bold move to leave it all behind her.

This is when she moves in with her sister, Rowan?

Yes, she moves in with her sister. Only as a temporary thing, she doesn't intend to live there forever. You know, it's a big thing for her to do. She's got to find some means of looking after herself. I don't know if she's going to find any temporary work or something, but her sister is very well off so it's the obvious thing to do. So that's where Pauline's story begins really, on the day she retires from her work as a lollipop lady at this private school.

The real sort of thing that does it really, is her father, who she's quite close to and is a lovely man, drops dead very suddenly. And again all the family expect her to do the wake, prepare all the food. And she's not doing it, she says - "No. It's my father that died and I'm not doing it." - "In fact I'm leaving." - and they're all absolutely devastated by this news.

So what's her relationship like with her sister then? Is she jealous of her a little bit or is it a loving relationship?

Well, I think it's a bit of both. I mean they're so different, so different. Rowan's always been; selfish, glamorous. But the sister's got her own problems, they feed off each other. I mean they've always bickered. But you know, when it comes down to the nitty gritty they do love each other and they are sort of, committed to each other, but they're critical of each other.

Do you think Pauline's story will encourage a lot of other women to do the same?

I'm not hoping it will encourage women to leave their husbands and do all that. Oh no! But what I am hoping is that it'll make a lot of husbands think and start telling their wives that she's important or she might do that to me! Maybe that will be the result.

Why do you think it's taken Pauline so long to realise that people are taking her for granted?

Well I suppose part of it is her father dying. Because her father actually, before he dies, there's a very lovely scene where she comes home from work and she hears this music playing, and she opens the door and her father is in his very best suit, a very old suit, and he's got a photograph in his hand listening to music. 

At first she thinks he's had a stroke and that he's dead, and then he tells her it's his wedding anniversary today, his wife passed away quite a few years ago. He shows her the photograph and says - "I've never regretted marrying your mother. Not for a moment." It's a very touching scene, where she's this man who's still loving his wife that's passed on and talking about her in glowing terms.

And again she thinks, my husband for years hasn't said he loves me or appreciates me in any way. So then when her father dies, she thinks - "Well what have I got to lose."

Do you think she thinks she'll ever go back to him and hope that he'll appreciate her the second time around?

No, I don't think she thinks that at all. I think she thinks - "I'm getting OUT. And I am going, and I am starting something new." It's not that thing of - "I'm going to teach him a lesson." - it's not that. She sincerely 100%, wants out.

And finally, what was it like working with Larry (Lamb) again? 

Everyone says - "Oh are you married to Larry Lamb in this?" and I'm like - "No. No I'm not." 

You know it's a very different piece. But it's lovely to be working alongside him again that's for sure yeah. 

Love And Marriage begins Wednesday 5th May at 9pm on ITV


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