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24 September 2014
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This Life + 10

This Life + 10 - interviews with the cast

A decade ago, This Life premiered on BBC Two and changed the face of television drama, whilst gathering legions of faithful fans as well as industry acclaim and awards.


To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the original cast, executive producer Tony Garnett and creator and principal writer Amy Jenkins reunite for This Life + 10, an exclusive 90-minute one-off episode to be broadcast on BBC Two at 9pm on Tuesday 2 January 2007.


BBC Two viewers became obsessed with the turbulent lives of a group of 20-something lawyers who lived, loved and played hard whilst sharing a house in London.


Thirty-two episodes were broadcast over two series during 1996 and 1997 and the final explosive instalment left its devoted audience begging for more.


Fast forward a decade and This Life + 10 re-introduces Miles (Jack Davenport), Milly (Amita Dhiri), Warren (Jason Hughes), Egg (Andrew Lincoln) and Anna (Daniela Nardini) in a 90-minute special.


One of the group has become a commercial success after writing a book based on their friendship and a TV production company is keen to film the group's reunion.


Viewers will discover how the group's lives have changed and whether they are friends, lovers or enemies - or all three!


Series one and two were repeated on BBC Two in November and December 2006 allowing fans to reacquaint themselves with the classic episodes before being treated to the spanking new special.


Amy Jenkins, creator and chief writer, This Life and This Life + 10, says: "It's 10 years on and there have been big changes in the characters' lives. They're no longer in the waiting room of life but out there on centre stage. The question is - do people really change?"


Roly Keating, Controller, BBC Two, says: "This Life brilliantly defined what it meant to be young in the 1990s and captured the imagination of a whole generation of viewers.


"It's fantastic that Tony, Amy and the original, world-class cast have agreed to reunite for what promises to be one of the drama events of the year."


Andrew Lincoln (Egg) comments: "We all met up at Tony's house initially to discuss how we felt as a group, and that was Summer 2005. I was initially worried about going back after it had been such a big success.


"At first, I wasn't sure if it was all a good idea. My concern was the expectation, my first question was 'can we do it justice?' as it holds such a special place in a lot of people's hearts and memories. There is a train of thought that says leave well alone but this really is an interesting experiment.


He continues: "It's intriguing to do as an actor that actually 10 years on, real time, return to play the same character and to place them in the world now. It's quite an exercise.


"I think one of the strengths of the series was the casting, thanks to Di Carling who cast the show and Jane Fallon who was the original producer on it. I think they took a long, long time to cast the five central characters because they were all unknown characters and we were all unknowns. And I think that that was the strongest card, we all got on really well as friends then and that added to the authenticity of the show.


"It's been funny in both senses of the word, funny meaning peculiar and funny ha ha, and overall, it's been good - hopefully we'll all deliver! The read-through, where we all get together and read the script for the first time in front of Tony Garnett (original, and now Executive Producer), was quite terrifying. Amy's written a great script and she's got such a perceptive knack of writing about these flawed characters. You thought they were basket cases then, they're nutters now!


"But then there was a moment when it all fell into place and we all remembered who our characters were, a bit like 'oh, I remember him'. It was like putting a band back together. It's a nice nostalgic thing to do, to think about where we all were personally 10 years ago. I thought it would be lovely to see each other again, and it really has been.


"Miles has apparently put on weight which I think is funny. There's a line where Egg says 'come on chubby!' Some of the scenes involve Miles and I jogging which was a challenge. I had to be hauled around the second time and carried around by the third take!


"In reality, you don't do a lot of changing in 10 years. As actors, we all fell into our old ways of working on and off screen. Friends can be crueller and kinder to each other than anyone else, old friends particularly. You are afforded the opportunity to be extremely cruel to someone and be forgiven, which is a great thing to play as actors.


"Throughout the course of this weekend that they stay at Miles's manor, it's lovely because they reminisce and the old dynamic kicks in and they revert to type. It's totally Grange Hill for grown-ups. All of the characters have got stuff going on that they have to deal with and it's facilitated with their friends around them.


"I don't remember some of the storylines from 10 years ago. People are always reminding me and it's the first time I've heard about it! I've never even watched the first two series. Apparently Jack says it's quite good!


"Between us all, everyone knows us for different things now although obviously This Life is the common thread. I did Teachers so the generation below me know me as Simon, and the older generation who stay in on a Saturday night know me from Afterlife so different aged people know you as different characters. The movie fans know me from Love Actually, Jack from the Pirate films, Jason from Midsomer Murders - we've got everyone covered!"


Jack Davenport (Miles) comments: "I think we were all apprehensive because the draw is to do something 10 years later and it's not often you get to do something like this, and it's been such a long time since we've been together as a group. To be expected to pick it up is daunting but it's been really easy and it's felt right.


