In Stronger, you play a working-class Boston matriarch. Is it fair to say you haven’t played anyone like her before?
I don’t feel I have, no. I had a very nice letter from the director, David Gordon Green, and Jake Gyllenhaal, saying they’d love to have me on board and it felt like something I should do.
What kind of prep did you do with Jake, whose character Jeff lost his legs in the bombing?
None, I’m afraid! It was pretty much straight in there. We did readings and stuff, and changes were mooted, and I talked around the fact that we never see my character Patty at work because she looks like a slob. But in real life she was at work when the news came through about Jeff getting injured. I was wrangling for an opportunity to see her at work. In the end, what you see is Patty applying some lipstick and that is nominally a day when she’s going to go to work. You would never understand that if you didn’t know.
Do you often make suggestions to directors?
Well, I hope that’s part of the creative process, but a lot of it is in my head. We certainly didn’t go around playing trust games, it wasn’t a social movie, although Jake developed a strong bond with Jeff.
What else are you working on?
I’ve been working on Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. And I’ve finished a series of Girlfriends by Kay Mellor, which airs on January 3.
What kind of subject gets you debating at dinner parties?
Apart from Scrabble or something like that? I’m lying, that’s one of my girlfriends’ favourite subjects, the two-letter word and all that… Me, it makes me upset, but I talk about the environment and the legacy we’re handing on — conservation and pollution. I’m a really heavy person to have at dinner parties, which is probably why I don’t get invited to many. Just kidding!
What were you obsessed with when you were a kid?
Batman. What else? Animals in general and birds and the natural world. I was very dreamy and stared out of the window a lot. Communing.
Not for the teachers.
I dreamed the cat’s tail was a hairbrush, specifically one I had as a little girl. It wasn’t a cat as we know it…
Speaking of dreaming, do you have any recurring dreams?
No, but when I was a kid I had rather a frightening dream: I’d see a rather frightening woodcut in a book, which was of a Japanese fantasy vampire cat. The cat’s tail was a hairbrush, specifically a hairbrush I had as a little girl. It wasn’t a cat as we know it…
Weird! Which character do fans approach you for the most?
Oh [groans]. Queenie.
Are you sick of people asking about Blackadder, then?
Well, I’m glad it made people laugh, it just shows you the power of television and comedy. I’m very grateful.
What do you do when you get time off?
Either go see somebody or just have dinner or cook for people.
What’s your signature dish?
There’s a soup that is more like a chowder. It’s from a book called The Vegetarian Epicure. Not that I’m vegetarian and not that this soup is, particularly, I mean, there’s cheese in it.
You spoke out about Harvey Weinstein. Do you think it’s important to comment on what’s going on?
Absolutely, yes. It is important to feel there is a climate in which you can talk about these things.
Are younger actresses coming into a safer environment?
I wouldn’t say that but I hope in the near future, yes. You’ve just got to look after yourself and the thing is that nobody wants to assume the worst of humanity, no one wants an air of mistrust, but you need to be aware. I feel like I was lucky and I don’t know how to explain it. There is an alarming tendency for some people to think that if nobody came on to me, why didn’t they, what’s wrong with me? Which is really messed up. But at the same time, that’s the currency we’ve been used to. We’re told, just be charming, be sweet, it’ll go your way.
Any message for Metro readers?
Just don’t take up too much room.
Stronger is in cinemas now