You’re playing a vicar’s wife – do you believe in God?
I don’t. I don’t think anyone is silly to believe in God, I just can’t make that leap myself. People should try to be the best person they can be, regardless of religion.
What about the afterlife?
That’s where it becomes tricky. Recently, my mum’s dog died and my children were upset, so I said he’d gone to doggy heaven. They can choose where they want to go with it when they’re older. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do.
What was playing Carol Thatcher like?
In telly, there’s a lot to be done in a short amount of time; there’s more space in film. Time to sit around reading magazines. It was great fun to play someone recognisable. You don’t want people to say ‘that was a rubbish impersonation’ but I’m not an impressionist. It’s quite a difficult line. You have to get the gist and go with it. It’s a work of fiction. The characters appear, you know their names but it’s all conjecture.
Meryl Streep played the Iron Lady…
She was amazing and brilliant. A very funny woman and it was really nice to realise how jovial she is on set. She really is as good as you think she’s going to be.
Who have you learned the most from?
Paddy Considine on Tyrannosaur. He gives you the courage to throw yourself into the role and be brave. A lot is to do with him acting himself and how he says the right things to make you see the role in the right way. Being an actor can be strangely embarrassing, you have to do your job with everyone watching and Paddy gives you the courage not to be embarrassed.
You must be pleased with the reception Tyrannosaur got…
Yes, it was thrilling. We were all very passionate about working on it so it would have been awful if people said they didn’t like it. It’s really about perceptions and how, when we judge by appearances, we’re invariably wrong.
Why did you want to become an actor?
I was s*** at everything else. I’d be screwed if work dried up. I was Jean Brodie in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie when I was 16. It was my first school play and I knew I wanted to try to make a living from acting from then. I really liked the clapping at the end and pretending to be someone else.
Have you seen Hanna? What did you think of your Rev co-star Tom Hollander’s performance in it?
I did. Wasn’t he different? Really, really nasty. I’ve seen most things he’s done – I’m a fan of Tom’s and he wants to be different in each role.
Do you fancy playing a sadistic German pervert yourself?
Of course – who doesn’t? Playing a proper baddie is one of the most fun things you can do.
What was your first professional job?
A Theatre in Education production of The Miser. I got £25 a fortnight but it was good fun going around the country in a van getting drunk after shows. We were rubbish. The children spent a lot of time wondering what was going on because there were four actors playing 14 parts. Lots of wigs going on back to front. I don’t think we enlightened the kids at all.
Is it easy to get a career in TV comedy if you go to Oxford or Cambridge?
It would appear so but I went to the teacher training college, I never matriculated. You still have to do the work and put the hours in. Robert Webb and David Mitchell wrote for 12 hours a day. They earned their place. There are people from all sorts of places and backgrounds working in comedy. People just pick up on the Oxford and Cambridge thing.
What other TV shows would you like to be in?
I’m desperate to be in Downton Abbey. There are good drama shows all the time – things like Any Human Heart. People say there’s nothing on and no drama but actually, when you look at it, there’s s***loads.
Have you had any onstage mishaps?
I’ve dried spectacularly. Where you get the look of terror in your eyes and the other actors look at you and think: ‘Oh God, she’s forgotten her lines.’ When that happens it always looks like the other person’s fault even though they’re rescuing you. It looks to the audience like they’re getting it wrong. That happened to me at the Olivier in front of 1,000 people a couple of years ago.
Has it put you off?
I find theatre terrifying but I have said I’m going to do another play soon.
What’s the worst job you’ve had?
I worked in Gap for two weeks. I was pretty terrible. One lady couldn’t find any jeans that suited her and I told her to go to John Lewis down the road. One of the managers heard me and wasn’t impressed. That was the last on the long list of being late and not pouncing on people as they came through the door saying: ‘Hey! How are you doing?’