"It wasn't a difficult decision to decide whether to take part in this. The first two series were a success and to come back for a one-off full stop to the series was interesting. Tony Garnett knows what he's doing, he's been doing it for 40 years and I don't think he'd be happy to do something that wasn't good.


"All of us had our reservations, there's something about looking back and deciding whether or not you want to do that. I kept thinking 'how often do you get asked to do this?' You'd have to be a complete idiot not to do it. I thought - 'why not?' You do something a decade before, that a lot of people like, and then you get the chance to do a one night only special to celebrate it - how lucky are we?


"I can't think of any shows that have returned 10 years later with an original cast. Amy really nailed the script as well which made it an irresistible offer to me. How many flaws can these characters have? If you thought they were confused before, they're even more so now - they're sectionable!!


"The characters, the cast and the viewers have moved on 10 years so it's not intended as a museum piece. It's just our characters put in 2007. Believe me, we're not talking excitedly about the new Oasis album! Although I think Egg might sing at some point. It wouldn't be This Life without Egg singing.


"I didn't watch the old series to reacquaint myself with the character. The repeats on BBC Two were Biblical.


"So Egg is a famous novelist which is stretching the boundaries I think! Miles is rich, Anna is a lawyer, Warren is a life coach, and Milly is a very proud mum.


"I sometimes wonder if Miles changed as much as people would want him to but he's not that bad. Although, let's face it - he's an a**e. He does have moments of discretion and kindness apart from sleeping with people when his fiancée is upstairs! He has changed a bit but you do change between twenty/thirties but, essentially, you can't change that much until you're 100, and then you die and you get hair in your ears.


"Personalities don't change that much and that's why you can pick up a show like this where the characters have moved on 10 years later. They've all accrued more rubbish in their lives, both in their heads and literally, which is why the script is so good.


"Annoyingly, Miles is really healthy now so I've had a few running scenes. At the end of them, I'm thinking 'take me back to my Winnebago and be soothed by maidens' which is in all of my contracts of course.


"We've all remained friends as 10 years ago, it was like drama school on camera. We didn't even have dressing rooms! We had one room so we were with each other the entire time, like lab rats. The whole thing was like EastEnders on acid! We hadn't worked before so we didn't know any better.


"I'm rubbish, I can't remember hardly anything about recording the first two series, it was all so frantic. After working all day, the last thing you wanted to do was go home and watch it, we were sick of it - in the best possible way of course.


"The difference between filming a movie, which is limos and first class travel all the way, and a TV show is that movies, especially Pirates with all that water, are usually technically a lot more demanding and there's a lot of waiting around. You might think that it's glamorous working in the sun-kissed Caribbean but there are more industrial and less picturesque parts of it - and we were there!


"Compared with dressing up as a mardi gras float in Pirates of the Caribbean, I much prefer the costumes on This Life + 10 even though I'm dressed like a posh young Tory farmer in cords. I'm hoping to start a trend with these.


"He's playing at being something he's not. Miles is playing lord of the manor and this is what he thinks he should wear.


"There was a lot of brocade on Pirates. Brocade wears you, you can't wear it.


"We're filming in a house that Robbie Williams rented for a while. He left a few items around - only joking!"


Amita Dhiri (Milly) comments: "We all went to the London restaurant The Wollesey to discuss the possibility of it happening again. It was good to see the whites of each other's eyes, to check that we were genuinely up for this.


"When we saw that the script was so good, we all thought 'wow, this really could work'. The scripts stood alone, and when I asked myself if I would want to watch this as it is, I decided that I would so I thought it was worth doing.


"I think about whether This Life + 10 matches up to the previous series, but I truly think it does. We filmed it very quickly over about three weeks and I'm happy with the finished result.


"From your twenties to your thirties you know yourself a bit better. In your twenties you think that you know who you are, this is what I do, this is what I like and this is what I will be. In your thirties you start being more relaxed, less rigid, more ordinary, being a real person rather than setting yourself up as this interesting character. I think that's the same for most people. The things that have to be addressed in your thirties are your work situation, your choices about children, career choices etc. For Milly, as with most women, to become a mother is a massive change.


"The older you get, and I really find this, the less people are around you that you've known for years and these people are incredibly valuable. By the time you get to your mid-thirties, there's only a handful of people who've known you since you were a teenager as you lose friends and acquaintances along the way. This Life + 10 reflects all of this, which is why it was so interesting to go back to it."


Amita continues: "The show was such a huge opportunity for all of us. Some of us can remember some things about 10 years ago that the rest of us have no recollection of whatsoever which has made coming back together very funny at times.


"We were working 12 hours a day so the last thing you wanted to do was go home and watch it on TV. If you weren't there for other people's storylines, you just didn't know what went on.


"This Life did mean a lot to people, the audience was ready for a programme like that. The last couple of years, I've looked back at it and have been proud."


