Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Sunday, 16 January 2011
More to Hattie Jacques than Carry On, says Ruth Jones

Ruth Jones portrays Hattie Jacques at the centre of a love triangle

Gavin and Stacey star Ruth Jones says she was drawn to playing the title role in a BBC TV biopic of Hattie Jacques by the myth of the "funny, fat" person.

"There was more to Hattie Jacques than the public persona of the Carry On films," says the Bridgend-born actor.

"Sometimes people don't look beyond the character ... I can understand that feeling and where Hattie was coming from."

Hattie is shown on BBC Four and the BBC HD channel on 19 January at 2100 GMT.

Hattie Jacques began her career in the 1940s, gaining attention through radio appearances with Tommy Handley and Tony Hancock

She then enjoyed TV and movie success, most famously in 14 Carry On films, before dying of a heart attack in 1980 at the age of 58.

Aidan Turner and Ruth Jones in Hattie
Being Human star Aidan Turner plays Hattie's lover John Schofield

The dramatised version of Hattie's life story shows a popular and talented actress who was frustrated at being restricted to frumpy, matronly comedy roles because of her size.

She was also troubled by her love for two men, having an affair with car dealer John Schofield while married to fellow actor, the Dad's Army star, John Le Mesurier.

"My understanding is that Hattie loved her husband very much and it was a wonderfully warm and close relationship," says Ruth.

"But John Schofield offered a raw passion and romantic nature that Le Mesurier could not compete with - and that Hattie never quite expected in her life.

"However, Hattie could never stop loving the man she married and I think that is what makes the drama so interesting."

In terms of what drew her to the project, Ruth says: "Hattie famously said in an interview 'If you're fat you're funny,' so I really wanted to see the person behind the funny fat persona.

"Sometimes people don't look beyond the character and I can understand that feeling and where Hattie was coming from."

Hattie Jacques in the BBC's Sykes programme in 1979
Hattie Jacques appearing with Eric Sykes a year before her death

Ruth believes she has enjoyed more varied acting opportunities than Hattie.

"I don't think we have quite the same over-simplified view of the world. Fat Friends explored similar subject matter.

"Nessa, from Gavin And Stacey, has fun with her size and is comfortable with it.

"I feel lucky that there are more roles for larger actors.

"I don't think I've experienced the same stereotyping Hattie Jacques seemed to face in her acting roles."

Ruth admits she felt the pressure of playing a leading lady.

"I love working in a team, in an ensemble. I don't know if I'm wholly comfortable always being in the spotlight.

"I was thinking, 'oh God - it's Ruth Jones throughout the whole of the drama. What if people don't like me?'

"But I knew that through the weeks of filming, I just had to be so focused on the job - and I was."

One aspect of the drama Ruth particularly enjoyed were the costumes.

Ruth Jones as Hattie Jacques in Carry On Cabby
The programme recreates Hattie's scenes in Carry On Cabby

"Hattie's style was very much Fifties hourglass. Down to the vintage remake of a girdle which the costume department made for me, they were very much the spanks of their day.

"They just hold everything in and it all added to the joy of wearing the clothes and playing the role.

"The costumes made me feel really feminine. They made you feel part of that world and not modern day."

Veteran actor and writer Eric Sykes has expressed his concern that the private side of his friend and colleague's life were "now being raked over."

But Ruth insists that the production has tried to do Hattie justice.

"I think from the script to screen, everything has been done with the greatest of respect to her," she says.

"I felt a real affection for Hattie. I'm so fortunate as an actress, I'm always dressing up and playing make believe.

"With this role, I was able to get a glimpse of what it must have been like to be Hattie Jacques and, when filming was all over, I knew I was going to really miss her."

Hattie is on BBC Four and BBC HD on Wednesday 19 January at 2100 GMT - see the programme website

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