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TV Choice talks to Helen McCrory, star of ITV1’s passionate new drama, Leaving, about love, marriage and why she thought her father was James Bond.
You play Julie, a married mother in her 40s who embarks on an affair with a younger colleague, what is she like?
She’s definitely not some feckless, silly, superficial woman. In fact, she really believes in the sanctity of marriage. She’s a hotel events planner who actually organises weddings and she knows how important those vows are. She got married and had children very young. Twenty years later she realises not only that she doesn’t know herself, but also that she’s not with the person she wants — she’s married the wrong man. She’s not a little girl anymore, she’s grown up. She wants more from her life and, because she’s only got one life, she goes for it.
Is it a classic mid-life crisis?
No. In fact, it’s her husband who Tony Marchant (the writer) wanted to have the mid-life crisis. He develops a crush on a young woman. But he’s inappropriate with her. He frightens her and is eventually asked to leave his job.
Is Julie’s story realistic?
It’s a story told again and again because we all understand it. We all know people that we think shouldn’t be together — or who are in the middle of divorcing. And, frankly, I have a lot of friends who are having relationships with younger men.
The chemistry between Julie and her young lover Aaron is amazing — was it there between you and Callum Turner, who plays him, from the beginning?
It’s very hard when you work with somebody to know how it comes across to the audience. People will come and see you in a play and they’ll end up saying about the person you got on best with in rehearsal — your best friend — that they were awful, and about the person you think is such an idiot, that they were brilliant. Callum was nervous at first, but he has such innate charm and a winning way. We got on really well — I’m glad it shows.
What else have you got coming up on the work front?
I’m in a play with Julie Walters, The Last of the Haussmans, at the National Theatre until October. And, of course, I’ve got a small part in the new Bond film, Skyfall.
Are you a big James Bond fan?
Well, my father was in the Foreign Office…
So you thought he was James Bond….
Exactly! We were all convinced he was helicoptering home every night!
How do you balance work with your family life with your husband [Homeland star Damian Lewis] and children [Manon, six, and Gulliver, four]?
It’s all down to organisation. I could run the Olympics! Although this is the first time Damian and I have been working at the same time. He’s filming Homeland in North Carolina.
Do you fancy a cameo role in Homeland?
I can’t see me playing a supporting role to my husband in any way, thank you — we’re definitely co-billing all the way! Though I did have a small part in the US series Life he did. I’d just given birth to Gulliver and they asked me if I wanted to be in it. I initially refused, but they kept asking. Eventually I said that I’d be in it if I can roll a cigarette on American television through a speech, light it at the end and try to kill my husband — all in the same scene. I never thought they’d go for it, but they wrote me the scene, so I had to do it!