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Giovanna Fletcher reveals how she juggles acting and family life

After making her name as a successful novelist, famous podcaster and winner of I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here, Giovanna Fletcher is not sitting on her laurels, writes Alex Spencer.

She trained as an actor at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, where she met her future husband – McFly singer Tom Fletcher.

And she is now returning to the stage in an adaptation of Peter James’s book Wish You Were Dead, which is coming to the Cambridge Arts Theatre.

George Rainsford and Giovanna Fletcher. Picture: CRAIG SUGDEN (62458513)
George Rainsford and Giovanna Fletcher. Picture: CRAIG SUGDEN (62458513)

“The reason why I started writing books in the first place is because acting wasn’t happening. It was so quiet following the last recession and acting parts weren’t filtering through,” says Giovanna.

“So I started writing as a way of trying to regain a bit of control. Funnily enough, now that I’m back in the rehearsal period with this play I’ve realised it’s quite nice not to feel like everything’s on your shoulders.

“I’m enjoying being part of a company and it’s such a supportive team and we have so much fun. So although I love that time of writing books and having control over what I’m doing, I’ve also really enjoyed kind of letting go of that now and just being one of the company and seeing what you can see and what teamwork can create.”

Giovanna stars as pathologist Cleo Morey, wife of DSI Roy Grace (played by Casualty’s George Rainsford) in the stage play of Wish You Were Dead. It follows the couple as they take a much-needed holiday together. They are hoping for a few days away from their dark worlds of murder and the mortuary. But their dream escape turns out to be the holiday from hell, as the past comes back to haunt them.

Giovanna Fletcher. Picture: CRAIG SUGDEN (62458508)
Giovanna Fletcher. Picture: CRAIG SUGDEN (62458508)

Previous Peter James novels brought to the stage include Looking Good Dead, which premiered last year starring Adam Woodyatt and Gaynor Faye, The House on Cold Hill, starring Joe McFadden and Rita Simons in 2019, Not Dead Enough, starring Shane Richie and Laura Whitmore in 2017, Dead Simple, starring Tina Hobley in 2015, and The Perfect Murder, starring Les Dennis and Claire Goose in 2014. The TV series Grace launched on ITV in 2021, starring John Simm as DSI Roy Grace.

“I play Cleo, Roy’s wife, who has a four-month-old baby and I find it really interesting approaching Cleo at this point,” says Giovanna.

“She’s a pathologist and she deals with dead people all the time, but now she’s just given birth. I have really enjoyed looking into that a little bit as well, but also she’s craving that time together, and that escapism that comes with a holiday but not quite getting it.

“She’s definitely in a different place to where we would normally find her mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s not informing who she is, but it’s definitely a part of it.

“And I don’t think you can have a child without it affecting you in some way. I’ve been speaking to various pathologists about that period in life where there’s some crossover in terms of how you feel towards death.”

As a mum to three boys, Giovanna knows about the importance of finding some time to relax with
her own husband, whom she married in 2012.

Giovanna Fletcher, Clive Mantle, George Rainsford. Picture: CRAIG SUGDEN (62458523)
Giovanna Fletcher, Clive Mantle, George Rainsford. Picture: CRAIG SUGDEN (62458523)

“When the kids go to bed we carry on with our work. But usually around 10pm we will join together and watch something like Yellowstone, which we are watching at the moment, and just have a glass of wine and connect in that way,” she says.

“Also, on our weekends, especially on Sunday, it’s really important to us to be able just to be together as a family and be outdoors. It is hard when you’re juggling careers and kids, and that’s what Roy and Cleo are definitely facing. It’s something that has to be thought about, otherwise you can go a long time without connecting at all, so I think it’s got to be given some thought.”

Giovanna has given parenting a lot of thought as the author of the book Happy Mum, Happy Baby, which describes the ups and downs of being a mum. She has since launched a podcast of the same name, which has attracted many celebrity guests such as Helen Flanagan, Gemma Atkinson, Bryony Gordon, Jamelia, Ore and Portia Oduba, Kaytee Jones and Christine McGuinness, as well
as Catherine, Princess of Wales,
who talked to her about feeling “mum guilt”.

“I think most mums feel mum guilt. I think dads also feel that guilt because times have changed so massively. Especially in our house, it’s a 50-50 thing. We both juggle the whole lot together and I have to be able to step out of the house and not worry about having all the things that they need from school and just trust in the fact that Tom’s got it all sorted.

Giovanna Fletcher and George Rainsford. Picture: CRAIG SUGDEN (62458520)
Giovanna Fletcher and George Rainsford. Picture: CRAIG SUGDEN (62458520)

“I think mum guilt is definitely a thing that women struggle with. But then I’ve also realised that once you have children you feel guilty no matter what. And I think that stays with you for forever. Any pain they experience and any adversity and it falls on your shoulders.”

Giovanna adds that going away on tour for the play is hard but that it’s important for the children to see her enjoying work.

She says: “You have to believe in why you’re going and how important it is actually for them to see you doing things that you enjoy as well.

“If you’re away for work you’re providing for your family. Mums are still full-time mums, whether they’re at home or not. I don’t think you’re a part-time mum if you go out to work. It’s all just a juggle.

“I think the juggle makes us all feel guilty. But then even if you are home with the kids, I think you’d feel guilty about something else anyway.”

After her podcast with Princess Catherine, the royal asked her to stay in touch.

“I think it’s very hard to stay in touch with a royal,” she says.

“After we recorded the podcast, she just grabbed my hand and said, ‘You will stay in touch won’t you?’ I said yes, but how do you do that?

“I saw her a couple of weeks ago, when she launched her Shaping Us campaign – that will just grow
and grow.

“It’s looking into early years and the support that we can give children and parents and carers, the way that the community and everyone can be a part of shaping our kids’ lives.

“It is really great to see her backing an area that is underfunded and undervalued, and shining a light on how important that is.”

Giovanna stars in Wish You Were Dead, at the Cambridge Arts Theatre from March 6 to 11.

For tickets, priced £25-£47, visit the box office at cambridgeartstheatre.com.

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