Still recognised as Hugh Grant’s jilted fiancée ‘Duckface’ from Four Weddings and a Funeral, Anna Chancellor is currently enjoying life on the Sussex coast.
The Bafta-nominated actress is filming the BBC of the adaptation of Mapp and Lucia in Rye.
Speaking to The Argus, the 50-year-old said: “The part I’m playing at the moment I love! I play Lucia, a terrible, dominating phoney who comes head to head with Miranda Richardson. You want the drama within a character, for them to be a bit extreme, so they’re funny but sad, generous but maybe mean to themselves – that’s what you’re looking for.
“I’ve always been a character actress: the dominatrix, the stalker, the nutter... I think it’s a bit more fun, although sometimes it’s quite narrow, the view that people [have of] the romantic heroine. They never make films about ordinary people being in love – everyone has to be really beautiful, and I wonder why we can’t make that mental leap.
“I’m living in Hastings while we’re filming Mapp and Lucia. It’s like a model village. I love the second-hand shops and there’s a great little cafe, like a 50s diner, that does the best hamburgers”
Mapp and Lucia is a collective name for a series of novels by E. F. Benson. Many of them were set in the small seaside town of Tilling, which is closely based on the East Sussex town of Rye, where Benson lived for a number of years and like Chancellor's character, Lucia, served as mayor.
However finding work for the great niece of Jane Austen hasn't been easy, neither was her education.
"I’ve always been a dreamer. I went to a convent school when I was quite young and failed miserably – I was bad at everything! I was always very interested and clever but could never get my head around that form of learning with getting things down on paper and writing essays – my homework would come back and it would just be a series of red marks.
"But I was always in the school plays, and that’s where I flourished. With acting, you’re told what to say but the choice of how you play it is yours and I found the structure of that very relieving. I was incredibly lucky that I found acting – otherwise, I could have felt that I was an underachiever."
Moving to London when she was 16, Chancellor attempted to go to sixth-form college but instead found work as a naked artist’s model. However she gained a break at 18, when she gained a place at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. However she faced another hurdle when at 21 she gave birth to her daughter Poppy.
"It looked like it was all going to go disastrously wrong. “I was unemployed for years. In fact, any success I’ve had, I’ve received with amazement, as have my whole family – but I feel I should tell people that it is possible to earn a living doing something that you love.
"When you’re on stage, there is a sort of alchemy that happens between you and an audience and that’s an incredible thing to experience. The bottom line is how good the script is: if it’s good, it doesn’t matter what form you do it in, the story takes over and it becomes beyond you.
“I have played a lot of amazing parts and I’ve had some great names, too. With Four Weddings and a Funeral, I didn’t realise that Duckface was my official character name.
"When I die, my obituary will probably be, ‘Duckface dies’. What can I say about that – do I mind? No, I think it would be churlish to bite the hand that feeds you and, coincidentally, I’ve always had a passion for ducks.
“Way before Duckface, when I lived with my daughter Poppy in a flat in Shepherds Bush, we had a pet duck called Daphne. I bought a paddling pool and used to blow it up every day – we were crazy about her.”
Filming for Mapp and Lucia is well underway in Rye, with the three part drama expected to be broadcast on BBC One later this year.