BBC Radio 4

Brenda Tucker - past, present and future

Writer, The Archers

Amy Shindler (Brenda Tucker)

It’s been all change for Brenda in the last few weeks. And that’s just fine by Amy Shindler, who has played the part since Brenda was 18.

What highlights do you remember from the last 14 years?

I’ve had some great comic stories and some really tragic stories. Very early on I had my first spat with Lilian, about stealing her boyfriend Scott. That was a lot of fun. Then in 2005 Betty died and that was a really interesting story. I thought it was very emotionally truthful. It wasn’t just about Betty dying, it was about feeling that the two men in her life – Mike and Roy – weren’t grieving properly or allowing her to grieve.

And then there was the getting together with Tom, which was done in a fantastically explosive way. Tom had to drag her out of the funeral because she was drunk and causing problems with Roy, shouting. There was a lovely scene – one of the first proper scenes I had with Tom. They were in his car and Brenda was just overcome with shame – and then she kissed him. He didn’t reject her but he told her she might not be in the right mindspace for this. And because she was so drunk and confused and upset she took it as rejection. It was so beautifully plotted.

Tom Graham (Tom Archer) and Amy Shindler (Brenda Tucker)

You’ve worked with Tom Graham, who plays Tom Archer, for seven years. What was it like hearing that relationship was going to come to an end?

Yes, you have your patterns working with an actor as much as you have your patterns being in a relationship. I had more scenes with Tom than with any other character and we felt sad that we wouldn’t be doing that any more, because we’re good mates. But on the other hand it’s a really interesting time for Brenda.  She has been stuck in a rut and the things that have been unfolding since the break-up [both in The Archers and Ambridge Extra] have been so fascinating to play. I’ve been really enjoying it.

How has Brenda changed over the years?

When I first started playing her, she was really innocent and pretty gullible. Getting taken in by Scott was not uncharacteristic for her. And then she had a slightly racy time in the village, trying to find her feet. She was just a kid really, finding out who she was.

And then she became more serious – certainly more ambitious. She went to university and saw herself as having a game plan, getting into marketing. But then she had a terrible time trying to find work, and getting very depressed at the prospect, which I think is perfectly reflective of the times for people leaving university right now.

Then there was the new phase, really trying to support Tom but feeling battered by his ambitions because they’re above her own. And finding herself in a job which she really hates and which actually isn’t helping her achieve the career she wants.

Do you feel she was eventually trapped both at work and at home?

Absolutely. There were several times where she talked to people – particularly Vicky – about how she felt that she didn’t know what she wanted but it wasn’t this.

How much does she typify a lot of modern young people?

She’s worked very hard. She’s put the hours in at university and at work. She had a job in Leicester, she was commuting for hours. And then crazy hours working for Matt and Lilian, practically running that office. In terms of working and not getting a lot back because of the current economic climate, I think that would be a fair reflection of what it’s like for a lot of young people, how dismal the job market is. It’s very depressing.

Brenda quits (July 2013)

She’s recently thrown a bomb into both aspects of her life. What’s that been like to play?

Brilliant. It’s so much fun when your character takes new risks, because you get to play different aspects of their personality – and also because I’m interested as a listener in what Brenda’s next move will be.

Sometimes soap operas are accused of getting characters to do things they wouldn’t do, simply for plot purposes. Do you feel what Brenda’s done has been consistent with what we know about her?

Completely. She’s been getting more and more ambitious, more confident about her business acumen, her ability to get things done, her decision making. She was basically put in charge of all the decisions at Amside when Matt and Lilian went AWOL. So she’s a much more confident person because of the situation she was put into. Breaking up the relationship with Tom was a very bold move and I think actually showed quite a strength of character.

So I think it completely fits. It was like a cork waiting to pop. She’s done it and she’s completely at sea but she knows that she’s done the right thing.

A lot of the immediate story will now be played out in Ambridge Extra. What was it like recording that series?

It was great fun. It was a different experience, more intensive. The stories are racier and more dramatic. Things happen in The Archers but they unfold over a longer period of time. This was a more intensive, explosive storyline, which was huge fun to play.

And you got to work with a different group of characters.

Yes, the only characters who are familiar are Matt and Lilian. So that was good fun as well, seeing how Brenda works with other characters and what aspects of her personality that brings out.

What are your hopes for Brenda’s future, if you could write the script?

Well, you know, part of the fun is not knowing. It’s part of the thrill of playing a character in a soap, that you don’t know what their future is.

Keri Davies is an Archers scriptwriter and web producer.

Learn more about Brenda and Amy in our Who’s Who

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