The Durrells’ Keeley Hawes reveals the simple pleasures of filming on set in Corfu

'The locals are always pleased to see us'
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The charming adventures of the chaotic Durrell family – who reflect life in a simpler 1930s world on the sun-drenched island of Corfu in Greece – are the perfect tonic for our troubled times, actress Keeley Hawes believes.

“With so much depressing news on TV, The Durrells is comforting viewing, where you can forget about the news for a while,” Keeley, who plays mum Louisa, says.

“I think people welcome that. It’s a show for all the family to enjoy. I say it’s the Victoria sponge [the classic afternoon tea cake] of TV!”

Louisa’s love life continues to suffer in season three as she struggles to look after her lively brood: Larry (Josh O’Connor), Leslie (Callum Woodhouse), Margo (Daisy Waterstone) and Gerry (Milo Parker).

The Durrells Characters Gerry, Lugaretzia, Larry, Margo, Leslie and Louisa.

In real life, Keeley, 42, is married to actor Matthew Macfadyen, 43, whom she met on the TV drama series Spooks, and is mum to their children, Maggie, 13, and Ralph, 11.

She also has an 18-year-old son, Myles, from her first marriage to cartoonist Spencer McCallum.

“Matthew and the children come over to visit me in Corfu when I’m filming,” she says. “They stayed for 10 days this time and had a nice holiday, and I also went home a few times.

“It’s nice, because my real children get on well with my TV children and we often go out for a meal together.”

Filming in Greece began earlier than usual to accommodate eight episodes instead of the usual six, Keeley explains, and she and her family reaped the benefits.

“It was spring and the weather was beautiful,” she says.

“I would recommend visiting Corfu at that time of the year, because it’s just gorgeous.

“The locals are always pleased to see us,” she adds. “I get lots of shouts of ‘Mrs Durrell! Mrs Durrell!'”

Daniel Lapaine and Keeley Hawes filming a scene from The Durrells.

Keeley says she was so enchanted by British author and conservationist Gerald Durrell’s family tales when she was a child that she was overjoyed when her parents took her on holiday to the Greek island.

“I adored the books when I was little,” she says. “My family never went abroad, but we did go to Corfu one year, and I think that was probably because I’d read the books and really wanted to go there.”

Back in present-day Corfu, a highlight for Keeley this series was a new member of Gerry’s ever-increasing menagerie – Frank the sloth.

“I’m very much an animal person and I loved watching the sloths in David Attenborough’s Planet Earth [TV series],” she says.

“It’s an animal you don’t get to see very often. I have a scene where I’m holding Frank and he’s very heavy. But I really fell in love with him.”

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