Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

There's More Respect for Older Actors These Days; Small Screen

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

There's More Respect for Older Actors These Days; Small Screen

Article excerpt

ALISON STEADMAN is pragmatic about entering a new decade as her 70th birthday looms on the horizon.

"It's a weird thing because people go, 'Oh, I only feel this [age]', and well, that's not true," explains the actress, who reaches the milestone in August. "I haven't got the energy I had, but I really do enjoy life."

Not least because, "touching wood", her health is good.

"So many of my friends have died over the last couple of years, it's been awful," explains Steadman, who is taking a break from filming the second series of BBC1's Boomers to have a chat in the catering van.

"It's particularly been with cancer, it seems to be everywhere, so I thank God every day I'm alive and I do my best to enjoy it, because you never know the minute someone's going to say, 'Sorry, but it's your turn now'.

"That's the reality of life, I'm afraid," she adds. "Make the most of it and have a bit of fun."

Certainly, it seems that Steadman does make the most of her time.

She is keen on mini-breaks in Europe with her partner, actor Michael Elwyn, always has a number of craft projects on the go ("I like art and if I'm feeling a bit low, I'll do something like that and it always picks me up"), a large circle of old friends and two treasured grown-up sons with her ex-husband, director Mike Leigh. Then there's the conservation causes, bird watching (she even popped up on the Springwatch last year), and of course, her impressive roll-call of work.

Growing up in the suburbs of Liverpool, Steadman worked for the Probation Service before studying at the East 15 Acting School in Essex.

That's where she met Leigh, later starring in his TV plays Abigail's Party and Nuts In May, as well as films Life Is Sweet and Confetti.

Steadman also made scenestealing performances in the 1995 BBC Colin Firth-fronted adaptation of Pride And Prejudice as pushy Mrs Bennet, in ITV comedy Fat Friends and as doting mum Pam in Gavin & Stacey.

Recently, she popped her pinny on for The Great Sports Relief Bake Off, but chuckles when asked about her kitchen skills: "I don't have enough time to eat my dinner, let alone bake!" It's a wonder she found time to appear in the Dad's Army film ("I wasn't terribly keen on the uniform, not the most flattering"), and crack on with filming Boomers.

Following the lives of three retired couples, and also starring Russ Abbot, Stephanie Beacham, Philip Jackson, James Smith, June Whitfield and Paula Wilcox, the second series will see Steadman's character Joyce and husband Alan (Jackson) become grandparents.

But the road to becoming a perfect grandparent is a rocky one...

"It's that thing my aunt used to say: 'If you have a son, he's your son until he gets a wife'," explains the actress.

"There's some truth in that, and that's what's happened with their son Lee. …

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