"Life is like a comedy since I had my son"
As Foyle's War returns for a new run, actress Honeysuckle Weeks talks about spies, siblings and scrambled eggs with Jeananne Craig
A few years ago, Honeysuckle Weeks - known to millions of TV viewers as the rather serious Sam Stewart in hit drama Foyle's War - revealed she was keen to do more comedy.
These days, the actress (known to pals as H-Sucks) is as fun-loving as ever, but isn't so sure about playing it for laughs.
"I must have said that before I had a kid (she has a three-year-old son, Wade) - my life is just one big comedy now," the Cardiff-born, Sussex-raised actress sighs in her soft, low tones.
"Every time I go out the door looking smart, I've got some sort of smear of scrambled egg somewhere. Or something grim is hanging in my hair. So I'd quite like to be taken seriously in my professional life!"
She says she fancies "something nice and gritty, like The Bridge or The Killing or something Homeland-y", but adds, "it's always good to make people laugh".
First, she's back on screen in a new series of award-winning ITV period drama Foyle's War, written by acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz.
Three more two-hour films have been made, inspired by real Cold War events and following MI5 senior intelligence officer Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen), and driver and sidekick Sam (Weeks).
"We're in the world of MI5, we're in the world of espionage, we're in the world of double crossings," Weeks says, brimming with enthusiasm.
"It's about the fallout from the war and changing allegiances. Everyone's got two different strands to their thinking - the personal identity and who they say they are, and the other identity, which is maybe their more secretive political leanings."
It's all change for Sam, who is now expecting a baby with her politician husband Adam (Daniel Weyman), and is trying to keep it a secret from Foyle.
"Things aren't exactly rosy (between Sam and Adam), but neither are they too tense. They're a married couple going through the normal frustrations and frictions, but they love each other and she supports her husband," Weeks explains.
"Adam doesn't want her to hide (her pregnancy) from Foyle, he wants her to give up her job. And in episode one, we see the issue of women having to relinquish their wartime roles in the workplace because the Government was encouraging them to go back home, and obviously the men were returning from war and wanted their jobs back. We see a lot of frustration among us womenfolk at having to do that."
Every script is a bit of a history lesson, admits Weeks, who recently filmed an upcoming episode of the BBC One crime show Death In Paradise in Guadeloupe ("It's a really fun set out there - the rum is positively gut-rotting, very strong ...").
"On the last page of pretty much all of the scripts I've read from Anthony, there's a sort of biographical coda where he lists the real-life characters on which the script has been based, so that's very interesting."
Wade, Weeks' son with hypnotherapist husband Lorne Stormonth-Darling, accompanied her to Liverpool, where the series was filmed.
"If I had a few scenes off in the middle of the day, he'd come in for lunch and cause havoc by running around in the make-up truck, pulling all the drawers out and taking out all the hairpins," she says with a laugh.
Foyle's War has proved a hit with viewers since it first hit screens in 2002, and Weeks says of the show's enduring success: "It's very, very well written, the way they're put together is something else. And they get in very good actors for the guest roles. Let alone Michael ..."
The actress has struck up a firm friendship with Kitchen, a very private star who rarely gives interviews.
"He's not dissimilar to Foyle, although he's more into rock 'n' roll", she says of the Out Of Africa actor.
"He's quite into his music scene, Michael, and also he's quite a comedian. You wouldn't think that, would you? He's a concert pianist as well. And a bit of an ace on the tennis court, too."
Weeks herself caught the acting bug young, and made her first TV appearance in 1993 having won the lead role in an adaptation of Anne Fine's Goggle Eyes, alongside her younger sister, Perdita. More TV roles followed, and she also found time to study English at Pembroke College, Oxford.
Her younger brother Rollo is also an actor, and the Weeks household was quite a theatrical one.
"I've been putting on plays since I was about 10. I did the nativity play every year from that age until I was about 14 - my sister was born on Christmas Day, so she would always play the lead role," Weeks recalls. "I couldn't do a Kenneth Branagh and be director and lead actor!
She's now looking forward to seeing how her Foyle's War alter ego copes with being a mum. "I think she's probably going to be quite strict. Loving, but with an iron rule. Not necessarily iron - copper rule, maybe ..."
- Foyle's War returns to UTV tomorrow at 8pm