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29 October 2014
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God On Trial 
Dominic Cooper as Moche

God On Trial: a new 90-minute drama for BBC Two

Dominic Cooper plays Moche

Moche is Polish, young, angry and on the point of collapse. He lacks respect for any of the older inmates and is scornful and blinkered to anyone else's opinion. He is insecure and tries to ingratiate himself with the doctors.


Dominic Cooper explains: "Moche changes quite dramatically during the piece which was the reason why I was so attracted to play the character.


"He's probably the least educated out of the group who are creating this trial; he finds it very frustrating that he can't express himself as well as he'd like to. He's also probably the most youthful.


"Moche can't comprehend the situation they find themselves in or the fact that they're trying to justify God's existence within the group. He's very hot-headed and speaks on behalf of the everyman.


"But he jumps into the debate without really thinking about what he's saying as it seems so obvious to him. He's frustrated by the whole situation and can come across as quite aggressive at times.


"What I hope you then see is that the more he listens to the arguments and people's blind faith, he slowly begins to understand – or at least accept their points of view. There is a transition where he becomes more silent, introverted and inward thinking and you see him struggling to seek answers.


"He is so confident has that he will not be one of the chosen ones, that he will live; he's young, he's strong, but he ends up realising that none of that matters; it's random and no real choices were made.


"This is when you see the real child in him come out and he suffers a kind of breakdown. This is how it is going to happen, you are just picked.


"Having been the least religious of the group, he then turns and actually begins to pray and cry and from being very strong and determined he just crumbles."


Moche has a somewhat fragile relationship with the other prisoners: "There are certain members who, I think, find him very frustrating with his hot-headed answers which they view as uneducated and unhelpful. They want him to keep quiet so they can just get on with it."


Dominic admits that when he first read the script for God On Trial he was quite scared by it: "I suppose because we've seen so many wonderful pieces of work about the Holocaust, you wonder how many ways there are of telling its story? It is so difficult to comprehend the scale of the atrocity.


"What really attracted me to the drama though was the writing. It was very different from anything I've read. I read the script over and over again before I met up with the director Andy.


"He was totally inspiring; you could tell he was going to handle it with complete delicacy and accuracy. Then, when I realised how he planned to film it, I knew this could be something really special and I suspected it would attract some great actors.


"Once I had agreed to do it, I found out it had done just that, and it became a really, really exciting prospect. Although I knew full well it would be a very demanding, hard and bleak January in Glasgow, I also knew it would be an exhilarating experience.


"It was a wonderful, theatrical environment, with some incredible performances rooted in absolute truth and respect for the subject matter."


He continues: "The level of concentration was intense. We had a week-and-a-half of rehearsals, sitting round a table discussing everything.


"Even though it's almost impossible to comprehend what happened, you needed to understand what these characters were going through.


"The main thrust of the drama is the court scene, a piece of theatre with the bunks surrounding the area and then three almost invisible cameras.


"Normally takes are very short; you know when you have to be ready and revved-up, whereas on this you had to give 100% the whole time which made it exhausting but so exciting.


"Equally important was the listening, the reactions to what people were saying and their points of view. Just as in theatre, you don't have a moment when you're on stage to turn off or shut down, which really helped with the flow of the piece."


Dominic is well known for his romantic leading-man good looks and floppy hair. He laughs: "I think I was the most pathetic actor on set because I sat in hair and make-up desperately demanding a side parting and a long wavy fringe. But luckily Rene Zagger was sitting next to me and was adamant he wanted to watch the process.


"The shaving of my head turned out to be very important – it brought home the brutal way in which it would have been done and the dehumanising effect it has on a human being – yet another way to make these people feel like nothing. And it's funny how attached you get to your hair!


"But I think we would have all done just about anything for this project, such was our belief in it.


"I can't even begin to comprehend what it must feel like being in prison, let alone waiting for death. There's not a great deal you can do to get into that frame of mind, but the script and the bleak location in the middle of nowhere certainly helped."


Dominic found Moche's breakdown very difficult and moving: "He has been brutally awful to Akiba, unwilling to tolerate him because he is a rabbi, silently praying and therefore incomprehensible.


"But once Moche's number is picked and he knows he's been chosen, he reverts to a child-like, helpless being who just doesn't know what to do. He turns to Akiba, filled with absolute desperation, pleading for his life with one of the guards. When Moche realises he can do nothing, he disintegrates.


"We were dealing with big, big emotions in a really small amount of time, which I found very difficult, although the incredibly supportive atmosphere on the set really helped."


Dominic was very excited to be working with so many actors who he admires: "It was also a bit frightening because they were so brilliant, but it was just such a pleasure to have that time to watch and listen and to be part of that theatrical event.


"Whenever you're working with people like these you take just a tiny bit of something from all of them, and the different ways in which they all worked, so delicate and precise, was fascinating to watch.


"These characters just grew and grew from the moment we first sat around the table. That was exhilarating."


Dominic is not Jewish: "Frank [the writer] isn't either, but he understands and has read enough to be able to write very compassionately about the subject. Maybe it's good that he's slightly removed from it – the characters he has created are real and truthful, caring, wonderful people."


He concludes: "I hope that God On Trial will make people question their beliefs and maybe give them another perspective. It's a compellingly real drama.


"We need to know that the Holocaust took place and we must continue to do our damndest to ensure nothing like it happens again."



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