Carey Mulligan, John Simm and Billie Piper star in David Hare's new political thriller for BBC Two
Interview with Carey Mulligan
It’s rare to have this many well-rounded female characters in one drama, and what I love is that they are not all likeable - they’re flawed, three-dimensional, real peopleCarey Mulligan
Tell us about working with David Hare...
The character I played in David's play Skylight was one of my favourite characters, and so, now, is Kip. There is such a scarcity of great writing for women and this drama has so much. It is happening much more in TV than in film but it is still rare to have this many well rounded female characters in one drama and what I love is that they are not all likeable - they are flawed, three-dimensional, real people. Often women are encouraged to be amenable, likeable characters and these women are much more than that, they have so much going on which is really exciting.
How did you come to be part of this project?
David sent me the script and I loved reading it, I thought it was brilliant and I really wanted to play Kip from the get go. I had worked with David previously in Skylight, so we knew each other really well. With David’s background in theatre, he has such a great understanding of character and story arc, and it was interesting, it being his first time writing a series, because it feels so brilliantly structured for episodic television.
Then I met SJ Clarkson, the director, and I loved her - I am a big fan of her work. She had this incredible energy, which made me very excited to be working with her on this project. Then this incredible cast formed around it which was amazing, but also a bit of a regret as there are so many amazing actors in different parts of the story who I never had any interaction with. I never have anything to do with Billie Piper, which was a massive sore spot for me because I think she is brilliant.
I was also excited to do something contemporary, having done a fair amount of period dramas. I wanted to play a character who is alive right now, not 100 years ago. This drama just felt very different to anything else. There is an exciting pace to the writing and I liked the multi-narrative and the way it weaves so well in and out of so many different people's lives and throws a lot of people’s perspectives at you. It really was a dream job and it is always an honour getting to work with David Hare.
Tell us about DI Kip Glaspie
Kip is practical, and she is ambitious. She is very decisive and doesn’t feel the need to air her views or ideas to lots of people. She keeps her own counsel, as she believes that she works best alone, even if that may not necessarily be the case. She has a sort of struggle between wanting a classic, domestic scene at home and being a mother but also wanting to rise within her work and be treated the same way as the men, with respect. Kip is very good under pressure and she likes being in charge, which is really fun to play.
We actually made a rule at the beginning that Kip wasn’t going to cry because she is not that kind of girl. Maybe when she gets home after the final scene she may have a moment to herself but you are not going to see it, she is not going to cry in front of us. I loved that as there were definitely a couple of moments where it could have happened but we just said no, that isn’t in her. That is just not how she is made up, she is not emotional in that way. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t feel things and isn’t deeply connected to the people she is working with and those she is trying to help, she is just not a crier. And she doesn’t whinge about being pregnant which I love.
Did the fact you were pregnant in real life affect the shoot?
I came into the rehearsals of Skylight when we were transferring to Broadway and told David I was 11 weeks pregnant, so he was used to this from me! With Collateral, I wrote back to David to tell him I was very interested in this project but also that I was six weeks pregnant. He was totally happy and said he didn’t see why Kip couldn’t be pregnant. He barely changed a thing and only added two references to the pregnancy in the entire show. We just put a bump in and got on with it and as my real bump grew we just took away the fake bump. I love that because pregnant women don’t go around all day clutching their bellies, they are working women and they just get on with it. That is a really strong message from David.
Other than the fact I was hungry all of the time, the only moment being pregnant affected me was right towards the end of the shoot when I was about seven months along. We were still doing full night shoots where we would be sitting in a car from about 6pm until around 4am and it was just sitting down for that amount of time, being kicked by a baby and you suddenly remember oh yes - I’m pregnant!
How was working with the director SJ Clarkson?
We got on like a house on fire from the beginning. She is so dynamic and energetic. She just gets down to business and is so much fun. SJ has a real wit and great ideas but she is also very trusting of the actors and lets us just get on with it. She knows how to pick up the pace of a scene or inspire a bit more fun out of it. She has more energy than anyone I have ever met in my life and she worked longer hours than everyone put together and never seemed to tire.
In prepping for the role I spent a good couple of days with SJ and David, in a room just going over the script and thinking about Kip’s back-story and what has brought her to this point in her career as a police officer. We met a real-life murder detective who was really influential for both SJ and myself in terms of the ladder you have to climb and what it means, day to day, to work in that job.
What did you take from your research and from talking to experts in the police?
We are talking about serious issues. There is a murder at the centre of it all, but it has to have a levity to it because it is not enjoyable just watching people walking around being constantly miserable. You have to have something to lighten your day when you are discussing murders and people being corrupt and committing crimes; it's depressing so there has to be some fun in there to make it bearable. That usually comes in the form of banter; there is a kind of gallows humor to the people in these jobs because otherwise they would be constantly depressed. You have to be able to laugh and make really inappropriate gags and to rip each other.
That was what SJ wanted between me and Nathanial (Martello-White), who plays my partner in the drama. We share a love-hate relationship where we know how to wind each other up and how to press each other’s buttons. These people do this every day and we wanted to make it all feel lived in, this isn’t the first time they have talked about these things and it wouldn’t be so shocking to see a dead body. You have to try and imagine the years of experience and all of the work that has led to this point.
Kip and her partner Nathan don’t always see eye to eye. Can you tell us a little more about their relationship?
There is a bit of a resentment between the two of them because Kip went through a university graduate programme where she was able to rise quite quickly and Nathan didn’t - and so she has been promoted above him and he is her subordinate. They naturally get on quite well but their ethos towards work is very different. Nathan is a lot more of a by-the-book officer and whilst Kip is not necessarily a rule breaker, she believes in bending the rules to do the right thing. She would never do anything terrible or illegal but she is going to put her neck on the line if she thinks the result could be big enough, whereas he is a grafter and wants to rise and wants to do well and so he follows the rules. There is a real love there and a real respect between them and although they disrespect each other at certain moments, there is a real fondness for each other.
Was it a difficult time to be filming in London, given the timing?
I love filming in London, it is my hometown but yes, it was an odd time to film. We filmed during the London Bridge attacks and the Westminster attacks. We were literally filming scenes on bridges which two weeks later had huge bollards up on them because there had been terrorist attacks there.
So it was a slightly tense time to shoot in the city but it was also amazing. You get to put these iconic places on camera and there is something wonderful about getting to walk along Westminster Bridge with the Houses of Parliament behind you and to see parts of London you never go to. When you are shooting in your hometown, you don’t really think about where you are and then you put it on camera and you just realise that you live in the most extraordinary city.
But it was definitely an odd time to be filming. When there is a lot of uncertainty and people are on edge you have to be careful sending about sending police cars around London. We had to make sure people knew that we were filming a drama and that people didn’t get panicked that there are suddenly 10 squad cars pulling up outside, you have to make sure that people around you know that these are stunt men driving those cars and not real policemen. So that was certainly a consideration.
Tell us what sets Collateral apart from a lot of British drama
The way SJ shoots makes it feels like you are watching something on a much bigger scale. There is a cinematic quality to it - it's not like usual TV in the way it is put together, it feels much bigger. The scale of the subject we are talking about also enhances that, this isn’t a single family story, it is about so many bigger issues. It feels much more expansive than classic television and the multi-narrative and the flipping between so many perspectives further emphasizes the size of it.
It's great to be a part of a project which starts conversations; you want to be in thought-provoking work. First and foremost it is a great story and you want to be part of one of those shows which people binge watch. If people are dying for the next episode to come out that would be my dream end result.
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