Girlfriends

Zoë stars as Gail, part of a trio of childhood friends rocked by tragedy, in ITV's six-part drama series shown in early 2018. You can watch it on Region 2 DVD, Amazon Prime Video (UK) or Acorn TV on Amazon (US).

Britannia

Zoë stars as vengeful Queen Antedia in Sky's epic nine-part drama series, shown in early 2018, about the Romans invading ancient Britain. You can watch it on Sky Atlantic (UK), NOW TV (UK), Region B/2 Blu-ray, Region 2 DVD or Amazon Prime Video in the UK and US.

Inside No. 9

Zoë guest stars as waspish acting awards judge Paula in 'And the Winner Is...', an episode from the BBC's cult comedy-drama's fourth series shown on 30 January 2018. You can watch it on Region B/2 Blu-ray, Region 2/4 DVDAmazon Prime Video (UK), YouTube or via iTunes or Google Play.

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Zoë chats about ITV's Girlfriends: 'it's not glossy, it's not chic, it's very real'

15 December 2017 22:11

With Girlfriends set to be a New Year TV treat, there’s plenty of press coverage to enjoy, some of which reveals intriguing details about Zoë’s character Gail Stanley and the challenges she faces with her best pals Linda Hutchinson (played by Phyllis Logan) and Sue Thackery (Miranda Richardson). The friends will need each other more than ever in the six-part drama. ‘Everybody’s in a crisis when you meet them,’ Zoë points out in the Total TV Guide, ‘but it all develops much more as the series goes on.’

‘[Gail is] going through a divorce [from] a man she realises she still loves and her son Tom has just been released from prison,’ Zoë tells the magazine. ‘On top of this, she’s juggling her job as a lollipop lady with looking after Tom’s young son [Ben] and visiting her elderly mother [Edna], who’s developing dementia.’ Gail is her family’s linchpin; her relatives, young and old, rely on her. She’s also supporting recently bereaved housewife Linda and Sue, who encounters age discrimination at work.

Gail is busy looking after everyone except herself...

Gail is so caught up in her nearest and dearest’s problems, and is trying to cope with so many different responsibilities, that she’s in danger of neglecting her own needs and hopes. As Zoë remarks in Girlfriends’ press pack, ‘Gail puts herself furthest down the list, for looking after people. She has very little self-esteem.’ Although Gail has difficulty believing in herself, she possesses many admirable qualities. Zoë views her as ‘a very perceptive human being [who] isn’t at all judgmental’, while Miranda Richardson says that Gail ‘is the one who shows the initiative’ in tough situations.

If you’ve watched dramas such as Prime Suspect, Love Hurts or The English Wife, you’ll know that Zoë excels at playing strong yet vulnerable characters. Girlfriends’ creator Kay Mellor is evidently impressed by Zoë’s performance in this series, as the acclaimed scriptwriter emphasises in the press pack that ‘she is brilliant as Gail’.

In its profile of this resourceful, working-class Yorkshirewoman, the press pack notes that Gail was politically active in her younger days, campaigning for a better world and singing protest songs as part of the band she formed with Linda and Sue. ‘Now she feels like she’s lost her fighting spirit somewhere along the way,’ the profile concludes. Will Gail be able to find it in time to save her marriage and family?

Strong storylines with mature women at the forefront

Girlfriends is a bold, emotive drama and breaks new ground by focusing on ordinary women in late middle age as they tackle contemporary issues. As Zoë says in the press pack, ‘it’s not glossy, it’s not chic, it’s very real [and that] was very appealing’.

A major source of drama in put-upon Gail’s life is petty criminal Tom, who’s released from prison in episode one (to save face, she’s been pretending that he has a job in Thailand). The tension between her wayward son and his step-father Dave is the reason why Gail’s marriage is on the rocks. It’s difficult to envisage her attempts to rekindle her romance with Dave succeeding unless Tom can be persuaded to change his attitude drastically.

Thankfully, there was no drama with ‘Tom’ off-camera. ‘I last met Matthew [Lewis] when he was in Harry Potter [playing accident-prone wizard Neville Longbottom], so it was a shock to see him now, as a gorgeous hunk!’ Zoë laughs in TV Choice.

Celebrating female friendship on and off-screen

She enjoyed a great working relationship with her co-stars as well, and that close bond enriches the scenes they share. As Kay Mellor points out in the press pack, ‘One of my favourite scenes has to be towards the end of episode one when the three women are in the kitchen and they all come together. It kind of encapsulates what’s going on in their lives and the friendship, that they’re there for each other. You can see it, it’s palpable, you can touch it, the warmth is there, genuinely, you know. I think Zoë and Miranda and Phyllis had bonded at that time and there was genuine affection there for one another and they end up all hugging each other.’

‘I’d never met Phyllis before but it has been lovely. Miranda and I worked together a long time ago [in 1989’s quirky Ball-Trap on the Côte Sauvage] and we’ve often bobbed into each other’s lives, so this is terrific,’ Zoë tells the TV Times.

Female friendship is celebrated in the Radio TimesGirlfriends feature, for which Zoë and her co-stars took part in a glamorous, festive photoshoot. Reflecting on what having friends of the same gender means to her, Zoë highlights the importance of female solidarity: ‘When I went out into the world and started working, I was young and vulnerable, so I formed immediate strong bonds with women along the way.’

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Gail and her friends will always be there for each other

Gail, Linda and Sue got to know each other at a youth club, enjoying exactly the kind of ‘immediate strong bonds’ Zoë experienced early in her career. (The fact that the first letter of each character's name appears in the drama's title is a nice touch and underscores the trio's closeness.) As she remarks in the Total TV Guide, ‘if you have that kind of connection [with your friends], it never goes away’. Time passes and lives change, but true friendship endures.

The drama's producer Josh Dynevor sums up what's in store brilliantly in the press pack when he says that ‘[the trio have been] knocked back and this is them fighting back’. It’s no wonder that Girlfriends, with its compelling plot and characters, is one of Metro’s top festive TV shows and among the Radio Times’ Christmas and New Year highlights! This ‘big boiling pot of a drama’, as the latter magazine describes it, begins on 3 January (ITV1, 9pm) in the UK and 29 January in the US (Acorn TV).

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