My Love Life with Downtons dastardly footman: DCI Banks star Andrea Lowe on her new co-star Rob James-Collier – Lord Granthams scheming servant

My Love Life with Downton’s dastardly footman: DCI Banks star Andrea Lowe on her new co-star Rob James-Collier – Lord Grantham’s scheming servant

By
Tim Oglethorpe

UPDATED:

22:31 GMT, 9 March 2012

Andrea Lowe couldn’t have been any more committed to landing the role of mum-to-be Lucy in ITV1’s new romantic drama Love Life when it came up last year. The actress best known as DS Annie Cabbot in ITV’s DCI Banks got pregnant herself.

‘I’ve always been very method,’ laughs Andrea, 37, referring to the process by which actors totally immerse themselves in their roles.

‘But seriously, the truth is it was just a very fortunate coincidence. I didn’t know I was expecting when I first auditioned, although by the time I was offered the role I did.

'I didn't know I was expecting when I first auditioned, although by the time I was offered the role I did,' says Andrea

'I didn't know I was expecting when I first auditioned, although by the time I was offered the role I did,' says Andrea

‘That’s when I told the producers, just to make sure they still wanted me. I didn’t tell the rest of the cast and crew until I’d had my 12-week scan, partly so I knew the baby was all right and partly because I didn’t want the pregnancy to get in the way of work. People think pregnant women are really delicate and I didn’t want any special treatment. I just wanted to be treated normally.’

The two-month shoot last autumn turned
out to be anything but normal for Andrea. ‘I suffered terrible insomnia
and, weirdly for a vegetarian, I had this huge craving for meat,’ she
says. ‘I also craved bananas, eggs and chips and by the end of the shoot
I was eating my body weight in chocolate every day. It’s a wonder I
didn’t balloon.’

In fact, Andrea is still remarkably slim aside from her
bump. ‘At least I was spared the horrors of morning sickness, although
motion sickness was a problem when I was being driven around during
scenes. But maybe that was Rob’s driving…’

On her Love Life co-star Rob: 'He's a lovely, down-to-earth guy'

On her Love Life co-star Rob: 'He's a lovely, down-to-earth guy'

She is referring to her Love Life
co-star Rob James-Collier, returning to TV in his first role since we
saw him as manipulative footman Thomas in Downton Abbey. He plays Joe,
the estranged partner of Andrea’s character Lucy, who returns from a
year off travelling to discover Lucy has become pregnant by another man
and is about to give birth.

The father of the unborn child has issues of his own to deal with, which means Joe has to step into the breach and support Lucy. Andrea and Rob share a lot of screen time in the three-part drama. In fact, producer Yvonne Francas claimed it was their on-screen chemistry that secured them the parts.

‘Working with Rob was fun,’ says Andrea, who lives with her fashion buyer fianc Terry Betts in London’s East End and is due to give birth to their first child in May. ‘He’s trying something different with this – a change of direction for him after a couple of series of Downton Abbey. He’s a lovely, down-to-earth guy who’s easy to get along with and a really good laugh.’

Some might argue he was a bit too much of a laugh, taking advantage of the fact that the prosthetic baby they filmed with looked uncannily life-like. ‘We were in the Lake District and Rob grabbed the baby by the leg and left it hanging there. I thought the poor extra we were sharing the scene with was going to have a heart attack – she obviously thought the baby was real.’

He’s trying something different with
this – a change of direction for him after a couple of series of Downton
Abbey. He’s a lovely, down-to-earth guy…

Contrary to expectations, playing Lucy
didn’t give her much of an insight into what lies ahead. ‘Even when I
was working with a real baby I would hand it back to the mum as soon as
the scene was finished.’ Far more educational was a week spent with her
sister-in-law, who has a new baby.

‘Now that was a real eye-opener,’ Andrea
admits. ‘I don’t think either of us slept the whole time. But it hasn’t
put me off. As an actress there’s never really a right time to have a
baby. But now feels right to me and Terry and I know I’m incredibly
blessed.’

It seems Andrea’s 11-year TV apprenticeship is finally paying off. After studying English and drama at Goldsmiths College in London in the early 1990s, her first proper TV role was in an episode of Peak Practice in 2001. Bigger parts in dramas Where The Heart Is, Murphy’s Law and The Tudors followed until her breakthrough year in 2010 when she secured leading roles in both Ken Loach’s film Route Irish and the ITV police drama DCI Banks, opposite Stephen Tompkinson.

For Andrea, though, every day feels like a blessing after cheating death in her 20s. The Nottinghamshire-born actress was caught up in a fire while staying at a friend’s house in London. The place was destroyed and Andrea’s survival bordered on the miraculous.

‘A washing machine caught fire in the basement and the blaze spread to the room where I was sleeping. By the time I woke up, I was surrounded by flames and overcome by smoke. Somehow I got out although, to this day, I’m not sure how I did it. It was terrifying. I’d always had faith and been a spiritual person, but that reaffirmed my beliefs.’

Andrea will put her faith in an alternative method of childbirth when her big day arrives in May. She’s planning on having a hypnobirth, with the emphasis on self-hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques rather than drugs and epidurals to relieve the pain. Which is where Andrea and her storyline in Love Life part company. ‘Lucy doesn’t have a hypnobirth, which is probably just as well,’ says Andrea. ‘That really would be just a bit too close to home…’

Love Life, Thursday, 9pm, ITV1