Keeley Hawes (Louisa Durrell) helms the star-studded cast of 
BBC First’s The Durrells. Picture: Supplied
Based on Gerald Durrell’s much-loved trilogy: My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods, this feel-good drama revolves around widow Louisa Durrell (played by Keeley Hawes) who, in wanting the best for her family in late 1930s England, decides to relocate to Greece with her four children, aged 11 to 21.

Best remembered for her role as Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton in the second series of Line of Duty and as Emily Hughes in The Missing, here she was attracted to the light-hearted tone of The Durrells.

“The scripts are fantastic and so funny. I love the books, so that was the one thing I was most relieved about. I came to Corfu on a family holiday when I was 9 or 10. It was the first time I had been abroad. I had just read the first book and it was literally like stepping into the pages. It was amazing. So I’ve always been very close to it.

“I had started reading the first book to my two youngest children when The Durrells came along. So it was all rather nice and timely. I think my children will love this show. They have been to Corfu and I’ve been able to fly home during breaks in filming. It’s not far and it’s not forever.

“I don’t think anyone could blame me for jumping at this and making the most of it.”

When asked whether she is familiar with the previous TV adaptations in 1987 and 2005, she replies: “Before the second one I was working on a Marple with Matthew Goode who was then going off to play Larry Durrell in that film. I was really frustrated because this was 10 years ago, I wasn’t old enough to play the mother and there just wasn’t a part for me.

Ehle's new preggers range ad-dresses bump in fashion!

“So when I heard they were doing this my heart skipped a beat. I was about a quarter of the way through reading it to my children when The Durrells came up and I was genuinely thrilled.”

Shedding light on her character, she notes, “Louise Dixie Durrell is slightly different from the woman we know from the Gerald Durrell books. Because the books are told from a child’s point of view and the stories about his mother are of this perfect woman. There’s no mention of any money worries or troubles. She’s the perfect mother. He’s the baby of the family and she lets him get away with everything.

“One of the things I really like about this TV version is Louisa is a woman struggling.

“She’s been on her own for eight years since her husband died, bringing up three teenagers and a little boy on her own. And she does something so brave and amazing to move from Bournemouth to Corfu.

“Back in 1935 Louisa took four children to Corfu. A single mother taking four children to a foreign country, to a Greek island with a different language, no electricity, no telephone, no quick budget flight back home, is just a complete change of life.

“To lift them all up and say, ‘Right, I’m going to give you a better life than the one we have now and this is what we are going to do’. That is such a brave, forward-thinking, modern thing for a woman on her own to do.”

Stilo Magolide stays true to self

And, the actress continues: “It really does feel like we have been a real family forever with Larry (Josh O’Connor), Leslie (Callum Woodhouse), Margo (Daisy Waterstone) and Gerry (Milo Parker). They’re all completely different and all so well cast.”

The Durrells is one of those heart-warming dramas, laden with a few tear-jerk moments and a bit of romance. It is entertaining and inspiring and boasts the most picture-perfect setting.

* The Durrells airs on BBC First (DStv Channel 119) on Sundays at 8pm.