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24 September 2014
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Our Hidden Lives
Ian McDiarmuid plays B Charles

Our Hidden Lives on BBC FOUR

Cast interviews


Sarah Parish on Maggie Joy Blunt


"Maggie's a modern woman, I think, for that day and age. Very much independent and wants to make her way in the world and do her own thing, rather than conform to what people expect her to do, which is great.


"She rents a property but she lives on her own and she doesn't have that sort of fear, which I think a lot of women at that time had, of staying on her own and being on her own. It's something she's got her head round.


"She's incredibly 21st century in the way she thinks. I've been reading the actual diaries and there are quotes and diary entries from her which I would write myself. There are things about her that I really relate to. Just little things.


"There was an entry in her diary about racism, modern confusion about why people would want to be horrible to Jews, why people are racist. She's just got a very modern outlook and life and I think she finds it quite frustrating living in the era that she does. She doesn't really belong there.


"I think her relationships with men are where she shows her naivety and simplicity. She's awkward around men, awkward with her own... not sexuality, she's used to being on her own. To share her life with somebody is very difficult for Maggie, she's not a tactile person, she's not a touchy-feely person, she's quite private and insular.


"I think her relationship with S - especially in David's version of Our Hidden Lives - is beautiful, very awkward and very Forties. They 'step out' together and don't do anything more than that. Well, they do, but they 'step out' together and that's the way it is.


"I think she finds relationships with men hard. I think she reverts back into her writing a lot of the time.


"The real Maggie Joy Blunt died in 1987 and she died an old woman surrounded by cats. It's really quite sad when you read the proper diaries because her last entry is still quite full of hope, but you kind of know when you follow her character that you can see the pitfalls of her personality and how things probably aren't going to work out for her.


"There's a photo of her somewhere, of her walking down the street in the village where she lives with loads of cats following her like the Pied Piper. She was quite a crazy old woman.


"She was a beautiful writer. One of the good things about the book is that everybody's writing is so different. Edie and Maggie are very different.


"Edie is very straight, quite political and the way she writes her diary is very different to the way Maggie's flowery, articulate, slightly overdramatic entries. It's lovely to play her."


Ian McDiarmid on B Charles


"The character I play is a composite of everything that person has been through. He's interesting and recognisable.


"In this version he's an inhabitant of Edinburgh - as opposed to in the diaries, where he came from Windsor - so I play him Scots. I'm from that side of Scotland too so it gives me a rare opportunity to actually use a little bit of local colour in terms of the accent.


"He's shy and he's repressed, as much by the fact that homosexuality was the 'unspoken sin' around at the time, although his views on it are fairly forthright and direct.


"I think most people would respect him today. So that's quite interesting but he has many contradictions within him.


"One area of his life is his sexuality. His views are liberal because it accords with his feelings.


"In other areas they're far from that. He's by no means certain that Hitler was a bad thing, to put it mildly. In the course of the film these things come out in an understandable and human way.


"What's so wonderful about the writing and the realisation of what these people are like once you see them all together is that there is so much that was going on underneath the surface, while other things were happening on the outside.


"Our Hidden Lives is a perfect title really. I think some people's views are shocking and now, of course, quite rightly they're not expressed, but that doesn't mean to say they're not held privately.


"And what's shocking I think is to regularly remind ourselves that that is true. And although we wouldn't use those terms because they are politically incorrect, I think there are a number of people who just pay lip service to not being racist, for example.


"In the diaries, B comes over as a colossal snob. Now and again quite sympathetic but he's totally obsessed with his own notion of class, which is way below the level that he imagines it to be.


"People are always imagining that they are above things, that certain things are beneath them. That's very much his attitude."


Lesley Sharp on Edie Rutherford


"I'd describe Edie as someone who's very lonely, lost in a world that's trying to re-shape itself.


"She's someone who has this determination a lot of people would have had after the war, that something like that must never happen again.


"Because the cost had been so great, people must strive to make a better society, a better world to live in.


"But at the end what you discover is that despite her desire to be someone different and to be part of a world that is different, she actually holds the most repugnant and unexpected views on certain sectors of society and that's quite shocking.


"It's as if, despite the fact that she wants the world to be forged anew, she's not connected with humanity. She's very alone and embittered.


"I think there were large groups of men and women who found the whole business of having been married in the war and the war interrupting their marriage and interrupting their parenting, they found it extremely difficult just to pick up where they left off.


"I think there were probably relationships that were damaged beyond repair because of the war and you actually had a lot of people staying together because they felt that they had to, rather than because they actually wanted to.


"I think a lot of women, because of being on their own, having to bring up children on their own, having to go out to work, having to start really thinking about being independent, it meant that they started to think in a completely different way about themselves - about the world in which they lived.


"When the men came back from the war, they just expected them to slot back into this rather deferential post that they'd had prior to the war, but the women resented it and didn't want to do it any more.


"I think maybe they wondered why they'd fallen in love with that person in the first place.


"Likewise for the men who were returning from the war, they'd seen such violence and brutality that often they didn't have the language to share. So they locked off from their partners. You got two people in a relationship who were not communicating on a fundamental level at all.


"Edie's story is incredibly sad. I do think she's very isolated. She's in a family situation, she's got these two children and a husband but actually she's not where she wants to be, she's not with who she wants to be.


"I think that that can make you more lonely than being on your own."


Richard Briers on Herbert Brush


"I really enjoyed playing him very much because he's such a peculiar man.


"He's widowed and is very lonely. He doesn't really have any friends; he does speak to one person in the film, but only briefly.


"He's got the allotment, which is his life. Growing his vegetables. That's his relaxation I think, but also he's slightly mental because he writes dreadful poetry which he thinks is rather splendid and he collects prime numbers.


"He says: 'I gave a great deal of thought to the number 443'. A person who says that is not absolutely balanced. At one time I used to collect stamps. I'm one of those who looks at postmarks and things.


"It's a very calming thing to sort things out. You have a load of stamps and you sort them out into colours or prices or whatever. You're doing therapy. If you have a life of stress, like actors and most people do, it's very nice to have a quiet hobby.


"Leonard Rossiter died quite young because he was an extremely energised actor with an enormous amount of energy but unfortunately his hobby was squash. That is not good!


"I thought: 'I'll probably live longer than him because I collected stamps'.


Herbert goes to a bookshop and says: 'Do you have a book on prime numbers up to five million?' Something not quite right there, but something quite touching.


"I think he's a very vulnerable man, and he lives on his own. He's my age, 70, and he's on his tod, which is very sad. I think he's a lovely part to play because he's quite funny, a bit mad and very vulnerable."




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