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Home Life Weekend

'People who have cancer are so brave and I'm just pretending'

The last series was an emotional wringer for Cold Feet's Fay Ripley, but her character has come to terms with life after illness

Faye Ripley
Faye Ripley

By Gemma Dunn

Cold Feet's Fay Ripley has been stopped in the street more than ever of late - and with good reason. The actress, known for her role as hapless housewife Jenny Gifford on the hit ITV comedy-drama, moved viewers to tears last series when her character was given the devastating news that she had breast cancer.

The scenes, which saw her break down and later undergo treatment with her husband Pete (John Thomson) by her side, simply struck a chord.

"I chat to a lot of people, because people want to come up, introduce themselves and tell me their story," reveals Ripley (53). "It's often so moving I find myself hugging people on trains, or in the supermarket, and we'll sort of go, 'Good luck', or 'Please send your sister my love' and we'll do a selfie.

"It's a huge privilege to do that, because people are so brave, so courageous, and I am just pretending."

Fast-forward and this series sees Jenny return to her "old life" after months of treatment: a transition that understandably proves more difficult than expected.

"We normally skip big chunks every time we come back, but I think the thought was that we owed it to people to pick the story up more or less where we left off," explains the London-born star, who returns alongside co-stars James Nesbitt, Hermione Norris and Robert Bathurst.

"Yes, it's the end of her treatment. But it's where she's at now. While it's a place of hope, mainly, it's also a confusing time where one is in limbo about exactly what the future holds.

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"Now, she's in a 'Right, let's get on with life' place, but she's keeping a lot to herself and there's still a lot for her to deal with."

For Ripley - who's talked openly about the "weight of responsibility" she felt playing out this storyline - it's the next chapter in what has been a defining narrative for the Gifford family.

"I simply don't want to let people down. I can only portray it as truthfully as I can. Everyone has got a friend, or a parent, or a sister, or a brother that's going through something."

And it's handled in a very Cold Feet way, she says.

"Different shows do things in different ways and the thing about this show is that you'll have something that will be painfully truthful, but then you'll have something that is completely daft and makes you laugh in the next scene.

"We're in no way a documentary-style show, let's be honest, so there are elements that are real about it. But then there are bonkers fantasies, fun, a lot of parties and everything else. That's the appeal of it."

With legions of loyal fans eager to be reacquainted with the Manchester-based gang, what does she make of its timeless appeal?

"There's an element of nostalgia about something coming back that you remembered. The original came at a time in people's lives when viewers were having a baby, getting married, starting their careers, leaving home. Now it's come back, they've had a whole middle life to lead and they're looking at our characters and there's lots of parallel lines.

"It's also like old friends, presumably. People were invested enough originally that they've gone, 'Oh, it's so nice to see these old pals'."

She adds: "Nobody ever stopped asking when Cold Feet was coming back - journalists, particularly, but certainly in the street. So, I think in a funny sort of a way, it wasn't that big a surprise."

That's not to say another series - its 10th - is a certainty: "We never know if it's going to go again until it's gone out, so it may be that that's the last series.

"Really, you say goodbye for the last time, every time. We always have, we're used to it."

And does she have anything else lined up?

"Listen, I'm a working actress and I'll continue to be that hopefully," asserts Ripley, who in addition to acting has authored three successful cookery books.

"I keep myself pretty busy, so I feel very grateful," adds the mother-of-two. "But I'm never one to pack too much in. I really like working, but I really like my life.

"I'm somebody who likes to do lots of different kinds of things - you might next speak to me and I've opened a florist.

"I'm also hoping to do some more writing this year for all sorts of things, some more journalistic stuff, but also some script stuff. But who knows?

"That's something I will probably do regardless of what happens."

Cold Feet, ITV, Monday, 9pm

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