Tomorrow, Emily Lloyd is taking her five-year-old daughter Arabelle to the park for a picnic. It will be the first time she has seen her little girl for three weeks.
Arabelle lives with her father, former musician Christian Jupp, in Brighton where, for the past two-and-a-half years, Emily has travelled from her East London home each week ‘without fail’ to spend time with her daughter.
But, as for so many separated parents, lockdown has put paid to that.
‘Christian’s driving her up this Sunday. He’s been worried about coronavirus and wants to protect her. I understand, but three weeks is the longest I’ve ever been apart from Arabelle. When I told her on the phone we were seeing each other tomorrow she was so excited,’ says Emily, her face aglow.
‘She has this favourite expression when she’s happy. She says: “Augustus Scoop, nincompoop.” ’ Emily throws back her head in laughter. Her daughter is, by all accounts, a funny, idiosyncratic child who is the spitting image of Emily at the same age. It breaks her heart not to be with her.
Emily was 18 when she finally confessed to her family that she had suffered years of ‘horrendous’ abuse which started when she was five
Emily, 49, is the brilliant but fragile actress who found astonishing overnight fame as the precocious 16-year-old star of the highly acclaimed 1987 movie Wish You Were Here.
Her performance, as the saucy single mother Lynda, earned her best actress awards from the National Society of Film Critics and Evening Standard British Film Awards, a Bafta nomination and numerous film offers.
She was praised for her ‘immense energy’, ‘edge’ and ‘instinctive’ style. The role also earned her the inauspicious plaudit of ‘the next Marilyn Monroe’.
The early days of success and adulation were not to last, however, and Emily’s career began to suffer as she battled anxiety and depression.
Today, the spirited actress who once had the world at her feet is a shadow of her former self.
A chronic insomniac who suffers from memory loss, she forgets to turn off taps, floods the kitchen and loses keys, bank cards, phones and track of time.
Her last film role, a bit part in a minor comedy, was more than ten years ago. But Emily hopes that’s all about to change.
A few weeks ago, during lockdown, she was offered the chance to play herself in a screenplay about her life. The title of the film is The Rise And Fall Of Emily.
Needless to say, it is not the happiest of endings, concluding with a lost Emily alone on her sofa in a shabby East London flat with close-ups of the young Emily from Wish You Were Here.
‘When you think about where I am now compared to the last scene in the film which was so hopeful,’ Emily says, referring to the moment her Wish You Were Here character returns to the seaside town of her birth as a single mother pushing her illegitimate child in a pram.
‘She’s got her yellow dress on. She’s walking along and she’s so proud. She says: “She’s mine. All mine.” ’
Emily fixes me with a watery smile. ‘Do you think if I’d been a lawyer or a journalist, I’d have had the same malaise?’ She is referring to the mental illness that has dogged her for 30 years.
There have been various diagnoses, among them mild schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ‘I could regret the fame because of the mental illness that accompanied it,’ she says. ‘My mum would say it was because of the horrendous experience I had when I was five.’
Emily was 18 when she finally confessed to her family that she had suffered years of ‘horrendous’ abuse which started when she was five.
Today, she bravely reveals for the first time that, shockingly, the monster who abused her was, in fact, her stepfather, who was also father to her half-sister, Charlotte, 44. Emily had to share the family home with her abuser for ten years until he and her mother separated.
Emily, 49, is the brilliant but fragile actress who found astonishing overnight fame as the precocious 16-year-old star of the highly acclaimed 1987 movie Wish You Were Here
‘Anything he’d touch in the house I’d wash. I kept washing my hands. I felt so dirty. My mum must have sensed something was wrong because she took me to a psychiatrist.
‘I didn’t want to say my sister’s daddy is hurting me, so I kept trying to change the conversation.
‘When I eventually told my mum the truth at 18 — that he’d abused me for years — she had to tell my sister. Charlotte told her dad — who was no longer living with us — that hell was too good for him.’ He died 15 years ago.
