It’s half way through the gripping new BBC drama, The Cry, and we can’t get enough of Joanna and Alastair’s traumatic story. The show follows the story of a couple whose child goes missing while they’re travelling from Scotland to Australia. In the aftermath of that tragedy, their relationship starts to suffer.
Hot on the heels of the latest episode, we caught up with celebrated British actress Jenna Coleman, who plays the lead role of Joanna, to hear about her experience making the show.
Q: In the series, there’s a strong theme between the bond of mother and child, did you draw any inspiration from the relationship with your own mother for your role as Joanna?
A: Not really, no. I imagined what it’d be like to have a baby of my own. I approached the role in an instinctive way, through imagining the connection between a mother and daughter. I didn’t make it too cerebral.
Q: The Cry touches on several important and, at times, uncomfortable themes. The loss of a child, emotional abuse from a partner, post-natal depression. Do you think it’s important to talk about these issues in today’s social climate?
A: I do. What’s most unsettling is the familiarity of it all. The series is based on fiction, but is also a reflection of what happens in the world. Issues like post-natal depression are rarely seen on screen, and the early days of motherhood aren’t often explored in such visceral, graphic detail. The loss of identity after having a child, and sheer tiredness is something that nearly half the population goes through, I think it’s important that it be represented.
Q: Did you read the book before going through the script? If so, what was your impression of it?
A: I read the script first, actually. Structurally, our story is quite different to the book. Reading the script before reading the book helped me work out how the tale would unravel before the audience. But I read the book to delve deeper into Joanna’s psyche. Learning about her background and discovering more information about her helped me depict her as naturally as possible. I could get inside her head.
Q: What was it like filming with Ewen Leslie, who plays Alastair?
A: Ewen had worked with a few of the other cast members before, which made the experience intimate and comfortable. We worked well together, and when we weren’t filming, we goofed around a lot. Ewen is hilarious, and is the absolute antithesis of his character in The Cry. He’s the nicest guy in the world, so it’s quite hilarious to see how much abuse he’s been getting online for being one of the most hated TV characters!
Q: Did the high spirits on set help you switch off from the role as Joanna?
A: I knew, going in, that’d it be an emotional marathon. We all had to let go between scenes and at the end of the day, it was such a relief to have that air of lightheartedness around. It’s not an atmosphere you want to be around for long without catching a break.
Q: How did this role as Joanna compare to your role as Queen Victoria in Victoria?
A: They’re miles apart. My character in The Cry is a woman who wants to be invisible, who wants to hide away. Victoria is the complete and total opposite of that, because the older she gets, the more we see her own her position as Queen. Victoria is extroverted, and Joanna is quite introverted. It was great to tackle such a different character.
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Q: After wearing gorgeous corsets and big dresses on the set of Victoria, was it a relief being able to wear modern clothing as Joanna?
A: Oh yes! I had just wrapped five months of filming Victoria and hated the corsets! Joanna’s dress sense is muted in comparison. In Victoria I was always conscious of what I was wearing, the costume affected my role – it’s not easy to cry in a corset! I hadn’t done anything contemporary for a while, so it was great.
Q: What’s next for you, is there anything exciting that you can discuss at this point?
A: The new season of Victoria is coming out, and I’m always busy with exciting theater work. Watch this space!
The Cry airs Sundays at 9pm on BBC First, DStv channel 119.