Alison Steadman has starred in many much-loved television shows over the years, including Fat Friends and, more recently, Hold the Sunset.
But her most memorable role is as lovable Essex mum Pam Shipman in Gavin & Stacey, who she played from 2007 until 2010, before reprising it for the Christmas special with the rest of the cast last year.
And, along with the rest of the country, Alison sat down with her family over the festive period to watch the episode with her partner, Michael Elwyn, her grown-up sons, Toby, 41, and Leo, 38, and two-year-old grandson, Freddy.
Surprisingly, it turns out it’s the only role the 73-year-old actor has ever watched herself back in – and not just the once!
Speaking of the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special, she reveals, ‘I watched it several times, which I don’t normally do. Anything I’m in, I don’t watch because I think I look old and fat. But with that, I loved it so much that I had to watch it again.’
Despite the self-deprecation, Alison is grateful there are ‘certainly more parts for older women than there used to be,’ and definitely doesn’t see any reason to change the way she looks.
She says, ‘I look the way I want, I don’t feel any pressure, not at all. Maybe there is for the younger actresses, if you were in your 20s and you had to be a skinny Jane, or something. But for me, it’s great – I can just do what I want!’
Alison isn’t the only one who loved the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special. James Corden and Ruth Jones’ sitcom’s one-off return became the most-watched scripted show for a decade, watched live by 12.3 million, with figures rising to 17.1 million once catch-up viewings were taken into account.
‘The number of people that watched it was incredible,’ Alison proudly mentions. ‘I was expecting nine or 10 million, that would’ve been fantastic, but when it went up like that, we were all like, “What?”’
So why does she think so many people tuned in to watch the hit comedy?
Alison explains, ‘You know that, as a family, they all love each other. ‘Even though they row and have upsets, you know underneath it all, Pam and Mick love each other, and Gavin and Stacey.
‘I’ve watched some of the episodes recently and every time Stacey looks at Gavin and goes, “I loves you,” and he looks back and he goes, “I love you, babe,” my heart just melts because you believe them.’
And it sounds like the love is there for the cast off-screen too.
Alison jokes that she speaks to her former Fat Friends co-stars James and Ruth ‘about three or four times a day.’
But adds seriously, ‘No, now and again, we do keep in touch but James is so busy in America with his work and his family and all these amazing things he’s doing, so it was really brilliant to see him and everyone.
‘We met for a read-through and some rehearsals and it really was like a family reunion. Everyone was hugging, crying, laughing.’
So, with the success of the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special – and the fact it was left on a cliffhanger with Nessa proposing to Smithy – will the cast all be returning for a fourth series?
Alison can’t say for sure, but agrees she would definitely want to be there.
She says, ‘If there was anything else, I’d want to be involved, but we don’t know and that’s the truth.
‘It takes a lot of work to write Gavin & Stacey as brilliantly as Ruth and James do, and James is so busy and Ruth’s very busy too.’
Finishing with a smile, she teases, ‘But they did the Christmas special, so you never know…’
✣ All three series of Gavin & Stacey and series two of Hold the Sunset are currently available on BBC iPlayer