There’s a very lovely, new interview with Emilia and her mum on the dailymail website – read it below and don’t forget to take a look at the gorgeous photos from the photoshoot as well!
Stylish mother and daughter Joanna David and Emilia Fox are joined by Jo Fairley for a trying-on session in the run-up to the Jacques Vert Group Mum & Me Coatwalk event in association with YOU supporting Think Pink, which celebrates this special bond with a chance for you to find your perfect winter coat.
For more information about how you can join Emilia Fox and Joanna David at the Jacques Vert Group Mum & Me Coatwalk event in association with YOU supporting Think Pink click here
Joanna David and her daughter Emilia Fox seem to have the kind of relationship that every mother and daughter long for. Their sheer enjoyment at being together for the photoshoot radiates affectionately out of every (perfect) pore of their English rose complexions as they cosy up for the photographer.
Actually, the pair positively leapt at the chance of being snapped in each other’s company for once, rather than separately, to publicise whichever play/film each might be working on: the latest instalments in respectively illustrious acting careers.
In Emilia’s case this means the next series of Silent Witness, and in Joanna’s – oh, the excitement – the new series of Downton Abbey, in which she makes an appearance as the Duchess of Yeovil.
And they’re looking forward to being together again on 26 October – as special guests at the Jacques Vert Group Mum & Me Coatwalk event in association with YOU supporting Think Pink, to be held on London’s Southbank.
Of course, you might think that when sundry members of a theatrical dynasty as illustrious as the Foxes get together, all they talk about is acting: Emilia’s father is Edward Fox, her uncles are James and Robert – the latter a successful theatrical producer.
Younger brother Freddie is making a name for himself on the London stage with roles in The Judas Kiss, opposite Rupert Everett, and Hay Fever. Emilia’s cousins Lydia, Jack and Laurence are all actors, too – and Laurence also happens to be married to Billie Piper.
‘Talking shop is the last thing on our minds when we all get together,’ smiles Emilia, who takes a call from Laurence wishing her a happy birthday during our lunch. ‘We’re too busy making each other laugh.’
And today? Echoing the Mum & Me theme of the special Southbank event, YOU asked Joanna and Emilia to talk about what they’ve learnt from each other. Some mothers and daughters might prefer to do this separately, for fear of embarrassment/shyness, but not these two.
Theirs is certainly a very different relationship from the one that Joanna enjoyed with her own mother. ‘My father went bankrupt when I was ten. He deserted us completely and the bailiffs took everything. Mum was reduced to taking in lodgers and went to work in a hospital. My childhood was pretty much over at that point because I had to take on a lot of responsibilities.’
Not that it stopped Joanna winning a scholarship to Elmhurst Ballet School a few years later. ‘And one of the things I learned from my mother, while I was there, is the importance of writing letters,’ says Joanna.
‘That, and how to turn mince, which is an incredibly cheap food, into something delicious,’ she adds, laughing. ‘We may not have had two pennies to rub together, but when I was away at school, I always used to get regular letters from home – and a lot of the children didn’t.’
‘Mum’s always writing beautiful thank-you letters for just about anything,’ Emilia chips in. ‘That’s partly because I’m useless on the computer,’ Joanna counters.
After Elmhurst, Joanna was ‘gutted’ not to get into the Royal Ballet School. ‘So you became a “Laguna Lovely”,’ says her daughter.
‘What she means is that I danced on stage in The Ocean Revue with Roy Hudd in Clacton-on-Sea – and that was the start of my stage career,’ says Joanna. Her big break was the BBC’s Sense and Sensibility in 1971, followed by War and Peace, Rebecca – and almost too many other roles to count since then.
But when Emilia came along in 1974, quite soon after her first successes, Joanna was determined to give her daughter the security that had been lacking in her own childhood.
‘Edward felt the same way. He’d been divorced, and has a wonderful daughter, Lucy – my stepdaughter – but he was very conscious of the fact that, as a result of that divorce, Lucy hadn’t had a secure childhood either. We wanted it to be different for Millie – and, later, for Freddie. [There’s a 15-year gap between the younger Foxes.] So I was firm about having a routine.
And from an early age I also wanted Millie to discover music – so I took her to a lot of concerts at places like the Royal Festival Hall.’
‘And there was piano and cello,’ her daughter chips in. ‘I seemed to be being ferried constantly from one music lesson to another.’
‘I think I was probably overprotective,’ acknowledges Joanna. ‘I don’t think I let Millie go to school on her own till she was about 13.’
