Lesley Manville Talks BBC Drama Sherwood

Sticking To Her Principles

BBC drama Sherwood starts next week and here’s one of its stars Lesley Manville talking about it…

Lesley Manville plays Julie Jackson

Can you please tell us a bit about Sherwood?

Well, it’s from the brilliant James Graham. It’s semi-autobiographical in that he grew up in the area where it’s set. It deals with the Nottinghamshire miners who were in the 1984 strike. They were the ones who broke the picket line and went back to work, whereas the Yorkshire miners were the ones who, as a majority, stayed out on strike. So, in Sherwood, there’s a clash in this community and it’s never left them. It’s festered and become a very dark, underlying heartbeat to the story.

It’s a drama, but it is based on a true story of two real tragic killings. It was really rather extraordinary, because these deaths were not connected and yet both killers were hiding out in Sherwood Forest, and because of the density of Sherwood Forest, the police’s heat-seeking aircraft could not find them, so it was a manhunt in this huge area. Police were brought in from all over the place including The Met, and they found these them, really quite close to each other. It sparked, at the time, the biggest manhunt in UK history.

Could you tell us a little bit about your character?

Well, Julie Jackson is Gary Jackson’s wife. He’s one of the miners who adamantly stayed out on strike. They are a warm, lovely couple who love each other and have a great life. But there is this side of him that she must suppress and try and put to one side because she doesn’t like it. He publicly uses derogatory terms towards people in the community who didn’t strike in the 80s. It doesn’t sit well with her, but she is and always was on his side at the time of the strikes and was involved in the striking herself.

What research did you do for the part?

Around the time of the strike in the 80s, I was asked to join a group of writers and actresses, all women, to workshop a play for the Royal Court Theatre in London about the women behind pit closures. So, I actually went to Barnsley age 23. We got up and went to a picket line. It was horses and riot shields and police screaming and shouting miners. I’m not good with any sort of aggression and confrontation and potential violence, I can argue, but as soon as things become physical, something shuts down in me. When we went to this picket line, it was serious. I really lost my bottle and I had to leave. I was sort of wandering around Barnsley looking for a bus at five in the morning to get me out of there. One of the other actresses who is a dear, dear friend of mine, she came looked after me. I just couldn’t cope with it.

During this time we interviewed all these women who were wives or girlfriends of the men who were striking, and their support was very key. They had to make the money. They had to feed the family and they were playing very traditional roles. They had to put the food on the table with no money. The men needed the support of their wives so, obviously, it caused a lot of family friction and tension. The Jackson’s in this series have been through that. You see them at the beginning of the story as a kind of lifeforce, they’re looking after their grandchildren and you see them being such great warm, giving, loving, funny grandparents and then of course this huge event happens and Gary is killed.

When Gary is killed it’s like 1982 all over again, it’s like, ‘Wham. Okay, that’s never left us, we’ve never managed to escape that’, and all of this emotion comes out. Julie starts to think, “Okay, what’s been going on here that I didn’t know about?”

Your sister is played by Claire Rushbrook can you tell us a bit about that relationship?

The events of 1984 destroyed this sibling relationship. They live across the way from one another and yet they’ve not spoken because of what happened in the 80s and the fact their husbands took a different stance in the strikes. I’ll tell you a little bit about mine and Claire Rushbrook’s (playing Cathy Rowley) history. We were ships that pass in the night. Actors meet actors, and sometimes you might see them at the theatre and say ‘Hello, it’s nice to meet you’. Suddenly, I was shooting a series in Dublin, called Magpie Murders and Claire was going to play my sister, so we just thought, well, this is this is great! We met, we fell in love. It was friendship at first sight, you know, it was just wonderful. We play these very different sisters in Magpie Murders, they’re quite antagonistic with each other; one’s a career woman and the other has stayed at home but we just adore each other!

And then when Sherwood came along, and they said that Claire’s going to play my sister, it was just perfect. Even though in Sherwood they’re not speaking and haven’t spoken, there’s still so much love there that they’ve had and still have, but they’ve had to bottle it, mainly because of their husband’s political standing. My character, Julie, absolutely believes in what they were striking for but I’m not sure how much Cathy believes in what her husband is striking for; you get the feeling that maybe she wasn’t quite as sure as Julie was.

What attracted you to the role?

The script. It’s always script, script, script. However great the team might be, if the scripts are turkey you’re never going to be able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Also, I know and love James’s work. And I suppose, because of that experience when I was in my 20s with the strike, I thought that I know this world a little bit, and what a challenge it will be to play her.

I didn’t know Lewis (Arnold) our director but I’d watched Time. Which is extraordinary, and the cast that they were assembling was amazing. Really, really amazing. Full marks to them, they hung out for me because I was on first call to The Crown. So having me do it came with a massive risk for the team because they knew that any day, especially in the Covid climate, I could ring and say, “Oh I can’t get there tomorrow, The Crown need me”. It was a great act of faith.

Plus, I was doing The Crown, playing Princess Margaret. I’d done Magpie Murders, playing a nice, middle-class woman and I thought that this was the time to play somebody who’s not just a socially different class, but somebody who’s got a kind of unashamed rawness about her. Somebody who is just very open and honest – there’s no bullshit about her.

You’ve touched on other members of the cast, do you have any anecdotes from set?

We were in Covid times, but we were all staying in the same hotel and it was very nice to spend the evenings together. I knew a lot of the actors – Philip Jackson, Alun Armstrong, Joanne Froggatt, David Morrissey, Robert Glenister – so it was a really nice time.

One funny thing that I do remember happened in the house we were shooting in, Julie’s house. Lewis was using one of the rooms for the monitors and all of that. And I used that room as a little green room to hang out in. We would all have little chats between set-ups and things like that. We were using the loo up there as well, so one day I suggested that the loo could do with a bit of a clean-up as we’ve all been using it for a couple of days. The next thing you know, Lewis is in there cleaning the toilet! I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “The toilet isn’t clean, I’ll clean it!” He’s that kind of guy. He’s the director of the show who will clean the loo! When lighting are trying to move something and having trouble, he’s up there helping them!

The post Lesley Manville Talks BBC Drama Sherwood appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.

Sticking To Her Principles BBC drama Sherwood starts next week and here’s one of its stars Lesley Manville talking about it… Lesley Manville plays Julie Jackson Can you please tell us a bit about Sherwood? Well, it’s from the brilliant James Graham. It’s semi-autobiographical in that he grew up in the area where it’s set.
The post Lesley Manville Talks BBC Drama Sherwood appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.Read MoreTRIPWIRE MAGAZINE

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