A scene from the sitcom 'Miranda' © BBC/Des Willie
Are you looking forward to Christmas?
Hugely. We gather as a family at my parents’ house and we all get quite childishly silly about it. We love Christmas and go a bit mad. There are always silly pranks. Three years ago, my brother-in-law gave me a remote-control fart machine, which we thought was the funniest thing that had ever been invented and for three days we all cried with laughter. That’s how tragic we are.
Describe your Christmas Day?
We spend the morning chilling in our pyjamas, in front of the fire, opening our stockings, which are usually filled with silly things. When we get dressed, Dad always wears a tie made of tinsel. Then it’s food and drink all the way to bedtime.
What would you like to receive for Christmas?
I am 104 in technological years and I don’t have an iPod. I also know very little about music, so I would love someone to fill an iPod with music from the Fifties to the present day and educate me.
Ever done karaoke?
I would be too embarrassed to do karaoke in public. However, in the new series of Miranda, we hold the Disco Karaoke Finals, which involves singing a song and performing an accompanying dance routine. Stevie, played by Sarah Hadland, and Miranda did Time of My Life, from Dirty Dancing, as Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. It was pretty special and very funny.
Your least favourite Christmas gift?
An egg timer, from Great Aunty June. In fact, she gives me a new one every year.
How do you react when carol singers knock at your door?
I turn the lights off, duck beneath the windows and hide until they’ve gone! I do love a good carol, but not on my doorstep. When I’m at a carol service, however, I find I sing at least ten times louder than usual. I really go for it and let rip. The whole Miranda cast are keen singers. We all like Ding Dong Merrily on High and sing at the tops of our voices, with harmonies and everything. It needn’t even be Christmas.
What can we look forward to in your new series?
It starts at Christmas, with fairy lights festooning Miranda’s flat and you can expect a lot of the same old silliness. There’s a bit of love in this series, too. Gary and Miranda are just good friends to start with. She hasn’t quite forgiven him for getting married on his travels, but he gets his marriage annulled, so that develops. Stevie has a new beau and Penny, my mad mother, who’s played by Patricia Hodge, also has a pin-up. She gets very close to chef Raymond Blanc, which she enjoyed a great deal and I think he did, too! There’s also another celebrity cameo, but I can’t say who it is because I want it to be a surprise.
Keep in touch with the rest of the cast when not filming?
Absolutely. We meet for cake and tennis regularly, and we watched the royal wedding on the telly at Patricia Hodge’s house. She put little Union Jacks in the cupcakes.
Were you surprised at the success of Call the Midwife?
It’s a wonderful show to be part of and a great idea. I’m really pleased it was so well received.
You turn 40 this month. How are you celebrating?
I’m giving a party and the whole Miranda cast is invited. I haven’t really had a big birthday party before but I thought I’d be brave and do it. Hosting is a bit nerve-racking, actually. I worry about whether everyone will turn up and how should you present Pringles. In a swirl or a tower? My birthday is a two-day event this year. I’m going out for afternoon tea with my Miranda girls and the party is the following day.
Do you hurt yourself when you fall over in sketches?
Not badly, but I bruise quite easily. On set, they call me Bruise Springsteen.
Ever been caught doing something embarrassing in public?
I once tried leaving Regent’s Park, in London, after the gates were locked. There was a small gap between the side of the gate and a metal pole. I was wearing a winter coat and thick jumper and had to lift both of them up to get through this tiny space. I used that experience in one of my Miranda sketches.
What’s your fan mail like?
I have all ages write to me, which is lovely. There are lots of Mirandas and Stevies out there, going through the same crises, it seems.
The new series of Miranda starts on BBC One this month. Miranda also appears in the Christmas special of Call the Midwife. Check listings for dates and times.
This interview originally appeared in Saga Magazine. For more fascinating articles like this, delivered direct to your doorstep each month, subscribe today.