Lesley Manville on 'I Am Maria' — ‘We’re telling an important story about a generation of women'

Lesley Manville in 'I Am Maria'.
Lesley Manville in 'I Am Maria'. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Lesley Manville stars in I Am Maria, the final story of C4’s emotional anthology I Am series. Be warned, there are some raw and passionate marital arguments, which don’t always make for easy viewing,

Mum and Harlots actor Lesley plays Maria, whose 60th birthday marks a crossroads in her life and her marriage. Feeling bored and restless after 31 years raising a family and holding down a career, she and her husband John (Michael Gould) are struggling sexually and are at loggerheads about what they want out of life now their children have left home. But as painful cracks in their relationship grow into a chasm, Maria embarks on a wild affair with her younger colleague, Anthony, and decides to make some brave choices about her future.

"At its core, the film examines a woman’s right, a person’s right, to live their life as they want to, to explore their own thoughts, feelings and their own journey," says Lesley Manville, 65 who was once married to Hollywood star Gary Oldman.

"We’re telling an important story about a generation of women, or an age of women, who no longer have to do what’s expected of them. You’re allowed to be over 50 and free and sexy and naughty and funny."

I Am Maria.

Troubled marriage... Lesley Manville as Maria who has a strained relationship with her husband John, played by Michael Gould. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Lesley Manville on the unscripted dialogue for filming I Am Maria...

I Am Maria explores issues of identity, doubt and lifelong relationships, which Lesley Manville believes will chime with many viewers. Meanwhile, on set she had to face the challenge of unscripted dialogue, as well as some very risqué scenes with I May Destroy You actor Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, who plays Anthony.

"It’s difficult sometimes. You meet in the morning, have your breakfast, then you’re in hair and make up and suddenly, an hour later, you’ve got to do a very intimate scene,’ says Lesley who in 2022 will star in BritBox crime drama Magpie Murders. ‘But we were both very respectful of each other and, as an actor, I like having the rug pulled from under your feet.

"‘The whole thing was like a carrot to a donkey for me because I’ve never worked in this way before. The drama is not scripted and it was shot on a single handheld camera with minimal people in the room. It was really just roll the camera and see what happens."

I Am Maria.

Lesley Manville's Maria falls for younger man Anthony. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Lesley Manville's I Am Maria — air date

You can see Lesley Manville in I Am Maria on Channel 4 on Thursday August 19 at 9pm. I Am Maria is also currently available on the streaming service All4 along with the other two I Am... standalone dramas I Am Victoria with Suranne Jones and I Am Danielle with Letitia Wright.

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.