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I TALK TO Lesley Manville & Lisa McGrillis

Ahead of the second series of Mum, I caught up with Lesley Manville who plays Cathy and Lisa McGrillis who plays her son’s girlfriend Kelly, at the launch for Series 2.

Mum, the new sitcom from Him & Her writer Stefan Golaszewski launched in May 2016 and quickly found a place in the nation's hearts so it's no surprise that it's back for a second series and will be back for a third.


The first series followed a year in the life of Cathy, played by Lesley Manville, as she moved on from the death of her husband and this time around, we follow another year of her life.


As she moves closer and closer to Michael we're there every step of the way from Cathy’s 60th birthday to Fireworks Night. Mum is the story of a woman finding who she is again and maybe, if she could only see it, finding love second time around.


How does Series 2 compare to Series 1?


Lesley: I thought it was going to be slow. Given that he (Stefan Golaszewski) was going to spread the second series like he did the first, over the year. We all felt that he'd written something so beautiful with the first series that we were worried about how it could be any better.


But when I read series two I immediately rang my agent and said "I can't believe it, but he's excelled himself!" which is testament to his skill as a writer and his radar for spotting the finesse of performances.


Less so with Peter Mullen and I because those characters are the sort of moderators of the piece, but he took what everyone else was doing with the characters in series one and just ran with it. I think the writing in series two is phenomenally good and it was lovely to see that he'd done that so brilliantly.


Lisa: It really is. When he was writing for these characters in the first series, he said he spent about ten months sitting in the British Library with these characters in his head, but now what's lovely is that he's able to hear the voices so clearly and the series really benefits from it.


How much of the series is improvised?


Lisa: Lots of people has asked this and it's all written. Lots of those little touches, those little beautiful moments, her sniffing the crisp packet at the start of series two, finishing the crisp packet, putting the crisp packet in the bin, sniffing the fork... all of those details are written.


What was the Easter episode like to film? 


Lisa: A lot of chocolate! In every single scene we're eating chocolate and we felt sick. The week that we were filming those scenes, it was 35 degrees in London and the chocolate was melting fast! Eating chocolate when you're hot is really hard. (Laughs) As an actor that was a real challenge.


When there's a scene that says the character is eating, the character is eating. There's nothing worse than watching something on TV when people are going to eat something and then they don't. You just think "Eat it!"


Lesley: That's an actor that know there's going to be twenty takes and don't want to eat too much.


Lisa: Peter (Mullen) tried to get away with not eating a Victoria sponge and it was clocked!


Are there any similarities between Cathy and yourself Lesley?


Lesley: I haven't got an iota of her patience. But she's like that to highlight that she's surrounded by people who are looking inwards all the time and thinking of themselves.


Cathy is patient, loving, kind and understanding. She's non-judgemental and that's what I like about her. I've probably become less judgemental myself from playing her.


Sometimes I think I go "Oh, look at that person" but now I think "Hang on a minute... that's not the full picture." which is exactly what Cathy does when she first meets Kelly.


She doesn't go "bleach blonde in a red dress for a funeral." She doesn't judge people. She lets them come to her and I'm sure she probably has a richer life for it. Whereas I'm a bit less tolerant than that!


I have to ask this... Cathy and Michael. Will they won't they?


Lesley: As if I'm going to tell you! (Laughs) Well they're itching towards something... I'm not saying what though.


We've heard there's a great scene between them in the fourth episode?


Lesley: There is! It gets very emotional actually. It's like the whole series really. You laugh then you cry and I think you'll cry a bit in episode 4. It's lovely and very much about Michael and Peter Mullen is quite extraordinary in it.


Lisa: He really is. And not that you ever forget that but when you watch episode four, you realise that he has got some serious acting chops. His emotion is so connected and so real, it's really raw.


Why do you think Cathy and Kelly do get on so well?


Lesley: Well we love each other which helps.


Lisa: That's true, and in the first series I remember Richard saying to us, you're being too familiar. This is too soon for you to be this much in love. Think about the characters!


It's really lovely looking at a relationship about a mother-in-law because you often see it from the male point-of-view. Here we've got Kelly who is trying to impress Cathy, desperately wanting her approval.


Lesley: And actually, she's not judging Cathy and Cathy's not judging Kelly. She doesn't go "I don't want to be friends with this woman because she's much older than me." or "She's my boyfriend's mum."


Unlike with her mother, who's horrible to her and does judge her, reduces her and ridicules her. Cathy doesn't do any of those things.


Lisa: She can be completely herself in Cathy's presence. Her mum laughs at her a lot and takes the piss out of her and tries to be more of a sister than a mother. I think the things that she's lacked in her own relationship with her mother, she looks for in the relationship she has with Cathy.


Her relationship with Cathy is more important to her than any other relationship. She obviously loves Jason, but really what's important is that Cathy is happy all the time. The thought of Cathy ever being unhappy would make Kelly fall apart I think. We're best friends and in Kelly world that's really important.


Lisa, what drew you to the role of Kelly?


Lisa: It was one of those parts that came along and I read it and thought she was almost too good to be true. It was an opportunity and I just ran with it really under the guidance of Richard and Stefan. They really helped me mould her.


Parts like that don't come along very often. She should be the most annoying human in the world, but there's something about Stefan's writing which just makes her human.


Will we be seeing Kelly's mum this series?


Lisa: She pops in episode three when they go on holiday and she comes in like a force of nature. She dominates every room that she's in then walks out and leaves everyone a bit shaken. She's awful to everyone and then leaves.


Why do you think Mum has been so successful?


Lesley: We're always given a reason for the character behaving a certain way, and that's proper directing of drama. You might think with a comedy series that there's a lot of "Play it a bit more, a bit less" but I think with Mum, yes some of the people are quite extreme in their behaviour, but even within the realms of them being heightened, you have to believe it.


There's got to be reasons why they behave like they behave, and that's always been adhered to. There's never been a slapstick way of directing because it's a comedy.


Lisa: Obviously the majority of the material I have for Kelly are gags. She's saying ridiculous things and the way that we're guided is that you have to play it for real. You completely believe that meeting an 82 year-old woman at carol singing, becoming best friends and texting her, in her reality, that's completely normal.


Do you have any favourite moments from series one?


Lesley: One of my favourite lines from the whole of series one was when Kelly has been reading the Bible and she says to Cathy "Poor Jesus. What a way to go." That is what she thinks! (Laughs)

Lisa: Instead of playing the gag, for Kelly, being nailed to a cross is the saddest way to die. His poor mum was there! It's trying to find the truth in the absurdity sometimes.


And you've already got a third series!


Lesley: I know! They've already said they want a third.


Lisa: They said they wanted a third series before they'd finished editing the second series so it shows that the BBC have real faith in the series which is nice.


With Him & Her, Stefan took the final series out of its usual setting of the flat. Where would you like it to be set if he were to do that with Mum?


Lisa: I think Spain would be nice wouldn't it? Or a whole series in Sainsbury's! (Laughs)

Lesley: We would like to go somewhere hot, sunny and exotic because we all genuinely love each other so we could just have a holiday! That would be very nice.


What's next?


Lisa: I'm filming No Offence at the moment and I'm filming that until April and Lesley has got about 25 jobs at the minute?!


Lesley: I'm filming series two of Harlots and I'm in Long Day's Journey Into Night in the West End.


Mum returns Tuesday 20th February at 10pm on BBC Two

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