“Because Primeval is a brand new show, it’s a completely blank canvas from which we can start creating things without anyone judging us on our roots and whether or not we’re being faithful to them.”
Having graduated from drama school only a few years ago, Lucy Brown is still a relative newcomer to the scene, but has already appeared opposite Sean Bean in Sharpe’s Challenge and Ben Miller in Malice Aforethought. Talking about her career so far she says:
“I like playing strong women, and I think all of the characters I’ve played before have elements of strength that perhaps aren’t so obvious at first glance. There is just so much great new writing coming through which is giving women the opportunity to play much stronger parts than just ‘the girlfriend’. There are very solid roles for women being written now, and that’s what our writer Adrian is so great at – he writes women very well.”
This brings us neatly on to Claudia Brown, the Home Office official who stumbles across the mysterious goings-on in the Forest of Dean, and joins forces with Cutter and his team in an effort to find answers. With an SAS team at her disposal and a formidable boss in the shape of James Lester, Claudia is not just killer heels and smart suits as Lucy explains:
“Although she’s rather new to the job, she’s extremely direct and I think she manages herself incredibly well in what is a predominantly male environment. One of my favourite relationships in the show is Claudia’s relationship with Lester because he’s such a bugger! He constantly appears to be putting her down with snide remarks; however he never takes her off the case. He lets her control the whole thing. So I like to think he’s seen the strength in her; he’s seen the backbone and the intelligence and trusts her to get the job done, despite the fact he’ll never admit it!”
Lucy is quick to point out that Claudia isn’t a strait-laced pen pusher, but has a genuine heart and soul:
“Although she’s tough and knows her own mind at the end of the day she’s still a girl. It would have been very easy to play her in one way – trussed up in her sharp suits, looking all forceful and issuing her SAS guys with secret directives. But actually we have to remember there is a very human side to her. I really wanted to keep her warm, as I want women to like her, to want her to win the hero’s heart, and let’s face it, if she wasn’t a little soft round the edges, I don’t think that Cutter would find her so attractive!”
The “will they won’t they” story line between Cutter and Claudia is a central theme of Primeval and the simmering chemistry between the two is set to have viewers screaming at the television for the hero to ‘just kiss her!’ Lucy says:
“Claudia is a challenge; she’s not a walkover and Cutter’s wife Helen was exactly the same. There are definite similarities in the two women and it’s pretty clear what his type is. But they’re both fighting the attraction. He’s working through a whole manner of issues surrounding his wife, and she is trying to keep her authority, taking her place within the working group, and not trying to jeopardise that. But it’s tricky when it comes to Cutter, because she basically just really fancies him, and what does a girl do when she fancies someone? Well, in Claudia’s case she goes kind of shy.”
She goes on:
“They come together, like many potential couples do; in the work place, only their work place is a little more out of the ordinary than most. In order to make it believable, you’ve just got to think about these two in a more recognisable scenario. Generally speaking, most people aren’t chasing dinosaurs, but imagine them in an office working together, and you’d get those same lingering glances, but they’d be over the top of a PC rather than through the jaws of a Gorgonopsid.”
So just how does Claudia come to be involved in the first instance?
“Claudia kind of falls into it by mistake; she works for the Home Office and she spends six months in certain departments gaining experience of each before she rotates. At the time we meet her she is in a local police division when she is sent out to liaise with the local force following reports of creature sightings in the woods. She’s meant to brush it all off as nonsense and then come back and close the case. She doesn’t want to stay in this department – she just wants to do her six months and then move on.
But of course she gets out there and things are a little more real than she had hoped; there are creatures wandering about in the woods, but they are bigger and somewhat older than your average wild cat! And that’s how she meets Cutter and the rest of the team. They are all totally new to what they see in the forest, and are just thrown together in their shared experience.”
She goes on to say:
“Claudia then has a real dilemma. She is torn all the way through between her commitment to her job and what Lester expects her to do, as well as doing right by this group of science geeks who she feels a great affinity for.
Lester has a very particular way of approaching the crisis which bears no correlation to the way in which Cutter does. Lester is all government cover ups, official secrets acts, guns and SAS teams, whereas Cutter is far more gentle and scientific in his approach. He wants to study the anomalies, and the creatures that are coming through. He wants the why and how, whereas Lester doesn’t care about the why or the how, he just wants it all to stop.”
