Break A Leg’s Top Five Television Programmes of 2016

Television is as much of a passion for me as the theatre, I am delighted to have been able to include episode reviews and related interviews on the site, this year. After all, my interest in theatre stemmed from the desire to see performers from the television perform on stage. So, here’s the best of what’s been floating my boat this year on the small screen, this year.

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Sandra Huggett played Maxine in In The Club… one of my favourite new characters.

In The Club – winner of Break A Leg Critic’s Choice Awards for best Television Drama, I adored this series which has been penned by the magnificent Kay Mellor. When I watched the first series it was not long after the birth of my Son and I could identify with so much that was featured in the storylines. Series two was well worth the wait and I am desperate for a third series. Fantastic writing, perfect casting and left me wanting more. Come on BBC!

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The reappearance of Cath Shipton as Duffy has been a highlight of Casualty for me, this year.

Casualty – I have been a fan of Casualty since it first started and always loved Duffy and Charlie. The fact that Cath Shipton has made a permanent return as Duffy this year and the character has been paired off with Charlie (Derek Thompson) has been another good reason to watch. I think that the full cast of regulars they currently have is incredibly strong. Their 30th anniversary episode was like a movie in quality and the episode that Amanda Mealing directed (she usually plays Connie) was one of the best of this series, in my opinion. Long may the show reign.

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Home Fires – I’ll miss this series so much!

Home Fires – I was really getting into this series and the second series which aired this year was my incredible. I felt that the cast had gelled and the various storylines had me gripped. The fact that it finished on such a cliff hanger is still disconcerting and I am shocked at ITV’s decision to axe a popular series which had been taken to viewers’ hearts. It had the right cast and setting to be as big as the likes of Downton Abbey if it had only been given the chance.

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Holby City has taken viewers on a real rollercoaster ride, this year.

Holby City is another medical drama that I have stuck with from the word go. This year has seen some of my favourite characters leave (Digby, for a start off!) and a few eyebrow raising storylines (Serena (Catherine Russell) and Bernie (Jemma Redgrave) getting together, for one!). It’s as strong a series as it’s sister-how, Casualty and I have enjoyed the cross-overs that have occasionally occurred. There need to be more of those!

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When it comes to comedy, Trollied has been the pick of the crop for me. Jason Watkins and Sarah Parish (pictured) have been a highlight of the show with their hilarious partnership.

Trollied – there haven’t been many comedies that have been on my must-watch list, this year. Trollied is one of the best programmes on Sky One, in my humble opinion and series six has been one of the best they have produced. The banter between the characters is an excellent demonstration of fantastic observational comedy and every actor in the show plays their role brilliantly. I don’t think it would be the same without any of them, now. Long live Valco, a seventh series must surely be on the cards?

That’s it for 2016, I look forward to being a to cover more from the box in the corner of your living rooms, next year! There are some exciting shows coming up which may well end up on this list next time.

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Spotlight On… Actress, Gemma Dobson

Gemma Dobson has given birth in front of the nation, which not many people can say! In fact, what ACTRESS, Gemma Dobson has done is taken her first professional role in Kay Mellor’s In The Club. Gemma played Shelly who was a new character introduced with her mother, Maxine (Sandra Huggett) for series two of the hit television series. I chatted to Gemma about her professional debut and what’s next on the agenda for this talented young lady.

Thank you so much for talking to Break A Leg, Gemma. So, tell me what it was like joining the established cast of In The Club.

It was daunting, especially on the first day, to be meeting and reading in front of actors that I’d grown up watching on the telly. I learned so much from them and from the experience. What was lovely was being invited to nights out so that I could get to know everybody socially. Most of my scenes were with Lorraine Cheshire, Sandra Huggett and the boys so it was a great opportunity to meet everybody else. It sounds cheesy but we really are one big happy family. We all get on and that includes the crew, too.

What was your opinion of Shelly when you first read the script?

I loved the character and really wanted to play her. Kay Mellor writes such fantastic scripts and I could already picture what Shelly looked like.

How familiar were you with Kay’s work?

I have watched everything that she has written, I love her work. I watched Fat Friends, The Chase, The Syndicate and the first series of In The Club. To be working with Kay was brilliant. I grew up watching all of her television programmes.

Gemma Dobson BBC 2
Gemma as Shelly in BBC One’s In The Club, with Sandra Huggett as Maxine, Lorraine Cheshire as Geraldine, Andrew Buckley as Andrew and Paul Nicholls as Nathan. All Photo credits: BBC

 

If there is a third series, what would you like to see happen to your character?

I don’t know really, I’d be happy with whatever Kay wrote for Shelly. I’ve already given birth on screen and it might be good to see her have a baby that she was going to keep. Maybe with somebody she’s in a relationship with. I’d love more scenes with Paul Nicholls and Andrew Buckley who played Nathan and Andrew. Andrew Buckley was so well cast as Andrew and so funny, Paul Nicholls was also brilliant, Nathan is the complete opposite of Andrew, but they worked so well together.

