What did the Romans ever do for us?

What did the Romans ever do for us?
Craig Roberts and Kim Cattrall in Horrible Histories: The Movie — Rotten Romans.

Kim Cattrall says she had a hoot making the film version of Horrible Histories, the hugely popular kids’ books, writes Georgia Humphreys.

If there's one word to describe Horrible Histories: The Movie, it’s “fun”. Based on the popular kid’s book series by Terry Deary, it hilariously and vividly brings the Roman period to life.

The historical jumping point for the plot is the story of the Emperor Nero, and the troubles he faced with Boudicca.

For Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall - who plays Nero’s mother Agrippina - being on set for Horrible Histories was an absolute hoot.

“I really had a blast,” says the Liverpool-born star, 62, who shares that the work reminded her of “British comedies from the 30s, 40s, 50s”, which she’s a big fan of.

“I still have the Carry On films —I have the whole boxset,” she elaborates.

Describing how she wanted the work she chooses to be fun, she says:

It [the set] was very welcoming. I was only there for a short period of time, and sometimes that can work against you but I felt right at home right away, which was lovely.

Dreary’s books, the first of which was published in 1993, have undoubtedly inspired millions of children to get into history, and in 2009, a Horrible Histories TV show started on CBBC.

It has become clear it’s comedy that grown ups can enjoy too though, becoming such a hit a repackaged version aired in a primetime slot, with Stephen Fry as the host.

While the film is obviously a different kettle of fish — on TV it’s a half-hour sketch-show format, and for the silver screen, it needed to be a traditional three-act story — it also appeals to a wide audience.

“That’s the great thing,” notes Cattrall, “There’s a little bit for both [adults and children] — it’s not like taking your kid to see a show that you’re not going to be entertained by or have a good laugh.”

A lot of Cattrall’s work in this film is alongside Submarine star Craig Roberts, who plays her son Nero.

Their characters have what can only be described as an unconventional mother/son relationship.

“I didn’t know Craig until we met, in the make up trailer,” recalls Cattrall of their time filming together.

We both of course knew the level of comedy, based on Horrible Histories, but also based on the cast that was there — they were so good and so fun to play with.

Some might think this role seems like quite a surprising choice for a Hollywood star like Cattrall.

But the effervescent actress, who trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, has had a wonderfully varied career.

In the 1980s, she was known for comedies including Porky’s, Police Academy and Mannequin.

Her defining role came later, as the sassy Samantha Jones in the Sex And The City franchise; she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the part in 2002.

When that series finished, she went down the theatre route, starring in shows such as Antony And Cleopatra at the Liverpool Playhouse and Private Lives in London.

When it comes to how Horrible Histories came about, she happened to be in London during the shoot and was keen to get involved.

Having moved to Canada as a baby, she holds dual citizenship, but it was moving back to Liverpool for a year aged 11 that made her fall in love with acting.

Does she consciously want to do more work in the UK?

“Yeah, I do. I love to read scripts and most of them are pretty bad, pretty awful. So it’s nice to get something that’s, first of all, well written, has a great track record, has anaudience built in — and have fun.”

Asked to expand on what is bad about scripts she reads, the actress doesn’t hesitate at all.

“I think that they’re carbon copies of something that I’ve seen millions and millions of times, especially the way the women are portrayed, especially women at my age,” she suggests.

So I’m very much interested in playing women who are not just strong and mighty, but who are doubting but also enjoy their life, or are going through some kind of challenge, whatever the story is or the conflict is.

“But this for me, there was a conflict but it was also so joyous, the company of the actors and Horrible Histories.”

Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans is in cinemas next Friday, July 26

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