Written by Alison James
Being on the shop floor of the Mr Selfridge set in North West London really is like going back in time. The glass cabinets and counters are arranged and laid out in exquisite period detail – silk stockings, filigree lace, perfumes, soaps, jewellery, hats and handbags.
We’re just salivating over a pair of specially-made, Twenties-style satin shoes when Katherine Kelly arrives for our chat, wearing a fluffy dressing gown over her delicate Lady Mae dress, and trainers on her feet. She’s also clutching a hot water bottle.
“I feel the cold at the best of times,” she explains, “and it’s freezing in here when the lights aren’t on. I’m not complaining about Lady Mae’s clothes, though. Far from it. As she’s a ‘Lady’, they are divine. But it’s such a relief we’re well into the Twenties, so corsets have gone out of fashion. I found them really uncomfortable and never got used to wearing one – I’d be forever hoiking it up!”
Katherine (36) took time out from series three in order to have her daughter, Orla, who is two in March. Is she pleased to be back for the last act of Mr Selfridge, as it were?
“Really pleased,” she nods. “There was no guarantee Lady Mae would be back aftermy break but when I’d finished my maternity leave, the producers said there was a gap where Lady Mae should be. So she’s back and she’s designing the new ready-to-wear ladies’ range for Selfridges at Harry’s request. He’s in a bad place and he needs her in his life – although there’s no romantic attachment between them. There never has been and I think it’s refreshing to show a platonic male/female relationship on TV. Anyway Mae’s got her eye on a charmer called Jimmy.
He’s a new character – a friend of Harry’s – but he turns out to be very bad news.”
Katherine says that, like most working mums, her life is a juggling act. “Logistically, it can be tough for my husband Ryan and I,” she explains. “We don’t have a live-in nanny or au pair. As soon as we get our respective schedules, we’re working out who can do what. My sisters help out, Orla does afternoons at nursery, and sometimes we have a part-time nanny. My mum and dad do what they can, too, although they live in Yorkshire, while we’re in London.
“Orla’s not that great a sleeper, bless her. I don’t think I’ve had a proper night’s sleep since she was born. There’s always something – she’s too hot, too cold, wants a drink... It’s ok, though. I get back to sleep very quickly when I’ve been woken up, plus my husband Ryan is wonderful with her. She wants her daddy as much as she does her mummy.”
It's such a relief we're well in the Twenties and corsets have gone out of fashion
So has Orla been on set and met the Mr Selfridge team? “She has,” Katherine smiles, “although I didn’t bring her onto the shop floor for obvious reasons! She’d have been into everything – she’s very, very lively and she’s also talking a lot now. It’s ‘No, no, no!’ to everything. But for some reason she was fascinated with Jeremy’s beard!”
As if on cue, Jeremy Piven appears on set. He’s clearly been in make-up as his hair is streaked with grey, his wrinkles are more pronounced and his eyes appear dark and sunken.
“All this takes about 40 minutes,” he says, gesturing towards his face. “That’s very quick to age me about 20 years, I reckon. Harry’s around 70 in this final series. It’s strange looking in the mirror and seeing an older version. The older I get, the more I think I look like Don Corleone from The Godfather.”
So how does he feel about this being the last time he’ll ever play Harry Selfridge?
“I have been away from my home in the US for four years while I’ve been doing Mr Selfridge, but I have absolutely no regrets,” he replies.
“I’m very proud to have been part of a show which I feel has just gotten better and better. That’s very gratifying. In addition to missing the show, there’s also so much I’ll miss about living in London, such as being able to walk out of my door and within minutes be in Regent’s Park.
“I’ll also miss what I consider to be the best theatre in the world, incredible architecture and museums. I’ve had a great time being able to wander around, for the most part unrecognised. I wear a hat, glasses and I tend to look down a lot – as if I’ve dropped something. People don’t tend to notice you if you do that.”
In this fourth series, you’ll see more than ever, that Harry Selfridge likes to party but if Jeremy has one tiny regret, it’s that he hasn’t made the most of the London nightlife while he’s been here.
“I’ve kind of missed what I’ve not been able to indulge in,” he laughs. “Next time I come to London it will be on vacation and I’ll get out more. I’ve been too busy for that while we’ve been making Mr Selfridge – as someone who’s helping to produce it as well as act in it, I’ve had to embrace moderation. That means one tequila rather than six!”
Jeremy was 50 last birthday – that’s a milestone for many people. Was it a milestone for him?
“Each time you check in with mortality, I feel it’s a good thing,” he says, suddenly serious. “I’m certainly not in denial about it. But to do what you love feels like a gift and I think that makes you feel and stay young.” We’re sold!
- The new series is on ITV1 now
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