Her parents certainly never encouraged Emilia to go into acting when the time came for career choices. ‘In fact, they tried to steer me away from it,’ she says, ‘but at the same time encouraged me to work hard at school and stay on at university as a kind of insurance policy.’
‘I rather hoped you’d become a doctor, or something steady,’ Joanna smiles. Emilia continues, ‘When you’ve grown up surrounded by actors, the rose-tinted spectacles are definitely off – I saw the highs and lows close-up.’
Undeterred, Emilia did a few plays while at Oxford (she read English), and before she’d even graduated the opportunity came to play Mr Darcy’s sister Georgiana in Pride and Prejudice, in which Joanna had the role of Mrs Gardiner. ‘I took it very seriously,’ smiles Emilia. ‘Lots of early nights to learn my lines. But Mum would be up, laughing in the Jacuzzi with Colin Firth at 2am, which sums her up: she’s the life and soul of the party.’
Joanna is also – no surprises here – a hugely supportive grandma to Rose, Emilia’s two-year-old daughter (whose father, the actor Jeremy Gilley, Emilia split from when her baby was just a few months old).
‘Mum and Dad were there for most of the ten hours that I was in labour. And Mum became a real friend to me when Rose was born,’ recalls Emilia. ‘You haven’t a clue what you’re doing as a new mother. But then,’ she adds, ‘over the years, we’ve had this weird role reversal…’
What Emilia’s referring to is that, twice in her life, her mother has suffered from quite serious depression – once after a brain operation 20 years ago, and the second time three years ago, as a knock-on effect of developing Ménière’s disease, which affects the inner ear and balance and triggered a seizure.
‘With the support of my husband and my children, I came flying out the other side,’ recalls Joanna. ‘But all those experiences do help to make you stronger and more understanding of other people with similar problems.’
Emilia apparently arrived at hospital laden with cushions and nice bedlinen, to make the room more homely. Today, looking at her mother, Emilia says fondly: ‘So, when you’ve been ill, I’ve been stronger – and then Rose comes along, and it evens out…’
That seesawing notwithstanding, ‘really, the word that mostly jumps to mind when I try to sum up Mum is strength,’ says Emilia. ‘I know what she went through as a child, and I know what she sacrificed for her children to make sure we grew up in a secure environment, when acting’s such an insecure profession. Work could have taken her to the other side of the world – she had the opportunities – but she always put us first.
So I have the stability that comes from a loving environment. Mum and Dad really are the bedrock of my life, and I’m trying to do that for Rose – although it’s different because as a single mother I have to work to keep the whole show on the road.’
Joanna acknowledges, ‘I hugely admire Millie’s endurance and the way she’s managing to maintain her career, bring up her daughter, and look after the home she’s created – without being in the least neurotic!’
Emilia acknowledges, meanwhile, that she’s learning a great deal from her own daughter.
‘I guess the big thing is rediscovering how to live in the moment. With a small child, there’s no past, no future – there’s only right now. I’m even planning to take her camping,’ she laughs, ‘which is probably completely mad as I’m going to have to make the fire, boil the water – and the chances of Rose getting to sleep outside with mooing cows and clucking hens are probably zero.’
In any busy life, something has to give.
Between the demands of a toddler and hectic careers, there’s precious little time for Joanna and Emilia to go shopping together nowadays.
So on today’s shoot they’re relishing ooh-ing and ah-ing over the clothes together. Their styles are quite different, however: Emilia favours tailored clothes, ‘whereas Mum’s style is very
soft and pretty, that’s just the person she is.
She has always worn Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps, for example, which is about as feminine as a perfume gets. I can smell it in a room full of people and know that Mum’s there.’
Appropriately enough for the stars of the Jacques Vert Group Mum & Me Coatwalk event in association with YOU, a smart winter coat was usually at the top of Joanna’s shopping wishlist
for her daughter when she was growing up – although it didn’t always quite work out the way she’d hoped.
‘I clearly remember my grandmother being very disapproving about a black military coat I’d bought at Kensington Market, telling me how lacking in elegance it was. Of course, she was absolutely right! And I definitely think she’d be rather more pleased with what I’m wearing now,’ she says, snuggling into her cosy Planet coat.
And with that, lunch is over and it’s back to the bright lights, the camera, the action. Laughing, talking, smiling: the picture of a mother and a daughter utterly content in each other’s company, and glued together through thick and thin.
As achievements go, even for two acclaimed actresses, not much can beat that.