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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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The Night Watch – Anna Maxwell Martin plays Kay

What initially attracted you to the role of Kay?

It was meeting Richard Laxton, the director – who I really like – I really wanted to work with him and I thought it was a strong ensemble project, with good female roles.

What do you most admire about Kay?

I think what I most admire about her is also the most heartbreaking thing about her: that she is really strident about her sexuality and doesn't hide it; but she really believes the war will herald a new age for women.

When the war ends – if anything – the reverse is true, a lot of what has been achieved during the war is overturned. Kay has a resilience and determination during the war to show she is gay and openly proud of it.

After the war it's unfortunate because she goes in on herself. She's crushed by the fact everything has returned to the way it was before and by heartbreak. I think that's what I admire about her, she's willing to be a brave person about who she is.

Do you understand her motivations?

Absolutely; Kay is someone who wants to express her sexuality freely and why shouldn't she? Why should she live in a time when she can't do that? She's a strong, tough person, who in many ways is as strong as a man.

I think she likes proving that side to herself. When the war ends, a lot of her raison d'être stops as well, which is very difficult for her.

I can see where she's coming from. We live in a very liberated society in the Western world and we often take that for granted.

How would you define Kay's relationship with Helen?

It's incredibly dysfunctional, that's what really drew me to the piece. It's a very interesting love triangle between the three of them and they're never in love with the right person. They all love the person that doesn't love them wholeheartedly: Julia's in love with Kay, Kay's in love with Helen, Helen's in love with Julia.

You do wonder how much Kay's pressured Helen into being with her. You certainly get the impression with Helen that she's feels she hasn't a choice in it, so of course it's going to go wrong.

How does Helen feel about Julia?

She's utterly infatuated with Julia, Julia is perhaps still harbouring her love for Kay and wants to hurt her, you don't know what Julia's motivation is and her being with Helen is very interesting: Is it just to hurt Kay or is it genuine affection for Helen? It's strange.

Do you think Julia got together with Helen out of spite?

There was a scene that was going to be cut and it really explained Julia and Kay's relationship otherwise you didn't see it at all and I fought very hard for it, because I felt it was necessary to the story for people to see how Julia was a weakened person when she's around Kay.

Julia isn't this strong feminist, outspoken, intelligent, ravishing woman; she's sort of frail and desperate for Kay to love her.

I thought it was really important to the story as it explains the love triangle.

Did you feel it was quite surprising Julia behaves in that way with Kay?

It's great to see Julia being so desperate and Kay being very strong, because all you really see is Kay being a complete wuss around Helen because she's so desperately in love with her.

It is important to show another side to Kay and that if is she wasn't beholden to someone in this terribly toxic way – as she is with Helen – she'd be a different person.

Of course love and obsessive love makes us into quite ugly people and it turns Kay into quite an ugly, desperate sort of person. She almost makes you cringe watching her, you think: stop kissing Helen, stop touching her all the time, because Helen never reciprocates.

I said to Claire Foy I'm sorry I have to paw you all the time, because Kay has to touch her all the time.

How did you find those intimate scenes with Claire Foy?

We just had a really good giggle and laugh, we giggled a lot. We got on so well, thank God! We all did, all the girls got on really well. And actually it's much easier doing a scene like that with a woman rather than with a man.

When you do an intimate scene with a man, it is often awkward, so actually it was fine.

Although, I did keep head-butting Claire, because my husband is a lot larger her – every take I'd manage to head butt her!

What's your favourite scene?

I really enjoyed doing the scene with Claudie Blakely, because rather brilliantly for a drama this one wasn't over written and so you relished the dialogue. Obviously Claudie's brilliant too.

I did do a lot of walking around, I mean I had endless scenes looking really miserable; I would go into work and ask what are we doing today, and they'd say: "you're just walking", and my response was: "Oh, I can't walk around anymore looking moody, smoking a cigarette!"

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