Tamsin Greig: The actor on finding her funny bone, the homing instinct of Archers' fans, and why she'll never swap London for LA

You've had a long working relationship with Stephen Mangan. Is there a particular creative synergy there?

I think he's a brilliant actor. He's really good fun to be around. He's taller than me, which is great. And I delight in what he does, what he comes up with. If people believe that we're a married couple [in Episodes] and that there is a married chemistry between us, it's because having worked together on Green Wing, you bring with you a level of professional history, which is a shortcut to on-screen intimacy. He's a very clever man and he's really good company and always surprising. So what's not to like?

Can funny be learnt, or is it innate?

I think if you're trying to be funny, sometimes you're bending a piece of metal in a direction it doesn't want to go. And sometimes comedy just needs to find itself.

Were you funny as a child?

I don't remember. Some people say, "I was the class clown", or "I was the joker in the family". I think I was just bobbing along. I remember one time being in a school production of The Crucible – and I was obviously playing one of the male characters because we were in a girls' school and I had big hands – and I remember saying something and doing a look and it getting a laugh and me thinking, "Wow, that's interesting", and doing it again the next night and getting another laugh. I remember being conscious that there was a reaction you could illicit from the audience: a dexterous manipulation.

You used to be in The Archers. Do people ever recognise you as the programme's Debbie Aldridge?

I was filming a few years ago in Hungary, which is where my character in The Archers is now based. I had the day off in Budapest and I was wandering around and this woman rushed up to me and said, "I knew it, I knew it. I said when we came, 'I wonder if we'll bump into Debbie'". She was so delighted!

An Archers mega-fan!

And once, when I was nine months pregnant, down on my hands and knees in Homebase, trying to get paint from the bottom shelf, this bloke came up behind me; he couldn't see my face, only a big pregnant bum in the air, and he said "Well if it isn't Debbie Aldridge!". Radio listeners often have a very fertile imagination when it comes to body shape.

From Ambridge to LA... Episodes is based mostly over there and the series is popular in the States. Ever tempted to make the move permanently?

It's a very beautiful place to work and there's loads of sun and it's a very invigorating and exciting place. But there are some lines that Beverly says that I really relate to. When they're about to go home she says, "Oh, I really hope it's raining". I love the seasons here, I love public transport, I love being able to walk around London. I grew up here and my family lives here and my children go to school here. I have an incredible fondness for this country and I feel only privilege to be able to dip into LA and dip out again.

People say the schmoozing in LA can send you crazy...

Somebody said to me before we went out to LA for the first season, "Remember, LA is death by encouragement". Which I thought was a great way of describing that extraordinary positivity everywhere you go: everything is amazing and creative and beautiful and you are the best thing that ever happened to the industry.

Biography

Best known for TV roles in ‘Black Books’ and ‘Green Wing’, Tamsin Greig, aged 47, is currently starring in the third series of ‘Episodes’ (Wednesdays at 10pm on BBC2), alongside Stephen Mangan and Matt LeBlanc. She lives in northwest London withher husband andthree children

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