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29 October 2014
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Family Business - Elizabeth Berrington plays Jessica Brooker

Elizabeth Berrington plays Jessica Brooker Fans of the hit BBC comedy The Office will remember Elizabeth Berrington as heavily pregnant Anne in the 2003 Christmas Special, treating us to a graphic description of intercourse with her husband.

It has been a very busy year for Elizabeth.

"I finished playing Beverley in Abigail's Party in the West End last year, played Cherie Blair in Stephen Freer's The Deal, starred in Mike Leigh's latest film, made an East End gangster movie with Nick Moran and Ken Stott called Spivis, and I'm about to begin filming a sitcom called Shane with Frank Skinner for ITV - so it's all go at the minute," she says.

Playing the mother of a family on the edge of chaos was particularly moving for Elizabeth: she lost her mother three weeks into shooting Family Business.

Nevertheless, she found filming a source of comfort. "My mum died early into filming so it was very strange to be playing a mother - which I'm not - and shooting in a family home," she says.

"It was a very poignant experience and such a sad time, but I was very lucky to be working. It helped me to be creative and deal with all the issues that Tony was writing about. It was really cathartic. I was very much thinking about family at that time."

Elizabeth can identify with some of the family situations her character Jessica finds herself in, particularly the disappearance of someone close.

"When I was in my early twenties my brother would disappear for about eight months at a time to go off with New-Age Travellers, and we wouldn't know where he was. I suppose it was a kind of rite of passage for him.

"But when he came back to the family we'd all changed in a little way in order to embrace the new brother and the new son.

"Like the Brookers, those sorts of things do happen in families and we all deal with them in different ways," she says.

"I think Marky could deal with it better. A significant part of the storyline is that as an adopted and abandoned child his son running away is a huge deal for him, and releases all sorts of demons."

Jessica's role within the family changes as Marky fails to deal with their son's disappearance.

"The big change for Jessica is that Marky is a man that has always made the decisions. She's been happy to go along with him but suddenly, when their son leaves home, she becomes the matriarch and struggles to try and keep things normal for their teenage daughter, Lauren.

"It's a time of discovery for them all as a family," she says.

Tony Grounds' trademark is writing truthful dialogue that people can relate to. For Elizabeth his scripts are full of very honest portrayals of families around the kitchen table and she admires his original approach to family life.

"What's fascinating about the story as television is that it's very truthful with very beautiful writing. Tony is a genius with language and the Brookers are beautiful characters to get hold of and get to grips with very quickly.

"In Family Business you've got three generations living in one house and you think everything should go well for them. You have a husband and wife who are in love, a couple of kids and great grandparents.

"Just when they think everything is rosy the bombshell of their son disappearing hits and they have to deal with the fallout," she observes.

"The beauty of the drama is that it's very real, very human, very warm and very moving. There isn't any sex or violence, but I don't think audiences want that anymore. This is compelling viewing because it's true family drama."


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