Girlfriends star Phyllis Logan says she never planned to play housekeeper Elsie Hughes fox six years and that had she been told her run on Downton Abbey would last that long it would have given her pause. At TCA to discuss playing newly widowed Linda on Acorn TV’s Girlfriends, Logan noted she embarked on her acting career in “nineteen hundred and frozen to death” with a goal to play as many different roles as possible, including playing “old grannies and young blokes.” But, she hastened to add, she thoroughly enjoyed Downton’s six-year stretch.
Girlfriends, from BAFTA-winning writer Kay Mellor, follows three friends struggling with the challenges women face when they reach the age of invisibility in our society.
Logan, who plays a woman suspected in the sudden death of her husband, and Miranda Richardson, who plays Linda’s recently reunited friend Sue, got asked why British actresses seem to be able to get starring roles in TV series there, unlike the U.S. The TV critic wondered what it was about British TV that allows women to not be forced to “go away” after they hit “50, or 45, or 35.”
“I don’t think it’s so uncommon,” Logan answered.
“It is,” the American critic shot back.
“Is there not a shift happening here as well?” Richardson asked.
It was almost as if they were trying to tell the critics, in their very British way, they would prefer the topic of questions to be moved elsewhere.
Twenty-eight-year-old cast member Matthew Lewis, best known for playing Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter films, bravely stepped in to go where his Girlfriends cast members feared to tread. During a read-through, he said, Mellor told them because she saw so many women consigned to “mother” role on TV at a certain age, she wanted to make a show about three remarkable women in which men were the supporting roles.
Girlfriends debuts on Acorn TV on January 29.