New drama for BBC One starring Sophie Okonedo and Aidan Gillen

Interview with Sophie Okonedo

Category: BBC One; Drama

What can you tell us about your character Fiona?

Fiona is a housewife and an ex-copper. She has three young children and is married to a copper. She is a good mum and always really applies herself to everything she does. At the point of when the story starts, she’s feeling a little bit fed up with just being seen as a mother and seeing to her children all the time. She misses the excitement of actually working. She really enjoyed being a police woman and that’s something she’s feeling a little bit unsure of. When Hattie goes missing, Fiona sees it as an opportunity to dust off her old police badge and start investigating and looking for herself what might have gone on.

How does Fiona react to Steve Docker rounding up the community to search for missing Hattie?

She thinks Steve is an absolute idiot and amateur. He doesn’t know how to run an investigation. He grabs a whole load of people and his own ego is leading it, and she feels he’s basically trampling over any evidence that is left anyway. Fiona certainly feels like she would do a much better job.

What else can you say about the type of person Fiona is?

Fiona is quite a low key character, she gets caught up in high drama but that’s not her natural state. She’s not an outgoing, out there person. Fiona is quite straight so I wouldn’t say she’s a great big character.

What made you want to take on this role and what were the challenges?

I took the role because I thought it would be a quirky, interesting piece, and I was wondering whether we would pull it off or not. I always find that to be quite an interesting premise to take a job – “can this work or will I fall flat on my face?” I find that exciting.

It’s not a normal murder-mystery. There are lots of twists and turns and it was quite unusual. The characters seemed really normal but then you scratch the surface and they’re all strange and just off centre, and I thought that was good. So that’s why I took the role.

It was challenging as much as they (writers and producers) weren’t set on how it was going to end. It was also challenging to know what my character knew and what the audience could be told, so I was often having to play a lot of subtext. There was subtext going on in all my lines which doesn’t really get revealed straight away, so I often had to look like I’m saying one thing but really I’m saying something else underneath.

How did you approach the role?

When I take on a role all I tend to do is get to know the script and ask millions of questions, and keep fine tuning what I think the character is trying to say.

I would say I went into this role with open arms. I normally do when I take things on. It was complicated because I had the first couple of episodes but I didn’t have all of them. They were constantly being changed - that’s really usual in television nowadays. So I wasn’t really knowing how or which way it was going to go at the beginning. I was having to do things on blind faith which was interesting.

What was it like working with Peter McDonald?

I had an amazing time working with Peter. I am a big fan of his anyway. He’s such an intelligent actor and it was just fun to work out how we do things on the set really - quite difficult things work really well. And also he’s really funny so that just made it for me. It was a joy.

What do you think the audience will get from watching Mayday?

That question I can never really answer about any kind of job I do. It’ll be a totally individual experience. That’s one question for the producers, they’re good at answering that!

And will you be watching?

I watch the first half an hour as I’m interested to see the style the director has chosen, but I tend not to watch things that I’m in at all anymore. If you go to the premiere of something you’ve done, you have to watch it, or sometimes you can slip out the back... But I’m quite interested to know how heightened they’ll make Mayday. The down side of that is that I have to watch myself and I don’t find that very useful for future projects.