Honeysuckle Weeks is primarily know for her role in the television series “Foyle’s War” as Samantha Stewart. She was born in 1979 in Cardiff. Her movie roles include “Lorna Doone” in 2000 and “My Brother Tom” the following year.
By ANTONIA HOYLE and PETER ROBERTSON
Last updated at 22:50 08 March 2008
Honeysuckle Weeks storms in, half an hour late, straggly blonde hair billowing behind her and without a scrap of make-up. Her nails are bare and stubby and she sports a small scar on her lip where her Tibetan Mastiff puppy, Kensal, jumped up on her.
She looks every inch a bohemian beauty who couldn’t care less for the excesses of fame and has no time for designer frocks. It is only when her deep, plummy, almost old-fashioned voice reverberates around the room that you remember exactly why she has become a household name.
Famous for playing Samantha Stewart in the period drama Foyle’s War, she has spent the past seven years presenting a prim, proper and ferociously loyal persona to the seven million viewers of the hit ITV series.
Now that it is about to end, 28-year-old Honeysuckle seems keen to shrug off her serious on-screen image and show a less conventional side of herself than her work to date has suggested.
“I’ve had a wonderful time in Foyle’s War and I don’t mind being typecast,” she says. “But I’m not prim. I’m chaotic, happy and desperate to have some laughs. I’d love to do a comedy next, or something modern.”
Honeysuckle, who joined the series after graduating from Oxford University in 2001, admits: “I’ve got this voice that sounds very proper. In my last audition I tried to tone it down. But I was so concerned with toning it down that my actual acting was appalling.”
The final two episodes of Foyle’s War set in Hastings, East Sussex, against the backdrop of the Second World War will be screened in May. Viewers will see Samantha, who plays the driver
of Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, played by Michael Kitchen, celebrate VE Day with her colleagues
“Samantha hasn’t really changed,” says Honeysuckle. “She remains without a husband or boyfriend. I asked the writers to keep it that way so she could still do her job. In those days, if she’d been married she’d have had to give it up. But I’ve definitely changed and grown up. When I first started playing her I didn’t have a boyfriend and now I’m married.”
Honeysuckle she was named after the fragrant climbing plant that was in bloom when she was born grew up in a Sussex farmhouse with her parents Robin, 50, the owner of an advertising company, and Susan Wade Weeks, also 50, now the Conservative candidate for York, and younger siblings Perdita, 22, and Rollo, 20, both actors.
She was educated at Roedean, the elite girls’ school in Brighton, and enjoyed the kind of privileged upbringing that would make Samantha Stewart envious.
Yet she is clearly uncomfortable with her conservative roots and exudes a rebellious streak that sits at odds with her upper-class background. St, in an age of pampered actresses and their protective publicists, Honeysuckle, who has turned up for this interview alone, is disarmingly open, attractive and, to put it bluntly, a bit bonkers.
“My parents wanted to be actors,” she says. “They tried for years but didn’t get anywhere. Then Mum got pregnant with me and they decided to make actors out of their children. You need your parents’ support if you’re going to do it. Otherwise who’s going to ferry you to castings?”
When Honeysuckle was 13, her parents’ hard work paid off when both she and Perdita landed parts in the BBC2 children’s drama Goggle Eyes. Just a few weeks later, however, their parents split up.
“It wasn’t amicable. They’re very good friends now but they weren’t then,” says Honeysuckle, before conceding: “It was better in many ways that they divorced. They pay more attention to you. They’re not a united front, so you can get away with more.”
For all her bravado, it seems she still hankered for a happy home-life as a teenager and would go to any lengths to secure it. “Every Christmas my parents would get together for the family, and every year they would have a serious argy-bargy and one of them would storm out of the house,” she recalls.
“So when I was 19 I thought I’d get them stoned so they’d just be happy and have fun together. I made mince pies and put dope in them. It seriously backfired. Dad’s a health freak and was watching his weight, but Mum ate the pies and suddenly she was losing it and laughing, and losing at Pictionary, which she normally wins. It was awful. I laughed hysterically. For once I was persona non grata and they were united in disapproval.”
She adds as an afterthought: “I did have the odd smoke, but not really anything else. Everyone smoked dope. But it’s really important that it’s clear my Mum didn’t know there was dope in the mince pies because she’s a Conservative candidate.”
By this stage Honeysuckle had begun to combine her education first at school and then reading English at Pembroke College, Oxford with making a name for herself as an actress, with parts in the TV mini-series Close Relations in 1998 and Midsomer Murders in 1999.
She had also begun to attract male attention in the form of Hugh Grant, whom she met at a millennium party in London’s Groucho Club. They shared a “snog” and dinner in the members’ club Soho House, but she didn’t call him after their first date, she says, because she didn’t think he would want to hear from her again.
