Last year I visited the set of Mr Selfridge and sat down with Katherine Kelly in Mr Selfridge's office for a chat about her on screen husband Jeremy Piven and what to expect from series two.
Mr Selfridge returns for a second series and it’s the 5-year anniversary of the store’s opening and Harry Selfridge is proud that Selfridge’s has gone from strength to strength. It’s now the third biggest attraction in town, behind Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London!
Katherine Kelly returns to play Lady Mae Loxley, who in this series is thrown off her stride by the unexpected return of her husband, Lord Loxley (Aidan McArdle). Loxley is an alpha male who creates tensions and animosity at every turn and his unsettling presence threatens to drive a wedge between Harry and Lady Mae.
First of all, what are the big changes for series two?
Well the main thing was bringing in the husband. They didn't want him to be what Lady Mae was painting him out to be. Also, I think last series Lady Mae was the character we knew least about, she was only ever seen when she wanted to be. Even at her house she was throwing parties, it was never behind closed doors, it was always on her terms.
So how has Lady Mae changed in series two then?
Well, you see her when she wouldn't want you to. If she had a choice, you wouldn't see her like that. I think absolutely straight away from episode one, Lord Loxley turn up unannounced, and the whole house just shakes. It's not just her, it's the maids, it's everybody. When he's home, thunder arrives.
What's the relationship like between Lord Loxley and Lady Mae Loxley?
Very difficult. He's one of those men who, as a servant, you cannot win with. If you poured coffee he'll say he wants tea, even if he wants tea. When he first arrives, she gets told by one of the maids that he's here, she comes out and looks over this beautiful Dallas stairway and the scene, it's very much he's at the bottom of the staircase, and she's at the top.
She's like - "I'd've aired your room if I knew you were coming. In brackets, you absolute fucker!" (Laughs).
But very early on you realise that something is not right, he is not himself, and she just smells that yes he's a cruel bastard like he's always been, but there's something not black and white about us anymore. They're like JR and Sue Ellen.
We have this fabulous scene where we're in our manor house, and we're having breakfast, and we're at the opposite end of the table.
She's reading a broadsheet and he's like buttering a piece of toast. It's a complete power struggle really.
So what about her relationship with Harry Selfridge in this series?
Well their friendship has obviously been quite solid for five years, I think during the approach to the war, they find an even more common ground. Harry is so patriotic, to say that he's an American as well, and he really was if you read the book. He offered to clothe the entire British Army, but they said no because he was American. So he clothed the French instead - he was that kind of guy.
She really sympathises with him, because I think she has gone as far as she can go as a woman, who doesn't have the vote, who has no voice effectively. She's kind of clambered through the ranks.
She's married a Lord and she's about as high up as you can get whilst being a woman. He is as high up in society as you're going to get as an American. But it takes Lady Mae to explain that to him really - we are outsiders, I'm a woman and you're not class. That is a real problem.
How is Lady Mae Loxley with Rose this series?
Oh her and Rose get on very well. But Rose has sort of been to-ing and fro-ing from Britain and America, because the family are in the States, so their not as close. Then of course Delphine (Polly Walker, Prisoners Wives), rocks up!
Do we see a very vulnerable side to Lady Mae Loxley this series?
Yeah. I mean she would have been very vulnerable in series one, we just chose to never see them. Why? I think the War shakes everything up for her, and the husband arriving shakes her up - everything is shaken up for her really.
There's a few things that her husband does but that's as much as I can say. You'll definitely see a more vulnerable side of Lady Mae.
You must know Jeremy Piven very well now, what's he like to work with?
I think Jeremy Piven is awesome. And that's my most popular question from the public - "What's Jeremy Piven like?" because he's such a legend, and of course Entourage, he's a massive star, and people are always interested to find out what massive stars are like. The structure of this is a lot like Mad Men, in that he's the link between such an ensemble piece, but he's the one who takes us through every scene.
I get on with Jeremy fab, we get on like a house on fire, we talk about everything but the show sometimes. ITV invited us and our partners, and Jonathan Ross to watch the French Open. He's such an amazing guy, he's led the most fantastic life and he's very modest. He's the real deal you know, I think he's doing a brilliant job.
When I read the book he's exactly how I imagined the character to be. We come on set and he jolly's everyone along, and I've done those hours so I know how difficult that can be. For us, he's the great leader that Harry Selfridge was for them.