Joanna Scanlan: I've never played a happy woman like Ma Larkin before!

Bradley Walsh and Joanna Scanlan as Pop and Ma Larkin
(Image credit: ITV)

Joanna Scanlan is following in the footsteps of Darling Buds of May star Pam Ferris as she takes on the role of Ma Larkin in The Larkins, ITV's new version of the HE Bates novel.

Ma and Pop, played by Bradley Walsh and originally played by David Jason, live a wonderful life on their Kentish farm with their six children.

ITV will no doubt be hoping the show can be as successful as The Darling Buds of May, which was first shown in 1991 and starred a certain Catherine Zeta-Jones.

We spoke to Getting On actress Joanna, 59, during a break in filming in the beautiful English countryside to find out what’s in store… 

Were you already familiar with the HE Bates books and the 1990s TV adaptation? 

Joanna Scanlan: "When I was 14, I was ill and had to stay in bed for two weeks, and my mum gave me the books to read. I absolutely fell in love with the characters and what they stood for. There’s something that’s so warm and embracing that I loved even then."  

The Durrells cast led by Keeley Hawes

'The Larkins' has been adapted by Simon Nye, whose credits include 'Men Behaving Badly' and 'The Durrells' (above) (Image credit: ITV)

How would you describe Ma Larkin? 

"Ma is a happy woman, and playing her has made me realise that I’ve never been asked to play a happy woman before! She has a happy marriage and she’s an excellent mum. She’s hugely hospitable, and you will see the tables groaning with these most unbelievable feasts that she is able to provide!  She’s competent, capable and funny, but there’s also a certain spice to her, and she can give as good as she gets!"  

What is the Larkins’ approach to life? 

"It’s a kind of, laissez-faire, live-and-let live-attitude, with a lack of snobbery and an ability to welcome all-comers with no judgements."

How would you describe Pop and Ma's relationship? 

"Even though they’re parents of a massive family, they put each other first and work as a team. We have these lovely scenes in bed at night, where there’s a bit of 'how’s your father', but also a lot of sorting out of stuff!"

The Larkins

From right: Ma, Pop, Charley and the Larkin kids (Image credit: ITV)

How would you sum up the appeal of the show? 

"It’s a sort of dream of what a family might be, that takes you back to times in the past, and helps you look forward to times in the future."

The Larkins airs on ITV from Sunday Oct. 10 and will be available on the ITV Hub. 

Ian MacEwan
Senior Writer

Ian writes about TV and film for TV Times, What’s on TV and TV & Satellite Week magazines. He co-hosts the weekly TV streaming podcast, Bingewatch.