Dorien has been living the life Up West – more successfully than even she dreamed. But it’s not long before her “Es-sex In The City” lifestyle is back to being just Essex. She wants to hang on to the high life, and to eternal youth, but now she’s been forced to retreat back in Chigwell for the first time in years and she’s discovering that she’s trapped yet again.
For Lesley Joseph, playing Dorien really is the dream role.
And as she returns to Birds of a Feather, her character definitely can’t quite believe her luck after living it up in London. Still very much a man-eater, Dorien is now a rich, successful novel writer whose steamy book has caught the nation’s imagination.
But her Champagne lifestyle soon comes crashing down and she is forced to move in with her old friends, Sharon and Tracey.
“Dorien is rich now but what we didn’t want to do is depart too far from the original where it was a big fish in a small world,” explains Lesley.
“And so that is why she goes and lives back with the girls. I didn’t want her to be so successful that she could live in Hollywood and ring Madonna. She has still got an eye for the men!
“Over the series, we fill in a lot of gaps about what has happened over the last 15 years and so the jigsaw starts to fit into place. There are lots of digs at each other, but the warmth and friendship is still there as otherwise they wouldn’t be living with each other.”
￼Fans will be relieved to hear Dorien’s outfits are still as racy as ever, reveals the actress, who also admits she had to work out before filming started again so she could look her very best.
“You can’t play Dorien unless you look good,” she says. “I didn’t want people to think I looked a bit podgier and so I did a lot of exercise. I really worked hard. I wanted to get back to a working Dorien weight.”
And as the actress goes on to explain, whilst Dorien may think she is a cut above Sharon and Tracey, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Lesley’s own lifelong friendship with her two co-stars.
“And so when you tell them you do, people don’t want to hear that. It’s annoying because they never say that about men. We really could not be closer. I think people are a bit bemused by that but what you see on-screen is what you see off. That is what has always been the great thing about Birds of a Feather – the chemistry works in every place.”
Asked what her favourite moment has been making the new series and Lesley replies instantly that it is the fact she has been able to work again so closely with Pauline and Linda.
“I get quite emotional even thinking about it,” she says. “The best thing about doing Birds of a Feather again has been the fact we are all together. We are all so brutally honest with each other. We are all family people at heart and I also admire them so much. There is such a bond between all of us.”
Bursting out laughing, she reveals, however, all three actresses are conscious that they have aged since the last series went out and the technological advances of High Definition television means the pictures are even sharper. “We didn’t have HD last time,” she says chuckling. “We do touch on the stuff like getting older in the series – although there is a scene where Tracey is plucking her chin with a magnifying glass.”
Incredibly passionate about the new series, Lesley feels there is a huge buzz surrounding the show. “It really is exciting times,” she says. “The reaction has been unbelievable and so many people have stopped me in the street asking when exactly it is coming back. They are really excited.
“What is lovely is there is a real buzz at ITV. It has got so many great dramas on right now with Downton and Broadchurch and Birds of a Feather really does fit in too.” Smiling, Lesley jokes she hopes what happened in the theatres on tour won’t be replicated at home.
“We have spent the last two years touring around the country with Birds of a Feather,” explains Lesley. “It has been a lot of fun and the audiences really did love it so much. In fact, people would bring their three-year-olds along because they could not get a babysitter and did not want to miss out.
“But we also had to call out ambulances for more people than ever before! They laughed so much, they needed an ambulance! We called them out eight times and the show had to be stopped!”.
Since the show was aired, Lesley has been very busy in various dramas, including playing Rachel Culgrin in the ITV soap, Night and Day, and she has performed in a lot of theatre shows like the Calendar Girls.
Given she has loved working with Pauline and Linda so much, is she sad that filming is coming to an end then? “Yes but it will be lovely to think that maybe we will be able to do another series,” she replies. “I would love to do another one if this works.”
Lesley – who is starring in panto over Christmas before going on to appear in the Hot Flush musical – adds: “I feel so positive. Everyone keeps telling me this is really going to work. There are great vibes going…”
Birds Of A Feather returns tonight at 8:30PM on ITV1