Amy Nuttall: Downton star says “Caring for my mother during her final few weeks was a huge privilege.”

With 25 years performing experience under her corset, nothing could prepare Downton Abbey actress Amy Nuttall for the most challenging role of her life; caring for her terminally ill mother.

Amy recording

Actress Amy Nuttall recording a song for the Brain Tumour Charity

Born in Lancashire in 1982, Amy Nuttall became the youngest ever understudy to play the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera aged just 17 and joined Emmerdale the following year. Since then, she’s combined screen roles in Downton Abbey, Death in Paradise and most recently Mr Bates vs The Post Office with parts in musical theatre including My Fair Lady and Cabaret and Spamalot. She lives with her nine-year-old daughter and five-year-old son in Buckinghamshire.

Amy Nuttall recording

Amy recording Thank You Mother

Why have you recorded the song Thank You Mother to raise funds and awareness for the Brain Tumour Charity?

I wanted to do something to raise awareness after my mum died of a brain tumour glioblastoma back in October 2023.  

Tell us more about the Brain Tumour Charity…

They are an incredible charity. Brain tumours are so underfunded. Of all the money that goes towards cancer research, less than 3% goes towards brain tumours.

I’ve seen first-hand how devastating this disease is. And we just need more awareness and more funding so that they can catch this disease earlier and people can understand the symptoms earlier.

Amy Nuttall and her mum smiling

Amy and her Mum, Elaine, smiling. Photo credit: Instagram @amynutts1

Why did you choose this particular song?

Shortly before she passed, I played this song to her.  It was a song I was given to learn back in my early twenties to sing to Gloria Hunniford at an event in London, shortly after her daughter Caron Keating had passed away. 

Were the lyrics particularly pertinent?

The words in the song are very poignant to my relationship to my mum and I knew instantly that I had to do something to raise awareness.

Has revisiting the song so soon after your mum’s death been cathartic?

Absolutely, yes although I worry about this all being over, because then I will need to address my grief a bit more, because until now, it’s felt like she’s still with me and in many respects, because I’m singing about her and talking about her all the time, and I do feel a huge comfort in doing that.

Amy Nuttall as a child

Amy as a child with her Mum. Photo credit: Instagram @amynutts1

Of the many roles you’ve performed in your life – actor, mother, wife – how challenging was the role of caring for your mother?

My dad and my sister were there with me for mum’s final weeks, and looking back it was quite traumatic.

We were all going through some sort of trauma. But at the same time, it was a huge privilege. I feel so grateful I was in a position to be able to be there for her.

It must have been an unbearably bittersweet period…

It was. It was crazy and full on but also, we had some really beautiful times. It brought the family very close together.

Amy Nuttall on her wedding day

Amy getting ready with her Mum. Photo credit: Instagram @amynutts1

Was her illness quite sudden?

Yes. A week before she walked into hospital, she was down at my house in Buckinghamshire, because she always came down to help me with childcare.

She was complaining a little bit of feeling very tired and wanting a nap and I gently teased her a bit and said, ‘Oh, are you having another nanny nap? You’re not that old yet mum,’ but what we didn’t know was she had a massive brain tumour, and it just totally blindsided us all.

Were there any other symptoms?

Her balance was suddenly off, and she started falling to the left all the time so at first, we thought it was vertigo.

What did the doctors say at that stage?

When a doctor came to the house she said, ‘I think you might have had a mini stroke. You need to go to A&E.’ My dad then took her to A&E and he said, ‘maybe we should take an overnight bag?’ and mum was like, ‘Absolutely not. I am coming straight home.’

What happened at the hospital?

They did a scan and found a massive brain tumour, and unfortunately at that time some doctors and neurosurgeons were striking, so it took ages to get answers, whilst mum was rapidly declining.

That must have been incredibly traumatic?

It was very, very stressful. Then after three weeks she came back home in a wheelchair, and we had the whole shebang of a hospital bed in my parents’ lounge in this old stone property in the middle of nowhere.

Suddenly I was cooking dinners every day and we had a baby monitor in with my mum so we could hear if she needed help if we were in the kitchen.

Amy Nuttall and her mother

Amy and her mother. Photo credit: Instagram @amynutts1

In such a challenging time, did you discover some inner resilience that you didn’t realise you had?

Absolutely, yes. There wasn’t time to stop, honestly. There was always something that needed doing.

We were in charge of this mountain of pills and inhalers. Suddenly, we kind of became nurses. Everything was just extremely overwhelming, but mum always used to say how thankful and how lucky she was to have the family that she had. To have my dad and her two girls with her for her final weeks.

Are there any lessons that you’ve learnt from such an emotional time?

Be kind to yourself, make memories where you can, whether it’s having a cup of tea with that person, talking about happy memories, telling them you love them, obviously over and over again. And also, getting support for yourself if you’re the caregiver. You need close family and friends to lean on.

Are you getting some help personally Amy?

I am coping alright, thanks. Doing this song and working with the Brain Tumour Charity has been hugely cathartic and helped me with my grief. And I am fortunate I’ve got a very good close-knit family to lean on and we all talk, and we have become a lot closer after all of this, so I’m doing alright thanks.

Amy Nuttall’s single Thank You Mother is out now. All Proceeds go to the Brain Tumour Charity.