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Keeley Hawes on the return of The Durrells: There’s no new man for Louisa

Keeley Hawes as Louisa in The Durrells

Keeley Hawes reveals all the new animals in the show, but there's no romance for Louisa and Spiro

Extended to eight episodes this year, The Durrells takes us back to Greece, where Gerry can’t stop collecting animals, Leslie is dating three girls at once, Margo has taken up a bizarre new hobby and Larry thinks he’s broken his leg. Louisa is exasperated!

Here Keeley Hawes, who plays Louisa in The Durrells (which returns this Sunday on ITV), reveals which animals make their debut this year…

This year Louisa’s giving up on love and focusing on her children – is she helping them, or just interfering?!

Keeley Hawes: “Well she’s a brilliant mother, but she always thinks she knows best. She takes a very active interest in Leslie’s love life and tells him she finds it a great shame that she can’t make all of his decisions for him! She’s not perfect, and I think people like that about her, but she’s always trying to do her best, and she gives them such freedom.

"She really wants to organise Gerry’s education too, but it doesn’t go terribly well when she meets the headteacher! They are all becoming more independent but they still need their mother, just in different ways. In real life I’m totally walked all over by all of my children…”

Is there any romance in store this year? Could Louisa’s friendship with the ever-charming Spiro (Alexis Georgoulis) evolve into anything more?

Louisa and Spiro

KH: “She’s not had much luck, so she’s putting the idea of love to one side for now. Louisa and Spiro never got together in real life, but they cast the hottest man in Greece to play him, so it was slightly inevitable that the audience would like them to be together! He’s so charming and lovely, I think they’d make a very nice couple, but he’s married. They can’t turn Louisa into the baddie, making Spiro leave his wife in 1935!”

Are there any new animals to look forward to this series?

Gerry and new friend Durrells

KH: “There’s a pair of absolutely beautiful flamingos – it’s really magical doing scenes with them, and we’ve even got a sloth this year, called Frank! We filmed with him at the studios back in the UK. It was quite extraordinary because it’s not an animal you get to see very often and it’s so unusual - just gorgeous and so cute. However, he was very heavy! We had scenes written for Gerry sitting with the sloth and moving around with it, but his hands were too small, so they roped me in. He was wonderful, and of course he decided to be at his most animated in the back of people’s close-ups!”

My Family and Other Animals is one of your favourite books – is The Durrells still your dream job?

KH: “Oh yes, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever done. It feels very modern, I never feel like I’m in a costume drama. It’s beautifully written with a lovely mix of comedy and drama, the gags are so clever. I was on the phone to my husband [actor Matthew MacFadyen] the other day, telling him about chasing a pelican round the house, and he said, ‘You’re lucky, you could be chasing someone round Bermondsey,’ which is what you usually do as an actor!”

The series is a huge hit, but based on just three books. How many more series can we look forward to?

KH: “I suppose it’s about whether people want to watch it – we’re very happy to make it. Our writer Simon Nye took a character, Sven, who was just a paragraph in the book, and strung him out into an entire series, so who knows what’s possible! He’s very clever and I love what he writes. Audiences seem to enjoy it – we’ve heard of people changing their holidays to come here and look for us, especially as the show makes Corfu look gorgeous.”

The Durrells returns to ITV on Sunday at 8.00pm