Julie Walters pulls out of Channel 4 drama due to ill health

Julie Walters discusses her cancer recovery with Lorraine Kelly

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Acting legend Dame Julie Walters has pulled out of the Channel 4 drama series Truelove reportedly due to ill health. The Mamma Mia star will be replaced by Lindsay Duncan in the show. Last year, filming was put on hold as Walters sought medical advice for severe back pain but it is not known if this was what caused her departure from the show.

Filming is set to recommence in Bristol later this year without her.

Truelove was Walters’ first acting role in six years and she explained her break from her craft in an official Channel 4 statement when the show was announced.

“I had basically withdrawn from acting and wasn’t sure that anything could tempt me back but then I read Truelove,” she said.

“I was completely bowled over by the writing – the dark humour, the love story and thriller element set against a backdrop of what happens to us all as we approach our later years.

“I adore the character of Phil – smart, funny and hard-edged,” she continued. “How often does one have the chance at my tender age to play a leading lady in a TV drama?”

Her character was an ex-senior police chief enjoying a comfortable if boring retirement, who reconnected with her teenage sweetheart Ken (played by Clarke Peters) at a funeral.

Later at the wake, with nostalgia and booze flowing in equal measure, the former sweethearts and a group of old friends debated what an ideal death might look like.

After much discussion they make a drunken pact: rather than let each other suffer a slow and dreadful decline, they will step in and engineer a dignified death.

Duncan, who is a three-time BAFTA nominee, said in a statement she was drawn to the role intended for Walters as Phil is an “intelligent, tough and complex woman”.

“It’s so well written, exploring what we face when age becomes a factor,” she added.

Truelove creators Charlie Covell and Iain Weatherby told Deadline they were “saddened” by the loss of Walters but “with her blessing, Lindsay has joined and we are both huge admirers”.

In an official statement, Clerkenwell Films who make the show said: “We wholeheartedly support her decision, and the entire cast, crew and production team wish her the very best and a speedy recovery.”

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This isn’t the first time Billy Elliot star Walters has suffered with her health.

In February 2020 she revealed on the Victoria Derbyshire Show that she was diagnosed with bowel cancer 18 months previously.

She said that she first visited a doctor with indigestion and “slight discomfort”, but later returned with symptoms such as stomach pain, heartburn and vomiting.

She was referred to a gastric surgeon for a CT scan and later received a call asking her to go in.

Walters was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer, which indicates the cancer has spread into nearby lymph nodes and is one level below the most serious categorisation.

She kept the diagnosis secret but was forced to miss the premiere of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

At the time her agent told people she had a ruptured hernia.

Thankfully, following a course of chemotherapy, she was given the all-clear.

Truelove will air on Channel 4 later this year.

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