The Version Interview... Anna Friel on itv's Marcella

Original multi-stranded crime drama Marcella, written by internationally renowned screenwriter and novelist Hans Rosenfeldt stars Anna Friel in the lead role. The new eight part drama series also stars Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael, Nicholas Pinnock (Fortitude, Captain America), Ian Puleston-Davies (Coronation Street, Being Human), Nina Sosanya (W1A, Last Tango in Halifax), Ray Panthaki (named BAFTA breakthrough Brit 2014, Convenience), Jamie Bamber (Law & Order: UK, Battlestar Galactica), Sinead Cusack (Jekyll & Hyde, Eastern Promises), Patrick Baladi (The Office, Mistresses), and Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones, The Theory of Everything).


Anna Friel tells us more...

Q : What was your initial reaction when you read the first scripts for Marcella?

“I immediately flew over from Ireland where I was filming to meet the writer Hans Rosenfeldt and said, ‘I think this is amazing.’ I just didn’t know whether I could do it. I always go through that process before any new character. I’d never played anything in the crime world before. Pushing Daisies touched on solving crime but in a very different format. I’d seen so many brilliant performances and so many people do it, I just thought, ‘I don’t know what I can offer that is different?’ “I was also a little bit intimidated by The Bridge because I thought, ‘How can you do it better than that?’ But I loved the Marcella scripts. So I thought, ‘I’ll go and meet them and see what they say.’ And they wanted my take on her. By the time I’d left the meeting and flew back to Ireland, they’d got on the phone and said, ‘Look, they all think you are her. We would really like you to do it. Your take on it is quite unique. That’s why you can do it and it will be different.’ “I didn’t ever really see Marcella as a cop because she’s had more time out for 10 years than she had actually in the force. So she’s a bit more rebel-like and very unconventional. You’re on her side because you think, ‘How can you put this poor woman through this?’ You understand her and want to forgive anything she may have done.”


Q: Why are Hans’s scripts for Marcella so special?

“We’re honoured to have him write this purely about London and set in London. Everybody has watched things like The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge. Audiences don’t like to be treated as if they’re stupid. Sometimes I think we dumb things down and underestimate the intelligence of an audience. We’re not stupid. We don’t need it hammered into our head. We want to work a little bit. And I think this asks that of the audience.”


Q: Who is Marcella?

“We meet Marcella when she has just been left by her husband Jason (Nicholas Pinnock). They have two children who were sent to boarding school, against her wishes. Something has sent her into a very big depression which started a twist within the story that viewers will discover. “She responds in quite a shocking way to being left by her husband, who she still very much loved and is very surprised when he breaks the news he is leaving her and simply doesn’t love her anymore. “Marcella left a very good job with the police at the height of her career when she was very close to catching a serial killer. She is now very lonely in this house with no kids and no man and decides to go back to work. But never ever as a conventional copper. Marcella couldn’t be more opposite.”

Q: Did you do any of your own research for the role?

“I did. I went to Charing Cross police station and met this wonderful detective called Liz, who was so glamorous. We met there and then later we met at the Groucho Club in Soho. And if you’d have sat and looked at the two of us, she’d be the actress. Because I was in my sweat pants, doing my day’s work and she was so glamorous. “I said, ‘Are you dressed to come out?’ And she said, ‘No, I went to work today.’ Being a female detective as well she was really empowering. I spent the day there and asked lots of questions of people who would be Marcella's superiors, learning about all the different ranks. Then I just concentrated on making her as real and believable as possible.” 


Q: Is it true you did not want to be told who the killer is?

“They asked if I wanted to know and I said, ‘Will it inform my character? Will it make me change the way I play it?’ So I told them if it didn’t help the story I didn’t want to know. We have three blocks of scripts with episodes one to three, three to six and then six to eight. So I said, ‘Tell me in block three.’ “Marcella wouldn’t know anyway. And, of course, it might be her! None of us knew how this would end until we got th


Q: The opening scene in the series finds a confused Marcella naked in her bath. How was that to film?

“It’s a bold opening scene. At this stage of my career, of my life, I’m 39-years-old, the nakedness doesn’t really get to me and I know they’re not allowed to show certain things anyway. It’s better just not to be self-conscious and coy. I find that really off-putting when I see actresses do that. “I was in the bath for about four hours. Obviously I got out from time to time, otherwise I’d be a wrinkly old prune. “The funniest bit was at the end when they said, ‘That’s a wrap.’ They dropped all the curtains and I just found myself in a big studio going, ‘Freezing. All right guys? Closed set? Yeah?’ There I am sitting naked in a bath in the middle of all these people. So I stayed calm and collected and went, ‘OK, let’s put those curtains back up, shall we?’ I’m open but not that open.”


Q: Marcella goes after a suspect despite being told not to. Is it important to break the rules sometimes?

“I think it’s important to have integrity and passion. You’ve got to follow your beliefs. I don’t think anyone should go out of their way to break rules. The rules are there for a reason. Otherwise we have chaos. But when people aren’t listening, sometimes you’ve got to do your own thing to make them listen. “That’s Marcella’s character. She’s not a conventional cop by any stretch of the imagination. I think we’re making something very special.”


Marcella debuts tonight at 9pm on itv.


The Version