Old interview #12: “Role is family affair for Jemma”

Sunday Express

January 23, 2005

ROLE IS FAMILY AF FAIR FOR JEMMA; REVIEW

BYLINE: PAULA KERR

In her latest TV drama, Jemma Redgrave plays a struggling single parent. Here, she talks to PAULA KERR about her famous relatives and rather complicated family history

WHEN IT came to playing a single mum in the new ITV thriller, Like Father Like Son, Jemma Redgrave had only to look to her own childhood for reference.

In the dark two-part drama, co-starring Robson Green, she plays the struggling single parent of a boy suspected of murder.

She also enters into a relationship with her son’s teacher (Green), admitting to him that her ex-husband, played chillingly by Phil Davis, is a serial killer.

Jemma was born into a distinguished acting dynasty.

Her father is veteran actor Corin Redgrave, her aunts are the highly respected actresses Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave and her cousins include stunning Natasha and Joely Richardson. Corin and Jemma’s mother, the society model Deirdre Hamilton-Hill, split when Jemma was nine.

“My mum was a single mother, ” she says. “When my parents were together, I remember there were lots of rows. It caused terrible unhappiness to both of them and a certain amount of misery to me and my brother. Afterwards, though, it must have been bloody hard for mum to be on her own, ” says Jemma, who is married to QC Tim Owen, 42. They live in north London with their children Gabriel, nine, and three-year-old Alfie.

When her parents split, mother and daughter moved to Earls Court, London, while Jemma’s brother Luke, now a film director, was sent to boarding school.

Jemma’s childhood took on a Bohemian theme.”The flat was open-house to actors and musicians. Mum also had a boyfriend, who I didn’t get on with, whose friends were into all sorts of dodgy stuff and called themselves the Chelsea villains.”

When her mother, who died seven years ago, wrote her scornful memoir, To Be A Redgrave, about her failed marriage, Jemma, 37, refused to read it. “She wrote it to make money. She was always broke.

In her day, you married a man who could provide a good home.

She wasn’t fitted for a career. She was a model, though that work ended when she had children.”

Most of her family have hit the headlines at some time. Vanessa Redgrave’s ex-husband, director Tony Richardson, died of Aids while sister Lynn’s husband, John Clark, fathered a child by their daughter-in-law. Joely Richardson has split from her husband, while Natasha Richardson is married to outspoken Irish actor Liam Neeson and Jemma’s late grandad, Sir Michael Redgrave, admitted to bisexual activity.

Jemma, 38, remains staunchly loyal to them all and says she has learned to brush-off attention from the Press. She is especially defensive of her grandad. “He kept that secret for a long time. That part of his nature was illegal when he grew up, so he couldn’t reveal it, which was tragic.”

Through her teenage years, she fought the idea of becoming an actor. “I felt under a certain amount of pressure to give acting a shot. “I tried to encourage myself to have an alternative route but acting was a compulsion.”

She enrolled at drama school Lamda and went on to win parts in Howards End, with Sir Anthony Hopkins, and controversial TV drama Buddha Of Suburbia, with Brenda Blethyn, although she made her name as Eleanor Bramwell in costume drama Bramwell, seven years ago.

More recently she was in ITV’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays, as Mary Arnold, wife of education reformer Thomas Arnold, played by Stephen Fry.

She harbours an ambition to work with director Mike Leigh.

“He uses improvisation in such a way that the actors surprise each other on camera. It’s such an exciting challenge for any actor.”

Like Father Like Son, ITV1, tomorrow and Tuesday, 9pm.