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The world according to… Caroline Quentin

06 July 2022

The Jonathan Creek and Men Behaving Badly star on growing vegetables and keeping fit.

Caroline Quentin
Caroline Quentin, James Gillham/Shutterstock

Every week, I get asked if there’s going to be a Men Behaving Badly comeback. All I can say is that I speak to Neil [Morrissey] and Martin [Clunes] regularly and, as far as I know, there are no plans for a new series. It’s a wonderful artefact of a certain moment in time, but it wouldn’t pass the ‘woke’ test now. I’m not that interested in comebacks; I prefer to look forward. I know there was a one-off charity show in 2014, but there is so much fantastic TV being made that we have no need to revisit something from more than 20 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I will be eternally grateful to the show because it made me laugh every day for the six years I worked on it, plus, I met my husband, Sam [Farmer], when he was working there as a runner.

A growing passion

Apart from work, the thing that takes up most of my time is gardening. I would call it a hobby, but it’s become much more. Our house in Devon has been turned into a vegetable-based smallholding and I’ve now got a gardening Instagram account, @cqgardens. I started it a couple of months ago, but it’s already got more than 94,000 followers. It’s just me giving hints and tips on how to grow veg, with a few gags thrown in and some pictures of me with slugs and snails. I refuse to poison them and have recently been trying out some humane pest control with wool and copper. There’s nothing like inviting friends around for lunch and cooking with ingredients that were picked that morning. Tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, radishes… and they taste so much better than anything you can buy in a supermarket.

Taking the stage

My next job is Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre in London, which means being away from home for a few weeks. I love London and still get a tremendous buzz when I arrive, but I miss Sam, my home and the countryside. After a few days away, I get overwhelmed by sadness and usually fight it by focussing on work. Luckily, this play [an update of Sheridan’s Restoration comedy The Rivals] is very funny, and my character, Mrs Malaprop, has some great lines. One or two of the jokes are a bit risqué, but that’s what’s so brilliant about British humour. Even though we’re quite prissy, we love Dick Emery, Benny Hill and seaside postcard jokes. It’s our repressed nature that makes us laugh.

‘Men behaving badly is a wonderful artefact… but it wouldn’t pass the “woke” test now’

Like mother, like daughter

The last couple of years have been very quiet, for obvious reasons! That’s why I said yes to Strictly Come Dancing; it was nice to have a job during lockdown. To be honest, I thought Johannes [Quentin’s dance partner] and I would get a bit further, especially with my dance training. One of life’s great mysteries, I suppose. The rest of 2022 is already looking seriously busy. I’ve just finished a new Sky series called The Lazarus Project and I’ll be appearing with my daughter, Rose [22], in George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession in November. I knew she wanted to be an actor, almost from the day she was born. My son, William [19], is still making his mind up about the future. I keep getting asked if I’m worried about Rose being in the spotlight in this age of social media, but I actually think it was much worse when I was younger. My divorce from Paul Merton [in 1998] was all over the tabloids and my phone was hacked for 13 years. Provided you’re smart, you do seem to have some control over your private life these days.

Sprinting in my sixties!

I’ll be 62 this month [11 July], but the big 6-0 happened in that brief summer break, just after the first lockdown. I did manage to have a few friends over and we spaced all the chairs out in the back garden. Reaching 60 didn’t bother me at all. I am genuinely grateful to be alive.I suppose the worst thing about being older is that you have to look after yourself a bit more. This morning, I really did have to force myself to leave the house and go for a run. Each breath was a real effort, but I did it!

Jack Absolute Flies Again plays at the National Theatre from 2 July until 3 September. NT Live on 6 October. Mrs Warren’s Profession is at Theatre Royal, Bath 9-19 November. The Lazarus Project is on Sky Max and NOW

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