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I nearly quit as Patsy when Jen found me Ab Drab, says Joanna Lumley

JOANNA LUMLEY has told how she almost pulled out of playing Patsy Stone in Absolutely Fabulous — because the sitcom’s creator Jennifer Saunders did not initially find her portrayal very funny.

The actress said at the Edinburgh TV festival: ‘Jennifer hadn’t put down any guidelines about Patsy, apart from that she was Eddy’s friend.’

Explaining that when she first read the part and ‘there was not a smile on Jennifer’s face’ she said she wanted to pull out of the series.

But Lumley’s agent told her: ‘Just do it, it’s three grand, it’s a pilot, do it.’

The two went on to create a brilliant comedy that ran for five series from 1992 and reprised their roles in a 2016 film. Lumley, 72, who once had a small part in Coronation Street, also described how close she came to returning to the soap decades later.

Appearing at the festival with producer Clive Tulloh, she said she first played Ken Barlow’s girlfriend Elaine Perkins in the ’70s. ‘All I remember is that I said, “Can I go to the Rovers Return?” and they said, “No, you’re too posh. Can you stay at home and drink a sherry, that’s a posh drink”.’

Soap chiefs told her she would be breaking Ken’s heart. ‘I wanted a long, long part in this lovely show and they said, “No, you’re in for eight episodes”.

‘About 35 years later, they asked if I’d come back and break Ken’s heart again, and I went, “You bet!”’

But Lumley was already committed to a show for Tulloh, ‘and the part went to Stephanie Beacham’.