Haydn Gwynne
It's Murder for Haydn
For the last two years actress Haydn Gwynne has been successfully balancing a busy working life with the equally demanding role of being a mother.

Back in 2000, while she was filming her last stint in medical drama Peak Practice, Gwynne, who is now a regular in BBC police drama Mersey Beat, gave birth to her second child, Harry.

Since then the 39-year-old has concentrated on her work while looking after Harry and his four-year-old brother, Orlando. And although it hasn't stopped her developing her now flourishing television career, Gwynne has found she can't do every job she would like.

"Sometimes I think it would be good to do some subsidised theatre work, which is a lot of fun, but I couldn't afford to do that," she says. "I wouldn't be able to pay for the child care out of my pay.

"So I have to look at what is do-able and hopefully it will provide enough money so I can have a break to take time off with the kids afterwards. That's the theory anyway," she laughs.

For now, Gwynne is having to support her two children as well as her partner of five years, Jason, who for the next few years is studying for an MA in psychoanalysis, so she is sticking to lucrative television work.

Her latest project, before she returns for another series of Mersey Beat, is the two-part BBC One drama The Secret, also starring Cold Feet's Robert Bathurst and The House Of Eliott star Stella Gonet.

In The Secret she plays Emma Faraday, a woman with a happy home life and satisfying career. But Emma is burdened by a terrible secret from her childhood that, until now, she has managed to keep in her past.

Gwynne says: "Emma is deeply in love with her husband Alex played by Bathurst, but she hasn't been able to show it because she's never absolutely been able to be herself.

"She never thought she'd be able to let anyone get that close or marry and have children. The surprise of her adult life was that she allowed it to happen, she allowed herself to live a normal life."

The Secret has obviously been heavily influenced by the controversy surrounding the cases of Mary Bell and the killers of Jamie Bulger. Some 30 years previously in the story two girls, Michelle and Donna, were convicted of killing Donna's baby brother.

Later they were released with false identities - Michelle as Emma, and Donna as Nadia Collins - and set about starting new lives, both of them forbidden to get in contact with the other.

This doesn't stop Nadia, played by Gonet, gate-crashing Emma's happy domesticity with claims of her innocence. Nadia blames Emma for her conviction, accusing her of giving false evidence in court.

Now she wants revenge and threatens to tell Emma's husband and children about her shocking past.

Gwynne says: "When Nadia comes back into her life, Emma realises she should have told her husband everything about her secret past before they got married.

"It's a Catch 22 situation. Would Alex have been able to handle it? I'm not sure.

"The layers of lies that have formed the foundation of her marriage have slowly poisoned what otherwise could have been quite a good relationship. On the outside she seems happy but she has an ability to be closed-off and cold, particularly with Alex."

When Emma's children repel Nadia's attempts to befriend them, it gives their mother the impetus to fight back. But can her family survive the revelation of her past? It's a story that gripped Gwynne the moment she first read the script. "I picked it up and couldn't stop reading - I was totally hooked," she says.

"It was great coming to the script and knowing nothing about the story but suddenly finding myself caught up in it. Once I'd hit that turning point, which comes about 15 minutes in, it became a complete page-turner for me. "I suppose what I liked about it was the psychological unfolding of the story and the underlying theme of things not quite being what they appear."

In comparison to her character's, Gwynne's own family life is much more straightforward. Although very hectic at times, she describes it as "unbelievably boring". "I used to read voraciously but the problem with having a very young family is that all those things I used to do feel like another lifetime," she smiles.

"I used to be sporty and go out all the time. But you find everything is either BC or AC, Before Children or After Children." Gwynne made her name back in 1990 when she starred as icy Alex in the comedy Drop The Dead Donkey but it was her role as Dr Joanna Graham in Peak Practice that propelled her to fame.

Gwynne had long wanted to be an actress but spent her early adult life in Rome teaching English. Although worried about how her parents might react, at 25 she returned home to pursue her dream.

"I went home and said, 'Dad, I've got a bombshell to drop'," she remembers. "He thought I was going to tell them I was pregnant. But they have always been very supportive of me in what I've wanted to do."

Looking after Orlando and Harry has become a second career for the Sussex-born actress, who is now based in London but stays in a house near Liverpool when she's filming Mersey Beat.

Although it's hard work, she says she wouldn't change her life as a working mother. "Looking after children 24 hours a day is the hardest job in the world. Work becomes the break, as you have time for lunch and coffee breaks," she laughs.

"I do feel guilty about leaving them but I don't have a choice. At the moment I see they are well adjusted and attached to me, so everything seems to be working out."
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