Interview: Anne-Marie Duff, From Darkness

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I’ve been hearing good things about From Darkness, the BBC’s new four-part series starring Anne-Marie Duff. Ex-constable Claire Church (Duff) has fled her dark past by escaping to the remote Western Isles with her partner, Norrie. But no matter how far she runs, she can’t escape the shadows cast by her history, and as decades-old bodies are unearthed on a Manchester building site, the darkness threatens to fracture her life once more. Have a look-see at the an interview with Duff after the jump.

The Killing Times: What first attracted you to the role of Claire Church?
Anne-Marie Duff: The same thing that attracted me to every character I’ve ever wanted to play – the writing. Katie’s scripts were awesome, really different, and the character or Claire Church was somebody I wanted to find out more about, a character I’ve never inhabited before: I thought she was intriguing and enigmatic. Dominic LeClerc is a lovely director and I’d seen his work. There was also this aspect that Katie stamped onto the script, that the treatment of violence was going to be tasteful. There was no gratuitous nonsense or titillating images of women who have been violated. It felt like an exciting project that was full of integrity.

TKT: What makes From Darkness different from other dramas?
AD: I’m not a huge fan of the police procedural drama – I know it’s hugely popular and people love it, but it was never something I was turned on by. This felt very different. The way it’s shot and the lovely pace of it, the musicality is different because it’s more to do with a personal journey. It’s very character-driven, which is its hook.

TKT: What is it about Claire Church that makes her different to your previous roles?
AD: I liked the idea of playing a character who was on the run from something – an internal chase. The demons are there snapping at her heels. She is running and running, and that’s what’s so lovely about the image of her training, that she is just constantly on the run, and also that whole Freudian notion of the return of the repressed, I found that very interesting.

TKT: What is happening with Claire when we meet her?
AD: She’s living a seemingly idyllic life on a Scottish island with her husband and step-child. We soon discover that she used to be a WPC and was part of an investigation which was shut down 16 years ago, which is why she left the police force. She has lots of unresolved issues about that.

TKT: How does Claire feel about going back to Manchester?
AD: She’s torn, because she is terrified. It means reliving her sense of failed responsibility to the young women she was trying to help. But she also feels a responsibility to those women, and she feels duty-bound to go back to tie up all the loose ends and see justice being done. Also she has a very strong link with detective in charge of the investigation, John Hind.

TKT: How does she feel about seeing John again?
AD: The first time she’s completely overwhelmed, because she hasn’t seen him for 16 years. There’s an awful lot of history between them, certain aspects of which are revealed throughout the drama. And things have happened in the interim that he doesn’t know about. When she sees him it’s not that difficult for us all to imagine. It’s like any kind of disastrous relationship – when you re-encounter that person everything comes bubbling to the surface, all the memories – you can taste them.

TKT: Describe her relationship with Norrie…
AD: Norrie’s an amazing man, who has been a constant and a real rock for Claire. It would be very easy to label it as a co-dependent relationship: she loves him very much, he’s kind and he’s everything that her past life isn’t. He is key in creating this haven of calm and peace, and they laugh together a lot. He has a daughter from a previous relationship, where the mother died, and so Claire has become a step-mother to Megan, which is a job she loves. Claire and Norrie are starting a business together and there’s this sense of commitment between the two of them which becomes rattled when the past comes back.

TKT: Would you say Claire dealing with anxiety or depression?
AD: I think she’s somebody who’s prone to that. She’s a very sensitive person with a very thin skin. She’s prone to feeling things deeply and because she has got lots of regrets and lots of shame I guess, she has to find a way to anesthetise that, and so she does that in various ways. One of them is her exercise and her training, and there are other ways she does it too which we reveal through the drama. Her little nerve-endings are very exposed.

TKT: Claire is training for a triathlon. How did you find that physical aspect of the role?
AD: It’s good fun when you find your character has a thing that’s very different to your own, whether that is ballet or banjo or – in this case – Iron Woman training. It’s not something that particularly interests me, so I had to get as fit as I could, which was hard. There were times when I’d been filming 14 hour days and then I had to go to the gym. I didn’t love that, but that was the only way I could get away with it – I had to do lots of running in Scotland to get the beautiful shots.

TKT: What was it like filming in rural Scotland?
AD: It was absolutely stunning, magical. We were there for three weeks and we had Greek Island sun the whole time pretty much! Nobody could believe it, we had the most glorious weather. The crew was all suntanned, everybody else had this sort of holiday. It was great just to be by the sea – it’s so good for your soul, your head and your heart and we giggled the whole time. The happiest part of the story is when Claire is at home in Scotland, so there was a different feeling to the rest of the shoot which is so urban, dark and complex.

TKT: What can audiences expect when they watch From Darkness?
AD:
It’s an intriguing study of a world which people are curious about. I think one reason we’re obsessed with crime drama is that we’re overwhelmed with information about real atrocities and crimes. It makes us very interested in the people who are taking care of us – which is quite nice, because it’s revealing about the flawed individuals who live in that world.

From Darkness: Sunday 4th October, 9pm, BBC1

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