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Hotel Portofino: Interview – Anna Chancellor



Hotel Portofino Interview - Anna Chancellor

Hotel Portofino, ITV1’s 1920’s set costume drama premieres February. Anna Chancellor plays resident guest Lady Latchmere and here tells us about filming in Croatia and how she kept cool in her period costumes.

Why did you want to get involved with Hotel Portofino?
It was funny and I liked that it had lots of different elements to it – the costume drama, the romance, the comedy and the political thriller. Nowhere is picture perfect and this was a very curious time. They’re living this fantastic life in Italy, but there’s this really terrifying undertone: when Hitler came to visit Mussolini in the ’30s, millions and millions of people turned out to welcome him. I also love Natasha (McElhone) and I’d never been to Croatia so I just thought, why not? I had been staying in Crete during lockdown and I strangely kept on getting these jobs in Europe, first in Puglia in Italy and then this in Croatia.

Did you get much time to explore?
I did actually, because although we all stayed out there for the whole time, I wasn’t in it that much so I hired a car and just went zooming around on my own. I went swimming in these incredible waterfalls where the water was bright green and told everyone about them. By the time they all went about two weeks later, they’d completely dried up. I think they thought I was lying…

What did you make of Lady Latchmere?
I thought she was a laugh! She was a lot of fun to play, a battleaxe with a really annoying opinion on everything. She’s a pain in the arse and I can’t say I agreed with her on anything much at all. But if you’re that different to your character, that can be fun – it unlocks a side of you that you didn’t even really know was there. It’s quite enjoyable playing the unpopular one, the sort of counter-heroine.

There’s a certain amount of sort of pain beneath her snobbery and superiority, isn’t there?
Yes, there is pain. It’s her opinions that are appalling, but her emotions are identifiable with, of course. She’s lost her son in the war and she finds some consolation in her faith as a devout Protestant. Actually, she does come good in the end and stops being quite so awful. They say that there’s good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us, and that’s the case with her – she becomes quite a toughie in the end, she’s not prepared to be bullied by the fascists.

Does she have any interest in the politics of the era at first?
No, I think she thinks that politics aren’t for women, but she’s got a strong sense of right and wrong. She wouldn’t think it was right that people were being bullied and harassed, so she would see things plainly and morally in black and white, rather than politically. I’d like to think she might become involved in the Resistance later on!

What is she doing at the hotel?
She’s there on holiday with her great-niece Melissa (Imogen King) in tow as her companion. Rich people in the 1920s took to Italy to get sun and lie around reading a book, but I feel as though Lady Latchmere hasn’t been on holiday before. It’s a new departure for her. She doesn’t quite seem to know how to relax and enjoy it.

That extends to her costumes as well, doesn’t it? They all stay firmly buttoned up.
Yes,she wasn’t ever going to get to take any clothes off! She’s in almost Victorian mourning dress, wrapped in black while everyone else is in these pale colours looking quite fresh. I worried it might be punishingly hot, but we filmed it just before it got too bad, and everyone was sweet in helping me to keep cool in spite of having these endless skirts. When I got there, the costume designer Louize Nissen told me they hadn’t got anything for me because the postal service had mixed it up with another package, which meant my costumes went to Argentina and I got a load of car parts. Someone asked if I had anything to wear and I said, I’ve already got a spare tyre so I’m okay… But Louize managed to find me some wonderful stuff to wear.

How is Lady Latchmere’s relationship with Melissa?
She expects Melissa to run around and do things for her. To begin with, she doesn’t know her niece that well, then she becomes quite fond of the child with her spirit. Imogen is so funny and we had a lot of fun improvising, me telling her what to do and having endless opinions, and Imogen always knowing better but pretending that she doesn’t know anything: she won’t correct me even though I’m always wrong. Melissa is much more intelligent than Lady Latchmere, emotionally and intellectually, and I always enjoy the dynamic of a double act.

Where is the rest of her family?
Well, she can’t bear her husband, because he bullied her son who subsequently died. She can’t bring herself to look at him any more and has taken to travel instead.

We see you drinking lots of tea and increasing amounts of limoncello as well. Was any of that real?
The tea was! Not the limoncello though – Lady Latchmere doesn’t think it’s alcohol, but rather a nice lemonade to settle the stomach. She’s such an idiot!

What was the highlight of the shoot?
The set was just amazing. When we went to the house, there was this unbelievable building which was basically derelict and the production designers worked at full tilt to put everything in and transformed it into this beautiful hotel. Right on the sea, it was spectacular. They did a wonderful job. The company of actors was great as well. I was lucky to be in this beautiful place with this fun part, without too much responsibility in terms of carrying the show. And I loved getting to know the locals – the Croatian crew were brilliant, fun people.

Hotel Portofino Starts 3rd February on ITV1 and ITVX.