Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Benidorm alum Siobhan Finneran said she is thrilled to play a perpetually smiling character and make people laugh in The Other One after years of starring in more serious fare like Downton Abbey, Happy Valley and The Stranger.
"Having done a lot of hard-hitting, gritty drama where I spend a lot of time blowing my nose or shuffling about, it was great to be that free and be able to be happy while filming. There is a real joy in not having to cry or be distressed," the 54-year-old actress told UPI in a recent phone interview.
Set to begin streaming in the United States on Acorn TV on Monday, the half-hour British sitcom is about what happens when prim and proper Tess (Rebecca Front) discovers her recently deceased husband Colin had a mistress named Marilyn (Finneran) for 30 years.
Further complicating matters, both women have adult daughters named Catherine, fathered by Colin and born five days apart.
While Tess is too consumed by anger to properly mourn her spouse or comfort her always anxious, only child Cathy (Ellie White,) the outrageous Marilyn and her equally inappropriate daughter Cat (Lauren Socha) welcome Cathy with open arms into their family.
"I loved the way Holly [Walsh] crafted the script and made what could be a horrendous situation actually very funny and very warm and also heartbreaking," Finneran said. "They got the balance right all the way through."
The chance to play a sexy, agoraphobic, self-medicating woman like Marilyn -- who has a childlike innocence, says exactly what's on her mind and sets at ease nearly everyone she meets -- was irresistible for Finneran.
"I didn't want people to think she was the stereotypical 'other woman' that had been out to destroy this family," the actress said. "I wanted the audience to like her and to forgive her for what she had been doing."
Finneran doesn't condone Marilyn's affair with a married man, but said that, in the character's mind, she wasn't a homewrecker because she truly loved Colin, was satisfied seeing him one day a week and never expected him to leave his wife for her.
When Colin dies, Marilyn is eager to bond with the other women in his life.
"These characters are all in the grip of grief when we meet them because they've lost this man who meant the world to all of them," Finneran said. "I love the fact that Marilyn is so delighted with Cathy, and I do think that is because it is another connection to Colin."
Finneran relied primarily on the script and her imagination to create Marilyn, but also credits
the show's wardrobe and makeup departments with breathing life into the character.
"Once my hair was on and I put on whatever fabulous outfit I'd been given that day, it all helps to root her and settle me into playing her," Finneran said.
The Other One -- which previously aired in the United Kingdom on the BBC -- arrives in the United States as travel remains restricted, many businesses are closed down and millions of people are staying at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"A lot of people have said it was a lovely relief to just be watching something that was fun and warm, with a lot of heart in it," the actress said of the comedy's U.K. fans. "Hopefully, it will go down in America as well as it has gone down here."
Finneran said she would love to return for another season, feeling there is more to explore in a show with such rich characters. However with so many TV and movie productions in limbo because of the pandemic, the comedy's future remains unclear.
The actress isn't back to work yet, as the entertainment industry struggles to figure out how to resume filming safely.
Until then, Finneran is making good use of her time at home.
"I'm doing what everyone's doing -- redecorating the house and doing the garden," she said.
Although she is an artist trained to think outside the box and roll with changing circumstances, Finneran doesn't believe she had better tools than anyone else when it came to coping during the pandemic.
"Having been an actress for 30 years now, I am used to having periods out of work, and so that wasn't as difficult for me personally as it is for a lot of people," she said. "But I don't think anybody could be prepared for what has just happened to the world."