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Breeders star Martin Freeman: 'It's nice to see parents swearing at their kids... we all do it'

Breeders shouldn't be a cosy, slapstick comedy, but rather an honest and uncompromising look at families. Gemma Dunn finds out more


George Wakeman as Luke Worsley, Daisy Haggard as Ally Worsley, Martin Freeman as Paul Worsley, Jayda Eyles as Ava Worsley. See PA Feature

George Wakeman as Luke Worsley, Daisy Haggard as Ally Worsley, Martin Freeman as Paul Worsley, Jayda Eyles as Ava Worsley. See PA Feature


George Wakeman as Luke Worsley, Daisy Haggard as Ally Worsley, Martin Freeman as Paul Worsley, Jayda Eyles as Ava Worsley. See PA Feature

The idea of Breeders first came to Martin Freeman in his sleep. Yes, the Sky Original comedy - billed to explore the paradox that every parent knows, but never admits: you would willingly die for your children, but often you also want to kill them - was born while he was in the land of Nod.

"Look at the first scene of the opening episode - I dreamt that," quips the actor (48), whose character is seen giving himself a "keep-calm" pep talk, before launching into an angry bedtime-induced tirade.

"The series is based on things that happen to me as a dad (and) I particularly love the sort of comedy, like this, that's trying to be a bit darker and more thought-provoking about life as a parent," reveals the father of two.

"Then I met Chris Addison and we got together with Simon Blackwell and bashed it all out really. The idea was that Chris would direct, Simon would write a show around it and I would act in it."

Freeman stars as Paul in the 10-part series, a caring father who, sleep-deprived, is discovering he's not quite the man he thought he was.

By contrast, his partner Ally (played by Daisy Haggard), manages to run a recording studio and - wildly - has the ability to read a story to their two young children while she's technically asleep.

But with full-time careers, ageing parents, a mortgage, upheavals in their relationship and the unenviable curveballs of parenting to contend with, it was always set to be a tale of two halves.

"We are trying to make something hopefully true, open, relevant - certainly for anyone who has ever had small children!" reasons Freeman.

"I just noticed that, when people ask new parents, 'How's it going?', they always say, 'It's just amazing, isn't it?', no matter how awful it actually is.

"I think, 'When are we going to cut this nonsense?' Yes, of course, it's amazing. Once you've had kids, that is the reason to be alive, the most important thing in your life. That, to me, goes without saying. But what doesn't go without saying is how angry you are at times."

"This feels like a very real insight into the harder parts of parenting - that will appeal to people," Haggard concurs. "And it's nice seeing parents swear at their kids because we've all done it."

So, just how much of Paul and Ally is a true fit? "Loads of it. Pretty much all the stuff in the show has either happened to me, Chris, or Simon," Freeman says. "Obviously, because I'm playing him, it's very me. I tried to be myself as much as possible."

As for Ally, "She's a strong, independent, career-minded, working mother. She's no-nonsense," chimes Haggard (41), who is the real-life godmother to Freeman's kids. "She's the good cop to Paul's bad cop, but she's no pushover."

"We deliberately wanted to make Paul and Ally, not rich, not dirt poor, and in a reasonably happy marriage," Freeman says. "They haven't got the world against them, so that can't be the reason why he has these fits of rage. That was the thing with me as a father. Whenever I would get those moods, of course the first thing I would do is go, 'Why am I feeling like this? I've got a really fortunate life'. I didn't have the excuse of living on £60 a week."

"Kids do make you angrier than anything, because they're really quite irritating," empathises Haggard. "They are so annoying, because you can't control them and they don't do what you expect.

"As a parent, you often end up losing your temper to win, but, of course, then you don't win. You just feel rubbish.

"Your children are gorgeous, creative and amazing, but they also drive you mad."

"In my case, I think parenting has helped make me a better person by highlighting what needed to get better," Freeman confides. "It's a shock, because you have gone through life thinking you're a good person and then suddenly you become a parent and you find out that you aren't necessarily."

So, what's the takeaway message?

"That parents sometimes can be quite spiky and really, really not nice middle-class liberals," he responds. "But we don't tend to either admit those feelings to ourselves and certainly not to other people."

As for a second series, there's certainly the mileage, the duo concede.

"I'd be very interested," says Haggard. "Yes," Freeman agrees. "In fact, there is no end of stories if you're a parent, or if you're married, is there?"

Breeders, Thursday, Sky One, 10pm (double bill)

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