Jenny Seagrove is model slender, with cropped blonde hair and those piercing blue eyes plus along with the very seductive husky voice that sends men all over a shiver from endless starring roles on stage and she is now back on the big screen and creating a storm with this beautiful new story from Bill Kenwright films.
Jenny, who looks even younger in the flesh, appears to not to be bothered by simple basic vanity. After an early career spent playing dreamy leading ladies, she takes delight in a real character roles these days.
‘I’m not interested in what I look like,’ she tells me rather with a smile, ‘I’m much more interested in what comes from inside. If the part calls for me to look like, well death warmed up, then so be it because as an actress you just want people to invest in your performance, to me that is all that matters “Jenny though playfully adds ‘It can be extremely painful as an older actress to see myself looking like I do on the screen, but it’s absolutely right for the character.’
Her latest captivating film role in “Another Mother’s Son”, set in Nazi-occupied Jersey, she looks dowdy in apron and wellies, greying curls peeping from her headscarf and laughs when I tell her this as she heartily agrees but teases “Well that is what people did look like then I mean they had nothing and we forget that in this Smartphone world that people do have so much and this tale shows just another world “
The film is based on the true story of Louisa Gould, a widow with two sons fighting for the Allies abroad, who kept an escaped Russian PoW hidden for two years during the war.
‘Make-up wasn’t on her an option at all,’ says Seagrove. ‘She’s doing her allotment, she has hens to look after, she’s running the local shop. And anyway, there’s no man in her life, so why should she bother?’ Jenny though admitted to me “I am not a huge make up person myself but what I did beg for some mascara I mean I was looking at the rushes and thinking please just a little but then when I saw the finished movie I knew we had made the right decision as it’s totally Louisa’s story “
Another Mother’s Son is set between 1942 and 1944, the film depicts a harrowing period for the islanders. Cars were seized, curfews were imposed and Jews and British citizens who were not born on the island were deported to Germany. Jersey became a prison island, where captured Russian PoWs were forced to work in labor camps. The brilliant cast includes Amanda Abbington as Louisa’s sister Ivy, the wonderful John Hannah as the postmaster and singer and Boyzone star Ronan Keating, who gives a wonderful low-key performance as Louisa’s teacher brother Harold, in only his second movie role. Jenny recalls “Ronan I was really impressed with because he worked so hard I mean he really studied and worked on his accent which was a revelation, I do predict even bigger things for him and I hope we work together on another project “
Another Mother’s Son is produced by Seagrove’s partner Bill Kenwright, and was written by Jenny Lecoat, Louisa Gould’s great-niece. In the film, Louisa takes in and hides a young Russian PoW called Feodor (played by Bulgarian actor Julian Kostov) who’s been beaten and branded by the Germans, shortly after news that her son Edward had been killed when his Royal Navy ship was sunk.
She renames the Russian Bill and, despite her family’s protests, vows to keep him alive, even if it puts her life at risk. ‘Any mother would do the same,’ insists Jenny.” I think this will be striking a chord with any mother because it’s the instinct that all mothers have I believe “Inevitably the community fractures under the pressures of hunger, occupation and divided loyalty, and some turn on Louisa.
At times Louisa’s actions defies belief, such as when she takes Bill to church right in front of the Germans. Was she strong or naive? ‘She was intensely religious without a doubt,’ says Seagrove. ‘She was very patriotic and convinced that Churchill would come and rescue them. And most of all she lived in a little rural community where she was the hub I think yes it’s hard to believe but as I say it’s a true story and that is what keeps pulling you back its true “
‘Louisa was the sort of person that people depended on her. She was the local mother for everyone. So, she was convinced that the community would be loyal, that nobody could possibly betray what she was doing. It’s that goodness in her nature that’s heartbreaking and so wonderful to play.’
The film, which was shot stunningly in Somerset as Jersey is now too “modern “to evoke the period, is full of colour and humour. At first it seems like a feel-good wartime drama in the style of Land Girls or Yanks, Jenny tells me “ It’s a gripping story and yet full of heart story but for me what was so gripping was the fact it was real I mean let’s not forget this actually happened
Jenny also insists it isn’t for us to judge the locals who betrayed Louisa. ‘If you were living on Jersey and it was taken over by the Nazis, what would you have done?’ she says. ‘Because if you put your hand up to the Germans and said, “Sorry, you shouldn’t do that” you were off to the camps, gone. And your instinct is to survive, so you collaborate and there’s a huge amount of guilt around that.’
Jenny who belies her years and could easily play someone decades younger tells me that, one of the pleasures of Another Mother’s Son is that a fifty something woman gets to take the big screen. Does she believe things are changing for ladies of a certain age?
‘I really hope so, but again there are not the roles I mean I am so lucky to have landed this role, I loathe this phrase as such but it’s a gift truly and the best bit is its real acting she adds “. There does seem to be a little shift to more interesting roles, which is exciting. But there’s also a feeling that there’s a market in the grey pound. The King’s Speech was so helpful as really threw that out there.
Sitting with Jenny is always a treat as she gives so much more than other actresses but I was intrigued to ask if there was a role that she still would like to have played and teasingly she tells me “ Cleopatra with Martin Shaw as Antony simply because we have great chemistry and above all he is a superb actor and I think with that mix you can’t go wrong “ She adds wistfully “I think were both too old now but a girl can dream right? “
Jenny though admits she is not great on opening nights and premiere’s and admits ahead of her gala night at the famous Leicester Square Odeon she still did not have her outfit planned “ You see its fine for my husband Bill ( Kenwright ) Men you men she teases laughing have it easy bang on a suit and bingo you’re ready but for me I know people will be looking at the frock and hair … that’s why I am glad to be older as when younger It was embarrassing getting out of cars on first nights wearing short dresses and the paparazzi would be lying on the pavement trying to get a shot up my dress I’m so glad that period of my life is now over and no I don’t miss it a bit she concluded with a hearty laugh.
Another Mother’s Son
(Bill Kenwright films)