Kay Mellor: Actress and Fat Friends creator dies aged 71

May 17, 2022
Kay Mellor
Kay Mellor

LONDON — Actress, screenwriter and director Kay Mellor has died aged 71, it has been announced.

A spokesperson for her TV production company, Rollem Productions, confirmed "with profound sadness" that she died on Sunday.

She was known for creating and writing the ITV series Fat Friends - which helped launch James Corden's career.

Mellor also wrote comedy and drama series such as The Syndicate, Girlfriends and Band of Gold.

A Rollem Productions spokesman said: "It is with profound sadness that we announce the untimely and sudden passing of our beloved friend, mentor and colleague Kay Mellor on Sunday 15 May 2022.

"We have lost a phenomenal talent and a true luminary. We ask that you please respect the privacy of the family and friends at this time."

Mellor began her career writing plays, worked on Coronation Street and created the award-winning children's drama Children's Ward.

She also wrote BBC One's women's football series Playing The Field and in 2010 received an OBE.

Fat Friends aired from 2000-2005 and gave a young Corden his first major acting role. It also starred Ruth Jones, Sheridan Smith and Alison Steadman.

The BBC's chief content officer, Charlotte Moore, paid tribute to Kay Mellor following her death, saying she was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the news.

"Kay was an outstanding writer and the creative force behind many of the nation's best-loved television dramas," Moore said. "She wrote with such heart, humanity, humour and passion with strong female characters often taking centre stage.

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin paid tribute on Twitter, writing: "Just dreadful news & difficult to take in. Sending all our love from everyone in West Yorkshire to Kay's family, friends & colleagues.

"Our voice of the North, she put working class characters at the centre of her brilliant compassionate, moving & funny stories. Such a loss."

ITV's Band of Gold, which ran from 1995 to 1997 was considered a ground-breaking drama, bringing to life the lives of a group of sex workers in Bradford as they tried to take on police and gangsters in a bid to run their own street business.

It gave Hollywood actress Samantha Morton one of her first major roles, later going on to star in films such as Minority Report opposite Tom Cruise. She also played Alpha in The Walking Dead.

BBC One drama The Syndicate is about five members of a lottery syndicate who get a big win. Each of the four series featured a different group of people and setting, including a supermarket and a hospital.

Mellor said she was inspired to write the drama because of "the times we are living in, where people are desperate and holding on to the dream of winning the lottery as the only solution available".

The first series aired in 2012 and starred Timothy Spall and Gavin and Stacey actress Joanna Page. Series four came out last year.

Asked about the setting of that first series being Leeds, Mellor said: "I think it's vital that the north of England is represented in mainstream drama, not just soap opera. For me personally northern dramas have a different feeling because it feels like these are my people, this is the world I know, this is the world I grew up in.

"That's not to say that I don't watch and enjoy British dramas that are set in the south of England. I just think that geographically there needs to be equality and England exists outside of London."

Mellor appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in 2017 and chose The Beautiful South's Perfect 10, the Fat Friends theme tune, as one of her sound tracks, saying "every time I heard that I used to get excited and get butterflies".

She explained: "It was such a lovely time of my life, it was a drama that was really important to me because I thought I had something to say about weight and body image." — BBC

May 17, 2022
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