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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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The Silence

Genevieve Barr and Douglas Henshall

A deaf girl witnesses a murder... The Silence – a new four-part thriller for BBC One.

Eighteen-year-old Amelia Edwards (introducing Genevieve Barr) has recently been fitted with a cochlear implant, enabling her to hear, but she struggles to accept that she has a place in the hearing world.

Breaking free from her over-protective parents (Gina McKee and Hugh Bonneville), she goes to stay with her party-loving cousins, homicide detective uncle, Jim (Douglas Henshall) and vibrant aunt, Maggie (Dervla Kirwan).

But when Amelia witnesses the audacious murder of a policewoman, she is reluctantly propelled further into a loud and frightening world.

Jim is assigned the case and, when Amelia identifies a police officer on the drugs squad as one of the killers, he urgently needs to protect his niece. If his colleagues find out what she has witnessed, she will be in extreme danger from the very people with whom he works. By keeping her a secret, however, he will jeopardise his own position in the force and put his whole family at risk.

The Silence is about an ordinary family thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The teenagers' partying lifestyles and casual drug-taking collide with Jim's investigation, and all their lives are hurled into a cacophony of police corruption, betrayal, drugs and murder.

This is the first major role for severely deaf actress Genevieve Barr, who won the coveted role of Amelia while on the Teach First scheme, teaching in a challenging inner-London secondary school. A graduate of Edinburgh University, Genevieve has also filmed the sitcom pilot Comedy Showcase – The Amazing Dermot.

The Silence is the first UK project for Australian writer Fiona Seres, who's cv boasts acclaimed Australian dramas Tangle, Dangerous, Love My Way and The Surgeon.

Producer Eleanor Greene says: "The Silence began as a gem of an idea in a café in Berwick Street Market and our transatlantic script development ended up with Fiona upping sticks and moving her family and life to the UK.

"When casting, it was hugely important to find the right dynamics for the families because, though The Silence is a thriller, it's primarily a family drama. That we have ended up with such a stellar cast is testament to the quality of writing and we are very proud to have the fantastic Emmy Award-winning director Dearbhla Walsh at the helm."

BBC One's Polly Hill says: "The Silence is a compelling thriller but at its heart is the story of Amelia, a young deaf girl thrust into the unfamiliar and uncomfortable hearing world and unwittingly into a police investigation.

"It was really important that we cast an actress who was not only the best person for the role but could also bring authenticity and diversity to the part. Genevieve Barr promises to be wonderful as Amelia.

"It's testament to Fiona's beautiful scripts that they have attracted a wonderful cast, led by Douglas Henshall, Dervla Kirwan, Hugh Bonneville and Gina McKee. I am also thrilled to have Dearbhla Walsh directing the piece. We hope this will prove to be a real treat for the BBC One audience."

Writer Fiona Seres says: "I read an article a few years ago about a woman who was a lipreader for the police. What interested me most, was the idea that even though someone may have what is seen to be a disability, it could be turned around and used as an asset.

"During a visit to London, I pitched the idea to Eleanor Greene, who also saw the potential – and the potential in me, even though I was living in Australia at the time. We spent the next few months batting the idea back and forth on email and Skype.

"I wrote the first episode in Australia, so I had to watch shows that were in English to try and get a hold on English vernacular. It really helped during my next visit to London when we took a trip to Bristol where the story is set. I could see it.

"The hardest thing about writing The Silence was trying to marry a family drama with the thriller genre and remaining true to both. Suddenly it was green-lit and I was moving my family from Australia over to London.

"It was great to have the rest of the development process in the same time zone and the same room. Whilst I miss the sunny days of Sydney, I feel really fortunate to be involved in such a vibrant industry in the UK."

The Silence is made by Company Pictures (Shameless, Inspector George Gently, Skins, The Devil's Whore) and executive produced by Charles Pattinson and George Faber for Company and Polly Hill for BBC One. The series is produced by Eleanor Greene (Party Animals) and directed by Emmy Award winning director Dearbhla Walsh (Little Dorrit, The Tudors).

The Silence was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning, and Jay Hunt, Controller BBC One.


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