‘My sister never spoke to him again from the day she found out.
‘I felt relief followed by guilt for upsetting them,’ she says. ‘I love my sister so much. She’s more like a best friend than a sister. My mum was so devastated that she cut up every picture of him and got rid of anything that reminded us of him.’
At the time, Emily was making a film called Chicago Joe And The Show Girl in Pinewood Studios. ‘I was trying to play someone who was a psycho. My mind was a pressure cooker,’ she says.
‘I think what pushed me over the edge was falling in love with Gav [Ivor Novello award-winning rock singer Gavin Rossdale] at the same time. I was a virgin. He was the first person I slept with, only to wake up to be told his girlfriend was moving in later that day.
‘I took an overdose of anti-depressants. It was a cry for help. I called my mum’s [third] husband before I passed out. He found me in the street.
‘I remember at the hospital trying to crack a joke as they put the tube down my oesophagus. Then, when they’d pumped my stomach, I got in a wheelchair and was driving the nurses mad making the other patients laugh. I made sure I was back on set the next day because I didn’t want to let anyone down.
‘Maybe you could say I wasn’t protected enough but it’s no reflection on my mum or dad. I know they loved me and they tried their best. As my dad used to like quoting from that Philip Larkin poem, “They f*** you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.’’
Her father, actor Roger Lloyd Pack, best known for playing Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, and mother Sheila divorced when she was 18 months old.
She loved both of them deeply but it was a particularly acrimonious separation that must have been confusing for a little girl.
‘I’d say my dad wanted me to more go down the academic route. When I was invited to Cannes at 16, I was supposed to be sitting my O-levels. My mum said: “You have to go.” My dad wanted me to do my exams.
‘I do see my mum’s reasoning. The film had received rave reviews. I got a standing ovation. But I didn’t have those traditional teenage years like my sister, who went to Cambridge — those years when you build friendships. I was living in New York on my own at 17 and then Los Angeles.’
Almost overnight, Emily had become the darling of Hollywood, dating the likes of Sean Penn and Val Kilmer. She knew Jack Nicholson and Robert Redford, while Leonardo DiCaprio was a guest at her 18th birthday party.
‘Did I tell you about when I met Donald Trump? We had a drink at a rooftop bar in New York. I was in my 20s and friends with this beautiful Russian.’
Emily puts her hand on her hip and adopts a thick Eastern European accent.
‘She used to say: “I cannot have orgasm if man doesn’t pay for dinner.” Then she casually added: “Come and meet my friend Donald Trump.”
‘My experience was slightly like . . . well, it was kind of like being on a rollercoaster,’ she says.
Although there is a part of Emily that longs to act again, more than anything she craves to be reunited with her daughter.
Her father, actor Roger Lloyd Pack, best known for playing Trigger in Only Fools And Horses, and mother Sheila divorced when she was 18 months old
‘Lockdown gives you a lot of time to think. Before, it felt important, for my acting, to be in the buzz of London. But I’ve had weeks and weeks to reflect. The thing that takes precedence is Arabelle.’ Her daughter’s name means ‘answered prayer’, and when Arabelle was delivered Emily turned to the doctor and said: ‘Thank you, that’s the best direction I’ve ever had.’
Emily, who had met Christian two years before, was truly besotted with her baby, but it wasn’t an easy start to parenthood. Owing to her much- publicised mental health issues, she was transferred to a mother-and-baby unit for a month following Arabelle’s birth.
For a further three months she was monitored on a daily basis.
‘We were happy and grateful for the support but I don’t think either of us realised the level of intrusion there would be.
‘Christian was asked: “Who would you put first — your child or your partner?” He had to tell me he was going to say Arabelle. It’s a bit of a passion-killer.
‘They were in my home for three months night and day making notes. The only privacy we had was in the bedroom.’ Emily dissolves into tears.
