"I get to have a very pleasant breakfast-time telephone chat with Moira Brooker, who is probably best-known as Judi Dench's adult daughter on AS TIME GOES BY ...
She greets me by saying, "it's a beautiful Spring morning here in Brighton," where she lives with her husband and three year-old daughter. I then inform her that it is 5:30 a.m. and cold as Hell here in New York. Moria says "Oh..." in a very delicate and sophisticated manner which is probably beyond the range of her fictional creation, "Judith".
Being that it is three days before the Oscars, both of our thoughts are on Dame Dench's chances of winning as Best Actress. Moira, whose hobbies include some light-hearted betting on horse races, tells me that "I loved Mrs. Brown and I'm putting lots of money on Judi. But the rumors in London are that Helen Hunt is a shoo-in for the win. Your know, one American against a field of four Britons."
While neither of us have seen Ms. Hunt in As Good As It Gets, we have both seen the rest of the nominated performances and agree that Dench's Queen Victoria is artistically several furlongs ahead of the others. "Judi is very excited about experiencing the Oscars for the first time," says Brooker, "although she was some what less thrilled by the Golden Globes. We were taping an episode of As Time Goes By... when the Golden Globes were being awarded. Judi totally forgot about the ceremony and it wasn't until the next morning that I found out she had won". As the Oscars approach, Dench is starring in London's West End in a sold-out production of David Hare's new play, Amy's View. Brooker quips that Miramax, which distributes Mrs. Brown, is buying out the theatre where Amy's View is playing "just to make sure that she doesn't forget again."
Brooker expresses surprise when I tell her that As Time Goes By... has achieved great popularity with PBS audiences in the U.S. "I have no idea why that should be the case", is how she puts it. I suggest that viewers may be reacting to traditional family values and the very nice depth of feeling among the fictional characters. Brooker concedes that "the entire cast and crew are like a family with no problems, which may explain the success." PBS audiences are, after all, rather good at reading--or viewing-- between the lines.
I then state my opinion that Brooker & Dench bring an extraordinary lifelife quality to the on-air mother and daughter dynamic. "I never really thought about it," replies Brooker. "Judi's real daughter is quite unlike me." She believes, however, that her physical similarity to Dame Judi undoubtedly had a lot to do with her getting the part. The first episode, after all, centered on the Geoffrey Palmar character recognizing a strong resemblance between Brooker and Dench.
Ironically says Brooker "Many British actors dislike being cast for our looks rather than our talent. We would rather be given a chance to show what we can do." She points out that "When the show began, Judith was a thirty-four year-old, twice-divorced women. But we never met her two husbands. Nor was her divorced status ever given much explanation." Then as the series went on "it seemed that Judith was being written younger and younger."
She does, however, like the way As Time Goes By... has evolved as time has gone by. "In the beginning, it was more comedic--a question of who is going out with who? Now it focuses on different lifestyles between the generations."
In Britain, she states "As Time Goes By..." gets more respect that most situation comedies because it is considered more of a comedy/drama. You can certainly enjoy the show without laughing at all."
When not being Judith, Brooker has recently appeared in another ongoing series, Out Of Sight, "in which I play the mother of an invisible boy." She also recently played a featured role in a French Canadian film called Auld Bob. Asked if As Time Goes By... will continue beyond its thus-far completed seven seasons, Brooker replies that "It's a possibility, but nothing is for sure yet."
The decision, after all, will largely be up to Dame Dench.
Bronwen Jones is a documentary filmmaker currently producing a documentary on TV and Radio in the former Yugoslavia.
Thanks to Dorothy Burgess for posting this article from British Television (Issue #11) to the list in August, 1998 and to Meggie for following that up with the actual article and photos.