What inspired you to become an actress?

I went to a performing arts school and I loved acting and performing. When I left and I was doing a normal job I realised that I wanted to be acting and I missed doing it. I joined an acting class which I go to once a week (and I still go to, now) and David Shaw came in to cast for the first series of In The Club. I didn’t get the small part they were casting for and I was gutted. However, David remembered me and he saw me as Shelly. If I had got the small part I wouldn’t have been able to play Shelly.

What’s your advice for budding actors?

Don’t give up, if it’s your dream, then go for it. Even if you do what I did and go to an acting class. You don’t have to go to Drama School. I was in a job when I left school and decided that I wanted to give acting another go. I started to go to this acting class and that’s where Casting Director, David Shaw saw me and kept me in mind. acting is what you want to do, then keep at it. Don’t ever stop learning either, I still go to my classes because you never stop learning. Also, I hadn’t even got an agent when I got the part of Shelly. I was so thrilled when I went to London for a meeting and at the end of it my agent said she’d love to represent me.

What’s next for you?

I’ve got a part in Brief Encounters which starts on ITV, soon. I’m praying for a third series of In The Club. I’d love to do theatre, too.

I’d like to thank Gemma for her time and can’t wait to see her in Brief Encounters and hopefully on the stage, too!

Spotlight On… Lorraine Cheshire

She started acting professionally at a relatively late age, but I think I speak for fans of In The Club and Trollied when I say that we’re mighty glad she took up the profession. Her list of credits is not limited to these two exceptional shows, she has also starred in Doctors, Waterloo Road, Tittybangbang and Early Doors to name a few. Currently, you may know her as Midwife, Geraldine in In The Club, as well as Customer Services Assistant, Sue, in Trollied. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the fantastic Lorraine Cheshire!

Hello Lorraine, thank you for talking to Break A Leg, I’ll start with In The Club, what have been your personal highlights of the two series that you have appeared in so far and is there going to be a third series?

All of it has been a highlight for me, I’ve loved both series and playing Geraldine. I’ve really enjoyed the new characters that have been introduced in the new series. I love Kay Mellor’s writing, it’s a family set up with Gaynor Faye and Yvonne Francas (Kay’s daughters) also involved in the team. I’ve worked with such a lovely cast, they’re all such lovely human beings. I have had such smashing feedback from viewers too, the other day a little girl came up to me and told me she watches the series with her mum. I also love all the tweets we receive on Twitter.

We work long hours, especially when there is a birth scene to film, so being part of a cast that get on makes it easier. I don’t know if there will be a third series, yet!

What did you think when you first read the script?

I thought the writing was great and I could picture Geraldine and what she would be like. Kay was so lovely in the audition process and she wants you to do well. With Kay’s writing, all the work’s done for you, it’s all there in the script.

If there is a third series, what would you like to see happen to for Geraldine?

I don’t think she should have a back story, I think it’s more interesting to leave it with no story outside of her job as a Midwife. I like that she has no back story, but if Kay wrote one I wouldn’t say no, either. I know that the line in last week’s episode where she said she had “nobody to ring” made the viewers feel sorry for her and see her as lonely, but it could be just that, she’s lonely. Or maybe she’s got many bodies buried and it turns out that she’s a serial killer and she’s had lots of husbands!

Trollied is one of my favourite comedies, is there going to be a series six?

Yes, we start on 20th June!

Lorraine Cheshire
Lorraine as Sue in Trollied

What are your favourite memories so far of playing Sue in the show?

 

I love Trollied, it’s not all scripted and I think that’s great. I love my scenes with Faye (McKeever who plays Linda) and that Sue is in the wrong job as Customer Services Assistant. The cast is brilliant, Jason Watkins (who plays Gavin) is lovely and of course there are now two members of our cast who are BAFTA winners. Jason has won one and now Chanel Cresswell (who plays Katie in Trollied) has also won a BAFTA. They deserve it, they’re both so lovely and I’m really pleased for them.

I feel really lucky to have had the job on Trollied for six years!

What do you look for in a script? What encourages you to want the part?

Great writing, obviously, but also as happens with Trollied, where it isn’t all scripted, I love that too. Kay (Mellor) creates characters so well in a script that you know what she is looking for and who your character is, she does it all for you. Craig Cash (who wrote Early Doors)  is also a great writer, his scripts for Early Doors were brilliant. I also like dark comedy, Jim Cartwright’s writing goes to a dark place and I love that. If you meet him, you can’t believe he can write that sort of script, it makes you wonder where his ideas come from!

Are there any roles that you have an ambition to play or any shows that you’d love to appear in?

