Earlier this year, Emily Joyce played Norma Johnson in an episode of Call the Midwife, and she will be seen as Diane in the McDonald & Dodds episode The War of the Rose, which is airing on ITV on the 3rd July. With an extensive acting career, Emily has worked on numerous screen projects including episodes of Father Brown, Judge Rinder’s Crown Court and Friday Night Dinner, and she played Jill in the 2009 CBBC series My Almost Famous Family, and from 2000-2006, she starred as Janet Dawkins in the BBC comedy My Hero opposite Ardal O’Hanlon. Having also appeared on stage, most recently, Emily played Heather in the Take That/Tim Firth production of The Band Musical on the UK Tour and in the West End, and she previously played Judy in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the Gielgud Theatre. Emily spoke to us about filming episodes of McDonald & Dodds and Call the Midwife, her time as Janet in My Hero and performing as Heather in The Band Musical.
You’ve filmed an episode of Series 2 of McDonald & Dodds, how much did you know about the show before booking your role of Diane?
Not a great deal, to be honest, other than the script I had read. We filmed during COVID and the restrictions on set made it quite an odd experience. It was one of the first times I had left home that year and staying in a hotel was interesting! Lots of laughter – I knew quite a few people on it and it was great to see them.
What was Norma Johnson like to play in Call the Midwife and what was your episode like to film?
I really enjoyed working on Call the Midwife. Cast and crew are well-established and absolutely lovely. The COVID regulations take a little getting used to, but I like a challenge. I liked Norma, straight-talking with a big heart.
In 2020, you appeared as Edith Dobson in the Father Brown episode The Wisdom of the Fool, what did you enjoy most about this role?
I love Father Brown! I think I most enjoyed that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and the opportunity for small smatterings of comedy are irresistible.
What was Judge Rinder’s Crown Court mini-series like to do?
Again, (sorry – anyone would think I actually enjoy my work!) I loved it! The focus and concentration was immense and we didn’t have huge amounts of time to film. Robert Rinder was a huge help, full of encouragement and a delight to be around.
You filmed an episode of Friday Night Dinner, what was it like on set of the show?
Great fun. I don’t think I have ever done so much rehearsal for such a small part, but it was great. Just being at the series read-through was like a who’s who in comedy.
How was it playing Jill in My Almost Famous Family and what do you remember most from working on a CBBC series?
I was really struck by the director’s insistence that children’s TV should never be patronising and that they come up to your level rather than going down to theirs. Again, fantastic cast. I was playing someone fairly ridiculous and unliked so it was great fun.
From 2000 until 2006, you starred as Janet Dawkins in My Hero, what are some of your favourite memories from playing the character over the years?
Oh my goodness – the laughter. And sense of family that we had as a cast. Ardal (O’Hanlon) and I frequently had to stop filming for several minutes to try to control our giggles. Recording in front of a live studio audience is really intense and we used to get so nervous that if one of us got giggly we both collapsed.
In 2017, you joined new musical The Band as Heather, what was the role like to play and how was it working on the Take That production?
Heather is an absolute joy. The freedom of playing someone with that level of confidence is quite dizzying. Creating the roles together and developing the play over many months was an absolute privilege. Again, so much laughter, and hanging out with Take That is alright too! It was a really long tour and very hard work, but the play was a joy to perform.
Is there anything you enjoyed most about being part of the musical and cast?
Just Tim Firth’s incredible script and musicianship. He can hear music and rhythm in every sentence. I loved how funny it was and also tragically sad.
What was it like reading the script for the first time and how was it seeing the audience response to The Band on tour and in the West End?
The script was a huge secret for most of the time it was being developed. We weren’t allowed to take them out of the rehearsal room during workshops.
Audience responses were immense and so unexpected! That first night in Manchester is one that I will never forget (pardon the Take That pun). It was deafening!
How was your time playing Judy in the Gielgud Theatre/National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and what drew you to the script?
Wonderful. The script is quite beautiful. It took me ages to be able to get through it without crying. I really felt Judy’s struggle with herself, not able to cope with an autistic son and thinking it would be better for everyone if she wasn’t there. It broke my heart.
What are some of your highlights from your career so far which has seen you work on a number of productions including Casualty, Vera, Waterloo Road, Lewis and the stage show Yes, Prime Minister?
I know it’s a cliché, but all of them – each and every one. I am very grateful and glad of every job I do.
Had you always wanted an acting career and how did you start?
I guess so, but I was painfully shy as a child and couldn’t open my mouth in public. I had huge encouragement from my family and got into the National Youth Theatre in my teens. I felt I had found my tribe. I went into drama school and got my first job on leaving, which was at the RSC.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
I actually love anything to do with homes and decorating, am obsessed with Glow Up and 24 Hours in A&E, most big dramas and Nordic noir…..
Do you have any upcoming plans that you can tell us about?
Nope! I am the classic female in her 50s and parts are very few and far between for us and many of them just don’t interest me. I am doing lots of voice work and audiobooks.
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