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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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The Silence: Gina McKee (Anne)

"I play Anne, Amelia's [Genevieve Barr] mother. She is married to Chris [Hugh Bonneville]. Amelia is our only child and the family live outside Bristol in a rural and fairly isolated situation.

"Amelia is in intensive speech therapy to learn how to use her cochlear implant, which she had fitted six months earlier. Her enthusiasm for this difficult learning curve is starting to wane and, as a result, Anne's become the driving force, determined that the operation and therapy is a success, which causes tensions and divisions in the family.

"At 18, Amelia is not only going through the often tricky transition from teens to adulthood, she is also dealing with the hearing world for the first time. Apparently the preference is that cochlear implant operations are performed on younger children, as the post-op learning curve is very involved. You have to learn to interpret the new sounds you are hearing, so it's quite unusual for Amelia to have had the operation in her late teens.

"We've learned to use sign language for some scenes. It was explained that, when you go to different places, signing changes – almost like dialects. There are common threads but also regional variations, so that was interesting, figuring out how that works. It called for some negotiation as we were filming in Dublin, but the series is set in Bristol!

"Josette Simon, who plays the speech therapist, has learnt sign language and is very fluent. It's a joy to watch a signed conversation. It's a beautiful and creative language.

"This is more or less Genevieve's first project as an actor, certainly her first drama, and she's been great. She's quick and intelligent and her strength of character has stood her in good stead as she's at the heart of this major drama series.

"Genevieve normally wears hearing aids but when we were shooting she usually had to take them out. The cochlear implant she wears in the drama is a prop, not a functioning one, so sometimes we had to figure out her cues if Genevieve couldn't see lips to read. She dealt with this incredibly well.

"It's lovely to work with Hugh [Bonneville] again – we've known each other since we were at the National Youth Theatre. We've worked three or four times together so we have a bit of a shorthand and bypass the initial stages of working with someone new. There's something unspoken and intuitive in place already.

"I enjoyed working with Dearbhla Walsh [director]. She has an energy which is constantly focused. The stamina needed to maintain that is deeply impressive. She's collaborative and welcoming and cares a great deal about her cast and crew. That in turn creates a lovely atmosphere to work in."

Gina McKee's television credits include: Fiona's Story, The Street 2, The Lost Prince, The Forsyte Saga I and II and Our Friends In The North.

Her recent films include: In The Loop, And When Did You Last See Your Father and Dive.

Recent theatre includes Separate Tables and Ivanov at the Donmar.

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