Secrets And Words

Cast announced for new BBC One Daytime drama series

Interview with Derek Riddell

“I don’t think most people are aware that illiteracy is such a big thing, I think we all assume that everybody can read and write…”Derek Riddell
Category: BBC One
Derek Riddell plays John Jones in Mightier Than The Sword. John is a hairdresser who doesn’t like change and is used to doing everything for his wife, Jackie. He struggles to cope when his wife attends adult literacy classes to improve her reading abilities, self-confidence and have more control over her own life.

Derek is the recognisable Scottish actor who has appeared in several popular TV dramas including No Angels, Five Days and Ugly Betty.

Derek talks about his reasons for taking the role: “I liked how the script created good journeys for both of the characters to go on, both Jackie and John, and I think it deals with issues that are interesting for people to know about. I don’t think most people are aware that illiteracy is such a big thing, I think we all assume that everybody can read and write. I’ve actually seen a couple of articles in the press quite recently talking about it and it’s obviously much more common than people realise. Also, that Kaye Wragg was in it. We know each other from working on the series 'No Angels' a few years back and I’d also worked with Julia the director. So the fact that Julia and Kaye were involved was very influential, it was just a great group of people.”

He explains about his character and how he changes during the episode: “John is a very successful hairdresser who owns a number of shops in the area. He and Jackie have been married for a long time and they have what seems like a great relationship. He loves her very much and enjoys taking care of her and looking after her in every way that he can. Over the years they have developed a routine where he deals with a lot of the things that she can’t do because she can’t read or write – he takes care of it all. He takes care of the bills and the house, it’s a system they have that he seems happy doing. Then over the course of the drama Jackie starts to branch out and do her own thing by learning how to read and write. We then see his character change and he begins, very subtly to try and control Jackie.

“It feels like it creeps up on him rather than he has always been a controlling character…he just doesn’t like the changes happening and he’s feeling threatened in some way by Jackie striking out on her own. He feels he's losing her and what they have together. This leads to him having a bit of a fling with one of his employees, which is the first time he’s done anything like that and he really regrets it, but it just kind of happens because of the tension in his relationship and the frustrations.“

Derek explains the similarities and differences between himself and his character: “I think you have to put a bit of yourself into every character that you play. I don’t think I’m controlling, I know that. His anger I was able to channel quite easily, you just use other things from your life to get that emotion. I also enjoyed camping it up as a hairdresser although I don’t tend to prance about like that too much in my daily life! I don’t think I had too much in common with him so it was great fun and a good acting challenge to play the different aspects of him.”

Derek tells us about the impact Jackie’s literacy issues has had on her and John’s relationship: “He has helped his wife with her issues all the way through their relationship, they’ve been together a long long time, they were married young and he’s obviously dealt with it very well over the years and helped her out. He doesn’t see a need for her to learn to read and write and he thinks ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. He likes the way things are. Then when she does want to change things he feels threatened by it.

“I think it was for the love of Jackie that he was doing it. Near the end there’s a big confrontation scene where he says ‘it’s boring doing this and doing that but I don’t mind doing it’ – because he loves her and deep down I think that’s why he’s doing it- because he loves her and he’s more than happy to do it for her. I don’t think he has any guilt or shame about it. It’s just the arrangement that they have and she’s been happy with the arrangement up until this point.”

Derek is pleased that that this drama will highlight such an important issue and hopes it could change people’s lives. “I’ve never come across adult literacy issues within my family or anything like that so it came as quite a surprise to learn that it’s still so common in this country. Obviously if this programme can help then that can only be a good thing.

“People in this situation may watch this programme and relate to it. People might be happy with the way they are and might not want to change, but if they do and it helps facilitate that change then that can only be beneficial