‘You realise how truly tough those months were. My mum believed the level of interference was unnecessary. You want to be left to bond with your child.’ Arabelle was two-and-a-half when Emily and Christian separated.
He moved to Brighton and, because of Emily’s mental health issues, was given custody of their little girl. Although he fully accepts Emily, who remained in East London, is a ‘natural mother’ who has access three days a week.
Emily was beside herself when she had to give up her daughter and has vowed to move to Brighton when lockdown ends to be close to her.
‘I tell her I can’t be with her all the time because Mummy has to work. Then I have to hear her say: “Mummy, if I could give you all my money for you to stop working, I would.” It’s horrible.’ Emily’s eyes fill with tears.
‘I don’t know anyone in Brighton but it doesn’t matter. Just the joy of picking her up every day from school — just that is worth it to me. To not see her is . . .’
Emily doesn’t finish the sentence. There is no need. Her pain is palpable. This is the first time she has spoken about being separated from her daughter.
She is only doing so to draw attention to the plight of those suffering with mental health issues during lockdown.
‘There isn’t the help from mental health professionals that there was before coronavirus,’ she says. ‘When you’re not doing anything it isn’t always easy, particularly if you’re on your own.
‘I’d have two hours’ sleep and the rest of the time the thoughts go round and round.
‘I had time on my hands before, but this sense of . . . sense of . . .’ she fumbles for the right word. ‘This sense of quietness is different. It’s harder. I don’t think we will know until this is over the full impact this has had on all of our mental health and emotional state.
‘I really try to be strong and shut those thoughts out. If I indulged in them and just sat here and was self-pitying I would just cry for hours and hours and hours.’
Emily shakes her head. Then, apropos of nothing, she bursts into a rendition of Frank Sinatra’s The Lady Is A Tramp. ‘Sorry,’ she says. ‘I’m just trying to lighten things.’
She is a generous-souled woman whose face lights up like a paparazzi flash when she smiles and who wants nothing more than to make people ‘happy’.
Take when she saw her father, Roger Lloyd Pack, for the last time, on his deathbed six years ago. Roger died at the age of 69 from pancreatic cancer.
‘I hadn’t seen him for a few weeks and no one had told me what a state he was in,’ she says. ‘I got there and he was like this.’ She holds up her little finger.
‘I’m not exaggerating. He looked as if he’d come out of Belsen. He was just skin and bones — more bones than skin. I sang him a song to try to cheer him up. I’d bought him a drink of tea with honey so sang, “Sugar for my sugar, honey for my honey” to try to make him, you know, happy.’
Emily’s mother died of emphysema 18 months ago at the age of 81. She continues to grieve for her mum and worries herself half-sick over whether the stress of her separation from Arabelle’s father hastened her mother’s death. ‘She was in hospital for several weeks in such pain,’ Emily says. ‘I don’t know if she could hear me, but I’d sing to her and read her poems to make her happy.
‘I remember reading her T.S. Eliot’s Gus: The Theatre Cat.’
Emily knows the poem by heart and starts to recite it now, telling the story of Gus who was ‘once a star of the highest degree’.
Emily would like nothing more than to act again and is determined not to end up as the lost character in her screenplay. ‘That’s not my ending,’ she says. ‘There’s a new chapter: Brighton and Arabelle once this “nasty virus” — that’s what Arabelle calls it — is over.
‘For now, I’m just counting the hours to Sunday. You won’t guess what her favourite game to play in the park is. I have to pretend I’m a police officer and she’s a bank robber. I have to say: “Officer, officer, suspect in sight. I need back-up.”
‘Then I have to handcuff her, take her to the imaginary police station, offer her a phone call and ask her if she’d like a cup of tea. I think she’s been watching too much Paw Patrol.’
Again, Emily throws back her head and laughs.
‘She’s such a funny, gorgeous, little thing,’ she says.
Like mother, like daughter.