Monty Don says his wife 'doesn't enjoy' watching Succession

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It is already being described as the UK version of Succession – a gripping, dynastic study of how money, power and control can break even the closest ties. But alongside comparison to the hit show starring Brian Cox as media tycoon and patriarch Logan Roy, there is also an element of Dynasty and Dallas to ITV’s Riches with a sprinkling of Footballers Wives just for good measure.

Get ready for glamour, backstabbing and fabulous wealth. One of the flagship dramas on new streaming platform ITVX, Riches centres on the complex, dysfunctional Richards family, whose patriarch, Stephen (Holby City star Hugh Quarshie) founded Flair & Glory, a successful cosmetics empire for women of colour.

Now his children are fighting to seize control of the lucrative family business and it’s soon clear things are going to get dirty.

No one knows it better than Hermione Norris, who plays Stephen’s secretary Maureen Dawson. She has worked for the tycoon for years and knows where the bodies are buried.

“She is the all-seeing eye, the ever-present person of Flair & Glory,” explains Hermione with a chuckle. “She knows everything that has gone on in the company since the beginning. She just knows everything that is going on everywhere. She’s enigmatic and incredibly discreet.”

Rather like the actress herself, I suggest.

She laughs: “Oh I’m not like her at all. I don’t see anything of myself in Maureen. She is very, very quiet. Very, very discreet. I am probably too loud. Maureen has been a very loyal servant to Flair & Glory and Stephen. She has looked after him, been his confidante, his secretary and is a very loyal trusted servant. Is there more to their relationship? Aha! You’ll just have to wait and see.

“In the Richards family, everyone has their own currency as an individual and in this particular family, money is a huge part of that and you see how that bends them out of shape. How it defines them. How they value themselves is how much they are worth and how much they are going to get.

“They have probably had to lean on that rather than on themselves on an internal journey and I think that’s what it does. It forces characters to confront themselves and who they are. Identity and relationships in a complex family.”

Such conspicuous consumption, it must be said, is anathema to Hermione. She’s already fuming about the most visible signs of Christmas.

“I realise that this time of year can feel really pressurised for people – especially with the cost-of-living crisis,” she sighs.

“I’ve been getting a bit annoyed with Christmas adverts. I just think, ‘Come on guys – let’s go a bit easy on all the commercialism and consumerism this year’. Christmas is really about being with your loved ones and just being together as a family.

“I’ll be at my sister’s house – there are so many of us now. I’m from a massive family so it’s just fitting everybody in and being with each other for as long as is tolerable!”

While she is a big fan of the festive season, for her it is the little things that make it special.

“The magic of it, all the time-honoured rituals on Christmas Day morning, the carols, the trees, making the pudding and mince pies, and lighting log fires, and the candlelight,” she lists. “The simple things, I really love.”

But Christmas is also extra special for Hermione because she married her screenwriter and producer husband Simon Wheeler on December 21 at the Tower of London, and the couple celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary this year.

“I loved having a Christmas wedding because it meant I didn’t have to wear a ridiculous white dress. Instead, I wore red velvet and all our decorations were festive. We always put some wedding decorations on the tree.”

Charming and warm, it’s no wonder Hermione, 56, remains one of our most versatile actresses.

Over a career spanning nearly 35 years, she has starred in TV dramas as diverse as Cold Feet, Spooks, Wire In The Blood and Kingdom. However, she’s not sure she’d like to be starting out as an actor today – like her 18-year-old son Wilf.

“It’s all so different from the experience I had in the 1980s,” she says. “There were only four TV channels back then and look at it now. You have young actors writing and producing their own material, and that’s really impressive. But I think everything was much more straightforward back in the day.

“I left drama school and then I had to do repertory theatre to get my equity card as everything was equity-run. I think our expectations were lower in a way because the industry was smaller. It’s now exploded.

“America wasn’t really a thing, either. I’m making myself sound very old but it was a very, very different industry. There was no need to have social media followers or any of that business. I’m very grateful I didn’t have to do that. As a young actor, I think I would have found it quite intimidating.”

It transpires she isn’t exactly a fan of social media.

“It’s such a poisoned chalice – especially for young people,” she says. “As the mother of teenagers [Wilf and his sister Hero, 15], I find it all very worrying. I think the universal cry of my generation’s parenting is, ‘Come off your screens’ as we try to get our kids away from their phones and laptops.

“I think it’s worrying and concerning and definitely has a negative impact on our children’s mental health, which we know for a fact has never been worse. I think when we hand our children these devices it’s like handing them a grenade and saying, ‘Just go and play with that responsibly’.

“None of us knew it initially but the impact of social media can be devastating, especially for young people. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle and get rid of it, and it’s a real headache for all parents that this is the way the world has gone.

“I think companies have to start being responsible about what can be shared and accessed, and the effect that certain material has on young people’s minds.

“I also think the Government has a responsibility to do something about it – and soon. Now that actually would be a great New Year’s resolution for 2023. Social media is not my thing and I’m not comfortable with it. I do a bit of Instagram but just for work purposes.”

So what’s next work-wise, I wonder? “I’m hoping Riches will go again – I’d love to be involved in making another series of that. It was such fun to do,” she smiles.

“But I don’t know what’s happening work-wise as we go into 2023. I like the fact that I never know what’s around the corner – the unpredictability is exciting – but on the other hand, it can be a worry at times.”

Before going back to work, though – whatever it proves to be – there’s the end of this year to celebrate. So how about New Year’s Eve, will there be partying?

She laughs: “No! I don’t really like New Year’s Eve – I never have. Some people love the parties…but even when I was younger, they weren’t for me. New Year’s Eve, as far as I am concerned, is more a time for reflection and early bed.

“I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, either. I used to but I stopped years ago. They never worked for me and made me feel like a failure when I broke them.

“However, the one thing I always try and resolve to do on New Year’s Day is spend time by the sea. It’s so calming and restorative I find. Just the tonic you need after Christmas – even a simple one like mine.”

Riches begins streaming on ITVX on Thursday.

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