Revealed: how Anna got a life after This Life

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The Independent Online
THE CULT drama series, This Life, may have gone for good from our television screens, but the central character of Anna, it turns out, is not dead.

Amy Jenkins, the creator of This Life, is now working on a feature film, Elephant Juice, which has just signed up Daniela Nardini, the actress who played Anna in the series, in a lead role.

While the movie has a whole new set of characters - Nardini will play "a damaged but strong young woman", says Jenkins, acknowledging that this could also be a thumbnail description of Anna.

The reunion of Daniela Nardini and Amy Jenkins will be welcomed by the five million viewers who were hooked on This Life, and were left unrequited by its final moments.

When the last credits rolled, the scene on screen was chaotic. Anna, strong but flawed, chain-smoked her way through the wedding of Miles to candy-sweet Francesca, when viewers knew that in a more conventional drama she would have snatched him away for herself and ended her story with wild and passionate sex.

Milly, of tidy mind and tidy habits, was about to confront the messy truth that her mild and benign boyfriend Egg had discovered her affair with her lawyer boss O'Donnell.

Only the sexy blonde Rachel, despised by all for her meretricious ways, received a conventional comeuppance when Milly surprised everyone by marching across the floor and punching Rachel square in the face.

But lingering in the ether were unanswered questions. What became of Anna, Milly, Miles and the rest?

Ms Jenkins, writer of the first six episodes of the series, delivers a deadpan, almost dismissive, response to the question, much as any of the This Life characters might give. "I think they muddle along, like we all do," she says. "But I have my doubts that Miles's marriage would survive." Any reasonably astute viewer would doubtless agree.

Ms Jenkins might be expected to have strong feelings about Milly, the Miss-Perfect character with the world's neatest bob and best-organised wardrobe. Milly's creator has said she believes that the achievers in life, the people who are doing things, are those who get up in the morning with a clear head; who answer their letters and get things done. This, of course, is Milly through and through.

But Amy Jenkins is, it seems, similar to most This Life addicts in finding herself endlessly entangled with the character of Anna. "I was told from the beginning that Anna was original, and that no one like her had been written before," she says. "I'm most proud of her. She's the character I most enjoyed writing and I'll write her again."

Anna, as played by Daniela Nardini, was the strongest female role to be seen on British television since Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison, the detective lead in the Prime Suspect series. Like Mirren, Nardini was able to reduce other characters to rubble or drive them to despair with a withering look.

There is a dead certainty to Anna in the hands of Nardini. Her words, like her looks, are made of steel, and she is the mistress of the quick, sharp-tongued riposte. But she is compelling because she is so often wrong, because her withering looks misfire as often as they succeed and because her confidence is informed by whisky, nicotine and cocaine.

It is not surprising that Jenkins is proud of Anna and does not want to let her go. "She says all the things that I'd like to say in another life - she makes the retorts you think of making about three hours after the event. I would really like to live like her sometimes, for short moments."

What, then, became of Anna? Did she ever resolve her internal conflicts, or find a suitable romantic partner? "No," says Jenkins. "I doubt that Anna will ever find anybody. I think she will end up in a clinic being treated for alcoholism."

Nevertheless, she is to re-emerge, albeit in a slightly different form.

The film Elephant Juice is a collaboration with Sam Miller, the first director on This Life. The two worked together for 18 months and wrote a script on spec, which has now been taken up by the film company Miramax. Seven weeks of shooting starts in September.

"Its an ensemble piece about a group of friends, set in London," says Jenkins. "They are facing the realities of life."

The characters will be in their early thirties, older than those in This Life. But Daniela Nardini's new role will, like that of Anna, be central.

Jenkins acknowledges that her writing is likely always to be based on characters and consequences, not on the force of ideas or politics.

In This Life there was also a very modern morality hanging over most of the storylines. Characters would agonise about the moral course of action, then decide that the right choice might be to have a casual gay affair.

For older viewers the programme had a strong curiosity value. What are these people like who make up their morality as they go along? That approach, the of-our-times emphasis on the personal, will, it seems, continue with Elephant Juice.

It may also address the question of what Anna did next.

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