Being work colleagues of sorts means that Claudia and Lester share a lot of screen time together, which in turn meant that Lucy and Ben Miller got to work together once again. A situation which Lucy clearly relished, as indeed did Ben:
“It’s an utter pleasure working with Ben, just brilliant. At lunchtimes and other breaks we’d go into each other’s trailers and work through our scenes. Because we’d worked together on Malice Aforethought we knew the way we each worked. The first few days we were on set I kept on getting a knock on my door and it would be Ben and he’d just come in and say with this huge grin on this face saying, “I’m just bloody loving this!” He was like a big kid who couldn’t quite believe his luck, so he was wonderful to have around.”
And as with the rest of the cast, Lucy had to get to grips with the CGI elements of the programme:
“Trying to work out where the creatures actually were was initially a bit weird, but it’s like anything, you just get used to it and begin to see the creatures in your mind’s eye. It seems really silly, but you do just imagine things being right there.
It’s just when you physically interact that it becomes difficult as you’re trying to make being hit by things that aren’t actually there look real. There’s a sequence on a rooftop when Claudia is knocked out by the wing of a Pterosaur, so there I was falling about onto the crash-mats, and I started doing the sound effects – it was like being five again. Dougie and James were terrible; they were just laughing at me.”
As the discussion turns to the inevitable comparisons to Doctor Who, Lucy laughs and explains it’s a comparison she is already used to hearing:
“When I start describing Primeval, everybody says “oh, so it’s like Doctor Who is it?”, and I’m like ‘no, it’s not.’ Doctor Who is a great show but I think it has an anchor in history and has to stay true to that in various forms.
Because Primeval is a brand new show, it’s a completely blank canvas from which we can start creating things without anyone judging us on our roots and whether or not we’re being faithful to them.
And as for Dougie being the new Doctor, well it’s just not a viable comparison. Cutter is simply a man who is trying to make sense of a series of extraordinary events in which he’s become caught up. Doctor Who is a time traveller who has alien blood and whose space ship looks a like a phone box. Really, the two guys couldn’t more different when you look at it like that.”
The Miniaturist Interviews: Romola Garai
Romola Garai plays Marin Brandt in The Miniaturist, premiering soon on BBC-1, here she talks about what drew her to the drama and being in a costume drama where she pretty much only gets to wear one costume.
What attracted you to the role of Marin?
I’d read the book shortly after it came out and I thought it was a really surprising novel, really interesting and with very strong feminist themes in it, so I was very excited about it. Time passed and then an email popped into my inbox with the subject, The Miniaturist. I thought it was fantastic they were making it and I was really excited to read the script.
It’s a very genre-bending novel; it appears to be like a costume drama we have seen before, but very quickly we realise that it’s not that. It’s about a woman coming into her own in a society that’s very patriarchal, it’s about a love affair, it’s about discrimination, and it’s about people trying to survive in an incredibly controlled state. It’s a thriller and it’s also a story about political and emotional awakening.
Marin is a particularly interesting character, I think she has one of the best arcs. When I first read the book, she was the character that stayed with me, and when I read the scripts I immediately remembered everything about her. She’s told in beautiful detail in the novel, which John has retained in the script. Marin is just a great character to play, it was a real treat.
Tell us about Marin.
When you first meet her, because the story is told through Nella’s perspective, you meet a woman who seems very cold and intimidating. Then gradually you get this drip-feed of information about her; you see she’s been helping Johannes run the business and you learn that they were orphaned at a young age. She’s very intellectual, she’s very well read, and she’s not married, which is very unusual at the time.
One of the reasons I found her such a fascinating character is that she’s full of secrets and she’s layered; very conflicted and has great faith, but also passions. The house they live in is essentially a tinder box of secrets that Marin has been sitting on to try and stop the secrets exploding out. However although it seems she is trying to keep a lid on it I think she believes that they could subtly break all the rules and be free within the house at least, if only her brother stopped acting so recklessly.
