Belfast Telegraph

'We play people not in the first flush of youth, so that is unusual'

Philip Glenister and Lesley Sharp reunite for Sky 1's comedy Living the Dream ... regular family viewing it's not, writes Gemma Dunn

Ever thought of packing it all in for a life in the sun? Well, that's the scenario Philip Glenister and Lesley Sharp were faced with for their starring roles in Sky 1's sunny new comedy drama, Living the Dream.

The original series, penned by the award-winning makers of Cold Feet, no less, follows Brits abroad Mal and Jen Pemberton, who decide to up sticks and swap their rainy hometown in Yorkshire for the US Sunshine State of Florida.

With teenagers in tow - Tina (Rosie Day) and Freddie (Brenock O'Connor) - the pair, travelling on an investor's visa, have big plans to renovate a "booming" recreational vehicle park.

But said plans soon go awry when they realise they've been mis-sold the site, leaving them in the hands of its less-than-welcoming residents.

Add to the mix roving alligators, an ex-wrestler with a vendetta, the challenge of joining an American high school, dating politics and a neighbourhood brimming with desperate housewives and the Pembertons' reality is, unsurprisingly, nothing short of a ruddy nightmare.

One of the virtues of the series is the fact it portrays a middle-aged couple who aren't simply "getting ready for retirement", believes Sharp.

"What you've got is a modern representation of people of that age, which I personally think doesn't get much airtime," says the Mancunian actress (57).

"They're people who've still got an eye for adventure; they're still thinking, 'Well, I've got a lot of life left in me. A lot of life that I'd like to live'.

"And they like each other, they fancy each other, they like their children. I think what's fabulous about Living the Dream is that accidents happen to them and they've got dramas and pitfalls to get through, but they do it as a united pair.

"I do just think that it's a positive portrayal of two people who are not in the first flush of youth and that is unusual."

London-born Glenister (54) agrees. He says: "We're on their side, and we're invested in them."

Perfecting that husband-and-wife dynamic on screen, however, was aided by the fact the duo - both industry veterans with the best part of three decades of TV work under their belt - have met before.

"Phil and I worked together in 1999 and 2000 on a series called Clocking Off, so we knew each other as work colleagues and got on incredibly well then," Sharp explains.

"So what was great about being cast together in this is that we already had a good working relationship and we go about work in the same way.

"We're both geeky about the way that we make sure we learn our lines, we turn up on time, you know, all of that stuff. So we had a really good laugh.

"Because, actually, I think if you're that far away from home and you don't bond with your working colleagues, it could be a lonely experience," the Scott & Bailey star reasons.

"But we all got on incredibly well, and on weekends we'd hang out together. All of that is an added bonus on a job."

The filming location of Savannah proved a home from home, too.

"It was very easy to settle in," Sharp says of the three-month stint.

"Savannah was a wonderful sort of community and neighbourhood. Very quickly you developed a liking for certain shops where you would buy your groceries, and there was a fantastic yoga studio and things like that.

"So it didn't feel like being uprooted from your home and put in an alien landscape.

"It's very rare that the opportunity to explore another life, another community, goes hand-in-hand with a really fun job, so it was great."

Glenister, who has previously filmed in South Carolina for his role as Reverend Anderson in Fox's Outcast, adds: "I had some very nice neighbours, actually.

"They invited me in for early evening Sunday drinks and proceeded to go through all the British TV shows that they watched: Call the Midwife, I think, Downton Abbey was there."

Aside from the generous locals, however, the cast enjoyed visits from loved ones - despite it admittedly being "a really long way".

"Everybody had friends and family coming out," Sharp says. "So when they came out, everybody would fall on them - you know, 'How's England? What's going on?' It was a bit crazy. And, of course, the general election was going on while we were over there, so there was a really big imperative to organise postal votes.

"But because of the time difference, instead of watching votes coming in at two, three or four in the morning, we were up and watching it. That was really interesting.

"And also, nobody was interested in our general election. We were obsessed, but nobody was interested."

But does the show touch on the Trump-era? "It was a Trump-free zone" quips Glenister, who is best known for his role as DCI Gene Hunt on the BBC series Life on Mars and its sequel Ashes to Ashes.

"I was there for the election last year and it was quite interesting seeing both sides of the coin.

"But this show keeps out of the mainstream of politics and American politics, in particular."

Given their stay, could they ever see themselves relocating across the pond?

"No, I like living here, to be honest," Glenister says candidly.

"I like my seasons, basically. I admire people - I know people that have done it and moved over to the States.

"My best pal, actually, he's married to an American and he lives in Rhode Island, but he needs to get his fix of Britain a couple times a year.

"He makes a point of coming back. But for me, personally, I wouldn't leave Europe."

What about changing things up - stepping out of their comfort zone, much like the Pembertons?

"I think everybody, at some point, rather feels that they have to shake themselves up somehow," Sharp muses.

"What I've done is I've started writing a novel, so that's my big adventure."

Living the Dream, Sky 1, Thursday, 9pm

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