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I TALK TO Joanna Page

On the set of ITV's new six-part period drama Breathless, I caught up with Joanna Page in between takes to find out what it was like playing Lily Enderbury.

Breathless is a six-part period drama set in 1961, a time when Britain was on the brink of the Sixties revolution. Set in and around a London hospital's Gynaecology unit, Breathless follows the lives of a group of doctors and nurses, who underneath the shiny veneer, simmers a cauldron of lies, deception and guilty secrets.


The series stars Jack Davenport, Zoe Boyle, Natasha Little, Oliver Chris, Shaun Dingwall alongside Joanna Page.


How would you best describe Breathless?


Well, it's a drama but our characters Lily and Charlie, have been describe as quite comedic. They're really sweet and there are some funny bits, but actually the overview of all of this is really dramatic and quite serious.


Also, it's not really about the Hospital, it's more about the relationships between the couples. There are some funny bits, but mostly it's quite serious and just about the different politics of relationships of the couple at that time.


What can you tell us about your character, Lily?


Well, she's an ex-nurse - she retired as soon as she got married to Charlie who's the anaesthetist. She's a lovely character, just very honest and sweet, and caring and giving and wanting to be involved and wanting to make everybody happy and what she would absolutely love is to have children and live this very quaint gorgeous life with Charlie - have loads and loads of babies and on the surface they are completely and utterly happy and the perfect marriage. 


In the first episode I'm waving him off to work and it just looks picture perfect, but underneath there's so many troubles bubbling. They obviously love each other a lot but there are a lot of unsaid things and secrets in the marriage - lots of things she doesn't know about Charlie and because he can't tell her these things, he can't ever sort of relax in the marriage - they can't have children because they're just not clicking. They have chemistry, but there's just no chemistry going on in the bedroom. 


So she's got all of that to be dealing with, so on the surface she's really brittle because literally at any moment she's about to break. But on the surface she's really happy happy happy, but then underneath she's just going to go and so it's a matter of time in which episode she is going to go.


What's keeping them together then?


Well, I think it'll be mortifying to have a divorce, or separate, for their friends and family. They just would never do that, but also they're madly in love with each other.


They would never not want to be with each other because they desperately desperately love each other. If he wasn't carrying this burden, I think they'd be magically happy because they really really love each other. So if they can just get through this problem, then I'm sure they'll be really happy.


Does Charlie ever come clean to Lily?


Yes, there comes a point when, he's gone for this job in St. Albans and he's told me that he hasn't got it, but he has - but he wants to stay here close to Otto and Elizabeth and everything and sort out the whole Mulligan problem. 


And then it's revealed that he's been lying to me that he has got the job and then it all comes out and Lily is the worst possible person he could have told all of that to. She just needs to be truthful and honest, so goodness knows what'll happen if it goes to a second series! (Laughs).


Lily's quite a homely character, how does she fit in with the era of Breathless, a time of evolution for women?


She's very much a homebody and very happy to not work and just be with her husband, and have children - that is what she wants to do. She is still stuck in the past with her costumes and everything, but she aspires to be like Elizabeth and tries to be like the girls - fashion wise - but it never ever works out because she never gets it right.


I don't think she desperately wants to be on the pill, or sleep with loads of people. She's not a new woman, she's much more homely and wants to have a family.


You mention fashion there, are you loving the outfits?


Oh yeah, because my character, she's much more old-fashioned, she always gets things wrong and she desperately wants to be like Elizabeth's character and she models herself on her but she always gets it wrong. So I'm always stuck in the fifties. 


So I'm loving my costumes, I've got these amazing bat wing glasses as well which instantly makes me feel like I've got a character and I'm loving all the hair and the hats but I am quite jealous of the other girls going into the sixties - really cool outfits. 


Zoe (Boyle)'s got the most amazing beautiful dresses, she just looks fantastic and I love Catherine (Steadman)'s little nurses outfit, she looks amazing. So I am slightly jealous of the other girls because I'm still in these huge petticoats.


How does Lily fit in to all the other roles you've done and how does it compare?


Well it doesn't really fit in with any of them. You just get scripts, and you read them and think - "Oh do I want to meet for it, do I like it?" But I've worked for like ten years doing loads of costume dramas, I've done loads! 


There once was a time when I thought I'd never get to wear jeans and be like a normal girl in this time and everything, and then I did Gavin & Stacey and now everybody thinks that's it, that's all I've ever done - that I've done comedy, and modern day and that is it. 


Gavin & Stacey was the first comedy I'd ever done and so I never ever think of myself as that at all. This is much more what I've always done through out the whole of my career and it's just really nice. I love doing period stuff because you just feel you're in character straight away and it's just a bit of fun.


What's it been like for you having just had a baby and now doing this series?


Well it's been really nice because I said - "I'm not going to work now for a year." - and then I auditioned for this, read the script, thought - "Oh my God this is great!" and loved Lily's character. So I came in to meet Paul, the writer and first director, and got on really well. All I talked about was my placenta and my baby (laughs) and just chatted away and got offered the role so I didn't really have to think about auditioning or starting back at work, it just sort of happened without me thinking about it. 


She (the baby) comes everywhere with me and we just make it work. She's in my trailer now, she's been in make-up with me this morning, but it's been brilliant, she stays either with my husband or with my mother and all the costume women love her, and then when she needs a feed she'll come down on set and when they're turning the cameras around she has a quick feed, has a look around at everything and then goes back so it's working out really really well. 


So you're not tired then?


Oh God! I'm utterly exhausted! You know when you go past the point of tiredness so you're kind of delirious? It's really good for Lily's character because I'm kind of like that as well. Last week I was filming about four days in a row and it got to like the third day and I went home after work, stood in the hallway just sobbing as I was getting the stuff ready for the next because I was so tired. 


My mum was hugging me going - "Don't worry, it's just one more day, you'll be alright." and I'm crying - "I'm just so tired!" - but no you know, it's fine. I think when you become a mum, things just sort of change and I think I must have been so lazy. All I ever did was watch Dexter and go shopping! (Laughs). And now, because you've got to, you do everything!


The next thing we'll see you in is Doctor Who, how was that?


Oh it was cool, it was really good! I came back after this audition, because I'd said I'm not going to work at all, and then I had this meeting and then they phoned straight away and said they really like me and I got in through the door, got an email just asking me if I wanted to be in Doctor Who - and I was like, "Oh my God this is mental! I'm not even supposed to be working." 


I've wanted to be in Doctor Who for like ages and then to be in the 50th I was just like "Wow". 

And it was so much fun to get to work with all of the different Doctors. It was quite scary and intimidating at first but working with John Hurt was so much fun, he's got the most amazing stories.


You see him on set and he's just got that amazing voice and he doesn't do anything, he does his lines and you go - "Oh my God you are just like the best actor I've ever seen." What's scary is that your script arrives and on every single page it says Joanna Page over it so you know that if you leave it on the Tube or forwarded it on to someone you are in the shit!

Breathless begins Thursday 10th October at 9pm on ITV

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