'Stella part just too good to turn down'
WHEN someone calls you up and says that they want you to play a part in their new television series as a grandmother of seven you may think twice if you are only 44.
But when that person is Gavin and Stacey star Ruth Jones, then it’s too good an opportunity to turn down.
This is exactly what happened to Seven Sisters-raised actor Maxine Evans, who can currently be seen appearing in Jones’s hit comedy drama Stella on Sky 1.
Set in a fictional Welsh valley Jones stars as a 40-something mum juggling the ups and downs of family life amid the chaos of her eccentric friends, relatives and children’s fathers.
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Maxine plays the part of Rhian, who pushes a dog around in a pram and hasn’t had a shower for some time. She was at school with Stella and already has seven grandchildren, despite being only 42.
Maxine acted alongside Jones in the National Youth Theatre of Wales. Maxine went on to study at the Guildhall School of Music and drama where one of her classmates was a future 007.
She said: “Daniel Craig was in my year. He was great but very self-sufficient; you just knew that he would go on to big things.”
Of her new role, the former Llangatwg Comprehensive pupil said: “I was nervous when I went into the audition because I really wanted the part. It had been written for another actress and she was unable to do it at the 11th hour. So Ruth called me up. We had bumped into each other on the train, I was working in London and she had just been to the comedy awards, and we swapped numbers.
“Then suddenly, one night, her name came up on my phone. I knew that she was doing Stella, and she just said to me, look I’ve written this part for somebody and they are unable to do it, you are the only other person I can think of who could do it, would you mind doing a reading.”
But how did she feel about her character?
“I haven’t got any children but I do have two Staffordshire bullterriers that I love to pieces so I was overjoyed when I found out that the dog that I push around in a pram is a staff,” said Maxine who has her own production company, called Independent Pictures, which she set up with her Gorseinon-bred husband Neil Docking, and has worked on the writing side for soaps Nuts and Bolts, Crossroads and Coronation Street.
“You kind of go, I’m not even a mother and at 44 I’m being asked to play a grandmother. But I think I was more perturbed by the fact that my character doesn’t wash!
“The girls in the make-up truck used to laugh at me as I would turn up wearing a bit of make-up so that I would feel better about myself before they made me look drab, which they do in a brilliant way.
“The funny thing is you kind of get into it and say, go on, give me another hair on my top lip, or a bushier eyebrow. The first time I saw myself on a close-up I nearly died. I couldn’t believe how bad I looked. Now I just love it as the character is so far away from me. People who have known me for years have seen the show and haven’t recognised me.”
Maxine, who now lives in London, has been praised for her role and looks set to be in a second series of the show but it has come at a price.
She explained: “I was travelling on the train down to Swansea to direct a play called The Goat Street Runners at the Grand, which is running at the moment, and I had rushed to get the train, being really busy, and had no make-up on, my hair was unwashed and really messy, and when I stepped on somebody recognised me as the character. I was mortified.”