A brief engagement to British poet Anno Birkin followed, before he was killed, aged just 20, in a car crash in Italy in 2001. Honeysuckle coped by throwing herself into the second series of Foyle’s War
“I wanted to reflect some of that loss on to Samantha,” she says. “Despite people dying and lives being torn apart, you must put a brave face on it because we’re still alive.
“The show has great storytelling, characters and attention to detail. In Foyle’s office, for example, you can open a drawer and, even though the camera won’t show it, there will be some Forties documents inside. I had to fight not to wear authentic underwear and suspenders.”
In 2002 she went on a first date with her future husband, Lorne Stormonth-Darling, a dealer in Tibetan antiques. She says she was blown away by his opening gambit: ‘Would you like a pickled cockle?’
She had been friends with Lorne, the son of a retired City broker and 16 years her senior, since 1999 when she was at Oxford and he was a friend of her flatmate’s parents. He was, she says with apparent sincerity, hanging around “to try to find a younger girlfriend” and even hit on her friend before he settled for her.
She claims he asked her to marry him every day after their first date. On holiday in the Himalayas in 2005, they held an impromptu Buddhist wedding ceremony in an apple orchard 8,000ft above sea level.
“We did it just for us,” says Honeysuckle. “But all the locals were watching and at our wedding feast I had to eat an enormous raw ram’s head with just the skin taken off and I’m a vegetarian.
“Afterwards the women sat round me rubbing their tummies, smiling and saying, ‘You make baby now.’ They expected us to roll around in the hay in front of them.”
On their return and under pressure from both sets of parents to tie the knot properly Lorne offered Honeysuckle what she smilingly describes as a “revolting garnet knuckle-duster ring”, which he had designed himself.
They married in Barlavington, West Sussex, last July, and she wore a medieval-style silk gown that she had bought for £280 from an antiques shop in Hastings.
“When I threw the bouquet it landed in a tree and I swore right outside the church in front of the vicar,” she recalls. “Everyone looked rather shocked, then laughed to cover up their embarrassment. Somebody fished it out of the branches and I had to throw it again.”
The newlyweds left their celebrations by hot-air balloon on the first leg of a journey to honeymoon in Zanzibar, with Honeysuckle kitted out in white corduroy pantaloons and leather flying jacket. But just three miles out, the weather took a sudden turn for the worse and the balloon crash-landed, narrowly avoiding a lake.
“I didn’t want my mother to know our plan had gone wrong, so we hid from the rest of the party in a barn nearby,” she says. “We went for a swim in the lake at six o’clock the next morning.”
The unlikely couple live in a two-bedroom cottage in Kensal Green, and Honeysuckle seems impressed, rather than exasperated, by her husband’s “alternative” lifestyle.
“He makes me laugh he’s a one off,” she says. “I think people have better experiences when they’re older. They’re more interesting and sure of themselves, although he does have a youthful side. I don’t think I’ve remotely changed him. That would be a bad idea. He still wants to travel, to go off and have adventures.
“He tells me he has five wives in the Tibetan mountains and that he sleeps with them. I don’t know if he’s pulling my leg. I don’t mind if it’s in his past, but I’d rather he didn’t do it now.
“His parents are amazed he got married at all, he was so allured by the bachelor life. He’s had loads of girlfriends before he was a bit of a bad boy.”
In reality, however, their life together sounds fairly mundane. They walk their dog, watch The Simpsons and eat Honeysuckle’s home-made stew. She likes tending their “teeny” garden and spending time with her siblings. Perdita has just finished filming the TV series The Tudors, in which she plays Mary Boleyn, and Rollo has had parts in British and European TV dramas.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given her unstarry lifestyle, Honeysuckle has little time for the size-zero culture that female celebrities are increasingly expected to embrace
“I used to run ten miles every other day and eat very little,” she says. “I was living in London on my own for the first time and no one was checking on me. I wasn’t anorexic but lost three stone. I weighed around seven. It lasted six months until I ran out of willpower.
“Size zero doesn’t make you happy and I’m not sure I have the discipline for Hollywood. I’m too much of a fan of chocolate and crisps.
Currently in a theatre production of Henry James’s The Turn Of The Screw, in which she plays the governess, which she says is “quite intense because I have to go mad in every performance”, she seems more ambivalent than ambitious about her career.
“I’d like to be remembered as a national treasure, but I need to put myself out there more and not screw it up by being lazy,” she says.
“Lorne tells me I should have more meetings with my agent. He’s very ambitious for me and likes to check my outfits before I go to a meeting. I’m just happy to be working.”
She smiles sweetly not quite the dippy scatterbrain she seems keen to be seen as, but nonetheless a long way from Samantha Stewart.
The above “MailOnline” article can be accessed online here.