Daniela Nardini (Anna) comments: "Meeting the rest of the group at Tony's house for the initial meeting was interesting as we all hadn't been all together for about eight years. Everybody had initial reservations and we were quite surprised that Tony was suggesting it. However, Tony Garnett is a man of taste and the fact that he was considering it meant that it was seriously worth thinking about - even though I've been chasing away the part for the last 10 years.


"We all went for a drink afterwards and we all thought it would be a cool thing to do and we all really warmed to the idea.


"A decade ago, I thought Anna was really cool! Ten years later, she has resolved some issues but developed a few more! She's matured but if you play something 10 years later, of course the character will mature like I've matured. I don't think it's ever been done where characters have been revisited 10 years later.


"We only had three weeks to shoot This Life + 10 which isn't much time for 90 minutes of material.


"Ten years ago we didn't have dressing rooms as we had one big green room so we all hung out together. We'd all be together from 8am until 8pm and I don't know how we learnt any lines! It was relentless. Now we all have Winnebegos and you realise that as you get older, you like your space! Especially as I was projectile vomiting as I was in the early stages of pregnancy while filming.


"The main quest for Anna is having a child and she's shocked that she has this biological urge which she didn't expect, and that's what makes her story interesting for me. Because it's not something you expect from Anna.


"Way back when, I always wanted Miles and Anna to get together because the audience would've loved it. But I do know that they're better when they're apart, like Rachel and Ross in Friends. Not that I'm comparing the popularity of them to us! They've got a deep fatal attraction thing with each other and it's very passionate. But when you sit them down, they know they're not compatible and they weren't mature enough to realise that 10 years ago.


"This time, it hasn't been as consuming as it was then. It was a lifestyle 10 years ago, now it's a three week job. I'm also delighted that the mini skirts have gone, thank God!"


Jason Hughes (Warren) comments: "Something happened at the read-through, which was the first time that as a group we read the script. I think Jack started mucking about really early on started making irreverent comments about the script or us reading it and as soon as he did that, something happened and it caught fire and then collectively I think we all went 'Ah. It's us again! Here we are, it's you, it's you, it's you!'


"Because we all trust each other as a group, we suddenly opened up and realised that the thing that we had is still there, whoosh, we were off and the whole thing just caught fire. And as a result it went really well the read-through, I never realised it was so funny.


"On the first day of filming, I felt slightly anxious and a little bit nervous. I thought 'here we go...!' But once we got underway it felt good, really great.


"What I like most about Warren is his humour, the fact that he likes a good laugh, especially when he's with this group of people.


"I was talking to Amy (Jenkins) and Andy (Lincoln) about the group the other day, the fact that they've all done quite well for themselves, they're all earning a wage that affords them nice clothes, able to go on holiday, you know, they've done alright but they're still deeply unhappy people! They all have a good life but, essentially, they're just not happy.


"I was really looking forward to seeing Andy and Jack (Davenport) again. I haven't seen them in such a long time. My over-riding memory of 10 years ago is of the laugh we all had, going on set sitting around for half an hour with those two and us all laughing ourselves stupid and struggling with a really tight wheezy chest because I'd been laughing so hard for so long.


"I then had Molly (daughter) and moved to Brighton and that became my over-riding thing so I haven't seen them in ages. So I was really excited to see them, really looking forward to being around them.


"I was the first only gay in the village! I led the way for Dafydd and Queer As Folk. I think it's a big compliment for gay men to watch it and totally believe that you're a gay man. That's the biggest compliment you can be paid as it's my job as an actor to create a believable character. Young gay guys at the time, and a long time after, would shout 'It's Warren, it's Warren from This Life!'.


"I remember one kid and he just stood with his pint just staring at me and he said 'you know, I watched that show and I came out when I saw your character - I came out because of you' and I've loads of mail like that as well, young kids saying 'I so loved This Life because it allowed me to be gay and express myself, and where I come from I'm not allowed to be gay and I'm not allowed to tell people I'm gay and I haven't told my parents and none of my family know' - and of course nobody ever asked if I was actually gay or anything else, they just assumed that I was.


"There was always a look of shock when I started talking about my wife Tash, or the kids. I'm very proud of the character of Warren and people do still remember him. They still come up and say 'I've got to ask, I'm sorry, are you one of the people in That's Life?'"


This Life + 10 was commissioned by Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, and Roly Keating, Controller, BBC Two.


A World Production/BBC Wales Production for BBC Two, This Life + 10 is written by Amy Jenkins, directed by Joe Ahearne and the executive producer is Julie Gardner for BBC Wales. Tony Garnett is the sole Producer.


Notes to Editors


This Life was first broadcast on BBC Two on 18 March 1996.


The final episode of the second series was broadcast on BBC Two on 7 August 1997.










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Category: TV Drama; BBC Two; Wales
Date: 28.12.2006
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