Hopefully audiences will question what is driving her hostility towards Nella. Marin needs Nella a lot to maintain the appearance of being a normal household but it’s also very important that Nella is afraid of her so that she doesn’t try digging and discovering the secrets that they are all trying to keep – because if anyone finds out then their futures are ruined.
What was it like doing the scenes between Marin and Nella?
I loved working with Anya, she’s an incredibly accomplished actress. She’s got a difficult job in this, because Nella has to be very innocent at the beginning of the story, which is always difficult for an actor to play, and also more innocent that a woman of that age would be now. She’s constantly making discoveries, she doesn’t have the information that the rest of us do so she’s always learning new things, and she’s done that with real beauty and subtlety. I really enjoyed doing all our scenes together.
Tell us about Marin’s costume.
Marin only had one costume until a very late stage of the story. Her costume is typical of the puritan values of the period which rejected anything that smacked of luxury or louche values. They also didn’t wear make-up in this period at all, certainly not women of this class and station, and the hair was very simple and scraped back. Her head would have been covered at all times, so I had a black cap that I wore, but to be honest when I wore it I couldn’t really hear what anyone was saying and also talked incredibly loudly because I couldn’t hear myself, so essentially I was shouting at the other actors!
What makes The Miniaturist stand out from other period dramas?
I’ve done lots of historical pieces but there’s something very unusual about this. When you do contemporary novels set in the past the writers are able to do a lot more, and tackle complex themes which writers writing at the time weren’t able to do. More than that, it’s interesting in that it explores a number of different genres. It has elements of a thriller and then it becomes a family drama and then it becomes a polemic about what happens in societies that are so controlling.
I hope people will sit down to watch the show because it’s a pretty costume drama and will be surprised that it is actually rebellious and constantly bringing up important issues – and that they’ll be so engaged they won’t be able to look away.
Trust Me Interviews: Sharon Small
Interview with Sharon Small, who plays Dr. Brigitte McAdams in new three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs this August on BBC One.
What attracted you to this project?
I liked the character and the premise of the piece – I don’t think we’ve seen this before. And everyone is like an armchair detective, everyone is an armchair actor or doctor, so I thought that people would get off on that and think, gosh what would I do in that circumstance? The audience are the people who are privy to the truth and not us. With my character, Brigitte, I like her neediness, her sassiness – she’s fun and quick-fire talking – and quite honestly I rather fancied myself as a doctor [laughs].
How would you describe your character?
Brigitte is a good person; she’s sassy and is a really good doctor. She has got some issues, but she is trying her best to run this ward and with great intentions, which I think a lot of NHS doctors are.
How did you prepare for the role?
I grew my hair so that I could tie it up – normally I have short hair. We had a fantastic medical training day with Dan and got to do airways and cannulas and stitching and things like that, I loved that. The most important thing for me was to go around the actual A&E department (or ED department as I now know it’s called) in Edinburgh. We met this fantastic doctor – just watching him and really getting to observe what goes on in a ward, the dynamic, what people do and noticing that people are always looking at folders, everyone’s always collaborating and talking to each other. Everyone is always moving around, a lot more than you think and not that quickly. It’s less dramatic than you think.
Is your character challenging to play?
She was. Similarly in something that Jodie mentioned, I had quite a lot of medical jargon to say quite quickly, but I had less of the procedural stuff to do in terms of operational things. As the character is more and more revealed I had to make sure that I took care of how that happened, and that it was subtly done.
What makes a hospital a good arena for a drama?
It’s an ever-changing landscape, a hospital. Every new sort of event that you’re presented with means that you’re having to make life-saving decisions. People’s lives really are at stake, and honestly, my little taste of pretending that I was an ED doctor made me feel quite powerful. If I could fix people so that they survived, that would be an amazing ability.
What are the biggest challenges that you have faced so far during filming?
Saying the medical words Metronidazole – Met-ron-ida-zole, Metron-i-dazole – and trying to make scrubs look even remotely interesting, I don’t rock scrubs like Jodie does, I’m way too curvy for that!
What do you hope audiences will take away from this drama?
I hope that they’ll find themselves in that dilemma of wanting Cath/Ally to succeed, because she’s a good person and she ironically is brilliant at the job. I’m hoping that they’ll see the dilemma that she has, and as you want her to keep succeeding, it means she’s going to keep compromising people as she goes, as well as herself.
