This new show will help you escape the real world with 'a bit of sunshine, laughter and comedy'

Lesley Sharp, Brenock O'Connor, Rosie Day and Philip Glenister in 'Living the Dream.' (Photo supplied: ITV Choice)
Lesley Sharp, Brenock O'Connor, Rosie Day and Philip Glenister in 'Living the Dream.' (Photo supplied: ITV Choice)

Cape Town - In ITV Choice's new six-part series - Living the Dream - a family leaves rain-soaked England to run a caravan park in sunny Florida. But as soon as they get there, they begin to realise that the American dream is not all it's cracked up to be.

The comedy-drama premieres on Monday, 25 November at 20:00 on ITV Choice (DStv 123).

Philip Glenister, who plays the father Mal Pemberton, is best known for his roles in the award-winning drama series Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes and Outcast.

In this Q&A he talks about the appeal of the series, the fun of doing lighter material and what he most enjoyed about working with his fellow cast members including Lesley Sharp, who plays his wife Jen, and Rosie Day and Brenock O'Connor as their children Tina and Freddie.

What was the appeal of Living the Dream? Were you intentionally seeking out something lighter?

I was finishing off shooting the second season of Outcast, when I was sent a script about a British family that move to Florida that was going to be filmed in Savannah. Savannah is amazing; it's like a giant film set, and my family were able to be with me, and we shot for a couple of months in great locations. We filmed on this pastureland in a wood that was on a real trailer park. During the day, it got very hot and humid, but it was fun.

What attracted you to this series?

The first thing that appealed to me was the fact that it shows a couple with a family, in their middle years, but who still love each other, and still really like each other. You see so many negative stories of people on television and film who are married and then the kids have grown up, and they suddenly go, "Do you know what? I hate you. I don't love you. You're horrible. And you just think, "Ugh!" So, we thought, "Let's turn the tables a bit. Let's show a couple that still have got a zest for life and want to go on an adventure, and they go and buy a trailer park in Florida, and see what happens." That was the premise that appealed. It was the positivity.

When there's so much negativity going on, not just on the telly, but in the world, it was really just wanting to be a part of something that you could escape with for an hour. It's a bit of sunshine, laughter and comedy, that lets you get away from the real world for an hour, and just be entertained. It's quite simple, as a premise, but it's just quite nice to be part of a show that's got positivity written all over it.

What do you think it was about a trailer park that made this guy want to make such a big leap?

One of the reasons is that, when you look at somewhere like Florida, there's something like 1.7 million Brits, alone, that visit Florida, and there are more than 700 000 that have actually moved there and made it their home. There's this idea that the Brits think of Florida as the Sunshine State, and as being this Disney theme park. There's something built into thinking, "We have to go to Florida. It's all going to be wonderful and sunshine and an easy life." Of course, the world doesn't work like that, especially when you go and try to run a business. Mal, my character, tends to run before he can walk. In many relationships, it's the woman, Lesley Sharp's character, Jen, who's the one to rein him in and who keeps the whole family going. I think that's true in many marriages. Women are far cleverer, much better at multi-tasking, far better at dealing with tricky situations and thinking about things before the horse bolts.

Do you think that, if he really knew what he was getting himself into, Mal Pemberton would still have taken this adventure anyway?

Yeah, probably. It's a great premise for comedy and drama because you can keep moving it on with different characters who come into the park. You can get new characters coming in and moving out, and you can get people visiting. You've got so many options, in terms of creating fantastic characters and getting an eclectic mix. I think we've got an amazing mix in season one, in the park and with our neighbour. I love all of the little quirks and things. There's great room for characterisation. And as a family, we're the backbone and the constant of the piece.

Was it a very open and collaborative set, in that sense?

It was one of the most enjoyable shoots that I've ever worked on, to be honest. Except for the bugs and the humidity, it went really smoothly, and everybody got on. We just felt like a family. That's always such a huge advantage because, when you're away from home for a long period, you want the cast and crew to become your family, and we were very fortunate. I know how hard American crews work. They just get on with it. If you need a crane shot, they'll build a crane and do it fast, so that you can get to filming. It was just very productive, very creative, an a really happy, good atmosphere on set, which I think is so important because life's too short. There's no room for divas.

The relationship between Mal and his kids are nice, too.

Yeah. But again, in a funny sort of way, Brenock and Rosie are fabulous. They became Lesley and my TV family, to the point now where my daughter, Millie, who's 17, has written a 10-minute short film that Rosie is going to direct. When we were filming, they all went out with each other – my real kids and my TV kids – and they hit it off. It was lovely. It was really nice that they got a good friendship going with them, as well.

Compiled by Leandra Engelbrecht.