Friday, 24 June 2016


…is an English actress best known for television roles such as Ever Decreasing Circles and Downton Abbey. She has enjoyed an extensive career on both stage and screen. She lives in London.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished doing Brief Encounters with ITV, then I have the BFG coming out here in July.

When are you at your happiest?
When I’m with my family. I’ve got a new granddaughter who was born in May, so that was a very happy moment. I have a little grandson too. They make me very happy. I also like walking, by myself, with friends or with my sister.

What is your greatest fear?
Not being able to work. Or anything happening to my family.

What is your earliest memory?
Being taken to the nursing home to visit my mother when my younger sister, who is three-and-a-half years younger than me, was born. I was amazed when she said ‘there’s your little sister’, and going to the corner and seeing a baby there. I couldn’t believe it because I had no idea she was having one. In those days things weren’t explained – or they certainly weren’t to me.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
My worry about being late. I hate it because I can’t relax.

Who has been your greatest influence?
One’s influenced very strongly by one’s parents, I think. I was certainly very influenced by my parents who I adored. In work I’ve been influenced by a number of people I’ve worked with. The biggest influence in my theatre career has been Harold Pinter.

What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t have a treasured possession.

What trait do you most deplore in others?
Small mindedness and blinkered vision. ‘I’m physically very strong’

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My hair.

What is your favourite book?
Renoir, My Father, by Jean Renoir.

What is your favourite film?
Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday.

first-imp-590-2Penelope picks Renoir’s book, the film Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, a Stevie Wonder song and seafood as her favourites

What is your favourite piece of music?

Isn’t She Lovely, from Songs In The Key Of Life, by Stevie Wonder because that came out just as my daughter was born, so that was lovely. I also like all of Sibelius, most of Bach, and quite a lot of Shostakovich.

What is your favourite meal?

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Georges Simenon, and Alfred Hitchcock.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
I can’t remember really.

Do you believe in aliens?

What is your secret vice?
I don’t really have any.

Do you write thank-you notes?

Which phrase do you most overuse?
‘Well, I was astounded.’

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
I think I’m a very lucky person, I have a perfectly nice life.

Tell us one thing people might not know about you.
I’m physically very strong. I’m not quite as strong as I used to be but I used to be very strong. And I’m quite a fast runner.

What would you like your epitaph to read?
‘She made some people smile.’

Brief Encounters, starring Penelope Wilton, will be broadcast on ITV in July.

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