As Matthew Weiner’s stylish, critically acclaimed and brilliantly nuanced series draws to a close, we’re taking a look at the cast that shaped the iconic series over the years, and how their careers have progressed since taking up their roles at Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Pryce.
Jon Hamm – Don Draper
Jon Hamm’s defining role as the tortured, brilliant Don Draper has won him legions of fans, and elevated him to the A-list, but success wasn’t easy to come by for the Missouri-born actor. He was dropped by the famous William Morris Agency and saw his audition for Mad Men as his final shot at success. Since winning the role of a lifetime, Hamm has taken on a diverse range of roles- including a scene-stealing performance as Kristen Wiig’s lecherous love interest in box office smash Bridesmaids, a hardened FBI agent in the Ben Affleck-directed crime drama The Town, and a maverick sports agent in Million Dollar Arm. He’s also jumped behind the camera, honing his directing skills on a couple of episodes of Mad Men.
Christina Hendricks – Joan Harris (nee Holloway)
Hendricks’ role as the office queen bee and eventual partner in the agency was originally intended to only be a guest role. However, Matthew Weiner was so impressed with her screen presence that she was promoted to a cast regular. Her career has stepped up a gear since taking the somewhat iconic role of Joan Harris, with roles in Nicholas Winding-Refn’s critically-acclaimed Drive and Sally Potter’s drama Ginger and Rosa. She’s also starred in two high-profile directorial debuts- fellow Mad Men alumni John Slattery’s crime drama God’s Pocket, and Ryan Gosling’s urban fairy tale Lost River.
Elisabeth Moss – Peggy Olson
Arguably the real central character of Mad Men, Moss’s turn as Peggy Olson has garnered her five Emmy nominations, and countless other awards. Olson’s evolution from shy office secretary to ambitious, confident and complex Copy Chief is handled masterfully by Moss, and she shows no sign of slowing down – her recent work includes award-winning performances as Detective Robin Griffin in mini-series Top of the Lake, and as one half of a struggling married couple undergoing unusual therapy in The One I Love.
John Slattery – Roger Sterling
Slattery was born to play the suave, charismatic and irresistible Roger Sterling, a character who is often cited as a fan favourite for obvious reasons. Since the series began, Slattery has expanded an already impressive filmography, with roles in Charlie Wilson’s War, Iron Man 2 and The Adjustment Bureau. He’s also directed several episodes of Mad Men, and made his feature directorial debut with crime drama God’s Pocket, which starred the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and fellow cast member Christina Hendricks.
Vincent Kartheiser – Pete Campbell
One of the most loathed characters in the series, the moral complexities of Pete Campbell are reflected in the audience’s equally complex relationship with the character. Vincent Kartheiser’s brilliant portrayal has often left viewers disgusted, frustrated, and occasionally elated (particularly when taken down a peg or two by Don Draper). Over the last few years, he has starred in an impressive range of both high-profile features and indie shorts, including Alpha Dog (the drama based on the life of drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood), short thriller Waning Moon, and sci-fi blockbuster In Time.
January Jones – Betty Francis
Jones originally auditioned for the role of Peggy Olson, but was eventually cast as the icy, Grace Kelly-esque Betty Francis (formerly Draper). Her difficult relationship with ex-husband Don, as well as her increasingly strained relationships with daughter Sally and husband Henry provide much of the drama in Season 7, as her inability to connect or empathise becomes increasingly problematic. Jones has since starred alongside Liam Neeson in action thriller Unknown, as well as Marvel super-villain Emma Frost in X Men: First Class.
Jessica Pare – Megan Draper
As the third Mrs Draper, Megan has proved a thoroughly divisive character, garnering sympathy as she struggles to deal with Don’s indiscretions, and also derision for her sometimes petty, immature behaviour towards others as she pursues an acting career. One thing that most agree on, however, is that Pare’s casting breathed new life into the show. Pare has since shown a penchant for comedy, starring in The Trotsky, Suck and Hot Tub Time Machine among others.
