“You're allowed to own up to it”: Dawn French opens up about her jealousy of Jennifer Saunders

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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They were the much-loved stars of one of the most popular TV shows of the eighties, French and Saunders.

But Dawn French has admitted she was left feeling a “huge amount of envy” when her co-star Jennifer Saunders went on to write and star in Absolutely Fabulous, winning a BAFTA, an Emmy award and international acclaim.

Ab Fab becomes huge, and so I sit and watch Jennifer just collecting many awards and bouquets,” French said in a Glamour podcast.

"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.”

However, the comedian was quick to point out that she wasn’t ashamed of her jealousy, but rather chose to embrace it.

“But the good thing is I think you’re allowed to own up to it, and that’s what I did,” she said.  “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 what’s more important than the jealousy is that I love the girl,” she added.

The pair first met in drama school in 1978, where they began collaborating on projects before the birth of their sketch show in 1987. 

French and Saunders had a run of six seasons up until 2007 and was given one of the highest ever budgets in the history of the BBC, before French left to look after her adopted daughter in 1992.

The pair were also jointly awarded the Fellowship Award at the 2009 BAFTAs in recognition of their contribution to comedy (below).