Juliet Stevenson is one of those actresses who’s pretty much excellent in everything she’s in, and her work in the upcoming four-part Williams brothers’ thriller, One Of Us, is no different. She plays divorcee Louise Elliot, the mother of a murder victim. There’s an interview with Juliet we managed to pick up after the jump.
The Killing Times: Describe One of Us…
Juliet Stevenson: One of Us is a psychological thriller with a lot of edge. It’s about people in a community who come together due to extreme events. It takes that thriller element and then uses that story to explore the interaction between these people. It’s quite a tough shoot as an actor because Louise is always in an extreme situation, in great grief from page two, but you can’t play the same state all the way through otherwise people would be bored stiff. You have to grade it and find a journey that contains variety so that’s been quite an interesting challenge in this job.
TKT: What are the key themes in One of Us?
JS: It’s events that take place when somebody’s secret past won’t remain secret anymore. Past actions are pushed to the surface by events that are out of control of the participants. Life does have a way of doing that doesn’t it? We think we are in control and can share things when it suits us but we are much less in control than we believe we are.
TKT: Tell us about Louise Elliot…
JS: Louise is an Englishwoman who came up to Scotland with her children and husband, probably about twenty years ago to try to save her marriage. Everything was stressful so I think they thought it would be a good idea to have a complete break and start somewhere new, somewhere very beautiful. The marriage doesn’t survive and the husband leaves. She’s angry and upset about that, she’s become a single mother and has a history of alcoholism. They settle into their lives in this very remote place. The only neighbours within reach are the Douglas Family so the whole story centres around the two families and what happens to them.
TKT: How did you find the character of Louise?
JS: I based Louise on someone I know quite well. When you are researching a part, you scour the scripts for all the facts you can find about your character. I scour out emotional history which I find quite tricky as touch wood; I haven’t been in any of the situations Louise finds herself in, thank goodness. But as with every actor, you search your emotional cupboard and find things to push you to the edge and do a lot of imagining, immersing yourself in what it would be like to be kicked into this terrible grief and have to cope with a disintegrating world around you. I had to imagine things I don’t really want to imagine in my own life. I do use my own history and convert it, acting is recycling emotions and using them for something else.
TKT: What research did you do for the role?
JS: One of the challenges of this job was to have to imagine what it’s like to have a child murdered. I have four kids and it’s something I don’t want to think about. I googled ‘parents of murdered children’ and up came forums where parents have had that experience and I read endless heartbreaking accounts. Parents got together to try and cope and they are very different stories about how people are affected and where it takes their lives. This job involved more darkness than I’ve ever encountered before, it’s not just grief or death. The loss of a child is unimaginable and you can’t recover from that, but the loss of a child by murder is another territory altogether.
TKT: Tell us about the two families…
JS: The relationship between the two families is not easy, you’ve got the Scottish family who have probably worked on the land for generations and then you’ve got the English arriving, trying to put down roots. It’s not an easy relationship, they get by, but the daughter of the farmers and the son of the English family make an extraordinary friendship as youngsters. That turns into an amazing love story which forces the families together. But there are a lot of currents under the surface and when these events happen, the lid flies off. There is no one else around apart from the two families and it’s slightly anarchic. Things happen that could only happen deep in the countryside away from other people’s eyes.
One Of Us: Tuesday 23rd August, 9pm, BBC1