Kiernan Shipka – Sally Draper
Kiernan Shipka’s pitch-perfect performance as the troubled, wayward adolescent Sally has won her critical acclaim, and at the age of 14, she is one of the youngest to appear on rite-of-passage Inside the Actors Studio. Shipka’s portrayal of Sally’s teenage rebellion is masterful, and her scenes with on-screen parents Don and Betty are key highlights of Season 7. The fact that she is able to hold her own at such a young age amongst acting stalwarts is commendable in itself, but her recent appearances in TV movie Flowers in the Attic, and shorts A Rag Doll Story, Squeaky Clean and We Rise Like Smoke have further cemented her status as a formidable acting talent in the making.
Robert Morse – Bertram Cooper
Founding partner and self –assigned godfather of the office, Bertram Cooper’s eccentric ways often mask his wily and self-serving true nature, while frequently providing comic relief in tenser moments. Robert Morse is an acting stalwart and Broadway veteran, earning multiple nominations and wins for Tony’s, Drama Desk awards and Emmys over the course of five decades. Since joining the cast of Mad Men, he’s taken roles in dramedy-western The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez, as well as lending his voice to animations The Legend of Korra and Sofia the First.
Christopher Stanley – Henry Francis
Since joining the cast in 2009, Stanley’s character has evolved from Betty’s saviour to a subtle menace. Season 7 sees him slowly revealing an insidiously misogynistic side, leaving Betty considering the unpalatable idea she may have simply swapped one prison for another. Since 2009, Stanley has expanded his resume by starring in the critically acclaimed Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, as well as short film The Terrain.
Mad Men: Season 7, Part One is available to pre-order now, and is released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 3rd, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
For a municipality that is older than Rome Naples has had a far greater impact upon European culture than is commonly recognised. The poet Virgil lived there. The Renaissance humanist Giovanni Boccaccio spent his formative years on its streets and it was where Caravaggio painted some of his finest works. Not to mention that it was a Neapolitan called Giambattista Basile who first wrote down many of Europe’s folk fables.
Peter Robb in his book ‘Street Fight in Naples’ describes the city as a “dense impasto of soft yellow tufo and hardened black lava and chips of brilliant white marble, of bits of Greek wall and Roman amphitheatre, of cavities and blocked water springs and unexploded bombs, of bricks and tiles and seashells and used syringes.” Which means that the city hadn’t changed much from when the Spanish conquered it at the beginning of the sixteenth century, when they found it “a very rundown city whose whole infrastructure badly needed making over”.
It is against a reasonable facsimile of this backdrop that Gomorrah (pun intended) takes place. Based upon Roberto Saviano’s 2006 bestseller about the Camorra – a work which got him greenlit by his book’s protagonists – the TV series is set and shot in Scampia and Secondigliano like the 2008 film of the same name.
Gomorrah has all familiar elements of gangster narrative: ambitious footsoldiers, rival crime families muscling in, a militant matriarch, and a surplus of boys trying to prove they’re men. However unlike Mob operas derived from The Godfather or Sopranos template, Gomorrah places much more emphasis on the clan members integral to the day-to-day running of operations. Those links between the order and the action; the impact and the consequences.
Most notably a portrait of corruption, cynicism, intimidation and greed, Gomorrah is also a reasonably sombre but well-paced study of crime in urban Naples that plays well within the constraints of the gangster paradigm. Comparisons to David Simon’s The Wire aren’t unreasonable; the show’s aspirations to cinematic majesty contrast well with the angst-fuelled drama. Although it’s quite likely that the blissful ignorance of my ears to the intricacies of Neapolitan make me more susceptible to its charms than the patois of Baltimore cornerboys.
A very worthy drama but perhaps not quite the epic its scope would have you believe.
Gomorrah is available on Blu-ray, DVD & Download now
How is Janet at the beginning of the series?
“Janet is single, facing life without a husband, a seemingly balanced home life and at a point in her life where she can choose the direction in which she goes.”
She is sitting her Sergeant’s exam, is she ready?
