The Casual Vacancy was JK Rowling’s first foray into adult fiction – and was swiftly turned into a TV hit. It follows the back-stabbing antics of a small town that’s holding a vicious local election. We caught up with stars Keeley Hawes and Julia McKenzie for a chat about their roles…











Series One is out on Blu-ray and DVD this week, and we’ve got three copies to give away – enter below!

Veteran TV and stage actress Julia plays battle-axe Shirley Mollison, and loved having a role to get her teeth into. “She’s the mother-in-law from hell and one of the village’s leading lights,” she says. “Everybody in the village seems to want to be the leading player, and she certainly is. Her husband of course is wonderful, avuncular Howard, and everybody thinks ‘good old Howard,’ – but they’re both Machiavellian really,” she grins. Used to starring in sitcoms and musicals, Julia has enjoyed playing against type. “It is such a different part for me, so this has been wonderful fun because she’s violently different,” she laughs. “You can see through this woman in a second – she’s a great social climber.”

Her daughter-in-law, Samantha, is played by Keeley Hawes, best known for TV hits Spooks and Ashes to Ashes. “There’s a great jealousy towards her daughter-in-law,” says Julia. “That’s why Shirley grabs hold of Miles and Samantha’s children a great deal. Every time there’s a situation, Shirley can control it, before Samantha does.”

The two actresses enjoyed sparking off each other, she adds. “The pair of us laughed so much that we had to get that out of our systems. That anyone would have the nerve to say some of the things Shirley says to Samantha…it’s very good comedy writing and they’re wonderful characters!”

Keeley, in real life married to actor Matthew Macfadyen, of Spooks and Mr Darcy fame, agrees. “My character is married to Miles, and they’ve been bringing up their twin girls under the shadow of Howard and Shirley,” she explains. “Shirley absolutely despises Samantha, she hates her. Samantha feels pretty much the same way about her, which was such good fun to play as I couldn’t feel more differently myself towards Julia McKenzie,” she smiles. “It’s awful really to play those scenes with pure hatred!”

Samantha, who runs an underwear boutique, and Miles’ marriage is, “In a bad way,” says Keeley. “That’s really down to his relationship with his mother and his father. He is a mummy’s boy.”

The main problem with playing Samantha however, wasn’t the marriage but the fake tan. “In the book she’s perma-tanned,” Keeley explains. “She’s got stained hands where she’s just constantly rubbing fake tan all over her at every available opportunity. That was quite difficult to maintain and I was also finishing off another job where I couldn’t be perma-tanned – so the logistics of that were difficult!”


Leave a Reply

Please login or register to leave a comment.

Please wait while we process your request.

Do not refresh or close your window at any time.