The former EastEnders star, who played 'Mad May,' reveals why her new Sunday night BBC1 drama has echoes of glamorous American series Mad Men
Former EastEnders actress Amanda Drew has spoken to TV Times about her role in BBC1's new Sunday night drama, The Last Post.
What's the story?
Set in the shimmering heat of 1960s Aden and centred around a unit of Royal Military Police officers, the BBC's new drama, which focuses on the female friendships and tangled relationships in an ever-changing warzone, features a host of well-known faces including, Jesse Buckey, (War and Peace), Jessica Raine, (Call the Midwife), Ben Miles, (The Crown) and Stephen Campbell Moore, (The History Boys)
Broadchurch actress, Amanda Drew, who many viewers know best as EastEnders' psychotic baby-snatcher, Dr May Wright, plays loyal and dutiful Mary Markham, a Major’s wife who is the embodiment of ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’ in the heat, glamour and extreme danger of life at the army base.
TV Times caught up with Amanda Drew to get the lowdown on The Last Post...
TVT: Tell us about Mary Markham…
Amanda Drew: "She’s a strong and morally positive character with a great sense of purpose and support for her husband. She has a certain status being married to the major, but I don’t think she plays up to that. She’s very accessible to the other women and they come to her for advice."
TVT: What drew you to The Last Post?
AD: "It deals with a fascinating part of modern British history with an amazing storyline and great characters. The female characters are really well drawn. Programs about the army often focus on the men but the women in The Last Post are more than a match."
TVT: How much did you know about the duties of an officer’s wife?
AD: "When I read the script it reminded me of the set up I had as a child. My dad was a teacher at a public school and we lived there as a family. It had a similar vibe to what I think the army set up would be. You had all the wives who were very supportive of their husbands and it was all very enclosed, a small secluded world that had its own orbit."
TVT: What was it like filming in South Africa?
AD: "I’d never been before but the light is like crystal and you have these extraordinary mountains and coast. It’s as beautiful as people say it is. Some of us went swimming in this wonderful reservoir called Silver Lake, an old mining area on top of Table Mountain where the water’s red because of the peat of the soil. It was simply stunning."
TVT: How did you cope with the heat?
AD: "I was lucky because I didn’t have to do any filming in the desert; apparently it was so hot it was like walking into an oven. Most of my scenes were in Cape Town and Simon’s Town. The first one we did, three baboons climbed up onto the rooftop. They’re rather scary but at a distance they were majestic to watch."
TVT: What were the hardest scenes to film?
AD: "My second day’s filming when I had to pretend to give birth. The prosthetic we used for the baby bump was so painful lying down and cutting into me and it’s quite a traumatic birth. There was a lot of fake blood sloshing about and I had to have my feet in stirrups in the old fashioned way in a room with a bunch of strangers I’d only just met."
TVT: The women are very glamorous and the costumes are beautiful. Did you enjoy getting dressed up in the 60s outfits?
"My character Mary is heavily pregnant so she doesn’t have the nicest outfits but Jess (Jessica Raine who plays Alison Laithwaite ) and Jessie (Jessie Buckley who plays Honor Martin), look sensational in their outfits. I think the costumes will be a lot of the appeal of the series, it's a bit like watching Mad Men. There's the same look and attention to detail."
TVT: You were away from home for a long time. What did you miss?
"I missed the cold. I really did! I was actually craving to come back at Christmas. The heat was overbearing sometimes. You go out for twenty minutes and you’re crimson!"
TVT: Lots of viewers will recognize you as Dr May Wright aka “Mad May” from EastEnders but you've also starred in Broadchurch, Silent Witness and done lots of theatre…
"With acting it’s always a lot of luck and accident. I guess the fact I’ve worked mainly in theatre has enabled me to play a bigger range of characters. I feel very lucky that I was cast in EastEnders. It was a very extreme and melodramatic role!"
TVT: Did the reaction from the public surprise you?
"Utterly! I was only in it for six months so I thought I’ll just drop in and drop out but I remember Pam St Clement (Pat Butcher), saying to me ‘you’re still getting the tube. As soon as you start on screen you’ll have to get a car’. Sure enough after my first tiny scene with Dot Cotton the next the next day I had people going, ‘You’re on EastEnders aren’t you?’ Mary in The Last Post is such a nice character that I’m hoping that anybody who still sees me as sinister May might be swayed!"
The Last Post starts on BBC1, Sunday Oct 1, 9pm
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Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and WhattoWatch.com She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.