TO SAY the BBC’s latest drama In The Club is a family affair is an understatement. Written by Fat Friends creator Kay Mellor, produced by her daughter Yvonne Francas, and with younger daughter, Emmerdale actress Gaynor Faye, working as a script editor, it’s a true family project.
And it’s not surprising that there’s such a convivial atmosphere on set in Leeds, where the cast are huddled on plastic seats and nattering between takes, given the series centres around six pregnant women — three of whom are played by Hermione Norris, Katherine Parkinson and Jill Halfpenny — who meet at a local antenatal class and share their anxieties and excitement about their new arrivals.
Today, six newborn babies provide plenty of oohs and ahhs from the cast and crew, prompting Mellor to reminisce about when her two were small. A teenage mum called Rosie, played by newcomer Hannah Midgley, has a special resonance.
“The fact I was 16 when I had Yvonne, and then I later had Gaynor, it’s an experience that forms you as a person,” says Mellor, who, at the time, hid her pregnancy from everyone, apart from her boyfriend Anthony, for five months who’s now her husband.
“I was at college and fearful of people finding out. It was the inevitability of it that’s terrifying really, because it won’t go away; the bump just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
As well as teenage pregnancy, the series also delves into the impact of pregnancy on couples’ relationships, money troubles and domestic complications. Stars Halfpenny, Norris and Parkinson share their thoughts:
Jill Halfpenny takes on the role of stay-at-home mum Diane, who, along with her husband adopted two children after fertility problems meant they thought they’d never conceive. Now pregnant with their “miracle baby”, Diane is cautious and has swotted up on the labour. But Halfpenny admits she was less studious in her own approach, when she was pregnant with her son Harvey, five years ago.
“The only thing I’ve noticed through other friends who are expecting is that the hysteria surrounding what you can and can’t eat has become ridiculous,” says the 39-year-old.
“Oh my God, I’ve had three cups of tea today, I was only supposed to have two!’ I’m like, ‘Just chill out, it’s fine’.”
Being around so many babies could make you broody, but Halfpenny is unfazed. “You get five minutes with the babies on set and then they go back to their mams,” she says. “You don’t get all the cute time that you get as a real parent. They’re lovely, but they’re unpredictable.”
Cold Feet star Hermione Norris plays older mum Roanna, a businesswoman who is embroiled in a bitter fallout with her husband after starting a relationship with a toyboy — and finding herself pregnant. Add two teenage children from her previous marriage who are “appalled”, and you have a disaster on your hands. Perfect, then, for a TV drama.
“She’s just on the roller coaster,” explains the 47-year-old Cold Feet star. “Her marriage was unhappy and she has fallen in love with an artist, who is probably young enough to be her son.”
Katherine Parkinson, 37, is pregnant in real life with her second child, and the drama has been a perfect pre-amble to her baby’s birth.
Her character Kim, who’s in a long-term relationship with Susie, played by Tara Fitzgerald, is having quite a bumpy ride.
“Susie had a child she conceived 15 years ago by artificial insemination,” she explains. “Kim is now pregnant by the same man, Neil, and Susie thinks she was also artificially inseminated, but actually, Neil and Kim have feelings for each other — so you could say things are a little complicated.”