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Forever mine; Screen mum and hit comedy star, Rhian Morgan, tells Alun Prichard why breaking family ties is hard on and off screen.

Byline: Alun Prichard

AS Val Vivaldi she is the woman who gave up on her own family for an affair but for actress Rhian Morgan family ties are hard to break - even fictional ones.

Rhian spent four months filming the hit comedy drama Mine All Mine set in Swansea at the end of 2003 but still keeps in regular contact with her on screen family. She plays the middle aged mother of three, and wife of eccentric Max who inherits the whole of Swansea through an ancient family legacy in the five part ITV1 drama written by Russell T Davies.

``I speak to them almost every other day, '' she says, ``I've two sons of my own but I look on the actor Matthew Barry who plays Val's son Leo almost as my eldest son.

``We're often on the phone and he will even phone me from the shops to ask what he should buy, '' she laughs.

``And I'm in regular contact with Siwan who plays my daughter Maria in the show, and Joanna who plays Candy is married in real life to actor James Thornton and lives in London, so naturally I don't hear from her so often. It is just like a real family and we all got on so well. ''

While they all got on well off screen much of the drama on screen is generated by family disharmony.

``I think a lot of the family is based around Russell's family in Swansea. He's one of three with two older sisters and his family is a very lively one with everyone talking over each other - quite a chaotic family.

`` And he lost his mother to cancer two or three years ago, and was keen to write about Swansea, so rather than write something sad about illness, he chose to write something his mother would have enjoyed - a comedy drama. ''

The comedy is controlled by an experienced hand with Griff Rhys Jones at the helm, but Rhian says the multi millionaire comedian, presenter and producer had a few worries about taking on the part. ``He was quite an unassuming person and worried that he wasn't seen as an actor, of course he is known as a performer but not an actor. But I think it was great to have him at the head of the cast because he is such a popular figure and draws an audience that might not have switched on to something based in Wales - he appeals more to the mainstream. ''

But it is his sometimes wobbly Swansea accent which has seen a few critics sharpen their tongues.

``He was worried about the accent, his parents came from South Wales but he was brought up in Epping, but I think his accent got better from the first episode.

While Rhys Jones is a familiar face to most in the UK, Rhian is also immediately recognisable as Carol Gwyther to Pobol Y Cwm's loyal fans though not her co-stars.

``I've left Pobol Y Cwm since 1990, so the younger ones would have been too young and of course Griff Rhys Jones would have known nothing of Pobol Y Cwm. ''Mine All Mine which reaches a climactic finale on December 23, has won a lot of fans in Wales for not only setting itself in Wales and relying heavily on Welsh actors from the region, Rhian herself is from Swansea, but for not portraying a cliched view of the country.

Rhian says: ``I think Russell is an author of weight and is so highly respected that he doesn't have to be so serious about his Welshness, he can throw his Welshness in the air like a ball and play with it. ''

In fact Rhian says she has had such positive feedback from the public in South Wales and enjoyed the filming experience so much that she hopes there might be a second series.

``I think the whole cast would love to make more, as we all loved to be in a drama that is so well written and had such high production values. ''Mine All Mine ITV1, December 23, 9pm


Rhian Morgan as Val Vivaldi with her on screen husband, Max, played by Griff Rhys Jones
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 18, 2004
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