Sue Johnston in Being Eileen

Sue Johnston is back as Eileen Lewis, a role she first played in a 2011 Christmas comedy called Lapland. That pilot episode has inspired a six-part series about Eileen, and her dysfunctional Merseyside family. Sue tells TV Choice what’s in store…

When you were filming the pilot episode of Lapland (which has now become Being Eileen), did you hope that it would become a series?
I can’t remember thinking about it, to be honest. To me, it was just a one-off drama at the time, so it was a nice surprise when they suddenly got in touch and said it’s going to become a series.

Being EileenWe’re sorry to see that Boardwalk Empire’s Stephen Graham is no longer playing your son, but delighted to see that Ashes To Ashes star Dean Andrews is now in that role.
I know. I was very sad when I heard that Stephen wasn’t going to do it, but then when I met Dean Andrews, all was forgiven. He’s lovely.

Did you see him in Last Tango In Halifax?
I certainly did. He’s such a good actor, and I love Last Tango In Halifax. I think it’s wonderful. And I think it’s in the same sort of category as this. They’re both very warm, funny and moving. And about real people, relationships and life.

Your character Eileen goes missing in the first episode. Does that make her daughter Paula (Elizabeth Berrington) quite hysterical with worry?
Oh, she’s always hysterical. And I think she thinks her mother’s going loopy, but she’s crazier than her mother. She’s just always stressed out, and there’s a lot of conflict between her and her brother, who’s played by Dean. She’s the sort of daughter who wants attention.

Obviously, Pete has been the golden boy and there’s a bit of tension between Eileen and Paula, as there often is between a mother and daughter, when there’s a son involved. So all that adds to the drama.

You’re also returning to Coronation Street soon as Stella’s mum Gloria. She really needs to watch out for Nigel Havers’ character, Lewis.
Oh God, wasn’t it good what he was doing to Gail? I just love it.

We’ve recently seen you in the Christmas edition of The Royle Family. Is that a bit like catching up with your real family?
Yes. It must be Christmas – because here we all are on the sofa again! And it’s as if there hasn’t been a break. We just pick up from where we left off. That’s the weird thing. It’s very unusual. We just sit down and talk about we’ve been doing over the last year or two. It’s a very loving atmosphere, and of course it’s such good fun to do.

BBC1, Monday

David Collins