“As her careful nature would imply she’s fully prepped for the Sergeant’s interview and handles it brilliantly. Unfortunately, almost as soon as that plan of action is put in motion, a crisis with one of her girls and her mother leaves her feeling as if she’s failing at the home front and she considers putting her own ambitions aside and once again staying where she is in her life to attend to others.”
How are things at home for her?
“As a recurring theme for Janet, we watch as she understands the nature of this, at work, with her family and her romantic life, and by the end of the series we see a Janet who is determined to be herself, to have fun, to put herself on the line and to stop worrying about when is the right time/ right plan/ right man and that sometimes you just have to go for it….”
How are things between Janet and Rachel this series?
“Her relationship with Rachel is up ended slightly by Gills unfortunate take and request on a situation, but we are seeing a very much more mature and engaged version of the dynamic between Janet and Rachel this year. They know how to work well together and have fun.”
Janet goes speed dating in this series was that fun to film?
“The speed dating and online situations get Janet into a few scrapes that are wittily handled and were very enjoyable to play. Janet is a 3D character who always appears to be in control but as in life has to keep learning how to bend and shape to the issues around her.”
This is series 4 how does it feel to return to the character of Janet and how much do you enjoy playing her?
“There is a 10 page interview scene which was extremely difficult to learn and was a brilliant acting opportunity. All of the interviews I’ve had to learn and be part of this year, have felt like great opportunities for me as an actress and for the character of Janet. By the end of the series Janet has significantly moved on, with her children, her single status and a realisation about her special skill set at work. All of our writers have honoured the imperative that was so clearly and brilliantly put in motion by Sally Wainwright, and it’s an immense privilege to get the opportunity again to engage in such detailed and rich work.”
Simon Cowell is, amongst other things, a record company executive, a television and film producer…and a global TV star. Renowned for his sharp eye for talent and candid opinions, Simon Cowell has completely transformed popular culture in the 21st century, through his TV and music interests.
Cowell’s company, Syco Entertainment, is a world-renowned music, film, and television production company responsible for some of the most successful global music and television franchises. Syco’s television assets include the two international TV phenomenon formats: Got Talent and The X Factor. This year, Syco Music was named the No.1 A&R label in the UK, for both singles and albums. To date, Cowell has worked with artists who have sold more than 350 million records.
So Simon how does it feel to be back in the UK for this series?
It actually feels really good to be back in the UK. I think in a weird way it’s good I’ve had a break from the show, I’ve watched the show from a distance and now I feel like I’m back in control again. I like it.
What are you most excited about?
There’s always that feeling when you’re on the panel that you’re going to find a new star. I don’t know who they’re going be, where they’re going to come from but it’s that that excites me the most.
What did you miss most about the show while you were away?
You miss British contestants. I’ve always thought on these shows, for whatever reason, the best people have come from Britain. You can take people like Leona Lewis or One Direction or Olly Murs, JLS, Ella Henderson, Cher Lloyd, they’ve all come from the show and gone on to have big careers. So we’re lucky the show does attract people who do want to be big recording artists, rather than wanting to win a singing competition – there is a difference.
What’s going to be different about this year?
I think you’re going to hear a different kind of singer this year. The show is going to look different in terms of the line up. I’ve done the small room auditions already, and then we’re going back to arenas, which is the real test. I’ve already seen 5 or 6 people that have got massive potential. Some of these people, when you put them in front of the big crowds, they fall apart. And on the show this year there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. You’ve got to go from the small room to the arena to the six chair challenge, which I think is a great addition. Then you’ve got to do the judges’ houses visit, then you make it on the live shows. So anyone who gets to the live shows, they’ve earned their spot.
How competitive are you and the other judges feeling this year?
You don’t get competitive until you get your category. At that point, for whatever reason, you almost forget about the artists at that point – it’s so much about you winning. Or so much about someone else not winning – it’s about your competitive nature, which is why you put competitive people on the show because if you don’t want to win, it’s kind of a boring show.
How does it feel to be reunited with Cheryl?
It feels good to be reunited with Cheryl, I’ll be honest with you. She’s been on good form. It’s almost like the last four years disappeared. We just picked it up straight away. She’s been fun and annoying, but good to be with.
