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The Confessions Of Frannie Langton | Interview with Patrick Martins (Laddie Lightning)



the confessions of frannie langton | interview with patrick martins (laddie lightning)

What were your initial thoughts when you first read the scripts?

“I had read the book and was really impressed with it. As I was with the scripts for this. I felt Sara Collins had done a very good job in creating such real and truthful characters. So when this screen adaptation came along I felt privileged, knowing that I was going to be a part of this special project. The fact that Sara had written the novel and also adapted it for the screen made me feel safe in terms of asking for insight into my character. She knew what she was talking about.”

How did you learn you had got the role?

“I was on my last day of filming in Dublin for ITV – my first decent role in a TV drama. I got back to my trailer and my agent called me to say I had the job. I remember being so excited and happy. I was just finishing one job and wondering what would happen next. This came at a perfect time. I remember feeling just pure happiness because Laddie is a character I never thought I’d have the chance to play in my career especially being Irish. I never expected that and so I was thrilled.”

How would you describe The Confessions of Frannie Langton?

“The whole thing is a murder mystery but there is so much more to it than that. It’s a story of a woman and her love. And a story of love in general. There are so many underlying themes running through the entire story. Including race, oppression and many more. They were exciting to tackle, discuss and figure out.”

Was there anything in this story that particularly struck home or shocked you?

“A number of things in this story struck a chord with me. We are all aware of the history of slavery and oppression. This is something that actually happened and people went through these experiences. I look at today and think about how as a black man I can walk out on the street and have my voice heard as a human being, but back then black people could not do that.

“Women at that time also had no voice. Power was in the hands of white men. So even a white woman, a wife of an aristocrat, had no say. That is how their lives were.”

Who is Laddie Lightning and how would you describe him as a character?

“We first see a painting of him as a young boy but we don’t know it’s Laddie at first. Then we meet him when he has grown into what is described in the book as this tall, imposing, handsome man. He was taken away from his mother in Jamaica and brought to England at the age of four to be given to Madame (Sophie Cookson). Almost as a pet.

“He has many emotions that he doesn’t necessarily know how to express. At least at the beginning. He also has some issues with certain characters in the story. He is a well spoken, articulate man who commands any space when he walks into it. That would have been very rare for a black man at this time in the 1820s. He is someone who is aware of his reputation and plays up to that at times. That is what is so fascinating about him and also fun to play.

“I believe Laddie is loosely inspired by the real story of Julius Soubise who was pageboy to the Duchess of Queensberry. With Sara then creating his own story from that.”

How does he view Frannie Langton and do they have things in common?

“Laddie and Frannie have a lot in common. They were both taken away from their families in Jamaica and brought to London. They also have to navigate their circumstances in order to get by. They are both very intelligent, articulate human beings with a mutual respect between them. Even though there is some friction there, I feel there is underlying respect, understanding, sympathy and compassion between the two of them. It is so well written, that shared history.”

How does Laddie view Madame Benham?

“Madame is the only mother figure Laddie has in his life, having been taken away from his real mother at the age of four and brought to London. Regardless of what happens, there will always be that connection.”

And her husband George Benham?

“Laddie is aware of how society looks up to George Benham as a kind, benevolent man. But Laddie knows the truth and can see who he really is. He wants to reveal the real George Benham to society. A man who is not as kind- hearted and benevolent as he portrays himself to be. That is one of Laddie’s main motives in the story – to expose this man.”

Do the costumes help you get into character?

“It was a thrill to work with every single member of the hair, make up and costume departments. The detail in their work was amazing to see. I had one green coat that I really enjoyed wearing. The costumes and shoes help me feel like the character is there and help me get into the zone. I was also given a lot more hair than I normally have. Everyone put so much thought and care into their work.”

Can you tell us about some of the scenes you filmed?

“Laddie talks at a dinner in a huge grand room. While we were filming it there were moments where I had to check in with myself, thinking, ‘Wow, I’m actually filming a scene like this.’ I grew up watching scenes like this one on TV, wondering what it would be like to be a part of something like that.

Being there at this long dinner table, seeing how it all worked with all of the guests, the food, the candles and the costumes, it really made me feel I was present in 1826, telling people this story. It was mesmerising what they did to create all of that. It was very special.

“Laddie also attends Frannie’s trial at the Old Bailey. Those scenes were filmed at Dewsbury Town Hall. Again, there was so much attention to detail.”

What was it like working with Karla-Simone Spence (Frannie Langton) and Sophie Cookson (Madame Benham)?

“Karla-Simone is fantastic as Frannie. Sometimes I would forget I was acting in a scene with her because of how compelling she is as an actor. I remember watching Sophie in a Kingsman movie. When I found out she was cast in this and then when I met her I was a bit starstruck, because I’m such a fan of her work. She was the nicest, sweetest soul to meet. It was a real pleasure to share scenes with her. I feel very lucky and privileged to be a part of this production.”

What was it like working with director Andrea Harkin?

“Andrea is very detailed in her process. She knows exactly what she wants but is also very collaborative. I felt like I had a say in how I wanted things to go with the character. She was great to work with.”

How do you reflect back on working on The Confessions of Frannie Langton?

“I learned a lot from working on The Confessions of Frannie Langton. I will look back on it as a pivotal moment in my career. I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to work with such a talented crew and cast and tackle a story as important as this one.”

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