There’s something instantly likeable about Jessica Hynes. It’s not the work that she’s done – although both Spaced (which Hynes not only co-stars but also co-wrote with her buddy Simon ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ Pegg) and The Royle Family (in which she plays the always-snacking, forever-dieting Cheryl) are near-perfect sitcoms – nor is it the comedienne’s humble-verging-on-wallflower personality. No, what’s instantly likeable about Jessica Hynes is the simple fact that she doesn’t try to be liked. At all. In fact, you get the impression that doing an interview for a movie she’s just starred in is right up there for Ms. Hynes with going to the supermarket to get toilet paper and sorting out the mess in the glove compartment. “I’m just not very good at that whole celebrity nonsense,” she deadpans when we met up last week at Holborn Studios in London. “It’s not that I mind doing interviews and all that, it’s just that, well, it’s not that important to me either. I’d rather be playing with my kids…”
Hynes – who, up until last year, was working on her maiden name of Stevenson (more on that later, surname fans) – gets to work with two particularly talented kids in her latest big-screen adventure, Son Of Rambow, a wonderful British comedy about a chalk and cheese pair of 11-year old schoolkids who team up to make their own sequel to First Blood. Like Gregory’s Girl, The Full Monty and Billy Elliot, it’s one of the small British comedies that manages to be both hilarious and touching. Hynes plays single mum to the sheepish Will (Bill Milner), the family part of the Plymouth Brethern (think the Amish on misery pills), and therefore such evils as music, movies and television are forbidden. When Will is roped into doing favours for troublemaker Lee Carter (Will Poultner), a bootleg VHS of First Blood warps his tiny little mind, and he’s soon leaping out of trees and diving into ice cold lakes so that the duo can make the best action movie possible for a TV competition.
Q: There’s a rule in Hollywood that you should never, ever work with children, or in any movie that features Sylvester Stallone. What went wrong?
A: What went right more like? I’m so lucky to be in this film, as it’s just a wonderfully funny and moving piece of work. I just didn’t realise it was going to be so good when I signed up, so, you know, hats off to Garth Jennings, who wrote and directed the whole thing.
Q: Was there a lot of research involved when it came to playing a somewhat repressed Plymouth Brethern who’s getting over the loss of her husband whilst trying to bring up two small kids and look after grandma? Did you go method on us?
A: I didn’t really need to do all that much research on the raising kids part – I have three of my own now – but there was a little work to be done on the Plymouth Brethern front. Garth had talked to many of them – he grew up beside one such family, and that’s what gave him the idea – so, there was a lot to go on there. It was really in the script though – this woman was unhappy, and looking for a way forward.
Q: This little movie couldn’t find a British backer, the money finally coming from a lone French woman, who clearly recognised the blood, sweat and fake blood that went into it. Surprised?
A: Yeah, it’s definitely a shame when a director who, with his debut feature, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, hits no.1 in the US and the UK still has to go cap in hand all around England. And he still gets rejected. Even if I knew Garth just for his wonderful Blur video, Coffee & Cigarettes, I would have thought someone here would have coughed up the $7million.
Q: The last laugh may be with Garth, of course, Son Of Rambow knocking ’em dead when it debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.
A: The response was instant, and I think all those people who had turned it down must have felt like Decca saying no to the Beatles. Serves ’em right, I say.
Q: Even though you are now a very recognisable face, it strikes me that, off-screen, you’re far more Plymouth Brethern than you are Paris Hilton. You don’t seem to do the whole red carpet thing…
A: Yeah, I am far more Plymouth than Paris. Always have been. I guess I just don’t need it in my life, you know. It suits some people down to the ground, but not me. I’d much rather get on with the work, and then just go home. I’ve got enough on me plate without having to worry about what dress to wear every single night.
Q:You’ve known your husband, Adam, since you were both 18, the two of you getting married in 2001, and now the proud parents of three kids. So, how come you decided to change from Stevenson to Hynes only last year? Your husband’s ego getting a little too bruised?
A: No, Adam isn’t the type to let such things get to him. Not that he ever said, anyway. I just wanted to have the same surname as my kids, that’s all. I felt it was a little silly, in a way, to be Stevenson when all my kids are Hynes. I don’t think it’s going to affect my career too much. It’s not like I’m J-Lo…
Q:Last time I spoke to you, we discussed the ongoing possibility of you and Simon finally getting around to another series of Spaced. Any progress?
A:Well, there’s an American version coming out now. Warners have bought the rights, and it’s going to be remade for American television. That’s kind of put the kabosh on it for now. Not sure what’s going to happen there, but it would be wonderful if we could, nonetheless, get back to those characters some day. There’s a few loose ends we’d love to tie up.
Q: Talking about tying up a few loose ends, you must have been happy with The Royle Family reunion, The Queen Of Sheba, in December 2006. Quite a wonderful finish to such a wonderful series…
A: That was amazing, getting to bow out like that. It was always Caroline Aherne’s intention, I think, to go one more round, but she really pulled something special out of the bag with that one. I was even in tears, and I’m in it.
Q:In the meantime, you’ve got Phoo Action, based on the cartoons of Jamie Hewlett, starting on BBC3, and you’re also hoping to get your children’s book, Ants In The Marmalade, finally published…
A: my hopes are high for the book, and Phoo Action was just a delight to write, because Jamie’s cartoons were so wild and imaginative. But I’d like to get stuck into something new pretty soon. When the kids are gone to bed, of course…
Words: Paul Byrne
‘Son of Rambow’ is in Irish cinemas now.
Check our ‘Son Of Rambow’ cast interviews on this months Movies.ie video podcast – online in April.