Trust Me Interviews: Jodie Whittaker
Jodie Whittaker plays Cath in three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs on BBC One this August.
What appealed to you about this project?
I was sent the script for the first episode and it fascinated me because it went in a completely different direction to how I thought it was going to. Particularly at the beginning when she’s suspended for whistleblowing and loses her job. It could have gone so many ways, and the fact that she takes on this new identity isn’t the way that I thought it would go. I love the fact that her choices are quite morally dubious – they certainly aren’t black and white. She makes decisions that are quite challenging to justify, even though we know her reasons. I’ve never acted in anything medical before, so it felt completely new.
How does Cath’s lie come about?
Cath starts off by having a conversation with her best friend, Ally, who is a middle grade doctor in A&E and is giving it all up to emigrate to New Zealand. Ally is packing up the life that Cath would have loved to have had, leaving it all behind to go and do something completely different. Suddenly there is an opportunity for her to take on the identity of her friend and in that panic, not necessarily the clearest thinking moment in her life, she does it. Once you set off on a path of lies it’s very difficult to undo it without bringing everything crashing down.
Did you receive any training on medical procedures?
Yes! The writer, Dan, who is also medical consultant and a doctor outside of TV production, showed us a load of stuff that he used when he was training people. He brought in the CPR dummy and showed us how to do a cannula and he, very bravely, let me put a cannula in his vein. I did it right, thank God! Also, YouTube is amazing. The genius of the internet is that you can basically sit at home and Google medical procedures, and TV shows such as 24 hours in A&E, which I watched hours of.
How else did you prepare for the role?
With regards to the technical stuff, we had an on-set consultant so that there was always someone to help when we had to do the procedures. The best thing for me was that my character was also out of her depth and didn’t always know what she was doing, so it kind of covered my own personal fumbles. I’m not someone who likes to over prepare for dialogue scenes, because I think that makes me not listen to what the other person is saying as I’ve already decided how I’m going to do it. It immediately makes it interesting and new and you can’t plan for that, which is great. You can’t ‘wing’ the medical stuff so I had to do my research for that. One of my friends is a Sister in A&E and I sent her a lot of messages asking ‘how do you pronounce this?’ and ‘what does that mean?’, so basically she was my personal medical coach even though she works full time!
Is it challenging playing someone who leads a double life?
Yes, but no more challenging that playing someone who has had something happen to them that I haven’t personally experienced. What’s hard is trying to gauge how good a liar she is, or how in a panic she is. You’ve got to be careful, because you can’t make the other actors seem stupid. These are intelligent, fully formed characters that you’re working with, so it was a fine line of being able to deceive and it not being something that comes easily to her. However, it can’t be that it makes everyone around her feel a bit like an idiot for not working it out. That was tricky, but the director is there to help guide you through it.
Did the uniform help to get you into character?
Yes. It feels odd when you put it on. I did five weeks of studio filming, back to back – all the medical stuff was contained so everything started to become a bit like second nature. The first few times I had to put on an apron, the ‘take’ ended up being about 15 minutes long. Then I worked out that you shouldn’t put the gloves on before the apron! There was lots of daft stuff like that, but you then get into a rhythm. It’s good because it makes you immediately feel like you look the part and then all I had to do was make sure that I knew the lines!
What were some of the challenges that you faced during filming?
I’m not very good with learning dialogue when there are lots of medical terms! I enjoy the adrenaline of being on set because I’m quite good at choreography, I respond well to being taught something physically. That’s why I was terrible at school, because they talk you through things rather than physically show you. I enjoyed doing the different types of surgery as it was fascinating, it’s nerve-wracking but you realise that you can do it. Also, the team who created the props put in so much hard work to make sure we didn’t mess up our bits. I struggled with having massive speeches that involved these medical words. I don’t have a brain for that!
Did you enjoy working in Scotland?
I absolutely loved Glasgow! The crew were phenomenal and the city is wonderful. I could move my family up there and we had a great time as there were loads of brilliant restaurants and everyone was lovely. It was brilliant and I would snap up another job there very quickly, although it does get very dark and cold over winter!
THIS JUST IN
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