I’d have liked to have been in Home Fires, even playing a small role, going into the Butchers shop, something like that! I think it would be great to be in The Walking Dead, too.

Finally, what inspired you to become an actress?

I went into it later in life after having been an Army wife, after my husband was made redundant I went to Drama School at the age of 35. I went to Arden Drama School in Manchester and learned my craft. It’s a funny business, when it’s going well it goes really well and then of course there are times when the phone doesn’t ring. I have been very lucky.

I’d like to extend my thanks to Lorraine for her time and very much look forward to the series finale of In The Club on Tuesday night at 21:00. I also have my fingers crossed for a third series and I can’t wait for more Trollied.

Photo Credits: Curtis Brown

Spotlight On… Sandra Huggett

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Photo Credit: Curtis Brown

Actress, Sandra Huggett first found fame as Holly Hart, daughter of the central family in Channel Five’s Family Affairs. She continued to enjoy a successful career over on BBC One in Casualty, again playing a character called Holly!

Sandra has joined the cast of In The Club on BBC One playing the mouthy yet loveable, Maxine. The character’s storyline has been at the heart of the series, so far and the part of Maxine has enabled us to see a different side to Sandra’s acting ability. I caught up with the lady herself to discuss her latest role and chat about her career to date.

Sandra, thank you so much for talking to Break A Leg Review, how are you enjoying playing such a different role in In The Club?

I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s hard to explain how brilliant it’s been. For any actor to play someone so different is really exciting. Doing something different challenges you as an actor and having to do homework and research is great. I had watched the first series and loved the show, I’m also a big fan of Kay’s (Kay Mellor) writing. It was thrilling and I felt lucky to get it.

What was it like joining an established cast?

It was daunting, but I’d worked with Lorraine Cheshire (Geraldine in the show) before, I’d also worked with Jonathan Kerrigan and Will Mellor in Casualty. Working with Lorraine Cheshire again was quite exciting, especially as I knew our characters had a lot to do with each other. When I met all of the other cast members they were very welcoming and down to earth, they were looking forward to having new characters join the cast. We are like a family and it’s such an unusual scenario when you film a series like this, you bond very quickly and create a lovely network.

What’s been your favourite memory from filming the series?

My favourite scene was from episode four, the scene where the Social Worker tells Maxine that she might not be able to take her baby home. It hadn’t occurred to Maxine that she wouldn’t be able to take her baby home. Prior to this you see the idea, execution and the idea failing all very quickly and in real-time. She thinks she can take him home and doesn’t realise that she could be locked up for what she’s done. Her anger comes out first, followed by remorse, and luckily it all clicked for me in the end so I was relieved.

Kay said that the character of Maxine had to be liked by the viewers from the start, so that they would empathise with her later on. Kay does it so brilliantly that all I had to do was say the words. She has a clear idea of who she wants to cast, and her scripts also give a clear idea of who she is looking for. From reading the script, I knew what I wanted Maxine to look like.

Holly Hart in Family Affairs followed by Holly Miles in Casualty, what are your memories of those brilliant roles?

They were both brilliant jobs, Family Affairs was my first television job out of drama school. It was 2 years of 12 hour days, we drove ourselves to and from the studios, too. Upon leaving drama school I had received a tiny bit of TV technique training, but had mostly been trained for the theatre. Being in Family Affairs was like going to TV school! I learned so much, it was an amazing experience and I was devastated when we all got blown up on a boat!

As for Casualty, I was over the moon to get the job. I loved the character and I kept learning. It’s been 17 years and people still talk about Holly, I had some lovely storylines with Ian Kelsey, too.

What or who inspired you to become an actress?

Julie Walters was my inspiration, I loved As Seen on TV with Victoria Wood. I also loved Educating Rita, Julie can play anything from comedy to drama.

When I was 14 or 15 years old I auditioned for the school play as they needed a couple of extra actors. I auditioned to be Shona in Top Girls and I remember the first night of the show, the audience reaction to my scene, everybody laughed and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I spoke to my Drama teacher because I wasn’t taking GCSE Drama, but he said I could do A Level Drama, anyway. I loved comedy, I loved comedians and that was what initially connected me.

Are there any roles that you’ve a particular ambition to play?

I’ve always wanted to do television and those roles are generally unwritten, more particular roles are usually in the theatre. I’ve always wanted to do comedy, so it’s more about the genre that I have an ambition to play than the role.

What’s next for you?

Praying each night for series three of In The Club! I’m not doing anything at the moment, but I’m hoping for more exciting work. I haven’t done theatre for a long time because it’s difficult when you have a small child, although I’m certainly open to doing theatre.

I really love British drama at the moment, it’s at a real high.

Thanks to Sandra for her time and a great insight into her fantastic career, long may you reign in comedy roles and otherwise, Sandra!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feature Photo credit: Rollem/Matt Squire – For BBC

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