Cheryl said she came back after a lot of grovelling. What did you say to persuade her to come back?
We had a lot of conversations before Cheryl agreed to come back. But what was interesting, was that once we got past whatever we had to get past, we then started talking about the show and we reminded ourselves of the past series we made which was a great series. It’s how we wanted to recapture that again, and make a show which is fun, big and most importantly find a star, or maybe more than one star.
Is there a particular type of contestant you’re looking for this year; a specific genre or category?
I’m not interested in a sob-story, I mean seriously, I’m just so over them. I always say the same thing. I want someone who can become a star in this country, but just as importantly, can become a star in other countries. You want somebody who’s different, you don’t want a second rate version of someone who’s already out there, but you want somebody who’s different from anyone else in the charts at the moment.
You’ve brought Louis back to the show for his 11th consecutive series. What do you think he brings to the show that nobody else does?
Louis brings madness to the show. I’ve known Louis for about 15 years, he’s a nutcase, and he has a very different view of the world than I do. But that’s what I find interesting about Louis; he is an optimist, whereas I can be a bit cynical. But he loves music. He loves doing the show; I mean if he had a tail he’d be wagging it. And the one thing you forget about Louis is that he is a really good manager. I mean he’s sold over 100 million records – you don’t do that with luck, you do it because you’re smart.
And what’s it like working with Mel, what kind of judge is she?
I wasn’t sure whether Mel was going to fit in or not, but within 5 minutes I got her. She brings an incredible energy to the show. She isn’t a judge for hire, which a lot of people are nowadays. She loves the show and is really interested in the mentoring aspect of the show, because she did the show in Australia where she did a good job. Plus she’s really fun to be around, although I get why she’s called Scary!
What’s your biggest audition turn off?
I think it’s normally a boyband that’s been put together by a manager, and told what to wear, what to say, they all come running in and everything they say is scripted, and they pretend to laugh at each other’s jokes, I hate that. I’d rather find something much more raw – like we had with One Direction.
The age limit’s been lowered to 14 this year. Do you think that someone this young can cope with the pressure of being on the show?
On Britain’s Got Talent we’ve had no age limits, we’ve had really young people do well on the show. You have to make a judgement call before you put teenagers in front of us, about whether they can cope with it or not. When they come to see us, we can make a pretty good call as to whether we think they’re too young or too inexperienced. On the other hand we’ve had really good 14 / 15 year olds, who are better and more assured than some of the 30 year olds.
Tennis coach Judy is a self-confessed Strictly fan and is best known for being mother and coach to two very high achieving tennis players: 2013 Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and Wimbledon Mixed Doubles champion Jamie Murray. Born in Bridge of Allan, Scotland, Judy qualified as a tennis coach aged 17 and went on to become the eighth best female player in the UK. Judy is passionate about encouraging the next generation of youngsters and has supported both her professional tennisplaying sons throughout their careers.
How are you feeling as the launch draws ever closer?
I am very excited. I’m not nervous yet but I think the nerves will kick in on the night that we do anything live. I’ve loved meeting all the other contestants and everyone else who works behind the scenes. It is fun for me already and it is so different to anything I have ever done before. My life has been saturated with tennis so to experience life behind the scenes on my favourite show is not something I ever thought I’d have the opportunity to do so I think I am going to love every moment.
What made you sign up?
Like millions of others I am a huge fan and I’ve been following the show for five or six years now and I never miss it. I might not always be at home when the show is on but I always make sure I catch up. When I come home and have been away for three weeks I will always come home and watch it in sequence, I never jump because I’ve always enjoyed watching it from the start. I love watching how unbelievably good everyone becomes by the end of the series. I’ve never danced, so the challenge of learning a new skill and being part of something I love watching is a real thrill.
Have you done any special preparation?
I think from my coaching background I understand how people learn. I am coming into this as a complete novice. I will be careful with what I eat, try to go to the gym a bit more and I may even wear high heels around the house to get used to that but whoever the poor soul is that has to dance with me, it is all going to be down to him to teach me what to do!
