Anne Reid interview
Anne Reid Plays Lucy Mottershead
Tell us about Our Zoo?
Our Zoo is wonderful true story about this young man who comes back from the First World War. Stanley (George’s brother) has been killed, and he’s – I think – got some sort of shell-shock and in a very bad way. He’s wounded and it takes him a long time to get over his wounds - but the mental problems remain and the only thing that seems to console him to help him are animals. Suddenly he does this weird thing of going down to the Liverpool docks, and finding animals that have been brought to the country, buying them, and bringing them back to their backyard. Suddenly, as his mother, I look out the window and there’s a camel in the backyard, or a monkey in the outside loo and it’s a bit bizarre. The whole street thinks he’s gone completely bonkers and then eventually he says he wants to start a zoo. Which is the maddest idea you can think of, really. And that’s how it happens and that’s how the zoo comes about.
That’s quite an unusual thing to happen at the time…
At any time! I mean I’d go a bit bananas if my son brought a camel home and put it in the back garden. I don’t even think now that I would be too happy about that.
Does your character feel embarrassed by him and what he’s doing?
I think at that time, yes, she thinks of the neighbours you know… they’re dangerous animals – well camels aren’t terribly dangerous. This one just spat at us a lot, but monkeys are bit unpredictable. It’s a wonderful idea, wonderful idea.
What attracted you to the project?
Well it looked like fun. I just thought it was fun and it’s an interesting journey for my character to make to be so opposed to it and then eventually come around to it.
What’s it been like filming Our Zoo?
We’ve got the best director in the world – Andy De Emmony – who I have never worked with before, but I hope I will work with again. And the cast are lovely.
Did you know much about the person your character is based on before?
No I didn’t know anything about this before. I’ve never been to Chester Zoo, I will have to go now. No, I didn’t know anything about it at all, so I just had to be told and to read the script. I thought they had made the names up, Lucy Mottershead, but no it’s not – it was her real name.
Who do you think this series will appeal to?
I love that this is going to be a family show. My grandson came on to the set and of course he loved the animals, he was thrilled – and he’ll actually be able to see his grandma in a television series. I think it’s going to appeal to everyone this series. It’s delightful, but it’s the kind of thing that you can all watch.
What has it been like filming with the animals? Have you worked with them before?
There was a monkey in Upstairs, Downstairs which caused us to have to extend the filming quite a lot. It didn’t behave half as well as the monkey on this series. The iguana didn’t do much apart from open his eyes and eat dandelions. But the monkey is the most unpredictable and the camel spat a lot, he kept filling his mouth with spit and throwing it over everyone – and we were all ducking. That was a new experience. The monkey, he is a bit unpredictable, but Honor has got him really under control. She really is very good. That little girl is wonderful, wonderful.