Actor and writer Daisy May Cooper, 36, grew up in Cirencester and studied at Rada. She won a Bafta for BBC Three comedy This Country, which she co-wrote with her younger brother Charlie. She played Peggotty in Armando Iannucci’s film The Personal History of David Copperfield. She’s a team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Last week she was Bafta-nominated for her role in comic thriller Am I Being Unreasonable?, and was also reported to be in talks to play M in the next James Bond film. She now leads BBC/HBO show Rain Dogs, written by Skint Estate author Cash Carraway. She lives in Gloucestershire with her two children.
What’s your new BBC series Rain Dogs about?
A single mum who’s struggling to become a writer while living in dire poverty, trying to stay sober and trying to be a good parent. Except if one thing’s going right, she’s failing at the others. That’s the only way I can describe Rain Dogs because it’s a complete one-off. It’s so beautifully written by Cash Carraway, I had to say yes.
Were you drawn to her as a kindred spirit?
Absolutely. I connected with her memoir Skint Estate on so many levels. Growing up in poverty is such a bloody ball-ache. Money doesn’t buy happiness but it gives you options. Not having money is like playing a constant game of chess. You think: “If I spend my money on tampons, that means I have to choose between getting food or taking the bus.” You have to plan ahead all the time and it’s exhausting. Rain Dogs captures all that. And to seal the deal, my character said the word “cunt” on the first page of the script, so I had to do it.
Did your character’s struggles remind you of your own early days?
Definitely. She’s just stuck. As we meet her, she doesn’t have somewhere to live. I’ve been there so many times. Having to go to the housing association, which was not only so fucking boring, but you’d feel like dog shit on their shoe. I remember them trying to split our family up. They were like: “Right, we’ve got one place in Weston-super-Mare, so we’ll put one of you there, and a bedsit in Bristol, so we’ll put one of you there.” And it’s like: “No, we want to be together.” There was fuck all empathy or humanity. It was so frustrating and bleak.
Rain Dogs vividly portrays the anxiety and panic of poverty.
Imagine having a heroin addiction on top of that. If you don’t get a tenner by the end of the day, you’ll be going cold turkey. The stress of it. It’s a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Yet in this country, it’s worse than ever. People are being forced to use food banks who shouldn’t be. Cash Carraway totally gets that because she’s lived it. She writes from the heart and says it how it is.
Your character Costello works in a peep show. Didn’t you once audition to be a pole dancer?
Yes, and I was reminded exactly why I didn’t pass the audition, because I’m possibly the world’s unsexiest woman. When I try to be sexy, I look like a psychopath.
Adrian Edmondson is in the Rain Dogs cast. Was he a comedy hero of yours?
I used to stay up late watching Bottom and remember being in such awe. If somebody had told me I’d be acting with him one day – in fact, he’d be having a wank over me – I’d have been blown away. But he’s incredible. There’s a quite serious scene where I’m looking into Ade’s eyes and he performed it so gorgeously, I forgot my lines.
Along with Am I Being Unreasonable?, have you hit on a rich seam of playing rock’n’roll mums?
I don’t see them as rock’n’roll mums. I’m just playing myself. I try to get through life but still feel as if I’m 15. I genuinely thought I’d grow up when I had kids but my daughter is constantly saying: “Mum, stop it. Don’t wear that. Don’t dance to that.” I never thought I’d become the embarrassing mother but here we are.
Do you miss This Country and might there be more?
I miss it so much! The BBC asked me to do a Christmas special. I definitely want to bring it back in some form but it’s about getting it right so we don’t upset the fans. We need to get the whole cast together and make it absolutely perfect. I always fancied doing a touring stage show where the vicar is trying to put on a pantomime, with Kerry and Kurtan as stage hands. A Punchdrunk [theatre] thing where we improvise and interact with the audience.
After David Copperfield and Avenue 5, are you pleased to be among Armando Iannucci’s regular ensemble?
So thrilled, because The Day Today was one of my early comedy obsessions. From age eight, me and my brother constantly quoted it. Which is weird because I don’t know how we got any of the political jokes. But Armando’s one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with. Anything that he does, if he wants me, I’ll drop everything to be there.
Where do you keep your Bafta?
Right by the front door so that whoever comes in, like the plumber or the Sky man, sees it immediately. A few months ago, the guy fixing the Sky said: “I know who you are! Honey G from X Factor!” Arsehole! No offence to Honey G.
Who has been your favourite Buzzcocks guest?
Pete Doherty, without a shadow of a doubt. He’s so smart and funny. I mean, he’s an absolute fuckhead as well. He was drinking mugs of half port and half brandy. He got so smashed, he ended up dancing on the table, but he’s so clever, charming and brilliant. I totally get that because I’m the same. I drink to excess. It’s just to stop his mind. He has to numb it, I think. He told me how he’s seen ghosts. He lived in a house where the west wing was full of spirits and he’d hear them having parties at night. Either that or he was off his head on drugs. But he swore to God and I believed him. He said it with such sincerity, I thought I was going to cry.
What’s in the pipeline for you?
A third series of Buzzcocks and series two of Am I Being Unreasonable?. Me and Selin [Hizli, her best friend and co-creator] are writing it now. Getting paid just to hang out is an extraordinary privilege. I’ve also started writing this film – a comedy-drama-horror-romance. It’s the first thing I’ve written on my own.
Is it fair to say you’re drawn to genre-bending work?
Totally, because I’ve always thought that’s what life is like. Life is funny and sad and horrific and hilarious. Sometimes I watch dramas with no humour in them at all and don’t find that realistic. There must be police officers who go to somebody’s house to break the news of a dead family member but do a massive fart in the squad car before they go in. You should see more of that.
You reached the quarter-final of The Masked Singer last month. Did you choose to be Otter?
I loved that. Best job ever. They gave me three different outfit options and I picked Otter. I thought it doesn’t matter if I can’t sing, kids will think it’s cute and vote for me. Plus the outfit gave me hips and an arse. It was so much fun but I was jealous of Pigeon. In between takes, I’d be out on stage, trying to make the audience laugh. Pigeon would do the smallest thing, like coo or peck, and completely upstage me. But it turned out to be Katherine Ryan, who’s brilliant, so I’ll let her off.
Several of your real family members were among This Country’s cast. Are they keen for a comeback?
My uncle and my dad are constantly on the phone, asking: “When are you going to bring This Country back? Because we’re not working.” I say: “It’s not my responsibility to pay your mortgage.” I’m going to have to crowbar them into Am I Being Unreasonable?. I’m basically being bullied into giving them parts.
Is your work ethic driven by growing up in poverty?
I don’t know how long this is going to last and also know how awful it is not having any security. So I fear if I turn anything down, I’ll regret it. The other day, my bank thought there was fraudulent activity on my card so they blocked it. My card got declined in a shop, and I thought, I’m having a panic attack. It propelled me straight back. I vividly remember the embarrassment of doing a family food shop and having to leave everything at the checkout, which happened many times. I called the bank and started crying on the phone. So that will never go, I think.
When you’re not working or parenting, how do you relax?
I’ve got into crayfishing, and watching old episodes of Strange But True, a 90s paranormal show with Michael Aspel. They’re the only two things I’m into at the minute: crayfish and Aspel.
Rain Dogs starts on Tuesday 4 April at 10.40pm on BBC One