Little Dorrit, a major BBC One Dickens adaptation
Freema Agyeman plays Tattycoram
Freema Agyeman was thrilled to be invited to play Tattycoram in Little Dorrit.
Tattycoram is the foundling who becomes a companion to Mr and Mrs Meagles' (Bill Paterson and Janine Duvitski) daughter Pet (Georgia King).
"I've always wished I could be involved in a period drama because I'm an enormous fan of them," beams Freema, who achieved huge and deserved fame as Doctor Who's companion, Martha Jones.
"So I was bowled over when they asked me to play Tattycoram. I'd never had such a chance before, so I bit their hand off! It was a massive opportunity, and I couldn't possibly turn it down."
Freema, who has also starred as Martha in Torchwood, continues: "I was equally delighted because Tattycoram is not written as a black part. She's an orphan, and in the 1820s there was a general prejudice against anyone who wasn't from an upper-class background. So the idea transposed well to a black character."
The actress, who is also headlining in major new BBC One drama, Survivors, goes on to outline her character in Little Dorrit.
"She's an orphan from a foundling hospital. The Meagles had twin daughters, but one died so they have taken Tattycoram in to be a companion to the surviving twin, Pet, who is lonely and spoilt.
"Tattycoram is raised as one of them, but is still treated like the help. She's stuck between classes; she dresses like the rest, but is viewed slightly differently. The Meagles are not malicious - they just don't realise they're treating her like that.
"Tattycoram's generally meek, but her tempestuous nature is revealed when Miss Wade arrives. Everything comes to a head then, and Tattycoram decides to leave. The family never expected that, but she couldn't put up with being treated like that forever."
Freema, who is currently shooting a new contemporary drama, Law And Order, thinks Little Dorrit will work well on television because Charles Dickens is such a master story-teller.
"The series has 70-plus characters, but they're all colourful, beautifully drawn and skilfully interwoven to form this one grand tapestry.
"It's also still so relevant. It has so many pertinent things to say about love and money today. You could put Little Dorrit and EastEnders side by side and audiences would instantly connect with both of them."
What Freema has enjoyed above all else is the camaraderie amongst the cast.
"We just sit around chatting between takes - it's been brilliant. Bill Paterson and Janine Duvitski are adorable, and Maxine Peake is such a breath of fresh air.
"I was asking Andy Serkis about his glamorous career the other day, and I caught myself sitting there with my mouth open.
"I thought, 'what am I doing? Act cool!' But the great thing, Andy is amazingly down to earth. All in all, Little Dorrit has been such a great experience for me!"