To say the BBC’s latest drama In The Club is a family affair is an understatement.
Written by Fat Friends creator Kay Mellor, produced by her daughter Yvonne Francas, and with younger daughter, Emmerdale actress Gaynor Faye, working as a script editor, it’s a true family project.
And it’s not surprising that there’s such a convivial atmosphere on set in Leeds, where the cast are huddled on plastic seats and nattering between takes, given the series centres around six pregnant women - three of whom are played by Hermione Norris, Katherine Parkinson and Jill Halfpenny - who meet at a local NHS parentcraft (antenatal) class and share their anxieties and excitement about their new arrivals.
The series is fertile ground for the award-winning writer, with one of the characters in particular, a teenage mum called Rosie, played by newcomer Hannah Midgley, having a special resonance.
“The fact I was 16 when I had Yvonne, and then I later had Gaynor... it’s an experience that forms you as a person, I think,” says Mellor, who, at the time, hid her pregnancy from everyone for five months, apart from her boyfriend Anthony, who’s now her husband.
“I was at college and fearful of people finding out. It was the inevitability of it that’s terrifying really, because it won’t go away; the bump just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It wasn’t like I was an experienced, savvy young girl, I was much the same as Rosie.”
As well as teenage pregnancy, the series also delves into the impact of pregnancy on couples’ relationships, money troubles and domestic complications. Stars Halfpenny, Norris and Parkinson share their thoughts...
Jill Halfpenny takes on the role of stay-at-home mum Diane, who, along with husband Rick, played by Will Mellor, adopted two children after fertility problems meant they thought they’d never conceive. Now pregnant with their “miracle baby”, Diane is cautious and has genned up on the labour.
But Halfpenny, who won the second series of Strictly Come Dancing, admits she was less studious in her own approach, when she was pregnant with her son Harvey, five years ago.
“The only thing I’ve noticed through other friends who are expecting [is that] the hysteria surrounding what you can and can’t eat has just, in my opinion, become ridiculous,” says the 39-year-old.
“’Oh my God, I’ve had three cups of tea today, I was only supposed to have two!’ I’m like, ‘Just chill out, it’s fine’. I think my Mam probably thought I was uptight, but even now, I’m looking at people five years on and I’m going, ‘Really? I think you’ll be fine, it’s one piece of sushi’.”
Being around so many babies could make you broody, but Halfpenny’s unfazed. “You get five minutes with the babies on set and then they go back to their Mams, and when you’re trying to do a job it’s just annoying, isn’t it?” she says.
Cold Feet star Hermione Norris plays older mum Roanna, a businesswoman who is embroiled in a bitter fallout with her husband after starting a relationship with a toyboy - and finding herself falling pregnant.
Add two teenage children from her previous marriage who are “appalled”, and you have a disaster on your hands. Perfect, then, for a TV drama.
“She’s just on the roller coaster,” explains the 47-year-old Cold Feet star. “Her marriage was unhappy and she has fallen in love with an artist, who is probably young enough to be her son.”
Unlike Roanna, Norris enjoys a happy home life and looks back fondly on her pregnancies with her children, son Wilf and daughter Hero.
“Giving birth is the most extraordinary thing,” she says. “That moment in your life is the ultimate. That is it. In that moment, there is more drama, more emotion, more awe and bewilderment than at any other time in your life.”