What are you looking for in a dance partner?
When I watched the show in the past my favourite professional dancers were Ian Waite and Artem Chigvintsev. Neither of them are on the show this year but I really don’t mind at all who I dance with as they are all such unbelievable dancers. I guess the important thing is the height but more so I need someone who has a good sense of humour and who will be patient with me because I am such a rookie!
What feedback would you like to have from the judges?
I don’t think I will mind at all what they say. I have watched the show for such a long time that I know how each of them is going to tackle the way they give their feedback. They are all completely different from each other. But I am aware that they are experts in their field and I am not! You have to take on what they are saying, but I think you have to giggle and laugh it all off if it is bad.
Who will be supporting you this series? Family? Other celebs?
When I am watching Strictly I identify with the people who are slightly older, or those who are starting from scratch. I loved watching Deborah Meaden and Fiona Fullerton in the last series. I also enjoyed watching Abbey going from a rookie start to being absolutely amazing. I hope the 50 something ladies out there will be able to identify with me and will be looking out for me.
The Inquisitions swept like a plague across Medieval Europe, with thousands of innocent people arrested, tried and executed for heresy. this is an extraordinary story of nearly 500 years of bigotry, fear, persecution, torture and death.
Andrew Gough is a researcher, writer and presenter of historical conundrums. He is Editor in Chief of The Heretic Magazine and lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey. He is one of the main contributors to the brand new series Inquisition.
What interests you most about the period of history of the inquisitions?
What fascinates, mystifies and ultimately repulses me about the Inquisitions is how transparently shameless the powers at be were in their pursuit and obliteration of anyone who they feared was a threat to their supremacy.
The Inquisitions represented some of the earliest, and most horrific, examples of genocide in the modern world. What made the whole thing particularly disturbing was that their campaigns of hate were justified in the name of God. And their persecution of the so-called ‘heretics’ was so ruthless that even those who had taken their own life were dug up, tried, their skeletons burned and their former possessions taken from their heirs. Before long, the execution of heretics had become such a routine, business-like activity that it required an accounting audit just like any other vocation.
Where did the Inquisitions start and take place? Where did you travel to for this series?
The Inquisitions began in earnest with the extermination of the Cathars in the south of France, in the late 12th century, in a region known as the Languedoc.
And so we travelled to Beziers, where the crusade against the Cathars began in 1209. we investigate the events that led to the carnage in Beziers, when thousands of people were killed, including men, women and children, during what was known as the ‘day of Butchery’.
We pick up the next incarnation of the Inquisition in Madrid, where the Spanish Inquisition sought to suppress the re-emergence of Jewish practices in a country that was desperately trying to maintain a Catholic identity. Not surprisingly, the Spanish Inquisition resorted to torture, in the name of God, in order to ensure its success.
Just when you thought that civilisation had transcended the dismal reality of Inquisitions, we travel to England to study the British Tudors, who were far from the beautiful and benevolent people so frequently portrayed. In fact, what made the religious persecutions of the Tudor Inquisition especially barbaric is that they seemed to revel in torturing their victims, and even invented the torture chamber to facilitate their morbid pleasure, as if it were theatre.
How could a person be labelled a heretic? What happened during their trials?
The manner in which good, honest, normal individuals were labelled heretics, and brutally persecuted, remains one of the most reprehensible phenomena of the last 1,000 years.
First of all, the Inquisition ignored all rules of decency and justice. Guilt was assumed, and the accused seldom knew the identity of their accusers, let alone what they were accused of. Furthermore, the heretic had no right to legal counsel and, in the unlikely event where they were provided representation, even their legal counsel risked persecution.
The Inquisitions were brazen and arbitrarily levied charges of heresy, idolatry, obscene rituals and homosexuality, financial corruption, fraud and secrecy. Astonishingly, over the years the paranoia the Inquisitions spawned became even worse and people were charged on the say-so of hostile or jealous neighbours, while informers were paid handsomely for their efforts. If any of the ‘false’ accusations were exposed, they were
forgiven for being the result of ‘zeal for the faith’. And, lest we forget, typically half of a guilty person’s property was seized by the church. the systematic persecution knew no bounds and the Dominicans even
hit on the idea of digging up and trying dead people, so that they could seize property from their heirs.
