Exclusive Interview: Tara Fitzgerald

She may be a household name, with starring roles in everything from Game Of Thrones to the latest big BBC drama, but Tara FitzGerald is still every bit as grounded as she is good company, finds Ali Howard.

It is Christmas 2013, and I’m sat around a table with my dear gaggle of NCT mums, quaffing Prosecco like there’s a drought coming – except for Lucy who’s busy breastfeeding newborn baby Jake, and of course Katherin, who’s anxiously expecting number two – when TV director Sarah pipes up (to squeals of delight): “You are never going to guess what my next project’s going to be!”

Fittingly, a whole nine months’ gestation later and Kay Mellor’s In the Club – a BBC drama based on the intertwining lives of six couples in an antenatal class – is now on our screens. While it’s not about us – Lucy, Katherin, Sarah, Lucy I, Betty, Kirsty and me – it’s a show about all of us: often disparate gangs of new mums brought together by nothing more than the convenience of our postcodes and due dates, but with lives forever fused by that all-encompassing, life-changing funny business called parenthood. (You might have spotted us frequenting local cafés for lengthy tea-and-cake sessions.)

I wonder if Mellor, known for Fat Friends and The Syndicate, has a knack for choosing subject matter so obvious and so everywhere, that it is, more often than not, overlooked. Tara FitzGerald, who plays Susie in the drama, certainly thinks so: “She just manages to tap into the zeitgeist. There’s been another massive baby boom – it seems like the most juicily topical set up. Ripe and ready to be looked at.”

Susie is one half of In the Club’s lesbian couple, a role that Tara’s proud to be portraying. We discover, after a fruitless online search, that same-sex parents have, until now, been woefully underrepresented – certainly on British TV. “How great that it’s being talked about,” Tara enthuses in an assured, velvety burr. It seems a casual bit of boundary-busting makes a role all the more attractive for the Brit actress. And how brilliantly typical of the fearless Mellor.

In The Club boasts an ensemble cast list that reads like a director’s dream: Hermione Norris plays businesswoman Roanna, unexpectedly pregnant again at 46, Jill Halfpenny’s character Diane is welcoming the ‘miracle’ baby she thought she’d never have, and Katherine Parkinson, who plays Susie’s partner Kim, is expecting the couple’s second child with the same biological father.

I suspect filming such an emotive series was a bonding experience in itself. “Yes, what a lovely bunch of people!” Tara tells me. “I know Hermione as a mate anyway, and we were just talking about what a fabulous cast it was – so warm and friendly with everyone muddling in together.” She recalls, fondly, “There was one day which made me laugh so much: looking around and seeing different people dealing with their (fictional) babies in different ways – it really struck me. It was charming. So naturally full of drama, and so moving!”

That the programme has attracted such a high calibre of acting talent is undoubtedly testament to its razor-sharp script but, beyond that, it puts women (and specifically women over the age of 30) in the spotlight – a subject, I discover, Tara could discuss for some time: “Kay writes very well for women. Women are strong, but they’re strong with all their foibles and their messy lives and their mistakes – I think that’s part of the liberating thing. There’s a lot of buying into a mythology of womanhood that means we’re actually always failing, because we’re not perfect. Nobody is. Representing women all complicated and flawed is really important.”

I’m glad she’s taken the bait on this. I’m intrigued to find out if the ongoing argument about a lack of decent roles for women over a certain age is something that still narks – especially for someone whose IMDb is hardly lacking. Perhaps the answer is that we need more women writers, like Mellor, to redress the balance. Tara agrees wholeheartedly: “There are so many great actresses of my age, but there are a very limited number of roles that they would want to take on – that they would feel challenged by.”

Having just stepped off the set of Exodus: GodsandKings, the Moses epic starring the “gorgeous” Christian Bale (Me: “I love him!” Tara: “I don’t blame you!”), I have to admit I don’t feel too sorry for FitzGerald. In fact, her ability to flit between theatre, film and TV so apparently seamlessly – A Dolls House; Brassed Off; Waking the Dead – has resulted in a long and varied career and, importantly, one that’s avoided the dreaded pitfall of typecasting – surely the ideal scenario for any actor? “When I started, I really was preoccupied with this notion of not being typecast. Now I don’t think about it so much. My thing is that people and projects gravitate towards you; and you towards them, you know. I just go with what arrives, what appeals.”

I wonder if this nomadic approach appeals to Tara’s sense of adventure, too. “I love travelling. God, I love travelling… Last year I was in Prague and Paris and Cyprus. Oh gosh, it’s so nice to move around. It’s like getting two for the price of one – you work, and you get to travel too!”

When she’s not globetrotting, the actress is based between Acton and her beloved Kensington, of which she paints an utterly romantic picture: “It feels like my manor! I was having this conversation with a friend. Saying, ‘I love this part of London in spring, but I really love it in the winter, too – all the stucco houses look so pretty. But then there’s autumn…’ and it turns out that I just love it all through the year. It does feel very moneyed, some of it, but the bits I love are still so idiosyncratic – that’s what I first felt as a kid when we lived here.”

Being Tara FitzGerald is clearly a charmed existence – she reels off a list of ongoing projects: “I’m finishing off this Tom Hardy film about the Krays called Legend, and then I’m also doing a bit in Game of Thrones – of which I can tell you NOTHING!” (I daren’t ask.) I can’t help but fall a little bit in love with someone so modest, so intelligent, so creative, so outspoken and, ultimately, so passionate about their craft. Move over, Moses, I think I have a lady crush.