Interview: Becky Brunning, Broadchurch

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One of the most intriguing new characters in the ongoing third series of Broadchurch is Lindsay Lucas; that seemingly timid, downtrodden wife of major-league arsehole Clive, who has been dishing out mental abuse for years. Lindsay’s character just rings true and many women, I suspect, will be able to empathise with her – being in a loveless marriage, a survivor of abuse but still hanging in there because of the love she receives from her son. She’s played superbly by newcomer Becky Brunning, a stand-up comic, no less, who gives Lindsay a sadness, but also real depth and nuance. We last saw Lindsay at the end of episode seven finally standing up to her brutish, horror of a husband, which caused my heart to swell a bit – gwaaan Lindsay! I managed to grab a few words with Becky ahead of Monday’s finale, which you can read after the jump…

The Killing Times: Tell us a bit about how you landed the role in series three…
Becky Brunning: This is my first TV other than an advert, and I’m normally a stand-up. I didn’t know what the audition was for – my agent said it was a comedy drama! I got the script to learn before the audition, which was pretty much that episode I first appeared, when Hardy and Miller come round to interview Lindsay. They’d changed their names in the script, and half-way through I was thinking ‘this isn’t a very funny scene’. They told me to try and make them laugh, but I just couldn’t see it and decided to play it straight. I’m glad I did! I really didn’t know what I was auditioning for, which was good because I think I would have freaked out a bit if I did. I don’t think Lindsay was going to be a huge role, and certainly at the start, Chris [Chibnall] hadn’t written the whole series. I went in and met him for a day, with Seb [Armesto] and Deon [Lee Williams], who plays Clive and Michael Lucas, and we fleshed the family story out a bit. I think from seeing that Chris wrote bigger roles for us, which was fantastic.

TKT: We have Olivia Colman, who’s already got some experience in comic acting, and in this series specifically we’ve got Lenny Henry, Charlie Higson, Roy Hudd, Jim Howick… there’s a remarkable amount of actors in series three with comic chops. Is that just coincidence?
BB: I’m not quite sure where that came from, whether it was the casting director or from Chris himself. But there is a high number. There’s a thing that goes up to Edinburgh every year called The Comedians’ Theatre Company and I think often there’s a lot of similarities between comedy and acting – they’re both about vulnerability in a way, but comedians just tend to control it a bit more. But I think if you don’t show some of it on stage when you’re doing stand-up, you don’t take an audience with you. They say that comedy and tragedy are close together, and think that’s the case.

TKT: Let’s talk about Lindsay. What do you think of her when you first saw her on page?
BB: I think that her back story… she clearly loves her son. I think she’s somebody who has made her peace with her situation. She’s not a fighter in the sense that she’s not fighting to improve her life, but she knows what she needs. We’ve seen that her relationship with her son is changing as he grows up and she feels that she’s losing him, so she feels that the ways that she’s learnt to cope in life are falling from under feet. It’s quite an interesting time in her life, but she is a sad character. Everything is slightly crumbling.

TKT: You’re right, and that’s why she’s one of my favourite characters in this new series. Out of everyone in series three she intrigues me the most because she’s going through a different kind of abuse to the kind Trish Waterman has experienced: that insidious, slow, drip-drip mental abuse that takes place over many years…
BB: Absolutely. [Clive] just keeps putting her down. But I think she sort of thinks she’s ok with it – she knows he’s doing it, and has been doing it, and blocked him out in a way. He’s not necessary for her survival.

TKT: So there’s some interesting power dynamics going on in that relationship…
BB: She doesn’t need him or doesn’t need his warmth and love. She’s accepted that and her fate. She obviously has her religious influence and the love of her son, which is the most important thing for her. He’s just this burden she has to bear.

TKT: I see this as much of a rites of passage story for Lindsay as anything else. She’s starting to change and starting to take back control…
BB: That was the exciting thing for me – she’s starting to fight back and start to stand up to Clive. She does have an inner strength, but it’s been beaten down… but she does have it. When we ended it on episode seven, that’s firing up inside her.

TKT: It has been an extraordinary journey for her…
BB: Yeah, absolutely. Every time I got the new script and saw what Chris had written for her, I got more and more excited.

TKT: The whole of the series, it seems to me, wants to redress the balance when it comes to the portrayal of violence against women in crime shows. Do you think that’s true?
BB: I do. There are so many ways Chris has addressed that – from Jim having the calendars up in the garage right through to Trish. It addresses the kind of casual misogyny that many would brush off as just ‘something that men like’. It shows from that level right up to the level of what happened to Trish, that women in society are still objectified.

TKT: So what was it really like working on Broadchurch. As a newcomer it must have been quite an experience, especially working with David Tennant and Olivia Colman…
BB: It was quite a baptism of fire! That day when I first appeared with David and Olivia onscreen felt like an out-of-body experience. Right from the start, too. I was in make-up and I was flanked by Olivia and David and I was like, ‘oh my god!’ I think they were talking about dogs and I was laughing along way too much to the point where Olivia stopped and said to me: ‘oh, do you have a dog as well?’ I had to tell them that no, I didn’t have a dog and was just basically laughing at everything they were saying. There was a number of instances where were going to our scene, where I’d be waiting around and David and Olivia would come out of there trailers and I would be watching them and Olivia would be like, ‘oh, aren’t you getting in the car with us?’ and it suddenly occurred to me that I could get in the same car as them. So I started to get into the back with them and Olivia turned to me and whispered, ‘er, I think you need to get in the front…’ Oh yeah! I don’t need to sit on their laps. I was trying to act cool all the time, but failing miserably. But they were absolutely lovely, and the amount of love people have for them is warranted. Everyone asks me if they’re as nice as they seem, and they really are. Just warm, fun people who have a brilliant rapport together. That onscreen chemistry happens off-screen, too. They’re just very silly off-screen and really fun – and I think you need that in a show like Broadchurch because the material is so dark.

TKT: There’s always the question about Broadchurch – and indeed any whodunit – do you know who did it?
BB: Nobody knew at the start, and nobody knew until we got the scripts for the last couple of episodes. But I do know now, and a lot of people have been trying to get out of me who’s done it. I’ll be very relieved when it’s over and get rid of that burden!

Paul Hirons
@Son_Of_Ray

Broadchurch: Monday 17th April, 9pm, ITV

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