Miss Scarlet And The Duke | Interview with Kate Phillips (Eliza Scarlet)

Can you give us a quick recap of where the story ended in series 1?

In the first series, Eliza’s aim is to establish herself as a private detective. This is a path that hasn’t been trodden before and she questions whether she can do it. By the end of the series, she believes she’s got what it takes. It is clear to her that she knows her craft and that she’s got some great instincts. With regards to her relationship with the Duke, its ambiguous but they’ve clearly got an amazing connection. As an audience watching it, you’re desperately willing for them to find the romance.

There’s a dedicated fan base called the Scarleteers, which is lovely to see. How did you find the reaction after the first series?

You never know how a show is going to be received when you’re filming, so it only brings you joy when you discover that there’s a collective of people who love it as much as you do. After it aired in the US, we got a real sense that people really enjoyed it. Our amazing sound mixer has some friends in North America and when we were filming the second series, he relayed a story about how excited they got over a Zoom call when he said what show he was working on. I think his wife was working on something like Knives Out at the time, but their excitement about Miss Scarlet and the Duke was ten times bigger in comparison!

How did you find stepping back into the shoes of Miss Scarlet this time around?

I love playing this role, so the shoes were a perfect fit. I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that I get to do it, as I think the way the role came to me was a bit too magical. I’ve loved the challenge since day one. The creative team, including the writers and the showrunners, are just incredible. It’s really exciting to see what they’ve done with Eliza, the Duke and all the other characters this time around.

What first attracted you to the role?

The writing. You could tell from the first few pages that the show had a specific tone to it, it was so warm and bouncy. That was so true of the role, too. Eliza has an awesome mix of feistiness and naivety which has been so fun to play. I find there is a real pace and rhythm to many of the scenes and at the end there’s often a cute little button to play – I love having that as an actor.

What’s the relationship between Eliza and William like in this series?

I feel like there’s a lot of things that are left unsaid between them in this series. By the end of the first series, the romantic tension is clear to see. This is very much where we find them in the second series, but unsurprisingly they encounter much of the same hurdles. This time, however, the dynamic between them feels a lot more knowing, and a lot more painful. The fans will also be happy to hear there is as much sparring and comedy as ever.

Miss Scarlet reopens one of William’s cases in the first episode, how does this affect their relationship?

I think that storyline sets the tone for the whole series. It’s a clever bit of writing, because it presents the major obstacle in their way, stopping them being together. Eliza is still paving her way as a private detective and as much as she wants him in her life, her work is still at the forefront. She’s still in the process of proving herself to the world and she won’t let anything get in the way of that. Even the Duke. She’s going to put her work before them, and the question remains whether their relationship can sustain that.

Can you relate to your character at all?

Perhaps in some of her more vulnerable moments. I didn’t have an upbringing like Eliza’s, but any actor relishes the moments you can dip into the bits of you that feel more complex. Behind all of her bravado there is softness and a loneliness, even. Its the feisty and more confident version of her where I feel I get to be someone else. It’s here I get to stride around saying clever things I wouldn’t ever think of saying in my own life. It’s great.

In what way does Miss Scarlet relate to women in the modern day?

I think she gives women today the permission to do what they want, especially because she’s doing something against all the odds. Hattie (played by Jessie Cave) says something that I really like in the first episode of the new series. She says to Eliza – ‘You know who you are and what you want. Many may not approve, but you simply do not care. I call that freedom indeed’.

It’s a really nice little phrase. There’s a lot of fear out there with regards to what people think and whether or not you can succeed as a woman. There’s something about Eliza that feels really empowering. It is truly awesome to see a character strive for success and if they stumble, to always do it with a bit of smile.

The series was filmed on a set in Serbia and during covid times. How did you find that?

The crew we got to work with in Serbia are serious artists. From the art department, production, to costume and makeup. It’s always thrilling to work with people who are at the top of their game. That was really true with everyone that we were working with out there. We were so comfortable and were given all the support we needed. Belgrade itself is a beautiful city and now feels like a home from home.

Did they have to build a lot of sets to recreate the look from series one?

Yes, the sets were phenomenal. We filmed at a lot of locations in Dublin for series one, so there was a fair bit to recreate. For example, the Duke’s office was an old school located just off the coast of Dublin. You’d walk onto the set in Serbia, and it genuinely felt like we had been transported back there and that the sea was just outside the door!

Is there anything that you would want to bring back from Victorian times?

Well, the first thing I would say is that they can keep their corsets! Actually, a few weeks in, I had stopped wearing my corset. We had some really serious discussions about it. Whilst corsets can be really useful for finding the character it got to the point where I was just so uncomfortable. The costumes themselves have this really beautiful structure and we quickly discovered that you couldn’t tell when I wasn’t wearing it. It was incredibly liberating.

What was it like working with Stuart?

I adore the man. He’s a great actor and we both have a lot of fun working together. He’s a really generous actor and makes the fighty/playful dynamic so easy to play.

What is it about Miss Scarlet and the Duke that makes it unique?

I think it has everything that you love about a period drama – bringing everything that you thought was sepia or black and white, into a vivid and colourful representation. It certainly does all of that, but it also has a wittiness to it that you don’t always get.

How would you describe the series in 3 words?

Witty. Bouncy. Romantic.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.