Dawn French on her jealousy towards Jennifer Saunders after Ab Fab - and why she said no to kissing Harry Styles

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in 2008
Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders in 2008 Credit: Rex

Actress and comedian Dawn French has opened up about being jealous of her French and Saunders comedy partner Jennifer Saunders, who went on to find further success with Absolutely Fabulous in 1992 after French left their joint sketch show to focus on her newly adopted daughter.

The studio had been booked, and French and her comedy partner were preparing for another series of their successful joint project, when the actress was forced to step down.

French and Saunders Credit: Rex

"I had to step away from doing the sketch show we were in the middle of writing, we’d booked the studios and everything, to go home and be quiet and have my kid there," French revealed during a Glamour Magazine podcast.

"So I said to Jen, she knew all about it, and I just said 'Look this is happening, I have to go now' and she said 'Don’t worry, I will cover, I will cover. I will do something in those studios so nobody notices this too much'… She goes on with Ab Fab. Ab Fab becomes huge, and so I sit and watch Jennifer just collecting many awards and bouquets…

BFFs French and Saunders talk girl power BFFs French and Saunders talk girl power
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"She had no discernible talent whatsoever until that moment, and then she came through on the inside lane and apparently she was talented all the time.

"I didn’t know that, I thought I was the funny one…When I saw that happening it was a huge amount of envy. Right in your belly in a place you don’t want it, and its bile-y and it tastes bad and it’s all consuming.

"But the good thing is I think you’re allowed to own up to it, and that’s what I did, I called her lots of words and just said 'I cannot believe you’re this talented, I cannot believe it’s this successful, I can’t believe I’m not in it… I’m furious with you and I’m so jealous. And she loved that that was the case. And so in a way that made it alright. And what’s more important than the jealousy is that I love the girl."

Harry Styles; Dawn French Credit: REX/David Fisher

French also revealed that, while she would do (and has done) many things for charity, kissing 23-year-old former One Direction star and heartthrob Harry Styles is definitely not one of them.

"The first suggestion that comes in to Comic Relief is ‘Who will you be kissing this year?’ and they make some suggestions, like, somebody said ‘What about if we could get Harry Styles to kiss you?'," she said.

While French happily took part in a similar "sponsored snog" stunt with Hugh Grant in 1995, the Vicar of Dibley actress said that she draws the line at locking lips with somebody almost 40 years younger than herself.

Dawn French kisses Hugh Grant for Comic Relief in 1995

"When I kissed Hugh Grant we did make a million quid and the kiss did go on for forty minutes. It went on through the news. What did I catch?" she recalled.

"Anyway, they suggested Harry Styles and I went ‘No hang on, hang on everyone, stop. I’m nearly 60. This is very unseemly that Harry Styles will be forced into the studio with an old woman and have to kiss her hairy lips!’... That’s wrong. I just had to say no to that, no. Let’s think of another idea."

Elsewhere during the podcast, French revealed that, sadly, we'll probably never catch her on Strictly Come Dancing.

"There have been suggestions in the past to do Strictly. I want to do dancing but not with people watching really. I would want to actually learn dance, pay to learn, and be rather marvellous in my own head…" she said.

"I’m gonna be 60 this year. So I’m this age, I’m apparently the funny one, so you can imagine the costumes I’d be given, you can imagine the dances I’d be given. Whereas that’s not what’s going on in my head. In my head I’m a) the winner, and b) I am the best dancer anyway. Don’t argue it."

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