Interview: Juliet Stevenson talks about her role in Place of Execution

September 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

juliet-stevenson-copy.jpgJuliet Stevenson found it easy to identify with her character’s all-consuming urge to find the truth about a missing schoolgirl in Place of Execution (Episode 2 shows on ITV 1, Monday 29th September, 9pm)

“It’s a very dark thriller.  I play a documentary filmmaker who gets obsessed with a murder case about a child who disappeared on the moors in the 1960s and was never seen again.  Catherine finds herself very drawn to the story; it’s like an itch she can’t scratch.

“Even after more than 40 years, the case can’t rest until the body is found.  I have always been haunted by the Suzy Lamplugh case – that girl was never found.  How do families and parents of loved ones cope without the lack of closure?  Also the McCanns whose situation has been so prominent for so long – all parents have been identifying very strongly with that case.  So our story is very current.?

The script was just one of the appeals of the drama for Juliet.

“I thought it was an exciting story and the role was intriguing because, like all interesting roles, there was a lot going on sub-textually.  Catherine is pursuing buried secrets from the past which have never been resolved but she also has secrets in her own life.  The narrative drive and her internal life make for an interesting combination.  I liked the whole package.

“I read the book, as I always like to, but my character differs a lot because in the book she doesn’t have a teenage daughter and that is a big part of the film.  The very first script didn’t have a daughter either and I loved it when I read the second draft and discovered she is a struggling single parent, going through a difficult time.  Her personal life is unravelling as the story unravels.?

Catherine is forced to confront her problems with her daughter Sasha (Elizabeth Day) when she accompanies her to Northumberland to investigate the story of missing schoolgirl Alison Carter (Poppy Goodburn).

Explains Juliet:  “Catherine is a workaholic.  She’s passionate about her work; she’s very direct, full of energy and a perfectionist.  Although she’s a strong woman she knows she’s probably not the best parent.  She found parenthood difficult to plait into her working life, her marriage has fallen apart and she and her daughter are locked in mutual frustration, misunderstanding and anger.

“Her own relationship with her mother is difficult and fractured too but I don’t think she realises it.  She is a woman of her time.?

Juliet Stevenson plays Catherine Heathcote (cont)

Juliet understands the pressures facing mothers to juggle family life and work.

“I have a very busy life with two children and two stepchildren so I don’t have that much spare time and I work a lot.  I have a son Gabriel and daughter Rosalind.  I am a hands-on mum – it’s hard work and means a lot of organisation and running around, but I really enjoy it.  I enjoy my children and they really make me laugh.

“I try not to work away but PLACE OF EXECUTION was very good because it was condensed with an intense filming schedule, but I could get away home for the weekend on the last train home, and the next working day shoot back up again.  It was always worth it, just to get home for a short time.  My husband is an anthropologist and does go off for stretches at a time, but he is home more than he is away.?

The drama, set in the present day with flashbacks to the 1960s, was filmed in Northumberland in two distinct parts.

“We never saw the 1960s cast, so my scenes are with Dave Hill and Philip Jackson in the present day.  I didn’t get to see Lee Ingleby, Tony Maudsley and Greg Wise.  The only actor who covers both eras is Joy Blakeman who plays Kathy Lomas.  She is aged by prosthetics to go from her thirties to her seventies.

“The 60s section was filmed first and then us, almost like two different films.  As we arrived all the other characters were saying fond farewells.  We felt like the new kids on the block.  It’s a strange feeling, almost as if the house belongs to someone else and you are walking into someone else’s bathroom.  Lots of relationships have been established there.  But of course in only a matter of days you take over the house – to flog the metaphor.

“We all stayed in the same hotel in Northumberland so we could sometimes all meet up in the evening.  I loved filming it as I love the north east and my family also came up to see me.?

Juliet began her career in another drama set in the north east, The Mallens, and received huge acclaim for her starring role in the multi award-winning Truly Madly Deeply.  Her other many credits include The Politician’s Wife, Cider with Rosie, Trial by Fire, A Doll’s House, The Snow Queen, Marple: Ordeal by Innocence and The Last Hangman (aka Pierrepoint) on television, and the films Bend it Like Beckham, Nicholas Nickleby, Drowning by Numbers and Mona Lisa Smile.

New work includes the forthcoming films Desert Flower, based on the international best-selling book by Waris Dirie, The Secret of Moonacre, starring Ioan Grufford and Dakota Blue Richards, and Triage, starring Colin Farrell and Christopher Lee.