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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Hattie – Ruth Jones plays Hattie Jacques

Ruth Jones as Hattie Jacques

"There was more to Hattie Jacques than the public persona of the Carry On films," explains Ruth Jones. "I was surprised. I think because most people only know her for playing the austere matron in the Carry On films, her private life in this film will surprise, but I feel people will enjoy discovering this other side to her."

On being asked to take on the role, Ruth says: "The Carry On films are a British institution, they're so funny – I was very privileged to be playing Hattie Jacques, she was such a much-loved actress."

Ruth provides her take on the Hattie Jacques's love triangle: "My understanding is that Hattie loved her husband, John Le Mesurier, very much and it was a wonderfully warm and close relationship. But John Schofield offered a raw passion and romantic nature that Le Mesurier could not compete with – and that Hattie never quite expected in her life.

"However, Hattie could never stop loving the man she married and I think that is what makes the drama so interesting."

In terms of what drew her to the project, Ruth says: "Hattie famously said in an interview 'If you're fat you're funny,' so I really wanted to see the person behind the funny fat persona. Sometimes people don't look beyond the character and I can understand that feeling and where Hattie was coming from."

Thankfully, the same stereotypes don't exist today: "I don't think we have quite the same over-simplified view of the world. Fat Friends explored similar subject matter. Nessa, from Gavin And Stacey, has fun with her size and is comfortable with it.

"I feel lucky that there are more roles for larger actors. I don't think I've experienced the same stereotyping Hattie Jacques seemed to face in her acting roles."

Ruth admits she felt the pressure of playing a leading lady: "I love working in a team, in an ensemble. I don't know if I'm wholly comfortable always being in the spotlight.

"I was thinking: Oh God. It's Ruth Jones throughout the whole of the drama. What if people don't like me?" But I knew that through the weeks of filming, I just had to be so focused on the job – and I was."

One aspect of the drama Ruth particularly enjoyed were the costumes.

"Hattie's style was very much Fifties hourglass. Down to the vintage remake of a girdle which the costume department made for me, they were very much the spanks of their day – they just hold everything in and it all added to the joy of wearing the clothes and playing the role.

"The costumes made me feel really feminine. They made you feel part of that world and not modern day."

Filming Hattie is a process Ruth thoroughly enjoyed: "It's definitely one of the best jobs I've done and I really wanted to do her justice. I think from the script to screen, everything has been done with the greatest of respect to her."

Ruth shares her final thoughts on Hattie: "I think she loved performing and she loved the public. She also did a lot of charity work. Something I read about, which I loved, is she would sell her autographs, or only give them out, on the condition people would donate to a charity.

"I felt a real affection for Hattie. I'm so fortunate as an actress, I'm always dressing up and playing make believe. With this role, I was able to get a glimpse of what it must have been like to be Hattie Jacques and, when filming was all over, I knew I was going to really miss her."

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