'I can't believe I'm playing Rory Kinnear's grandma!' says Years and Years star Anne Reid

Years and Years Anne Reid
Anne Reid (centre) surrounded by her family in BBC1's Years and Years (Image credit: BBC/Red Productions/Guy Farrow)

The Last Tango in Halifax star plays the matriarch of the Lyons family in a new six-part BBC1 drama that imagines what life will be like over the next couple of decades...

Strap yourselves in and prepare to experience the next 15 years of history through the eyes of an ordinary British family, in Years and Years, an ambitious and captivating social drama from Russell T Davies.

This imagined future is full of political turmoil, global tension and disturbing new technology, yet a star-studded cast including Anne Reid, Russell Tovey, Jessica Hynes and Rory Kinnear bring the Lyons family to life. Not to mention Emma Thompson who plays outspoken celebrity turned populist politician, Vivienne Rook.

Anne Reid as Muriel in Years and Years

Anne Reid as sharp-tongued Muriel in Years and Years

Years and Years begins in the present day, with the family celebrating the arrival of a baby, before quickly skipping forward five years to see what the future holds for the four Lyons siblings who form the focal point of this six-part drama.

As we pick things up, Daniel is getting married to Ralph, Stephen is worried about his kids, Rosie is chasing a new fella and Edith hasn’t been home for years. Presiding over them all is their grandmother, the sharp-tongued Muriel, yet as the first episode comes to a close their disparate lives converge in nail-biting fashion during a life-changing event.

We spoke to Anne Reid to find out more about new BBC1 drama Years and Years...

What can you tell us about Muriel in Years and Years?

Anne Reid: "She's very difficult, she's very sharp and very strong and she know what’s going on. She starts the series at the age of 88 and ends it 102 which is going to be quite a challenge, because I’ve never played anybody that old. Although some days I’ve felt 102 while making this!"

Are you an imperious granny?

AR: "Yes. She’s the head, the matriarch, absolutely."

How does she feel about the way her grandchildren are running their lives?

AR: "She doesn’t say a lot, but she disapproves. She doesn’t interfere in their lives a lot but she makes tart comments and things like that. I think if she was probably 65 she would be much more difficult but I think at 88 not so much. I'm over 90 by the end of the first episode as well, so I age quickly, but it doesn’t stop her being mentally strong. I can’t get used to the idea I’m Rory Kinnear’s grandma! I’m much too young for that! The blessing thing is they don’t think they need to put lines on me."

Is she afraid of her future?

AR: "No she doesn’t talk about that, the main thing about this is the technology, it’s so scary and every day now when I read the paper I think it’s from this show, it’s so weird. It's been quite difficult to film, we’ve got this contraption like an Alexa that talks, the whole family is talking in my kitchen but they’re not actually there and when you read it in a script it can be very confusing and then you get on the set and you think, well where is everybody? And they’re actually all on the Alexa."

Is Years and Years a chilling story?

AR: "It’s a very chilling story about an ordinary northern family and how everybody’s lives are going to change with technology and attitudes over the next 15 years. It’s near enough to be scary, it’s not like 50 years ahead where you think, oh well it might happen. Plus it’s attached to everything that’s going on now and when I read the papers now or I see things on television and it’s almost like part of the show."

What was the thing that made you say yes? Was it Russell T Davies?

AR: "Yes. I said yes before I read it. What’s not to like, Russell T Davies, I’ve worked with him before and the producer produced Last Tango in Halifax so I’ll go anywhere to work with her."

Does Muriel come into contact with Emma Thompson's character, Vivienne Rook?

AR: "No, but she votes for her at one stage. Emma said it was the most chilling thing she’d read in years. I think that’s why she wanted to do it and it's good to have someone that starry in this very strong part."

Are you broadly speaking optimistic about the future?

AR: "For Britain? Oh no I’m very worried about it, I mean it’s so depressing. I said this morning to Rory, there don’t seem to be any statesmen like there used to be but maybe we were very naïve and didn’t know as much about politicians when I was young. There seemed to be people you could look up to. There doesn’t seem to be anybody you can look up to now!"

Years and Years starts on BBC1 on Tuesday 14 May at 9pm.

Sean Marland

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for whattowatch.com. He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.