Monica Dolan on joining A Very English Scandal: 'It was brilliant working with Hugh Grant!'

Monica Dolan, who is appearing in A Very English Scandal, shields herself under an umbrella
(Image credit: Jo Davidson/SHM/REX/Shutterstock)

Monica Dolan plays Jeremy Thorpe's second wife in A Very English Scandal

W1A star Monica Dolan joins the cast of BBC1 drama A Very English Scandal as Jeremy Thorpe’s second wife, Marion, who stood by his side as the scandal broke and Thorpe stood trial for conspiracy to murder his ex-lover Norman Scott.

Here Monica Dolan gives TV Times the lowdown on her character and what it was like to star opposite Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal…


TV Times: Was the Jeremy Thorpe scandal a story you were familiar with? Monica Dolan: "It’s funny the things that stay in your memory, but I remember seeing it on the news. I think I must have been about 11 or something – I mostly remember the poor dog, Rinka!"

Ben Whishaw as the lover of MP Jeremy Thorpe (played by Hugh Grant) in a Very English Scandal, which is on Sunday 20th May


TV Times: What sort of woman do you think Marion was? Monica Dolan: "What we’ve got to remember is that life was very different for women then. You were expected to give up your job and support your husband through everything. She’d also been through a lot before she met Jeremy Thorpe – she came to Britain from Austria when she was 11 to flee Hitler and her first husband had left her for another woman, which was also very scandalous at the time. She was very much a survivor and an extremely strong person."


TV Times: Do you think she suspected anything about Jeremy Thorpe’s past? Monica Dolan: "Sometimes when you find something out about somebody, everything you know about them falls into place. But there’s a moment where she discovers about it in the paper and you can’t underestimate the humiliation of finding that out at the same time as everybody else in the country! That was a difficult scene to play."


TV Times: Why do you think she stood by him? Monica Dolan: "I do think that they loved each other, although some people wouldn’t exactly call it an ideal marriage! I mean, she died in 2014 and he died six months after her so I think he was incredibly reliant on her, although he was such an emotional coward – she was the one who had to manage it all and confront it head on. Also a failed marriage was a very shameful thing then and actually a very good way for a woman to retain status was to stick by her husband."


TV Times: What was it like acting alongside Hugh Grant? Monica Dolan: "It was absolutely brilliant. He’s tremendous in it and so self-deprecating. I’d go in in the morning and say, “how’s it going Hugh?” And he’d go, “oh, it’s awful”.  But then you’d do the scene with him and he’d be completely on top of it. He’d have thought of everything and was very well prepared. He’s a highly intelligent man, so really loved working with him!"


Hugh Grant

TV Times: Some of your costumes are amazing. Did you like all the 1970s fashion? Monica Dolan: "It was strange! We’d all look in the mirror in the make-up truck and burst out laughing because we’d just think, ‘oh God, I look just like my mum or dad!’ But I was extremely lucky with my costumes. They were all so well researched and so accurate. I really enjoyed them – and the hairdo as well!"


TV Times: Do you have any sympathy for Jeremy Thorpe? Monica Dolan: "I’m afraid I don’t have much sympathy for him, no. I think if you’re in love with someone you don’t try to kill them! What they were basically having was a battle for control, which isn’t the same as love."


TV Times: What’s coming up next for you? Monica Dolan: "I wrote a play called B*easts that was nominated for an Olivier Award and I’ve been asked to turn it into a television drama, which is incredible! I’ve also got Vanity Fair coming up on ITV with Martin Clunes. I play Peggy O’Dowd. Because of my Irish heritage it’s nice to play an Irish woman and get stuck into the accent – it doesn’t happen very often!"

Main pic: Jo Davidson/SHM/REX/Shutterstock

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 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.