‘You’re constantly comparing yourself to your parents’
Beattie Edmondson has her first big-screen starring role in Patrick, following in the footsteps of famous parents Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson. She tells Laura Harding about living up to her family name and dealing with a canine co-star.
Beattie Edmondson’s co-star will not stop farting. He is also shedding fur all over the huge teal and gold armchair he is lounging in. But it all comes with the territory when you work so closely with a four-year-old pug.
Luckily, Beattie’s famous parents, Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson, have always taught her to see the funny side of flatulence. “My dad once gave me a bit of advice when I was younger, because a boy had been told off in my class for farting,” she says.
“I told my dad and he said, ‘Beattie, don’t you ever let anyone tell you that farting isn’t funny’. That was a really powerful bit of advice that has stuck with me.”
She looks over at Harley, her co-star in new film Patrick, and adds with a sigh: “He likes to fart. I was really at the business end of one this morning, he was really channelling it in my direction.”
This is likely not the glamorous moment the 31-year-old envisaged when she decided to follow in her parents’ impressive footsteps and embark on a big-screen career.
“I imagined Harley and I would become best of friends and I would have to adopt him because he wouldn’t be able to live without me,” she says. “But he keeps his distance, he’s very professional.
“He wouldn’t let me cuddle him and kiss him in the film. They had to put pate on my face so he would lick me.”
In the film, Edmondson plays Sarah Francis, a teacher whose life is thrown into disarray when she is bequeathed her grandmother’s spoilt dog, Patrick.
High jinks inevitably ensue when the precocious pug runs riot through her life.
“I just thought it was sweet and sweet-hearted and funny and cute and I thought we need a film like this right now,” Edmondson says.
“It’s important to take a break from life sometimes and just become zen and watch something joyful and remember that there is all this happiness to be had.”
A consistent source of that joy is Saunders, who pops up in the film as the cookery teacher at the school where Sarah teaches. “She manages to wheedle her way into every job I do!” Edmondson jokes. “She played my mum in the sitcom Josh and because I was involved in Patrick from quite early on, they were talking about who was going to play my mum.
“They asked, ‘Could you text your mum and see if she knows any older actresses who might want to play your mum?’ so I did and she replied: ‘I’ll do it, I’ll do it’. I told her I meant somebody else! But I think she wanted to do a part when she could play the comedy and not really mess up the entire film.”
While having her mum around was handy at times — “there is such an incredible well of experience to draw from for advice” — there were moments when Edmondson could have lived without it.
“There are times when you have to say, ‘Okay enough advice now, stop the advice!’
“And there is feedback, not about my performance, but, ‘What are you eating?’ and, ‘Are you going to keep your hair that length?’”
Jokes aside, Edmondson is hyper-aware that being the child of the Absolutely Fabulous actress and The Young Ones actor is a lot to live up to.
“You’re constantly comparing yourself to them,” she says. “But I think the trick is to choose a slightly different path and make your own way and not try to emulate them.
“My game plan is to trust in my instincts and do what I really feel I love in my heart and I hope that leads me in the right direction.”
She starred in BBC Three sitcom Josh for three years after popping up in films such as Bridget Jones’s Baby and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, but this is her first leading role on the big screen.
“I try not to think about that, otherwise I would just crumble. I’m taking it one day at a time. I’ve never been in something where, I’ve been in every single scene so it was full on,” she says.
Luckily, Saunders is brimming over with pride about her daughter’s starring role.
At the film’s premiere in a London garden, they cuddle up together alongside Saunders’ whippet Olive and it’s clear they are incredibly close.
“I’m just a proud mother,” Saunders says. “She did so well and it’s great experience and it’s a lovely film to do as your first.
“Working together felt really easy. We didn’t have a great many scenes together, but we have done bits and bobs together before. She was a baby when we did French and Saunders, so she’s grown up with it and she’s always hung around on our sets.
“We always mess about and it just felt really normal.”
That thought is echoed by the film’s director, Mandie Fletcher, who directed the mother and daughter before in the Ab Fab film.
“She has her mother’s down-to-earth quality,” Fletcher enthuses. “It is so wonderful to work with someone who will do anything for a laugh.
“She’ll never look at the shot and say, ‘This is not a good shot for my bottom’. She’s like her mother, she will drop her pants for a laugh. She just gets it.”
Patrick is in cinemas now