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Take Five: FX's 'Better Things' Star Celia Imrie

by Andrew Greene  |  09.07.2016

With Louie on an indefinite hiatus, FX has turned to Louie producer and star Pamela Adlon to fill the void with the comedy Better Things. Produced with Louie C.K., the series is based on Pamela’s life as a working actor and mother of three daughters.

The cast features Celia Imrie, the Laurence Olivier Award winning actress known for her roles in franchises like Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, who plays Sam’s (Adlon) quirky British expat mother Phil.

I chatted with the charming Celia about her love of American television, single parenting and what drives her career choices.

Hi Celia!

Good morning. Is that right?

Yes, thank you.

Gives me great feelings of longing to be back, hearing your voice.

[laughs]

It’s true.

Do you miss the states?

I do. I had a wonderful time.

I can see why. Phil is such a fun character.

Isn’t she? What better company am I in though? I can’t believe my luck. It was a total joy.

Did you pursue the role or did it come to you?

You bet I pursued it. Like mad. I was on my way over to do Blunt Talk with Patrick Stewart but my Visa didn’t come through in time and they couldn’t wait. So I arrived in the states thinking, now what? I’m quite a dog with a bone when I’m after something. I went to see casting director Felicia Fasano, and she wheted my appetite, saying, ‘it’s a marvelous part but I’m afraid it’s already cast.’ Not to give too many details away, but it was cast and then it wasn’t. I met Pamela on Skype while I was in Vancouver doing a program called Legends of Tomorrow. I instantly adored her. We had quite a lot of things in common. I couldn’t have been more delighted it happened that way.

CR: Colleen Hayes/FX
CR: Colleen Hayes/FX

This is an honest take on parenthood and women. How did it inspire you?

I brought up my son by myself, so when you’re doing that, and for Pamela it’s times three for heaven’s sake, it’s quite tricky, because nobody’s really interested in what problems you’ve got. You have to pretend you haven’t got that worry.

What drew me to Phyllis is that she’s so gloriously un-PC and says the most embarrassing things at every given moment. That was irresistible.

I think you’re the first Olivier Award winning actor I’ve spoken to.

Oh wow, how marvelous. In America, I love you for it, because you don’t mind wearing your badges. In England, we’re not supposed to say it too often. But what the heck, I’m very proud of it. I’m pleased you appreciate it.

We do make too much of awards.

I kind of love the way you are quite innocent about how thrilling they are to win, for heaven sake. You might as well have given me a Tony Award when I got this job, because it was a dream. I was very lucky to, the old cliche, be in the country at the right time.

Is American TV any different from British?

American television is absolutely first class. I follow an enormous amount of your series. But the actual working day is not that much different, really. It was always a dream of mine to come to America and work. I was determined that it should happen one day, albeit late on, but who cares.

LA is not the place to be sitting around, and that was the joy. Because I got a job and I was working. I would hate to come there and sit about and hope for the best. I was very lucky.

Cr: James Minchin/FX
Cr: James Minchin/FX

What American shows do you follow?

Funnily enough, right now I’m absolutely obsessed with UnREAL. Do you know it?

Yeah, everyone loves it, but I haven’t seen it.

I tell you what, it’s quite brutal actually. But it’s brilliant. I’m mad about that. I love The Good Wife, I love Homeland, I love Third Rock From the Sun, I love 30 Rock.

I also did a film called Year By the Sea which was based on Joan Anderson’s book, which turned out to be Oprah Winfrey’s favorite book of the year two years running. It was marvelous, all set on Cape Cod.

I’ve done my first horror movies as well, Hush and A Cure for Wellness, which I understand is an extremely popular genre.

What was that like?

They’re both marvelous and quite gruesome really. Again, my whole thing in life, one of my joys is to make people laugh, of course. But on the other hand, it’s lovely if you can suddenly change gears and give people a surprise. Which hopefully both these films will. That’s the only slight bit of control you have as an actor. I love to work, so I do whatever comes up really, but on the other hand it’s quite good to surprise people and turn the wheel a bit.

Speaking of that, I saw that you’ve written two novels. Was writing something you always wanted to do or…?

No, absolutely not. Somebody asked me to write my life. I thought, well I won’t put everything in, just the good bits. That was surprisingly joyful to do. Then somebody said, now that you’ve done that, how about a novel? I heard myself saying: Why not? I was getting greedy and want to turn my hand at anything I can when I have the chance.

What’s next on the list?

I’m going to the Old Vic theater to do King Lear with Glenda Jackson. You might be too young to remember her. Glenda Jackson did Woman in Love and Touch of Class; she got Oscars for them. Look her up, actually. After 25 years she’s coming back to the stage; she’s 80 now.

That sounds amazing.

It is amazing. That starts any minute now.

What’s your favorite part of breakfast?

Toast and marmite, but you don’t go in for marmite in America, do you?

Oh definitely not me, but I’ve tried it.

How funny. You either love it or hate it.

CR: Colleen Hayes/FX
CR: Colleen Hayes/FX

As a single parent, did you ever consider giving up on the acting dream?

I’m afraid not. I never thought of quitting. That might make me a bad mother, probably.

No, of course not. I didn’t mean to imply that.

Some people would though, Andrew. Some people would. I think it’s worse if you give up and then resent the child. I expect there might be cases of that. But my son is now a budding actor himself so I can’t have done him very much harm.

I suspect quite the opposite. Similarly, no harm will come to audiences when they watch Better Things Thursday September 8 at 10 PM ET/PT on FX.

[All images courtesy of FX]

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