Out to Lunch
Juggling home, family and a hectic filming schedule is all in a day's work for Haydn Gwynne. Brian Viner meets this star of stage and screen
Haydn Gwynne first came to fame as the hard-nosed reporter Alex Pates in Drop the Dead Donkey. After several years performing in the theatre she returned to our screens in the hit TV series Peak Practice. She now lives in Cheshire with her two children and has just finished filming the second series of Mersey Beat.
Who would be your ideal lunch partner?
Someone incredibly old, who has lived a fascinating life. So in politics, Nelson Mandela. Or in acting, Katharine Hepburn. Ideally, it would also be someone who liked a few drinks. Actually, it would be nice just to have lunch with close fnends. Between having children and working, I've hardly seen them for the last four years. If they hadn't seen me on TV, they'd think l'd been abducted by aliens.
Where would you lunch and what would you eat?
I lived in Italy for five years, where I was referred to as a buona forchetta, a good eater. I love Italian food, so my fantasy lunch would involve a lot of pasta and red wine, a trestle table and an olive grove, probably on a hillside in Umbria.
How do you unwind?
After a day's work I'm completely shattered by the time I get the kids into bed, and then I often have to learn lines. I unwind on my own with a glass of wine in front of the telly. We live in Cheshire, near the Mersey Beat locations, and my partner joins us when he can.
Do you miss living in London?
I do miss family and friends. But I don't go to London for weekends. The children have a fantastic nanny during the week, and I want their lives to be as settled as possible.
What made you decide to call your children Orlando and Harrison?
When we were little, both my partner and I enjoyed Orlando the Marmalade Cat stories. We were going to call our younger son Milo, but Orlando gets shortened to Lando, and I thought that calling for Lando and Milo in the park would make them sound like two dogs. Also, for a whole generation, Milo will always be thought of as being one of the Tweenies...
Speaking of names, are you descended from Nell Gwynne?
I wish. Actually, I don't know where the Gwynne comes from. My late father and his twin brother were placed in a children's home as babies. His name was Guy Thomas Hayden-Gwynne, which sounds very Welsh, although, in fact, he was Irish.
You've done everthing from comedy to serious drama. How do you choose roles?
I like doing the opposite of whatever l've just been doing, but basically I just want to do something good. I'd rather do a good comedy than a mediocre drama, and vice versa. But having children has completely altered things. Before, I did not have to pursue a commercial path. I was able to leave Drop the Dead Donkey after a couple of series and go into the theatre. Now, I have to run my life as a business. My partner is retraining to become a psychotherapist, which takes years, so I will be the breadwinner for a long time, and a multi-episodic drama keeps us going financially.
Do you ever dream of being a film star?
Broadly, no. I Would I like the money? I wouldn't mind. I'd much rather be rich than famous. But l suppose it would be lovely to make a significant contribution to a really great movie.
What Would be your ideal rnovie role?
Any of those cracking characters that Bette Davis used to play, like Margo in All About Eve, who has that wonderful line, "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night". Bette Davis wasn't afraid of being a bitch. That appeals to me. Another dream role would be the Katharine Hepburn part in The Philadelphia Story. But, of course, they've been done so brilliantly already, it would be mad to remake them.
Are you sporty?
I used to play county tennis as a junior, and when I lived in Italy I fell in love totally with skiing. I even fantasised about giving it all up to become a ski instructor. One of the bones of my existence now is that there's so little time for any of that, although I have just taken up tennis again for the first time in years.
Are you a good cook?
Somewhere between my character in Mersey Beat, Susan Blake, who is a terrible cook, and Nigella Lawson But perhaps a bit closer to Susan than Nigella.
Do you have any pet causes?
I have campaigned on behalf of cancer charities, the Red Cross, and also Tommy's, a charity that looks into the causes of miscarriage.