Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Programme Information

Network TV BBC Week 2
Lark Rise To Candleford feature –
interview with Julia Sawalha

A family affair

Julia Sawalha plays Dorcas in Lark Rise To Candleford

Lark Rise To Candleford

Day and time to be confirmed BBC ONE

BBC One's winter warmer, Lark Rise To Candleford, based on the novels by Flora Thompson and adapted by Bill Gallagher, returns this week and continues to chronicle the lives of the hamlet folk of Lark Rise and the wealthier inhabitants of neighbouring Candleford. At the end of the last series, James Dowland (played by Jason Merrells), rode off into the sunset, leaving Dorcas, who owns and runs the local post office, to adopt his son, Sydney. Julia Sawalha, who plays Dorcas, tells Programme Information what the new series has in store for her character.

Why do you think Dorcas and Sydney formed such a close bond?

"I think what bonds Dorcas and Sydney is they both have a strong need to give and receive love. Dorcas has a tremendous ability to nurture, which is just what Sydney needs after being locked away and abandoned for so much of his life."

At the end of the second series, Sydney was finding it hard to be a child, hence his nickname "Little Man" – does he come out of his shell more in this series?

"It takes Sydney a while to come out of his shell. He gradually becomes a little more free-spirited, but he is still reserved. He has nightmares, which means there is still a residue of unknown damage that Dorcas cannot tap into. It takes a child time to adapt and trust, but he is slowly finding his feet within the post office family."

What do you enjoy most about working with Edward (Darnell-Hayes, who plays Sydney)?

"I adore working with Ted. He has a very dry sense of humour and has fitted in with everyone. He is a very astute and clever boy. He is well-mannered and works very hard. He is a natural professional. He takes direction extremely well. I haven't once heard him say: 'No, I can't do that.' He always has a go and does really well. He deals with the technical side of things brilliantly, which can be very daunting. He is also a naturally generous actor – he listens, looks you straight in the eye and instinctively responds. Most refreshing of all, he has hobbies outside of acting, he loves school and is not precocious in any way at all."

There is very much a family feel on screen in the post office with Minnie (Ruby Bentall), Laura (Olivia Hallinan), Thomas (Mark Heap), Sydney and Dorcas – is there a similar dynamic between you all on set?

"We are a family in the sense that we have a strong bond as a group of colleagues. We know each other's temperaments and how each individual likes to work, so there is a healthy mutual respect both on and off set between us."

You've read all of Flora Thompson's books – were they helpful in terms of context and characterisation?

"Of course a book is always helpful and if I lose my way and need to get a sense of Flora Thompson's world I will often refer back to it. But once you are up and running with a well-oiled machine like Lark Rise To Candleford, the writers and directors give it a life of its own, which is rich with detail and plots."

Is your portrayal of Dorcas or any of her mannerisms based on anyone you know?

"There are a few little things that I observed from a very special lady who owns a shop in Bath; in fact, it is my favourite shop in Bath, but I am not going to reveal who or where she is. That would not be fair on her."

Is there anything you've always wanted Dorcas to do that she gets to do in this series?

"I have always wanted Dorcas to lose her cool, even for five seconds. In one of the episodes she buys a new cooking range, which she has trouble getting to work – and she does, for once, lose her rag. It was very odd performing it, because I thought, how does Dorcas do angry? It felt so wrong, and I felt so unkind shouting at Minnie and Laura, so it was indeed a challenge!"

Does Dorcas have any new costumes in this series?

"She does have some new frocks, though we are in series three so I have quite an extensive collection already but, as the more wintery episodes approach, some new ones will make an appearance. I bought my own hair combs/accessories from a little antique market in Bath. So everything you see in my hair is original; you never know, it may even have belonged to the real Dorcas Lane!"

Do you liaise with the costume department about the type of outfits Dorcas wears?

"I do liaise about my frocks. I am very lucky with costume designer Pam Downe – she is very receptive to suggestions and has a vast knowledge of the period. She has an incredible flare for texture, colours and tones. I absolutely love the whole process of looking through a book with her, she then shows me a sample of cloth, the next thing you know you are having a fitting with the maker, two fittings after that and around seven days later a stunning frock has been made.

"I try not to be too vain and want to be as authentic as I can regarding the costumes, but I don't think it was a particularly flattering period, I can't bear anything being too high up around my neck and I like to have a decent length train on the back of my skirt, which probably wasn't practical for a post-mistress, but Pam has a wonderful talent for tweaking and adding things here and there which give the character's clothes an individual style, whilst staying true to 1896."

What do you enjoy most about working on the series?

"I just love doing costume dramas, I am very lucky, as I see myself as a part-time time traveller."

What are your aspirations for Dorcas in the future?

"I don't really think about the future for my character, though the writer is very generous and does always ask what my thoughts are. It is an ensemble piece, therefore, I feel the most interesting episodes for my character are when there is plenty of emotional conflict, whether that be that positive or negative between the other characters."

Why do you think the series is so popular?

"I really don't know why Lark Rise is so successful, it is not for me to say. The fact that there is social and emotional conflict is always fascinating to watch, especially as they are the same sort of things that we will experience in 2010. It is also pretty to look at. I like the fact that there isn't a laptop or mobile phone in sight. A lot of people do say they like it because there is no violence in it, and it is something they can watch with their grandparents and grandchildren. But really, I don't know, that is a question for our audience."

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