The Secret Of Crickley Hall

Suranne Jones and Tom Ellis star in Joe Ahearne's chilling drama for BBC One

Interview with Suranne Jones

Category: BBC One; Drama

Can you tell us a bit about your role in The Secret Of Crickley Hall?

I play a character called Eve who is married to Gabe and they have three children. She’s very maternal, she’s very loving, and she’s a school teacher who loves children. She’s a hard worker, she’s a good mother, and she is a family person. She’s also quite spiritual as well and has a psychic connection with her son Cam, but Eve loses Cam when she falls asleep while he is playing. I think she takes her eye off her family life because she’s trying to do so well at her career life - and she basically is just tired out. When she loses her son, you see the guilt and the pain in the aftermath.

It has been a wonderful part to play because there’s an emotional heartbeat to this story as well as it being a James Herbert novel with the ghost story genre element, which was why it was attractive to me.

How did the part come about?

I read the script and then went to meet Joe, Hilary and Ann who talked me through the script and then the book. I really liked them and I really liked Joe’s adaptation - I’d also never worked with a director-writer before and there was something about Joe that just sparked me from that meeting. It’s been wonderful to actually have the writer direct you because there are things that evolve during the rehearsal - things that need to be cut or things that aren’t working or things that he might want to pull out of the script – and he was there able to tell you. It’s good to have that connection and him have all the answers basically. And then it feels more collaborative, even though Joe knows exactly what he wants. The process, because he has control, then becomes collaborative because you can work with stuff on the day. We’ve become very good friends actually since and he’s a bit of an inspiration to me.

How did you find filming in the haunted house?

It’s so wonderful to be on a location these days, a lot of stuff is studio work, so to be out on a location where you are constantly filming is fantastic as it kind of becomes a character. When you arrive on set you can go and sit in the kitchen and you’ve got your greenroom upstairs and you feel at home. Also, I feel that at a film set, you talk to more people when you’re on location because you’re not all going off hiding in your trailers or going off hiding in dressing rooms; everyone’s in one place which I think provides a good on-set atmosphere.

Did you get to interact with both sets of cast, present day and 1943?

No just the present day cast, although there was one day when we were doing studio stuff, we were ‘double banking’ which means that Joe had to run between one set and then the other, so the 1940s and the 2000s were on the lot at the same time, so that was the only day we got to play together really. The stories are self-contained and don’t cross really, so they do their piece and we do our piece – other than that one day when Joe was running around like a headless chicken!

How will the two different periods of time work on screen?

They have very cleverly jumped between periods because the house is a character, so that is the link between 1940s and present day. I think the house is very much part of the character because maybe we would use a shot of the stairs and that would take us through to a little boy from the 1940s being sat on the stairs where Eve has suffered on the same staircase in the present day… and then we maybe follow down a corridor and at the end of the corridor we might hear footsteps and then you’ll hear a crack of a whip and then at the end of that corridor 2012 will turn into 1940s. So I think the design and the use of the house has very much become part of that and I think from what I gather, Peter and Joe worked on it so it didn’t become so starkly two set period pieces, they kind of joined into one and lots of thought went into costume by Yves to give one kind of palette. So I think it does jump period quite freely and without feeling jolted you can follow both stories. You kind of want to get back to the other story, once you’re in one story, you think ‘right well I want to see what the other stories doing’ and then something happens and you want to see what the other starts doing. So I think it’s really well done and that’s Joe’s clever writing I guess.

Have you ever filmed anything like this before?

No, I’ve never done any genre piece - ghost story or horror particularly before. The closest thing I’ve done is perhaps Doctor Who where you have to speak to green screen or you have to imagine worlds, that kind of thing. But it was great, the cast, what a cast, Donald Sumpter, David Warner, just brilliant, it was an absolute pleasure to work with them. Me and Tom also got on like a house on fire. We’d met previously in a drama but only briefly, we’d crossed paths and we really became connected with each other and with the children. We spent a lot of time off set, making sure that the children were alright and we played games with them and by the end, we really felt like a bonded family. We’ve kept in touch and I just think he’s wonderful, a great actor and it was a really good on-set family.

Did you do much research for the role?

We met James Herbert when he came on set and it was great to chat more about the character. I also went to a bereavement councillor, I thought that was very important because even though it is a genre piece about ghosts, I found it very interesting to delve into the psyche of Eve. As much time I had between finishing Scott and Bailey and then I only had two weeks before I jumped into this, I managed to get a bereavement councillor in somewhere in the meantime.

Did you enjoy playing the role of Eve?

I did, and it has been great to do a ghost piece. I don’t think we do many horror ghost pieces so it’s great that it is to celebrate an event. It’s got a brilliant cast and everyone loves a good ghost story. BBC North has been amazing and we’ve done the North proud.