Minnie Driver has described the American healthcare system as ‘shocking’ and spoken of her love for the NHS.
In US comedy Speechless, currently airing on E4, Driver plays combative mother Maya DiMeo, whose natural inclination for confrontation is a useful tool when battling to provide healthcare and schooling for her eldest son JJ, who has cerebral palsy.
When asked if she’s angered by how families have to fight for healthcare in America, Driver was unrestrained. "It’s unconscionable to me," she told the Standard. "Don’t get me started on healthcare in this country and how it is provided. It is shocking. I am proud to come from a country with universal healthcare. However beleaguered the NHS is, people march for it and fight for it. It is beloved."
Preparation for the role left her stunned, as she learned the numerous obstacles and costs families like the DiMeos face when trying to raise a differently-abled child. "I’ve spoken with these mothers and caregivers and they have the patience of a saint," she said. "It is absolutely astonishing what families have to go through.
"The sheer amount of bureaucracy, paperwork, form-filling, and hoop jumping makes you understand why mothers like Maya will look for and create loopholes to jump queues."
The comedy’s third series recently concluded in the USA and Driver believes that over the course of the show’s run it has affected a positive change in attitudes.
"I definitely think it’s changed the conversation in the States," she said. "Shows like Speechless are a brilliant way of placing the issue in the spotlight, without being political or proselytising, by dealing with it through comedy.
"There’s no way I would have been involved if it had been a saccharine or super melodramatic representation, because I’m sick of seeing that."
The sharp-tongued and salty Maya might be a character, but for Driver (who describes her as "absolutely dreadful and also wonderful") she is firmly rooted in reality. She said: "I know how unfathomably hard these mothers, who have children with disabilities, have to fight to restore a modicum of ordinariness with their children. These women I’ve met over the years are all lionesses."
Speechless airs nightly on E4 at 7.30pm and is available on All4