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Kim Cattrall: I'm interested in playing women who are not just strong and mighty, but who are going through some kind of challenge

Children's books get the big screen treatment with Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans, featuring Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall. Georgia Humphreys hears how the actress threw herself into the role

Fun learning: Kim Cattrall as Agrippina with Craig Roberts, who plays Nero in Horrible Histories: The Movie
Fun learning: Kim Cattrall as Agrippina with Craig Roberts, who plays Nero in Horrible Histories: The Movie

By Georgia Humphreys

If there's one word to describe Horrible Histories: The Movie, it's "fun". Based on the hugely popular kid's book series by Terry Deary, it hilariously and vividly brings the Roman period to life.

The historical jumping point for the plot is the story of Emperor Nero, and the troubles he faced with Boudicca.

This developed into following two teenage protagonists, the Roman teenage soldier Atti - banished by Nero to Britain - and Orla, a young Celtic girl who desperately wants to become a warrior.

When Orla kidnaps Atti, it's just as Boudicca is rounding up her troops to repel those rotten Romans from Britain for good.

For Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall - who plays Nero's mother Agrippina - being on set for Horrible Histories was an absolute hoot.

"I really had a blast," says the Liverpool-born star (62), who shares that the work reminded her of "British comedies from the Thirties, Fourties and Fifties", which she's a big fan of.

"I still have the Carry On films - I have the whole boxset," she adds.

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Describing how she wanted the work she chooses to do "to be fun", she says Horrible Histories: The Movie "really was such a great recipe for that". And she adds thoughtfully: "It (the set) was very welcoming. I was only there for a short period of time, and sometimes that can work against you but I felt right at home right away, which was lovely."

Dreary's books, the first of which was published in 1993, have undoubtedly inspired millions of children to get into history, and in 2009, a Horrible Histories TV show started on CBBC.

It has become clear it's comedy that grown-ups can enjoy too though, becoming such a hit that a repackaged version aired in a prime time slot, with Stephen Fry as the host.

While the film is obviously a different kettle of fish - on TV it's a half-hour sketch-show format, and for the silver screen, it needed to be a traditional three-act story - it also appeals to a wide audience.

"That's the great thing," notes softly-spoken, but lively, Cattrall, "There's a little bit for both (adults and children). It's not like taking your kid to see a show that you're not going to be entertained by or have a good laugh."

A lot of Cattrall's work in this film is alongside Submarine star Craig Roberts, who plays her son Nero.

Their characters have what can only be described as an unconventional mother/son relationship.

"I didn't know Craig until we met in the make-up trailer," recalls Cattrall of their time filming together.

"There was a real freedom on the set, it was really funny. Dom (Brigstocke), our director, was very allowing and encouraging for us to come up with ideas and fun things.

"And it was just so well written and well researched.

"We both of course knew the level of comedy, based on Horrible Histories, but also based on the cast that was there - they were so good and so fun to play with."

Some might think this role seems like quite a surprising role for a Hollywood star like Cattrall.

Kim Cattrall
Kim Cattrall

But the effervescent actress, who trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, has had a wonderfully varied career.

In the Eighties, she was known for comedies including Porky's, Police Academy and Mannequin.

Her defining role came later, as the sassy Samantha Jones in the Sex And The City franchise (the show aired on HBO from 1998-2004, followed by films in 2008 and 2010); she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the part in 2002.

When that finished, she went down the theatre route, starring in shows such as Antony And Cleopatra at the Liverpool Playhouse and Private Lives in London. When it comes to how Horrible Histories came about, she happened to be in London during the shoot and was keen to get involved.

Having moved to Canada as a baby, she holds dual citizenship, but it was moving back to Liverpool for a year aged 11 that made her fall in love with acting.

Does she consciously want to do more work in the UK?

"Yeah, I do," she enthuses.

"I love to read scripts and most of them are pretty bad, pretty awful. So it's nice to get something that's, first of all, well written, has a great track record, has an audience built in - and have fun."

Asked to expand on what is bad about scripts she reads, the actress doesn't hesitate at all.

"I think that they're carbon copies of something that I've seen millions of times, especially the way the women are portrayed, especially women at my age," she suggests.

"So I'm very much interested in playing women who are not just strong and mighty, but who are doubting but also enjoy their life, or are going through some kind of challenge, whatever the story is or the conflict is.

"But this for me, there was a conflict but it was also so joyous, the company of the actors and Horrible Histories."

  • Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans is out in cinemas next Friday

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