Thursday 27 Nov 2014
Saturday 11 April on BBC ONE
Guy of Gisborne's soldiers may be used to being roughed-up by outlaws, but one unfortunate guard found himself on the receiving end of more than he'd expected when newcomer Joanne Froggatt made an immediate impact in BBC One's rip-roaring version of Robin Hood.
"It was my very first scene," says Joanne, who plays Kate, a spirited Locksley village girl who joins Robin's band. "I'm seized by some of Gisborne's henchmen guards, and I was supposed to kick one of the stunt team and run off. We practised it five times but, for some reason, on the sixth go, instead of aiming to the side of his head where I should have been kicking, my foot went into his mouth and split his lip. I was horrified. Fortunately, he was okay. I bought him a bottle of whisky to add to my many apologies and to show how sorry I was."
Playing Kate in Robin Hood is something of a departure for Joanne who, after three years playing teenage mum Zoe in Coronation Street, made a name for herself with gritty performances in dramas such as playing Danielle Cable in Eyewitness and Joanne Lees in Murder In The Outback.
"My agent asked if I fancied Robin Hood and I thought: 'Yeah, why not?'" she says. "I hadn't watched it, to be honest, but I'd seen bits and knew it was really popular Saturday family viewing with heaps of action. I thought it would be great fun. I was up for a good old play-fighting and the scripts were terrifically exciting."
"We had to learn the fight routines very quickly," Joanne adds. "You literally learn them and do them, so you've got to be really on the ball. I'd done bits and pieces before, but I'd not trained to do stage fighting or sword fighting. It was completely new to me and a real challenge to learn."
Towards the end of filming on location in Hungary, Joanne found herself in the wars again. "We were choreographing a stunt sequence," she recalls. "We'd learnt it really quickly and there was quite a lot of twisting and turning. As we were running through the moves, my shoulder swelled up. I still had to do some takes and I didn't feel too bad so I thought I'd just carry on. A week later, I discovered that I'd dislocated my neck! Luckily it was quite near the end of shooting and there wasn't a massive amount left to film, and we simply cut out certain moves."
Making her first appearance in the second episode, Kate is soon thrust into the action as Gisborne's men plunder her village. "When I auditioned for the role, the producers didn't say too much about Kate other than she's head-strong and brave," says Joanne.
"I think they just liked what I did. Kate has to overcome real adversity and tragedy in a short time. She's had to grow up fast. When we first meet her, she's the one who looks out for her family. Kate loves her younger brother dearly and both she and her mum are very protective of him."
"Because her father's dead, I made up a back story about what kind of man he was," she says. "I kind of had it in my head that he was a strong, politically-minded man who'd maybe been involved in the fight for justice and that had been an inspirational figure in the lives of his children. Her mum has to be more practical and keep them watered and fed as best she can in difficult times."
Talking about the style of the series, Joanne says "There's an interesting mix to Robin Hood because it's kind of modern but medieval. There is a blend of adventure with a very modern feel. It's not literal to the period and in some ways that's easier, as you don't have to worry about getting the voice and the language exact – it's a bit tongue-in-cheek."
Joanne explains the difference in approach to playing Kate rather than characters based on real people. "In true-life dramas, you have to do so much research," she says. "It's a big responsibility to make sure things are as correct as possible. In Robin Hood, you have more artistic licence – it's all action, adventure and reaction. This gives everyone a chance to make their characters their own and to make them believable."
Making the series required a lengthy commitment to filming away from home and Joanne says the part came at the right time: "At certain times of your life – if you've got a young family, for instance – it's not practical to disappear to Budapest for seven months. But, at the moment, I haven't got those kind of ties."
"It came at just the right time for me. I'd spent the year before doing theatre with the Royal Exchange in Manchester and the Old Vic in London, and I wanted to do some more television and be involved in a series."
Living in an apartment with only two English television channels meant the cast crew really bonded. "The lads were lovely, really welcoming," she says. "I can't speak highly enough of them and all the crew. Everyone helped me settle in and involved me in anything they were doing socially. At weekends there was always a group of us going out and about in beautiful Budapest."
Following the death of Marian (Lucy Griffith), at the hands of the murderous Gisborne, there might be an assumption that Kate will provide a new love interest for Robin, but Joanne isn't giving too much away.
"All the way through I didn't actually know whether Kate and Robin would get together or not," she says. "We didn't film episodes chronologically, so you don't know exactly what happens in the story."
"I didn't feel that I was taking over from Lucy in any way because Kate's a very different character – the Marian and Robin story is the traditional one, whereas Kate isn't in the legend. So it gave me more freedom and no pressure to live up to anybody's expectations."
Certainly, Kate attracts the interest of Much (Sam Troughton) early on. "I think Much and Kate have a very strong friendship. But I don't think she realises he takes a shine to her. She's got bigger things on her mind – like fighting the bad guys!"
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