Entertainment & Arts

Julie Walters is happy if Mrs Overall becomes legacy

Julie Walters sitting on sofa on stage at Bafta Image copyright Ian West/PA Wire

Despite recognition in Educating Rita, the Harry Potter films, and Mamma Mia! it's likely Mrs Overall springs to mind when you think of Julie Walters.

Her career on screen was honoured by Bafta early this month but it is quite possible Acorn Antiques' nervy tea lady will end up as Julie Walters' acting legacy.

"That's no problem if that's the legacy," smiles Walters, "I love Mrs Overall!"

"She's still in me, that's why I'm so round-shouldered," she says, laughing.

Created in 1985 for Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Mrs Overall was also brought to life by Walters 20 years later in the Acorn Antiques' stage musical.

Walters says she is also immensely proud of playing Mo Mowlam in the TV film Mo, as "it was just fantastic to do and a massive challenge".

The 2010 movie won Walters her sixth acting Bafta, she also has two honorary awards including the Bafta Fellowship which she received in 2014.

Looking back at portraying Mowlam, Walters notes her portrayal was about "that balance of impersonation and embodiment and not wanting for it to be superficial".

"It was a real challenge, so that's why that one is special for me."

Yet Walters' career could have taken a completely different turn if work in America had taken off.

Following her 1984 Academy Award nomination for Educating Rita, Walters landed "some sort of deal with Disney about 30 years ago", she remembers.

"It was great," she says. "I was paid for doing nothing really while they tried to look for projects and nothing ever came of it."

"I don't think they knew what to do with me and all the best stuff for me was here (in the UK), there's no doubt about that".

After a period of time and Walters realising she had no burning desire to "make it in America", she says the Disney deal "just petered out".

"It was a very generous arrangement with them and they were lovely," she recalls, "but we just didn't find anything".

Walters says she was feeling "a little intimidated" before going on stage at Bafta to discuss her 40-year career, but her recollections have been captured for viewing on BBC Two on 24 December.

There are added contributions from Rupert Grint, Hugh Bonneville, Willy Russell and of course long-time friend Victoria Wood.

Julie hints there is much more of that creative partnership to come, saying how Wood had recently been in touch to discuss a "possible film".

As for the division of labour between the pair;

"People talk about it as a collaboration," says Walters, "and I say 'yes that's right' but it's not.

"Victoria wrote them and I acted them basically."

Walters does write though, and has had two of her own books published, a novel Maggie's Tree and her autobiography, penned proudly she says without the help of a ghost writer.

So how about writing a film or television script?

"I've thought about it on occasion," says Walters.

"I wouldn't mind having a go, but no, I'm not driven to do it so I doubt if I ever will, I'm more driven to grow tomatoes if I'm really honest."

As for what's capturing her attention on TV right now, she says she's loved BBC One's The Missing, is excited about the new series of ITV's Broadchurch and has reached series five of Breaking Bad which she says is "just wonderful, really funny and painful and gets darker and darker".

Walters' first TV love though will always be Coronation Street.

Looking ahead, when she's not reading, or out walking or spending time with friends and family, Walters hopes for "more of the same" when it comes to a variety of acting jobs.

She will next be seen in Indian Summers, an upcoming Channel 4 epic drama series set in the 1930s.

Reflecting on the BBC Two special, she is well aware that "it's a little bit like an obituary," but that doesn't faze her.

"I'm 64-years-old, it's going to go over all my career, and I don't mind," Walters says.

"It's wonderful, I feel privileged and honoured."

Julie Walters: A Life on Screen is on BBC Two on 24 December at 9.30pm.

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