Over the past few days we’ve been going to town on BBC Three’s harrowing portrayal of domestic violence in the one-off drama, Murdered by My Boyfriend. In it we meet Ashley (played by Georgina Campbell) and Reece (Royce Pierreson), a young couple who meet in an entirely normal, conventional way and fall in love. But over the course of three years we see the relationship descend into a horrifying living hell of domestic violence, bullying and manipulation as Reece’s true, paranoid colours start to bleed through. Yesterday we talked to director Paul Andrew Williams, and today I was lucky enough to talk to Georgina, who does such a fine job in the lead role. (Remember, this is based on a true story, so there must have been extra pressure to put in a good performance.) After the jump you’ll hear from Georgina, who gave us all a real insight in what it’s like to act in an intense, tough drama like Murdered By My Boyfriend.
The Killing Times: I’ve already seen Murdered By My Boyfriend. It’s brutal and difficult to watch, but everyone needs to see it. If I felt like that watching it, what on Earth was it like to work on?!
Georgina Campbell: It was interesting because at the auditions I knew what it was going to be like; you don’t get to read much of the script but it was obvious. The director Paul Andrew Williams asked me right from the get-go, “are you up for doing this”. It was quite scary. The best thing was that me and Royce [Pierreson] got on so well, he’s such a lovely person. He’s just an amazing actor and a lovely, sweet, gentle person in real life so having his support… it was nice that he was there to have a hug and a chat. Paul Andrew Williams, although we were dealing with a heavy subject, always made sure it was calm and easy-going on set. We were all aware of how serious it was and we put all our effort into it. As soon as it cut and we were having moments alone, we didn’t stay too deeply in those emotions. We didn’t want to dwell.
TKT: You often hear actors and actresses who work on really intense projects say that the shooting experience was actually quite a laugh…
GC: Yeah, it’s strange when you watch it back, you’re like, “Oh my God” because it was horrible. It’s a completely true story because everything that happened in it happened in reality, which was quite a hard concept to get your head around.
TKT: Knowing that it was a true story, did you feel an extra weight of responsibility to tell this young woman’s story as best and as authentically as you could?
GC: The producers and researchers were really involved with the family but it never really came to that point where I was talking to them – it was all quite separate because they didn’t want their names to be used and they wanted to keep a distance from the actors. Knowing the things that happened to her, I definitely felt I had to step my game up. Knowing it was real just meant me and Royce had to step up. I think this is the first project where I feel like I’ve hit it and really gone for it.
TKT: Thinking about the process of getting mentally ready for the really intense violent scenes, as an actor, how do you and Royce prepare? There must be a lot of rehearsing and choreography…
GC: We had a lot of rehearsals with a stuntwoman. She was great. The more physical scenes takes more choreography. Those scenes are difficult. It’s almost like a dance routine, and you’re stopping and starting. The more emotional scenes, it was nice because me and Royce were well suited to those because we are similar in the way we prepare. I listened to music sometimes to get myself feeling sad and he’d do the same. We’d have a moment. I tend to think about the things that happened in my life where I felt vulnerable and really sad. That was a way I’d try and get into the mindset of a scene. Me and Royce, before some scenes, would do improv. There’s an intense scene in a bathroom, and we did improv for that. Some of the scenes require very high energy, and you’ve got to keep it up all the time, which can be quite difficult. Also, when you’re acting you’re away from home. I was staying in a hotel so it’s easier to disassociate yourself from your life. All these things I use to prepare and get into the whole thing.
TKT: How were you at the end of each day, did you need a glass of wine or are you ok with leaving things at work?
GC: The end sequence that we had to do was quite hard and you can’t help but take it back with you a bit. But generally you just have to try and leave it.
TKT: How do you feel about the real ‘Ashley’. Has your opinion of her changed since first reading the script?
GC: I think that hopefully it comes across that she was an intelligent person, she was very strong and that she was funny. Looking at the research and the things her family and friends said about her… that she was bubbly and very loving. I think that’s something I found interesting to fall into, the fact that she was really lovely and caring. I think that’s why she got herself caught in this trap with his man because she did really love him. She wanted to help him and be there for him and have a family with him, so I have a lot of love for her but I think it’s very sad. I think things needs to change. Women like this who are so caring and strong are being abused by their partners. It’s good to show that these people aren’t victims shuddering in a corner.
TKT: What did the family think of the finished version? Have they seen it yet? What feedback did they give you?
GC: I only heard what they said in the screening. To begin with ‘Ashley’s’ mother wasn’t interested in watching it. She was involved in the script but wanted to step away from the project, but I heard that she did watch it in the end. She obviously found it very difficult but was pleased, she felt that I captured her daughter well. The producer was always on set, making sure that there was someone speaking for the mother. She stepped in if there was a scene where she felt Ashley was being represented wrongly or if I was doing something in the scene and she thought that the family wouldn’t like. She would step in and suggest trying something in a different way, which I thought was great. It really needed to be for the family and friends first and then for everyone else. We needed to make sure they were comfortable and happy with the way we were representing her.
TKT: What would you hope someone at home would take away from this drama?
GC: I would hope that people now recognise the signs. This is aimed at young people and as a young person myself and having been in similar situations… not to the same extent of course, but for instance when girls and guys find that their partner cheated on their boyfriend or when their boyfriend gives them a slap or punches them. It’s very easy within peer groups who are immature and don’t know that much to not know what to do when domestic violence occurs. I hope that watching something like this will make people realise that it’s only really the start and that when you see these signs of someone controlling, even if there is no violence, you should get away from that relationship. I hope people will watch it and will be able to see the warning signs and make a change.
To see a trailer for Murdered By My Boyfriend, go here
To read an interview with Murdered By My Boyfriend’s director, Paul Andrew Williams, go here
Murdered By My Boyfriend: Monday 23rd June, 9pm, BBC Three