Inquisition investigates the most gruesome and horrific period of human history, exclusive to Yesterday, Wednesdays at 9pm from 16th July.
How would you describe Nessa Stein?
“Nessa is a very powerful, smart and emotional woman but at the same time she’s broken and confused with a deeply troubled past. She is conflicted about past events, events that have haunted her and it is the reason why she is constantly battling a consuming internal conflict – this internal struggle for reconciliation with her past and her search for personal equilibrium – is manifested in her political activities – to try to reconcile a conflict that has equally haunted a region of the world, countless lives, and political agendas for many years.”
What interested you about the project?
“When I read the scripts I thought they were incredible. Hugo Blick is such a talented writer and I’d never read anything like them before. On one hand they had the thriller aspect, with the twists, turns and secrets but underneath that there is this ocean of realistic human emotion, especially in Nessa and that’s what interested me the most. Everything about Nessa is very intense, she’s just so much more alive than I am, or any of us, and that was such a joy to play.
So while The Honourable Woman deals with political inheritance and trust and deceit, it also deals with the deep personal side to those same issues. So it took all of me, my brain, my heart, my body to play Nessa Stein. And I had never been presented with a challenge quite like that before.”
Why did you choose this role as your first TV project?
“I had never read a character like Nessa. She is a powerful, smart, grown-up woman who is also deeply flawed and broken. She is hard and sensual, brave and childlike all at once. Like we all are. I love that the drama deals with very important, terrifying global conflicts – and it really takes them on – but it is also about a woman trying to sort out similar conflicts inside herself.
I know it differs from project to project but I can see now all the benefits and autonomy television can bring having worked on The Honourable Woman. I just loved the scope of the drama and how a television series grants you the freedom to really flesh out a character. Having worked in films for so long and becoming used to the regular two-hour rhythm, I found it difficult initially, to get my head around regularly shooting scenes out of order. But as time passed it felt really wild and unpredictable and that excited me.”
How did you perfect the English accent?
“I’ve worked on two plays and two movies with an English accent so I knew I was competent at doing the accent. It wasn’t like I was learning something from scratch, but this was the first time I’ve ever felt like it was really in my bones.
I love talking with an English accent and I loved playing Nessa with her English accent. I remember when we finished shooting Hugo said to me, ‘Where are you going to hang that accent?’ as I now feel like a fully fledged Anglophile!”
The Honourable Woman is on BBC now
Q: Broadchurch is an award-winning TV drama phenomenon and a town millions feel they know. How was that brought to the screen?
Broadchurch creator and lead writer Chris Chibnall lives near the Jurassic coastline in Dorset and he would take walks along the cliffs for inspiration. When I joined the project I stayed with him so we could walk the locations he had in his mind for the script.
I then had the town, the people in it, where it was, all of those images in my mind that Chris had used as inspiration to write the first script. You can’t always put those into a line of dialogue or a line of stage direction. But you want the people making the show to be aware of the same sources of inspiration. So to be able to walk the cliffs and the beach, visit the coffee shops, all those places he had in his mind when he was writing that script, was a huge advantage.
Q: Was it always intended that the series would be a fresh take on the TV detective drama?
What Chris wanted to do was say, ‘This isn’t a traditional detective drama.’ He wanted the audience to fall in love with the area as much as he had, to see how beautiful it was and how bright it can feel. That whole idea that you can have these very powerful, moving, dark stories in bright, beautiful sunshine was something really important to Chris. He wanted that sense of the extraordinary, the tragic and the terrible to happen in a rather beautiful and moving environment.
Q: Was there a lot of public and press attention during filming?
We did get some. But we moved quite a lot. So by the time people realised we were filming and tried to find us, we’d be on the move to somewhere else. David Tennant was rather wonderfully left very much alone. Of course there were people who wanted autographs, asking him to sign things. But generally we were left alone to carry on and film as we needed to.
