Felicity Kendal, 66, has appeared in stage and television roles from Shakespeare, Beckett and Feydeau to her well-known role as Barbara in The Good Life. She was created CBE in 1995 for services to drama.
What was your earliest ambition?
When I was little nothing seemed more glamorous to me than being a secretary, hair all done, long nails, clattering around in very high heels.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
Loreto Convents. They were the top education for girls in India, where I grew up. Then straight into work.
Who was or still is your mentor?
A lot of brilliant people, from actors to directors to writers. The original would have been my father. Peter Hall believed in me and gave me work in parts that challenged me.
How physically fit are you?
Pretty fit, but I have to now work very, very hard to stay in the shape that I find acceptable.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
You also need a little bit of luck and some hard work.
I wouldn’t dare. I think I’d be rather average.
How politically committed are you?
Very, in the sense of morals and how society should be structured and how people should behave. I believe in equality and generosity to other people’s beliefs.
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
I do. We all do our bit but I think governments should do much more.
Do you have more than one home?
I live in more than one.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
Guaranteed time. I would love to know: “OK, you’ve got at least 20 years, girl.” But you can’t possess time, so a larger bank balance.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Writing lists. It doesn’t mean that anything gets done. It’s an extravagance of paper, time, my mental energy.
In what place are you happiest?
On holiday anywhere with the family.
What ambitions do you still have?
Not many! At the moment my ambition is that this play does well.
What drives you on?
The work ethic instilled in me by my parents. Even now when I turn something down, I feel guilty.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
My family. Not just my two sons – the grandchildren all know each other and we have continued the family institution my parents set up. My sister was passionate about keeping the family together, probably because we grew up as gypsies. When she died, she passed me the baton.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
My sister dying so young – and not being able to see her grandchildren.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
She’d say, “Go, girl. You got your act together at last.” I’m happy in my skin now; I was all over the shop in my early twenties.
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
I wouldn’t try and be an actor, that’s for sure. I couldn’t be lucky twice. I’d work with a children’s charity.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
My father had several strokes and was on a life support machine for some years. I was not about to play God. I have an almost spiritual belief one shouldn’t end a life but I couldn’t judge someone who felt it was the right thing to do.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
I don’t think we have a clue! I certainly believe in a spiritual life. Whether that incorporates an afterlife, I don’t know.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Felicity Kendal stars in ‘Relatively Speaking’ at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre from May 14. Box Office: 0844 482 5120/ www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk