Louise Brealey is perhaps best known for her witty portrayal of lovelorn morgue technician Molly Hooper in Sherlock – but we’re loving her recent comedy work even more. She’ll next be seen in the BBC‘s hotly anticipated comedy Such Brave Girls, coming later this month. Written by Kate Sadler, Louise plays Deb, the matriarch of a dysfunctional family, trying and failing to keep her kamikaze daughters from disaster. We sat down with Louise to hear all about it.
Interview: Louise Brealey
Hi Louise, how’s life going at the moment?
Hello! It’s been a busy summer – my new film has been doing the festival circuit so there have been a lot of planes, trains and automobiles.
You’re about to star in BBC’s new series Such Brave Girls – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?
Two messed-up twenty-something (real-life) sisters [Kat Sadler and Lizzie Davidson] and their total car crash of a mother attempt to navigate their way out of disaster and into love.
You play Deb – can you describe her?
Deb is amazing. She’s a shockingly bad mum who has completely messed up her two Gen Z daughters. I think of her as one of those vending machines at railway stations and swimming pools where you can get a Twix, but all that’s on her shelves is Tough Love.
What was it like playing her?
A terrifying hoot – she has a lot of lines.
How did you get into character/prepare for the role?
I based Deb on a little girl I used to know. You could see every emotion on her face. Guile, rage, confusion, fear. When she was cross, she scowled. When she was delighted, she beamed.
I used my real accent: Northamptonshire. It has softened over the years, so I sound a lot posher now, but it’s how my family speak and I’ve never had the chance to work using it.
Any funny stories from rehearsals or filming?
The scenes requiring our amazing intimacy coordinator, Elle McAlpine, were hysterically funny and genuinely not at all awkward. Poor Paul Bazely who plays Dev may have experienced some chafing.
What is the cast dynamic? Who was your favourite person to work with?
We are like a little family when we are filming. I feel very protective of Kat and Lizzie. And Paul is a wonderful human being and a phenomenal actor.
Are you still in touch with any of your co-stars?
Yes, we message all the time.
You’re perhaps best known for your role as Molly in Sherlock. What is that like to look back on?
Bittersweet because I don’t feel we finished it, and we have lost Una Stubbs. But it was incredible to be a part of what was really a phenomenon. It couldn’t happen now with streaming.
Any special memories from the show?
Too many. Having a candle in an egg custard tart (my favourite) on my birthday in Benedict’s trailer… Laughing and laughing with darling Una and Rupert Graves, who is a dreamboat.
You’ve also starred in the likes of Lockwood & Co, Brian and Charles and Back recently. But what has been your favourite project to date?
I loved working on Clique for the BBC a few years back. I got to play a hard-ass Queen Bee university lecturer in power suits who was afraid of no one, and then to completely fall apart. In an Edinburgh accent.
I loved Lockwood & Co. How does it feel for the show to be cancelled after just one series?
I felt so bad for the young cast, the crew, the fans and everyone whose livelihoods depended on the show coming back. It got such fantastic reviews and great viewing figures. I feel like the hoop it had to jump through for the streamer was just too impossibly small.
Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)
I’m the lead in a lesbian chicken factory musical film called Chuck Chuck Baby.
Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?
This is much too hard. There have been so many that I admired, and some I now call dear friends. But my buddy Jeff Rawle I’ve worked with three times now, and we are trying to make it a fourth.
Which co-star did you learn the most from?
Antonia Pemberton, who played Nanny in Peter Hall’s Uncle Vanya when I was Sonya. She told me not to keep tomatoes in the fridge.
What’s your dream role?
I’m desperate to get back on stage. I’ve been doing film and television for the past seven years, but theatre is my heart and my home.
What’s a genre you’d like to do more of?
I’d like a good horror. I can’t watch them because I’m a scaredy-cat, but I’d love to be in one.
Do you get to spend much time at home?
Not enough. I’ve been gadding about.
Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?
I’ve lived in London since I left university. I live on a hill next to an oak tree, so it feels like we are in the branches. I can never leave London because I’d miss the culture stuff, but I am a woodland creature.
What’s your interior design style?
A mish-mash of old things I’ve found in auctions. Too many books.
How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?
Don’t sleep with that guy’s flatmate when you are 21.
How can we all live a little bit better?
Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?
I’m going to run away to a southern European city for January and February to write.
I’m currently watching… Only Murders in the Building
What I’m reading… We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
The last thing I watched (and loved) was… Silo. I love Rebecca Ferguson.
What I’m most looking forward to seeing… The Motive and the Cue with Mark Gatiss in the West End because I was away for its National Theatre run.
Favourite film of all time… Don’t Look Now
Favourite song of all time… ‘Disco 2000’ by Pulp
Band/singer I always have on repeat… Leonard Cohen
My ultimate cultural recommendation… Join all the museums and galleries
Cultural guilty pleasure… Overcooked 2. It’s computer game where you run around and try to make kebabs.
What’s next for me is… Walking my dog in Beckenham Place Park – it’s south London’s secret mini Hampstead Heath.
Louise Brealey stars in Such Brave Girls, on BBC iPlayer from 22 November. bbc.co.uk