Q: Does Olivia Colman make a good cup of tea?
Often Olivia Colman would come into the production office. She’d be making herself a cup of tea and say, ‘anyone else want a cup of tea?’ And for the first couple of weeks we’d all leap up and go, ‘No, no, no Olivia. We should make you a cup of tea.’ And then it came to a point about two or three weeks into filming when we went, ‘Yes, a cup of tea would be lovely.’ So she’d just make the production team cups of tea and we’d make her a cup of tea. It really genuinely felt like we were all part of the same gang.
Q: Was Pauline Quirke’s screen dog really her own?
Yes. Susan Wright’s (Pauline Quirke) dog was originally written as a little terrier. Then Pauline said, ‘I do have my own dog.’ Because she was going to be away from home she needed her dog Bailey, a lovely chocolate labrador, to come with her. So Pauline sent us photos of Bailey and in one of them the dog had a comedy party hat on. Chris Chibnall saw the photos, laughed and thought, ‘That’s absolutely perfect.’ So Bailey was cast as Vince the dog.
Q: How did you go about keeping the secret of who killed Danny Latimer?
We got the cast and crew together and showed them a trailer of what we had done so far, which everyone loved. Then we were going to tell them who the killer was and what had happened.
But that morning a few people had come up to Chris and said, ‘I don’t want to know what happens until I’ve got the actual script. I want to find out as I’m reading it.’ So at the very last minute we decided not to tell everybody. They were initially quite surprised and frustrated. But then they thought, ‘Actually, that probably is a good thing.’
Q: Who else knew the secret before the script for the final episode was released?
It was a very small number of people. In the very first script meeting there was me, executive producer Jane Featherstone, Chris and Chris’s script executive Sam Hoyle, who helped Chris as a sounding board and editor in terms of plotting through everything. There were the four of us in the room.
Sam and Chris obviously knew the ending and Jane said, ‘So who did do it?’ And Chris looked at both of us, smiled and told us. And we went, ‘Oh my God, that’s brilliant. Of course, when you think about it, that’s who it must be.’ Then we absolutely kept it to a minimum. None of the actors knew. Even when they were being cast, we didn’t tell them.
Q: What can you tell us about the US re-make called Gracepoint, also starring David Tennant?
I’m not involved but James Strong is directing the opening episodes while also working on preparation for the start of filming on Broadchurch series two. So I get stories from him and also from Chris Chibnall and Jane Featherstone who are executive producers.
Q: Is there anything you can say about Broadchurch series two?
What I would say about series two is, ‘If you really want to enjoy it, don’t ask the question.’ Simply because that thrill of seeing something on telly that is a genuine surprise is so rare these days. So don’t ask what happens in series two. You’ll enjoy it much more as a result. And in the meantine you can watch series one again on ITV Encore – or discover it for the first time.
What attracted you to the part of Malcolm Webster?
I felt it was a huge journey to be able to go on with a person, and a real horror to be able to play the innocence of his reality as he saw it. He’s not doing it with a twirl of a moustache – the entire thing is just a means to an end. Every step of the way he’s justifying his actions.
Is this role a departure for you, particularly as it’s a factual drama and you’re more known for black comedy?
Playing the role of Malcolm Webster was a great opportunity for me to show people another side of my work. It’s a slow process though, people generally have me pegged as the man who does the grotesque characters so it’s nice to do something with a bit more subtlety.
How did you feel about playing a real person and convicted criminal?
As an actor you do feel a sense of responsibility on your shoulders when you play a real person. I recently played Patrick Troughton in Mark Gatiss’ Doctor Who. For that part I had an extra element of responsibility because people can easily say, ‘That’s not right…he wasn’t like that’.
How did you approach your portrayal of Malcolm Webster?
I talked to Paul [the director] constantly about not playing a cod Hannibal Lector-style psychopath or someone you’d find in a deliberate serial killer story. I wanted to get across the ordinariness, the blandness, and the mundanity of the evil.
