Main content

Jamaica Inn: Seeing sense in Aunt Patience's madness

Joanne Whalley


Joanne Whalley plays Aunt Patience who is living with her husband Joss Merlyn (Sean Harris), the landlord of Jamaica Inn, when she is visited by her niece Mary Yellan (Jessica Brown Findlay). She spoke to the BBC TV blog about BBC One’s adaption of Daphne du Maurier’s best-selling gothic novel.

Mary Yellan (Jessica Brown Findlay) arrives looking for her Aunt Patience (Joanne Whalley)

What were your first impressions of the adaptation?
When I read the scripts I got really excited because I thought Emma Frost had brought a really modern take on Jamaica Inn without changing anything.

I read the book years ago and I’ve always had a lovely edition of it on a book tower by my bed. She illuminated it in a contemporary way that I latched on to.

Can you tell us a bit about your character Aunt Patience?
It’s a great love story but she is very damaged by it and she has this unconditional blind love that motivates her.

She has put her lot in with Joss and is going to see it through all the way. I loved her commitment and I found her moving.

I love how she changes and I love that sometimes she’s terrible. But then I understand why she’s awful sometimes.

You would go a bit crazy stuck out there by yourself with a gang of wreckers.

'A lonely spot like this, we could be murdered in our beds'


I’m sure she imagined a different life for herself at one point and you see what time and this love has done to her.

How was she different from the character in the novel?
I don’t think anything changed. My memory of the novel was that Patience was crazy and I guess you would call her abused, mad, but really there is a sense in her madness in how Emma wrote the script working from the book.

She brought out the understanding that we all have now: abuse can be a cycle that you can’t break easily.

That’s why women find it difficult to leave abusive husbands sometimes.

It’s never that simple when huge emotional dependency is involved, or what we call love.

I was able to identify with Patience, who was made accessible in a modern way without sacrificing the period, because of how she was given that dimension in the writing.

'Don't you give me judgement for something you don't understand' - Aunt Patience

What was it like working with the director?
Anyone who reads a book can see things completely differently and have a different take on a character according to their own life experience and their world view at that given moment. 

It’s always interesting to hear people’s perceptions of the same material.

I really liked what Philippa Lowthorpe was saying about the story and the character and how she talked about it visually.

How did the location influence filming?
Julian Court, the director of photography, did a spectacular job with the tones and the textures and the bleakness.

It is like another character: you feel the setting and the environment.

We react to our environments, unconsciously and consciously, and we are affected by our surroundings.

It affects your mood and your perception of your life and relationships.

You feel the mood that enhances and pushes them all deeper into the impossible situation they are in.

Joanne Whalley plays Aunt Patience in Jamaica Inn.

Jamaica Inn starts on Monday, 21 April at 9pm BBC One and BBC One HD. The series continues at the same time on Tuesday, 22 April and Wednesday, 23 April. For further programme times please see the episode guide.

More On Jamaica Inn
BBC: Jamaica Inn: Meet the characters
BBC Media Centre: Read interviews with Jessica Brown Findlay, Matthew McNulty, Emma Frost and Phillippa Lowthorpe
Radio Times: Radio Times discovers the real Jamaica Inn
The Telegraph: Jessica Brown Findlay interview

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC. 

More Posts