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I TALK TO Nigel Harman & Samantha Womack

As Mount Pleasant returns to our screens, setting the cats amongst the pigeons are the close's latest neighbours, Tanya and Bradley, played by Samantha Womack and Nigel Harman.

He's a bit of a charmer and she's a bit of a cougar and in the first episode when they throw a party all hell breaks loose. What more do you want from the start of a series?

Earlier on this year I went up to Manchester to visit the set of Mount Pleasant to find out exactly what the new neighbours have in store for the residents of Mount Pleasant and more importantly why they've moved up to Manchester.

Tell us a little bit about Bradley and Tanya?

Nigel: Well I'm Bradley.

Samantha: And I'm definitely Tanya!

Nigel: We've come from London rather hastily with our daughter Ella, slightly under mysterious circumstances - maybe it wasn't a good idea to stay south because Bradley's line of work is a little bit suspect. So I think he felt a little bit too close to the fire so we all decided we had to move to Manchester!

And then we arrive in Mount Pleasant rather hastily one morning and just try and fit in really. But we're not very shy, we're quite front footed. We throw a party within two weeks of being here with lasers and chinese lanterns, beers for everyone!

We're quite over the top and everyone just gets absolutely smashed and we're just running around being lovely to everyone. So I think they came here to get out of London and keep quiet but they've kind of done the episode.

Samantha: We're mildly dysfunctional, Tanya has a history of maybe bi-polar and a slight kleptomaniac - which is interesting. She is in love with her husband, but also she's a social butterfly, quite needy and I think because of their situation - they're nomadic and they're moving around quite a lot - she gets quite close physically to Daniel Ryan's character - Dan. But I think they're an unusual couple, I like them.

Nigel: I think they're percussive, so they fight and then they f... I was going to say they fight and fuck but I don't think...

Samantha: We've filmed that bit already. On this table here? (Points to the table from which I'm conducting the interview which is in Lisa and Dan's kitchen)

Nigel: No. It wasn't in here, on this table. Use your imagination (laughs). That's the thing, one minute they're at each other's throats, the next minute they're brilliant.

What about your daughter Ella?

Nigel: Arguably the smartest person in the family is the daughter, who's played by Nicola Millbank. So that adds an extra element to it really.

Samantha: She's kind of tired and weary of us a little bit. I think Tanya tries to be her friend, like down with her - flirts with all her friends and behaves inappropriately.

Bradley and Ella have quite a close relationship and I think they tire of Tanya quite easily as well so there's this kind of strange dynamic! (Laughs). But yeah... they're a colourful family!

You said you came to left London under mysterious circumstances - why is that?

Nigel: Bradley has been in prison, and he has maybe been physical. But he's more an opportunist - he's a wheeler dealer, he sells and he buys. He knows if you want something, he can get it for you, whatever it is. So he's more one of those, but there is a little bit of a shadow.

And in the first four episodes he's in and out - you're never quite sure where he is. He goes out for most of the day, or he goes away and comes back. More and more is revealed as we go on but I think there's a lot more to come in that element.

Samantha: They bring a slightly darker element I do think, obviously we're different because we're southerners so there's a very different vibe to as compared to most of the families on the close so that's quite unusual. And certainly in the writing of them, and hopefully in the playing of them, they have got slightly darker undertones.

How do the other residents take to Tanya and Bradley then?

Samantha: I think they're slightly suspicious.

Nigel: Yeah, I mean we're friendly but almost too friendly. He's a salesman so he's very good at wooing people with his charm. People like us, but there is a bit of - "Something's going on. Something is a bit dodge. Something's not quite right."

Did you two know each other before?

Nigel: We didn't actually. We'd met once at the Piccadilly Theatre because we both did Guys And Dolls, but not at the same time. So I went back in to rehearse something for the tour and you were sitting there and we said hello. That's literally it. Lots of mutual friends which always tends to be the way when you get as old as we do and have been doing it for a while.

Samantha: But this is the first time we've worked together - and last! (Laughs). I love working with him, seriously I do. I think he's very gorgeous and lovely and very talented and I'm very lucky to have him as my husband. (Waits for a response from Nigel) - Go on...

Nigel: (Laughs) It's good. Sam knows what she's doing. She's brilliant. We're lucky like that because I feel like we have a shorthand even though we haven't worked together before. So I think that's handy.

Samantha: Yeah, and we're coming from the same place which is that we wanted to make the characters fully fledged. So obviously when you come into something and it's in its third series, there are obviously divisive characters put in to put the cat amongst the pigeons - but we were both quite careful at making them fully fledged and rounded. We were asking all the same questions which was reassuring.

Having both come from EastEnders, which isn't the most cheeriest of shows - was that the appeal to do Mount Pleasant - to show off your funny side?

Samantha: That was the appeal for me. It was me going back to comedy, because I started my career doing comedy and then moved away from it so I was looking for things that I hadn't done in a long time, and you're right, EastEnders is very heavyweight so it was very interesting to come back to comedy.

Often you play versions of the same character but I've not played anyone like this before - her speed, her pace, and the way she moves. She's insane! I love the fact that she's insane. But she's exhausting. Her speed of thinking is exhausting and her recovery - she's an emotional manipulator so she's quite tiring to play.

Nigel: I'm not sure Bradley can be called a comedic character (laughs). He's evolved a lot since episode one, definitely in the stuff we're doing in episode five, six, seven and eight, he's a lot more shadowy let's say. He's turning into someone who is very charming and can switch on the switch. Sociopath is way too strong a word but there's elements of it certainly. So it's not Shrek - it's not out and out camp comedy. Well I'm trying not to be camp! (They both laugh).

As well as Mount Pleasant, Nigel you're going to be in Downton Abbey and Samantha you're going back to EastEnders. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Nigel: Yes. I play a valet to Lord Gillingham who's played by Tom Cullen. He's a bit of a dark warrior, but he's very charming and then he's not. But it's great because I get to work with Jo Froggatt and all those people so it's good. He's good fun, it's a great show and it's a good time.

Samantha: For me, they'll both be on at the same time which will be really good for me because they're both polar opposites. That again, was the appeal of this - I had an idea that I'd be going back for a six-month contract and I really liked the idea that there's a chance for me to do two completely different roles on two different chinels at the same time. It's good to remind people that I don't just cry! (Laughs).

I got annoyed actually because I'd watch EastEnders after I'd left and they kept cutting to the gravestone of one of my dead children - there were quite a lot of them - and it would always say - "Son of Jack" and somebody would always put a bunch of flowers in front of my name. And I'm like - "I've just done three years there. Move the flowers!"

So then I couldn't watch it because I got very close to the people there and the characters and see things that didn't sit well. I'd have to switch off! But I'm back now to move the flowers - that's the point. That's a whole week of episodes! (Laughs).

Mount Pleasant returns Wednesday 11th September at 9pm on Sky Living


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