Silk: Maxine Peake on playing Martha

Tuesday 15 May 2012, 10:21

Fiona Wickham Fiona Wickham Editor, TV blog

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Series two of Silk opens on BBC One tonight, with Martha Costello now a QC. Actress Maxine Peake answered our questions about the return of the courtroom drama.

How has Martha's character developed in series two?

I don't know whether Martha has developed much as a character as we seem to stay well away from her personal life in this series and focus on her cases much more.

I think if anything she's becoming tougher but it hasn't been easy.

Martha Costello (Maxine Peake) stands in court in wig and gown

Maxine Peake as Martha Costello QC

You said "it would be extremely challenging for me to play Martha" when series one came out. What was most challenging about it?

I think convincing myself I could credibly play a barrister.

When you have an accent as specific as mine people do tend to pigeon-hole you. Especially as far as class and education are concerned.

I think people associate being middle class with a lack of accent. That is not the case, especially up north, and that a university education would neutralise any accent. We really need to change our way of thinking!

The amount of dialogue to learn too bordered sometimes on the impossible!

How do you get into character?

I have to create a detailed back story for each character I play.

I find it really useful to use music, literature and art as keys to their personality. What they like to listen to, read. Art that stimulates them. I find a song or painting which I think represents them.

A friend of mine, Lex Shrapnel, said to me after a Fleet Foxes concert that the beautiful thing about music is that you can tell a whole story in a few minutes and I think that goes for encapsulating a character's inner life.

Peter [Moffat] very kindly would adapt his scripts to fit my back story too. Which was fantastic.

Tell us a bit about Clive and Martha's relationship and how they test each other over the series.

Martha and Clive are now the best of friends and as with the people you love the most, they challenge and taunt each other.

I adore their relationship. As Rupert put it perfectly: they are like brother and sister who sometimes get a little confused!

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Martha annoys Clive by calling him a 'note taker'

Did you do any further research for series two?

I went back to the Old Bailey for a couple of days with Rupert this time and we sat in on a murder trial.

I also met up with a female QC at a chambers in Manchester and she talked me through the highs and lows.

With the cuts to legal aid it's very difficult at the moment and hopefully if Silk goes to a third series Peter might highlight that.

How do you feel during this period between finishing shooting and the programme airing?

I fortunately went straight into another job so didn't give it much thought. Although this year I felt we became much more of a team and did miss everyone a little.

We had the fabulous Frances Barber, Indira Varma, Phil Davis and Shaun Evans on board so we all had to up our game.

Can you enjoy watching your performance on screen or does it make you uncomfortable?

I hate it! It sends me into the depths of despair!

Which of the actors did you most enjoy working with?

I love my scenes with Neil Stuke, he's such an open and energetic actor you just have to react to him.

I bloody love Rupert, he's funny and terribly self-deprecating and I was over the moon when Shaun Evans joined us. He's such a great actor and I've always had a wee bit of a crush on him, but don't tell him that!

What was your personal highlight?

Getting to finally meet Frances Barber. What a woman!

Maxine Peake plays Martha Costello QC in Silk.

Silk returns tonight at 9pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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