Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Programme Information

Network TV BBC Week 13
Blood And Oil – interviews with Naomie Harris and Jodhi May

A powerful drama

Naomie Harris and Jodhi May star in Blood And Oil

Blood And Oil

Days and times to be confirmed BBC TWO

Award-winning writer Guy Hibbert's new drama tells the story of two British women and their extraordinary journey deep into the hinterland of the Niger Delta – a beautiful but highly dangerous region of Nigeria. There, they become embroiled in a hostage negotiation situation, which soon turns into a nightmare.

Here, Naomie Harris and Jodhi May, who play those women – Alice and Claire – talk to Programme Information about the drama.

Naomie Harris plays Alice

What attracted you to the role?

"What attracted me generally was the quality of the script and the fact that it was touching upon a subject matter that I hadn't seen dealt with, particularly on television. I felt as though it was a really worthy issue of attention and I liked the way that it was so intelligently dealt with. So, more than a particular interest in playing Alice it was a general interest in the script and getting the message of the script told to the public."

Like Alice, you are also a graduate of Pembroke College in Cambridge and you studied Social and Political Sciences. Do you think having such a fantastic educational background pulls you towards that subject matter?

"It makes me more aware. I know from studying those kind of subjects the importance of the media and the importance of the role that I play as an actress. Often you tend to think you're just a pawn but you really affect people and, if you are part of a drama as intelligent as this one is, you can really affect changes in the way that people view life. That's a really important function and it shouldn't be taken too lightly."

Tell us about Alice's story.

"Alice has led a very sheltered life, she's quite naive and unquestioning about where her family's wealth comes from. When she meets up with Claire [Jodhi May], she is forced to question this and to look at areas of her life she would never have done before. Alice gets to discover other parts of herself and it's really a journey of growing up and self-discovery. It's not always a fantasy and our parents aren't always as perfect as we hope to imagine."

How did you find filming in South Africa – had you been there before?

"It was my first time in South Africa and I had an absolutely fantastic time and what really struck me was the warmth of the people and their generosity. Also, there's part of me that's very like Alice in terms of not seeing what you don't want to see. I was really impressed by where they're at, the progress that has been made in such a relatively short amount of time. So, I really enjoyed my experience."

They are intense roles for both you and Jodhi – you're both making very shocking discoveries in a very dangerous environment.

"I think particularly for Jodhi because it's so highly emotionally charged for her character, Claire. Her husband and her entire life are at stake. For Alice, it becomes a real question of identity and lifestyle. She is going along with the journey largely out of guilt and a sense of duty to Claire – it's only much later on that Alice's foundations are shaken."

How did you enjoy working with Jodhi?

"Jodhi is a fantastic actress, really superb, so it's always great to work with someone who is at the top of their game. There's always stuff that you can learn and it raises your performance. I also loved working with [director] David Attwood because he and I have been friends for a while."

Jodhi May plays Claire

What attracted you to the role?

"I read the script and immediately felt that I had to do it or die! It really was one of the most powerful scripts that I have ever read. It was a part I was desperate to play and I felt absolute conviction about it. I thought it was a brilliant piece of writing from Guy [Hibbert], a particularly exciting writer. He has a way of drawing you in to a very emotional, intimate drama between people and he approaches it in a very personal way through characters."

How did you find filming in South Africa?

"We shot it in South Africa and the streets were spick and span, unbelievably clean, so we had to get dirt put down so as to create an environment that was Nigerian. David [Attwood] is such a great director and it was a very happy experience. Everyone felt that they were taking part in something that they believed they had to be involved in. It's a subject that a lot of television channels would feel a little nervous about tackling because of the politics involved, however, I think it's really bold, brave and admirable – the kind of drama that should be made more often."

How did you enjoy working with the rest of the cast?

"We were completely spoilt by having such an amazing and wonderful cast. They were the nicest, most utterly professional and supportive people to be working with. Naomie [Harris] is unbelievable; she's incredibly generous as an actor and very down to earth. It was an absolute joy working with her and I felt that we were a great team. I thought that was really important, as our characters were such polar opposites of each other. I can't think of a more wonderful actress to be working with."

Did you know much about the oil industry and Nigeria before working on Blood And Oil?

"I did know a bit about the subject before the drama because some oil workers had been kidnapped a few years before I read the script. The politics and conflicts between oil companies and militants that remain unaddressed and unresolved interest me greatly, yet it is very difficult for journalists to get into the territory at all to report from there. It's hugely complicated but Guy's story tells not only an African issue; it's also a global issue with extensive repercussions."

What about identity?

"That is the irony of the situation. It asks the question of identity. How do you create an identity when your heritage is such a colonial one? That, again, is a very political question as well. How does an African state create an identity when their heritage is a colonial one? You could ask the same questions of Zimbabwe or South Africa. It is interesting from that point of view. More pertinently, the whole oil question is a valuable one and much more far reaching. Guy tackles the question brilliantly and confronts all sorts of issues brilliantly. It raises all sorts of questions which I think is great."

What are your views on women starring in thrillers?

"Guy went against the grain in making a story about two women. He writes beautifully and brilliantly for women, but their roles are a gift. I remember Guy saying that in some ways he finds it easier to write women and I think it's just brilliant!"

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