One minute viewers will be laughing, then crying; Writer Kay Mellor and the stars of her new drama tell us about the ordeals of the six pregnant women at the centre of the storyline.
New series IN THE CLUB Tue BBC1 9pm Six heavily pregnant women meet every week in an antenatal group, but it will be a painful labour for each of them as secrets, lies, crime and tragedy threaten to ruin the miracle of childbirth.
Acclaimed writer Kay Mellor creates and directs this emotionally fraught six-part drama, for which she drew inspiration from her own experiences as a mother-of-two.
"Having babies is life-changing," says Kay, 63, who also penned TV hits The Syndicate and Fat Friends. "It was both painful and cathartic for me to draw on my own past, but this project has been very satisfying."
Filmed in Leeds and featuring a terrific ensemble cast, the half-dozen expectant ladies form a close bond while attending regular Parentcraft classes with their partners.
The mums-in-waiting are beleaguered housewife Diane (Jill Halfpenny), midwife Vicky (Christine Bottomley), teaching assistant Kim (Katherine Parkinson), businesswoman Roanna (Hermione Norris), newlywed Jasmine (Taj Atwal) and shy schoolgirl Rosie (Hannah Midgley).
With their baby bumps bulging, all six should be focusing on the imminent arrival of their little bundles of joy. But the ladies' due dates are soon overshadowed by the chaotic events in their personal lives.
Awkward teen Rosie, 15, is in denial about her pregnancy and hasn't revealed her delicate condition to anyone.
"was moved project got The young girl's shame closely mirrors Kay Mellor's own teenage pregnancy. She was just 16 when she gave birth to Yvonne - who worked with her mum as a producer on In The Club.
"I hid my pregnancy until the five month mark, so in many ways the Rosie character is based on me," Kay admits. "I felt that I'd let my mum down and was very fearful of people finding out."
Diane, meanwhile, is looking forward to welcoming the 'miracle child' doctors told her she would never conceive, but a scan reveals and director Kay Mellor that she is going to get more than she bargained for. On top of that, Diane's husband Rick is hiding a huge secret about the family's finances, which leads him to make a decision that will have devastating implications.
so by this that I pregnant "I'm not sure how much bad news Diane can handle in one day," says Jill Halfpenny, 39, "and it gets worse for her as the series continues. She has to almost rebuild herself totally from rock bottom, but I love her fight and spirit."
Lesbian teacher Kim (Katherine Jenkinson) is preparing for her second child with partner Susie (Tara Fitzgerald), but their complex relationship with the baby's biological father Neil (Jonathan Kerrigan) looks set to cause heartache for the couple.
While the rest of the female cast used padding to fake their baby bumps, Katherine genuinely had a bun in the oven.
ine "I was so moved by this project, I got pregnant!" laughs Katherine, 37, who also starred in The Honourable Woman and The Crowd. "I was going through the hardest when we started filming. I felt rough and migraines, but everyone was so supportive.
e IT stage got e. n't irth. ."
"I find it mind-boggling that there haven't been more TV dramas made about childbirth. It's the ultimate creation and so important."
o the " Although the cast is largely female dominated, the male characters are vital tonarrative drive of the emotive storylines. Former Hollyoaks star Will Mellor excels as Diane's penniless husband.
s "Rick felt like a real character to me," says Will, 38, a father of two himself. "I grew up ays p on a council estate and know people like this who have no money when they have kids.
"Everyone knows that you become a complete emotional wreck when you have your own. I cry most of the week now." And Will's co-star Sacha Dhawan, who plays Jasmine's doting husband Dev, reckons men will love the series as much as women.
"so blown away by the characters, twists and turns," says Sacha, who recently in Line Of Duty. "When I first heard the series, I thought, 'Oh God, pregnant - how boring!', but it's so moving. minute viewers will be laughing and they'll be crying."
I was stories, t was rece about th women - "One the next Creat exhauste bring her she belie to watch murders "I like driven an "Televisi We're liv spirit alw " Creator Kay cheerfully admits she was totally exhausted after working round the clock topet project to the small screen. And believes that TV audiences will be relieved a quality drama that doesn't feature murders, violence, cops or serial killers.
to tell stories that are character and life-affirming," she concludes. "Television doesn't always have to be so bleak.
living though tough times, but the human always manages to endure."
"I was so moved by this project that I got pregnant myself!" KATHERINE PARKINSON
CREATOR: Writer and director Kay Mellor
MONEY TROUBLES: Will Mellor and Jill
BUNS IN THE OVEN: Jill, Christine, Katherine, Hermione, Taj and Hannah