Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser is returning to TV screens in a new feature-length adaptation of Peter Pan, on ITV tonight. The Glaswegian actress tells YL why the moving adaptation will still have universal appeal
For down-to-earth Laura Fraser, there’s nothing at all true in the old chestnut about work drying up for actresses in their 30s.
Now 39, she’s most famous for playing businesswoman and black marketeer Lydia Rodarte-Quayle in the last series of cult hit Breaking Bad – a role she landed after she turned 35.
“I remember being really worried about that in my early 30s, and I’ve actually had more interesting roles and more frequent job offers than I did in my 20s,” she says, adding that the gender balance in the industry appears to be “changing”.
“I’m seeing more women in roles that used to be played by men – on a cop show, you know, it used to be 80% men and now it feels like it’s 70/30 or even 60/40 with women, so it feels like it’s evening up a bit.”
Married to fellow actor and writer Karl Geary, with whom she has a daughter, Lila, Fraser doesn’t have quite the same ardent views on equal pay as Jennifer Lawrence, but she does admit: “It feels funny to talk about, because we’re in a privileged position and we get paid very well, and not just in this country, in this industry. But yes, gender inequality worldwide, we need to address that gap.”
Her latest project is Peter & Wendy, a feature-length adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, on ITV tonight at 8pm.
Fraser plays two parts: Mrs Darling, the mother of Wendy, John and Michael in the traditional tale – and also Julie Rose, the modern-day single mother of 12-year-old Lucy (Hazel Doupe, who also plays Wendy), who is awaiting heart surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The story starts in the present day, with Lucy and her mum arriving at the hospital and meeting surgeon Mr Wylie (played by Stanley Tucci, who doubles up as Captain Hook).
That evening, Lucy is given an old copy of Peter Pan and reads it to some of the children in the hospital, before dreaming herself into Neverland.
“Peter’s Pan is universally loved, isn’t it?” says Fraser – who trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama – on why the role appealed.
“Everyone feels quite warm towards it, including me –
and then there’s the fact it’s this retelling, where it’s set against this modern-day backdrop of Great Ormond Street Hospital, which seemed really interesting.
“And just the idea of playing a mother who’s dealing with possibly losing her daughter at such as young age is fascinating to play.”
Being a mother herself, did she find the storyline upsetting?
“Morbid as it sounds, it’s quite a cathartic experience playing a role like that, because you can act out all your own fears and hopefully get rid of them for a while,” she reflects. “I always have so much worry as a mother, so I dwelt on that and exaggerated it for the duration of the job.
“It was always great when I got to come home and cuddle Lila,” Fraser continues, “and she was jumping about and was not attached to any tube. God, it makes you so grateful…”
Peter & Wendy was filmed partly in the real Great Ormond Street Hospital and partly in Luxembourg, where they recreated the hospital.
“I’d never been to Great Ormond Street before. It’s got such a friendly vibe. It was quite quiet the day we were filming, but we did have to stop a few times when children were being brought through and it was just gut-wrenching. Sometimes some of the crew would cry – it was just so moving.”
Stanley Tucci was “an absolute hoot” to work with, she notes, and Fraser confesses: “You would definitely fancy him if he was your doctor!”
Since Breaking Bad, she says she’s been recognised more – particularly by the series’ more geeky fans.
“When I was living in New York, I would only get recognised in very specific demographics. So if I went to the Apple store, tech people would come up to me and then also very young people, like 18/19-year-olds. Then when I came over to the UK, maybe once a week, someone would go, ‘Oh, you’re the one from Breaking Bad’, but it’s not very often.”
Juggling work commitments with parenthood is proving straightforward so far.
“I’m really lucky because Karl (her husband) has been writing a book for the last couple of years, so he’s been happy to be at home. My daughter goes to school, so he writes while she’s at school, then he can collect her.”
They were both working on the same film last year, though.
“It’s called I’m Not A Serial Killer and it was all shot in a morgue in Minneapolis – a working morgue. So my dad came over to look after our daughter while we were on that, but it’s very rare that we’re both working at the same time, so that’s good.”
Christmas for Fraser and her family will be at home in Glasgow – where they recently returned after four years living in America.
“I just felt really homesick, my daughter was dying to move back where all her cousins and where granny and grandpa were. It has that familiar feeling when you’re walking around, and now my daughter’s going to my school that I loved – it’s a local little school, so we feel really glad and lucky.”
Peter Pan famously never grew up, so if Fraser could return to her younger self with words of advice, what would she say?
“I would just say, ‘It’s all right, you don’t need to worry, you don’t need to be so afraid, it’s OK’.”