Aged 73, she’s busier than ever. In the past few years, she’s starred in big-screen dramas and romantic comedies, reprised her career-making role as Patsy Stone for the Absolutely Fabulous movie and even played opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.
‘I feel terribly lucky,’ she whispers to us, almost conspiratorially, in that familiar caramel-smooth voice. ‘I have an absolute mass of stuff on the go and now I just have to work out how I can do it all.
‘You wait so long for projects to be green-lit and then they all come at once. My whole life is like that, everything changing all the time.
‘Most of what I work on, I get offered, which is wonderful,’ she adds. ‘In fact, I’ve probably spent most of my career just doing what other people tell me to!’
It’s certainly served her well. She’s already landed two major acting projects for this year. There’s a film, Falling for Figaro, in which she plays a singing teacher and former opera diva.
This is contrasted with a hard-hitting ITV drama called Finding Alice, alongside Keeley Hawes, which sees her playing the mother of a woman whose husband dies suddenly.
But aside from acting, Joanna has also moved into presenting travelogues. She’s now equally famous for her jet-setting TV shows exploring the ancient Silk Road, plus escapades through India and Siberia.
Now she’s back to front another – Joanna Lumley’s Hidden Caribbean, a two-parter that sees her exploring the undiscovered treasures of Cuba and Haiti. It’s a trip that required her to pack her bags and jet off for a month-long filming stint last summer.
‘It is hard leaving my husband [conductor Stephen Barlow], my home, garden and cats, and it feels like a terribly long time, but I try not to miss things while I’m away – mostly because I know I’ll be coming back to them and also because I’m very busy while I’m out there,’ says Joanna.
‘I don’t call my husband while I’m gone, though. I tend to keep in touch with postcards because I’m old-fashioned. But the ones I sent in Cuba have never been seen again!’
The idea behind the series, Joanna explains, was to explore two of the more under-the-radar Caribbean islands. She was shocked by the realities of daily life in Haiti, which, she reveals, is ‘completely corrupt, utterly lawless and very dangerous’; she had to be accompanied by two bodyguards at all times.
Joanna admits she was ‘born in a suitcase’ and always gets a thrill from jetting off on a new adventure.‘I had the travel bug in me from an early age because I was travelling huge distances before I was a year old,’ says the actor, whose father was in the army, and who spent her early childhood in Hong Kong and Malaysia.
‘Then I was a model in the 60s and my passport was stamped with all sorts of places. All my life, I’ve been packing and leaving, packing and arriving. But it’s pretty exciting and I love it.’
Joanna Lumley’s Hidden Caribbean starts on ITV1 on Tuesday 10th March.