Sunday 1 November 2015

June Whitfield at 90: Mother in Absolutely Fabulous

I have been profiling some of June Whitfield's most legendary roles on screen in the run up to her 90th birthday on 11 November. I have chosen eight of her most well-known performances, which you can vote for in my special poll - details on that below. As we prepare to celebrate the milestone birthday of this national treasure, let's continue to look back at her career.

Today it's time to look at a real corker and a role that introduced new audiences to the wonderfully talented June Whitfield. When Jennifer Saunders offered June the small role of her mother in a pilot for a new sitcom, June was only too happy to accept. The original pilot for Absolutely Fabulous saw June appear for less than a minute in a flashback sequence but  she was promised that if the series was picked up, the role would be expanded. 

What followed was an amazing success story around the world. Absolutely Fabulous was and continues to be a phenomenon. The all female cast of Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Jane Horrocks, Julia Sawalha and June Whitfield worked so well together over several series and special episodes. You could tell they all got on like a house on fire. 

While the majority of the characters in the show were completely bonkers, Mother originally seemed the most normal of the bunch, with her sensible Marks and Sparks cardigans, charity work and choccy cakes. However as time went by, Mother gradually became more and more unhinged - revealing slightly unpalatable aspects to her character and eventually appearing just as mad as the rest of them!

It was great to see June reinvigorated in a modern, fashionable comedy. It showed her versatility and while she has often said she just continued to do what she's always done, June clearly has moved with the times. I always wondered what she made of some of the most outrageous antics featured on screen but apparently she took it all in her stride! Absolutely Fabulous was about as far removed from Terry and June as you could imagine, but June fitted in seamlessly.

Jennifer Saunders is on record saying she always wanted June to play her mother. I’m sure she’s not the only one.

With a film version coming along next year, it's thankfully not the last we've seen of June Whitfield in Absolutely Fabulous!

If Mother Monsoon is your favourite of June's roles over the years, you can vote for it here 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

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