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Tamsin Greig on 'The Amazing Mr Blunden': 'My character is Robin Hood from Hell!'

Mark Gatiss, Simon Callow and Tamsin Greig in character as Mr Wickens, Mr Blunden and Mrs Wickens in the key image for The Amazing Mr Blunden. The image shows the three of them surrounded by snow against a blue background, while an image of the country house from the film is superimposed over Mr Blunden's chest, and in front of them is clock face, on top of which the four child characters from the film are running away from the house
Tamsin Greig with Mark Gatiss and Simon Callow in festive film The Amazing Mr Blunden (Image credit: Sky)

Tamsin Greig is known for playing warm and likable characters like Friday Night Dinner's Jackie Goodman — but we'll see a very different side to her in Sky's festive film, The Amazing Mr Blunden.

In the film, Tamsin plays Mrs Wickens, a sinister character who hatches a plot in 1821 to murder two children in her care in order to secure their inheritance for her daughter Bella. Knowing that Mrs Wickens plans to harm them, Sara and Georgie Latimer take advantage of a magical potion to travel forward in time to 2021 and seek the help of contemporary teenagers Jamie and Lucy Allen — but will they be able to prevent Mrs Wickens from carrying out her wicked scheme?

We spoke to Tamsin about why she's delighted to play against type in the Christmas TV highlight...

Tamsin Greig on landing the part of Mrs Wickens

"If I ever see Mark Gattiss's [who wrote and directed the film, as well as playing Tamsin's on-screen husband Mr Wickens] name pop up on a project, nothing in me will say 'no'. Mark's letter to me that came with the script said that he'd created this ultimate baddie and couldn't think of anybody else but me, which I thought was quite rude but also charming. 

"Which sort of sums him up: rude, but charming. I thought she would be fun to play — I wanted to play somebody who you think is irredeemable, but she's doing it for love, she's doing it for her daughter, because she wants to get the wealth away from the posh children and look after her daughter. Really, the whole story is a class struggle. She's Robin Hood from Hell!"

Mrs Wickens (Tamsin Greig) and Mr Wickens (Mark Gatiss) stand holding hands in the house's library, shelves behind them piled with books, while Mrs Wickens holds up a candle

Tamsin Greig and Mark Gatiss as the twisted Mr and Mrs Wickens (Image credit: Sky)

How did you find wearing the make-up to play her?

"Thank you for thinking that it was make-up. All the lines are mine, but all the sort of skin disease has been given to me, I haven't been able to produce that, so they've given me a sort of eczema. I think it's that she's a deeply sensitive woman, so everything reacts on her skin and she can't live with herself, so there's a lot of sort of scratching and unhappiness in her body, and that works out by killing children. That's the ultimate, isn't it? 'I'm a bit scratchy today, and in the end I'm going to kill children.'"

Diana Dors played Mrs Wickens in the original 1972 film — was that part of the appeal for you?

"When I watched it, I thought, 'that's why Mark Gatiss wanted me in his film! Because he thinks of Diana Dors, and what's the modern version of that? It would have to be Tamsin Greig'."

A close up of Tamsin Greig in character as Mrs Wickens, wearing a curly red wig and with her face made-up to look red and blotchy

Will Mrs Wickens succeed in her diabolical plan? (Image credit: Sky)

It's quite a dark story — what makes it family-friendly viewing?

"They're trying to kill children, it doesn't scream 'Christmas', does it? But it's not 'The Amazing Mrs Wickens', it's The Amazing Mr Blunden. He's the redemptive catalyst for the story, so that's obviously why it's so well-placed for Christmas, because it's about love, and how stories can be redeemed, and that's what Christmas is all about. But there has to be a terrible fight with the dark side, doesn't there?"

We don't often see you playing villains. Have you been having fun in this role?

"I'm not often asked to play proper baddies, although I did play a baddie in Inside No 9, so maybe there's something about those League of Gentlemen that sees pure wickedness at the heart of me. 

"The way I think I see performance is that you're not pretending to be something other than yourself, you're finding an element of yourself that you then bring to the surface. I think the fury that is inside of us is there, which we all learn to manage, don't we? I can just see Mr and Mrs Wickens as these frightened children. They didn't start off bad, something has happened to those two to make them really wicked. I think that's what's really interesting — when you give volume to the fear that naturally resides in all people, you end up with real darkness."

  • The Amazing Mr Blunden airs on Christmas Eve at 7pm on Sky Max, Sky Showcase and streaming service NOW