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Interview: Tracy-Ann Oberman

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After a two-year absence, Friday Night Dinner is back.

Channel 4’s award-winning sitcom based on the dining experience of Jewish family The Goodman’s has returned to our screens with six episodes airing across May and June.

For Tracy-Ann Oberman, who plays recurring character Auntie Val, working on the latest instalment has been a great experience. 

Credit: Joseph Sinclair

Photo: Joseph Sinclair

“Normally with Auntie Val, she’s come in and out, so I’ve done a few days here and a week there, but this time I was in for the first month every day," says Oberman. "It was really great to work so closely with people I really like and really respect on a script that is naturally written.”

Leading characters Johnny (Tom Rosenthal) and Adam (Simon Bird) return to our screens as the Goodman brothers, causing more chaos alongside mum Jackie (Tamsin Greig) and dad Martin (Paul Ritter). Fan favourite Jim (Mark Heap) has also reprised his role alongside the unpredictable, but seemingly tame dog, Wilson.

“What’s particularly nice about Friday Night Dinner is you're working with actors such as Tamsin Greig, Tom and Paul, Mark Heap, all of whom have known each other a very long time," Oberman mused.

“We all go back years, on and off with each other, there is a real feeling of getting on. They cast it really well, you’ve got a really good set of actors."

Speaking of what the series is like to film, Oberman praised the show for its professionalism: “Robert [Popper’s] script is so well written that it’s almost like we rehearsed it like a piece of theatre. We have a good two weeks rehearsal period before we get on set which is very unusual, but by the time we get on set, we all know what we are doing."

“As a piece of television and a piece of comedy, it’s the most well prepared I think of anything I’ve done.”

The first episode of the new series saw Jim’s first romantic encounter, culminating in a hilarious sequence where date Jackie was brought into the Goodman’s House after Jim supposedly lost his house keys.

As the series progresses, viewers will be treated to more hilarious moments, including Martin's growing obsessed with a ventriloquist doll, a surprise party by Jacky, and Auntie Val’s son making his show debut.  

Such comic moments are meticulously performed however, as Oberman notes: “In TV, you often get the laughs out of the way in the read through and then if you rehearsed it and something funny happened. You can’t play comedy, you can only play the reality. Your character doesn’t find the situation funny, so you can only play the truth of the scene in the hope that the audience will find it funny."

Good acting is staying in the truth of the scene and not stepping outside of it and laughing.”

With the new series airing on Friday nights, Oberman hopes that youngsters and students will find the time to watch a show that is relevant to their demographic:

“It’s about family. It doesn’t matter how old you are the minute you walk back into your parent's house, you revert back to being the teenager or the kid you once were.”

Comedy is just one of Oberman’s strengths. Having appeared in over 600 radio plays and several major television shows such as Eastenders, Casualty and Doctor Who, Oberman has cemented herself has a leading figure in drama.

With youngsters often struggling to make it into the industry, Oberman feels now is better than any to make the jump.

“These days there’s much more chance of being seen. You’ve got everything online and you can make your own little taster tapes. You can put yourself out there and be seen by everyone."

On advice for young performers looking to break into the industry, Oberman insists that persistance is key: “List some notes of performances you like, casting directors who’ve work you’ve admired, directors whose work you’ve admired, and just write, send letters all the time. Writing to people and making connections."

"There’s so many more platforms on which to showcase your work, and all you’ve got to do is get a little word of mouth following. I really believe that good work will out.”

Friday Night Dinner airs on Fridays at 10pm on Channel 4.

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