British actress Keeley Hawes, who recently discovered “The Sopranos,” said she applied its dark humor to her new series, “Finding Alice,” premiering Monday (Sept. 13) on Acorn TV.
“I’m late to the party, but … ‘The Sopranos’ has shot to the top of my all-time-favorite-shows list,” Hawes, 45, told The Post. “There are such great examples within that incredible show; such dark moments but there’s always humor nearby. You’re laughing through the shock.”
That would describe “Finding Alice” protagonist Alice Dillon’s (Hawes) reaction to the death of her husband, Harry (Jason Merrells). He’s found dead at the bottom of the stairs in the high tech “dream house” he designed for Alice and their teenage daughter, Charlotte (Isabella Pappas). Harry’s awful exit occurs on the family’s very first night in the house — and it plunges Alice down a coping rabbit hole she peppers with grief, humor and odd behavior.
“Inevitably, when you’re talking to people about having lost someone and about the [grief] process, which is awful and inevitable, people more often than not have a funny story,” Hawes said. “Crying is very closely connected to laughing, that’s part of it, and I think that, as humans, we like to find the light in those dark situations.”
For Alice, that’s insisting that Harry be buried in the backyard garden (she digs the hole herself, using a backhoe), much to the consternation of her parents, Roger and Sarah (Nigel Havers, Joanna Lumley) and her disapproving in-laws, Gerry and Minnie (Kenneth Cranham, Gemma Jones) — while Charlotte wrestles privately with her grief. Before long, family secrets are uncovered, new characters emerge and Harry’s death may not be what it seemed.
“Losing someone close to you — your emotions and your world — all of it is turned upside-down,” said Hawes, the “Line of Duty” and “Bodyguard” star who co-created the six-episode series with Roger Goldby and Simon Nye. “I think that’s reflected in Alice’s behavior and her treatment of other people and her daughter. We wanted to explore all of those things.
“She’s a little like marmite — I think you either love her or hate her — but I can’t help liking her,” she said, alluding to the processed food spread that’s popular in the UK. “I really enjoyed playing her, and the fact that she does veer from one emotion to the next is a bit of a dream for an actor. She’s someone who’s in shock and feels alone … and as the series goes on she does calm down a bit and secrets continue to come out.”
Hawes said she has a long history with her “Finding Alice” co-creators Goldby and Nye.
“I worked with Roger and Simon on ‘The Durrells’ for four seasons in Corfu and we had a long working relationship,” she said of the ITV dramedy (2016-19). “When that show came to an end we had become friends and great colleagues and thought why not continue that.
“So we got our heads together and everyone brought different ideas to the table, and out of those ideas came ‘Finding Alice.’”
Hawes said this is her first “official” time working with Lumley, who won two BAFTA Awards for her role as Patsy in the classic Britcom “Absolutely Fabulous.”
“I did a Comic Relief ‘Bodyguard’ special with her a couple of years ago. She’s just phenomenal,” she said of Lumley. “Even on that [special], she came in and had all the dialogue down and had been a presenter at the film BAFTAs the night before and went to all the parties and showed up in the morning looking fresh as a daisy. Just having her on the set brightens everyone’s day. Nigel [Havers] is very similar — they’re a great pair of national treasures here who are very beloved.”