I only ever drew on the perception of Malcolm Webster given by other people who encountered him. Everyone I discussed this with said there was never even a glimmer of evil and ironically, all the women felt completely safe with him. On the whole, the person they spent a lot of time with wasn’t evil to them in the slightest. They find it really hard to square that with what he did. We also show the evil side of Malcolm Webster, a side that was completely alien to the world and only about greed.
Was it ever suggested that you meet Malcolm Webster? If not, why do you think the production took the decision not to seek his involvement?
There was never any consideration that I should have met Malcolm Webster. I don’t think I would have gained anything from meeting him other than seeing his utter conviction. The depiction of him via the facets we’ve managed to gather from everyone who encountered him when he was free, is what we needed. To ask to go and see him would have been a voyeuristic exercise and that’s to be avoided.
This isn’t a drama about him as an innocent man. Our version of the person I play is, quite rightly, presented through the eyes of the women. That’s the way it should be.
What research did you do for the part?
I spoke to Charlie Henry, who’d had a lot to do with Malcolm Webster as the net closed in on him. I researched a lot about the sociopathic mind-set of someone who is not really engaging with the world but appears to be. There’s a lot of source material on that.
I also met Simone and Peter Morris. Peter came on the day we filmed Claire and Malcolm Webster’s wedding. He watched me do Webster’s speech. He came up to me and said, “You’ve got his arrogance”, which I thought was good! I felt awful meeting him because I was playing the man who murdered his sister, but he was lovely.
In one scene you shave off your hair. Can you tell us about that?
You wouldn’t normally shave hair from that length but they wanted the proper tramline through the hair. I asked, ‘What if the razor jams’ and they said, ‘Just keep going – we’ve got one take for this’. My legs were shaking when I did it and I didn’t sleep that night. My head was on the pillow with a new feeling of no hair. But that’s the commitment to the truth of the story. It felt right and I was very pleased we’d done it.
What is it about The Widower that will appeal to and fascinate an audience?
I think it’s endlessly jaw-dropping. I was really pleased with the level of tension within the scenes. Firstly you’re with Webster, seeing his lies and how they ripple out into the world, but then as the drama unfolds you’re with Charlie Henry as he’s slowly working towards capturing Webster. The element of cat and mouse is gripping.
Do you think it’s important to dramatise real life cases and stories?
I think stories like this should be told as you can’t pretend that terrible things don’t happen. If you do, you’re letting that person get away with it. I remember talking to Andy Serkis about playing Ian Brady. He was frightened of doing it but said, ‘of course I have to do it, as you’ve got to confront things by showing these evil people’.
Recce Shearsmith’s TV and film credits include: Inside No.9; The World’s End; A Field in England; Psychoville; Eric & Ernie; New Tricks; Shaun of the Dead; The League of Gentlemen
The Widower starts on ITV on Mon 17 March at 9pm
It’s difficult to discover much about “Pramface” creator Chris Reddy. He doesn’t have a Twitter account, a personal site or give too many interviews. And somewhat selfishly, his American oceanographer namesake hogs the first twenty pages of Google results.
Is he simply a reluctant self-promoter? Or is he taking a more principled stand against the ubiquity of modern celebrity? “Twitter’s great but I think I’m more suited to long form. I’d only end up redrafting every tweet eight times, then junking it and starting over. It’d be a weird feed to follow.” Besides, he deadpans, “Chris Reddy the oceanographer is doing really important work, so I don’t want to hinder him in any way.”
A 2014 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research in the USA claimed that the MTV TV show “16 and Pregnant” reduced teenage conceptions by 5.7% in the 18 months following its first broadcast in 2009. And according to the Office for National Statistics, teenage pregnancies in England and Wales are at an all-time low. Theoretically this should be a concern for a series like “Pramface.”
Comedy in its most basic form is a recognition of shared cultural references. It’s not uncommon for a prospective audience to be wary of performers and performances which do not resemble their own experience.
Nonetheless, “Pramface” has prospered. Even with the sort of name that Owen Jones could be reliably expected to write a thinkpiece about. Read more