12 Jul 2013

We interviewed Tamzin Outhwaite about her involvement with Father's Day, the dark mini-drama about prostate cancer which also starred Neil Stuke, Ray Winstone, Charles Dance, John Simm, Cyril Nri and Stuart Laing.

How did you first get involved with the film?

Tamzin Outhwaite: 1959_SHP64039_230x230I got the call about the film through my agent. Neil Stuke was the name behind it, so I wanted to do it as he's a friend. When I heard that Ray Winstone, John Simm and Charles Dance were on board, I was really excited, I've never worked with any of them before. It was only after I'd said yes that I found the film was for Prostate Cancer UK. Neil, Charlie and the rest had no idea that [my] Dad had had prostate cancer.

Given your close connection to prostate cancer, how did you feel about your role?

I play the part of a woman whose father has died from prostate cancer. I didn't find that hard, it was just another character. As an actor you can't take all the parts you play personally. Of course, if Dad hadn't been given the all clear, if he was still having treatment, and the outcome was unclear, that might have been much harder.

What made you want to be involved?

Once I knew the film was for Prostate Cancer UK, I really wanted to get involved because of Dad's experience. It's all about encouraging men to talk about it. I know he's still here because someone bothered to speak up, to warn Dad. So his diagnosis was early. So many men don't know about the risks or the symptoms, when they hear about prostate cancer, it's too late to do much about it.

Would you tell us more about your father's experience?

Dad lives on his own and he'd realised he was having to go to the toilet more, but it wasn't until that stranger in a men's loo at a charity event suggested he needed to get checked out that he went to his doctor. I knew he'd been and that he'd had some tests, but when he asked me to go with him to get the results, I had no idea what was coming. I'm always a 'glass half full' person, so I was being very optimistic, trying to keep his spirits up, I knew he was worried.

We sat there and the consultant said it's prostate cancer. It hadn't been mentioned up to then. Of course it was a shock, but he went on to say it was early stages, it was contained, that surgery to remove the prostate at this stage had a very high success rate, he was really positive. It wasn't like 'you've got cancer and nothing can be done'. Of course we were worried and for Dad it was really scary, both the cancer diagnosis and the operation. But we talked about it and the options and he decided to go ahead. He didn't have to wait long for the op, so there wasn't too much time to dwell on it.

He told the family straight away, but we were able to say it had been caught early, it was contained, it was treatable, so it was all very positive. That meant a lot to us. Like many families we have had cancer tragedies. My Nan and Grandad both died of lung cancer, and one of my cousins, Dad's nephew, died when he was just 26. He was young, fit, that was a huge blow to us all, we're a very close family.  

After the operation Dad came to stay with me for a bit, just so he didn't have to cook and so on, as he'd have been on his own at home. He recovered well and is now clear, but has regular check-ups.

Has going through that experience with your father changed the way you think about men's health?

It has changed him, it has changed all of us I think. We certainly talk about health more. In fact, it was only when Dad was diagnosed that I found that Tom's [actor Tom Ellis, her husband] grandfather has prostate cancer, has had it for years. He's in his nineties and has been treated with hormone injections for ages. Another example of an early diagnosis being treatable. We're much more open about things now.

It's hard for men to talk, to open up. They don't like to show they're vulnerable, that's deep-rooted, I think. But now, if Dad thinks someone's having symptoms or needs to be informed about the risks, he'll be the first person to say something. We're still learning, about the genetic links, for example. My brothers need to be aware. All men need to be aware.

As for Dad, I think he's now looking healthier and fitter than he did before the diagnosis. It's taken him time to bounce back, but I definitely think he's better. I do think that as you get older you tend to worry more, about everything. Well, now I think he's become more appreciative about the good things. He's more positive and he's really mellowed. 

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