Jenna Coleman has lifted the lid on the “complex narrative” of BBC psychological thriller The Cry. The former Doctor Who star also revealed, in an interview with Deadline, that she’s looking forward to not “wearing a maternity bra” in her next role as she prepares to star alongside Sally Field in a stage version of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons.
In The Cry, which just finished its run on BBC One, where it was the British public broadcaster’s second best new drama this year, Coleman plays Joanna, a mother who faces the glare of public scrutiny after a deeply personal trauma involving her young child.
The four-part series, which is produced by Synchronicity Films, is told in a non-linear fashion, jumping from her and her husband Alistair, played by Top of the Lake: China Girl star Ewen Leslie being in Australia, to flashbacks about their initial romance.
She told Deadline, “For everybody across the production from costume to continuity, it’s the most complex narrative because you have to always keep the linear version in your head as well as the non-linear and the psychological thriller aspects. So, you have to play the truth of what you know as the story but how and what you reveal and how you play the truth of that emotion has to be perceived in numerous eventualities of the story and we didn’t film it in order either.”
It is based on Helen FitzGerald’s book. “The ending is on page one of the book so we’re telling people to buy the book but to read it after,” she added.
Synchronicity Films’ Founder and Creative Director Claire Mundell, who exec produced the series, said the show was developed over four years with Jacquelin Perske adapting. “We’ve taken the essence of the book and the ending and there’s a few surprises in there. We spent a lot of time talking about what is the order of this story because we need to take the audience on a journey; we need to get to know these characters, understand them and find out how they came together but then it’s a thriller and it’s all about what you reveal and when,” she added.
Victoria star Coleman said she initially read the scripts on a plane, fitting given that some of the key initial scenes in the show feature on an airplane, and was drawn to the complicated characters. “So much of episode one is about being a new mother in such an unflinchingly honest way but the story then takes on such a different psychological element. I also feel each episode is its own thing; the disintegration of Joanna’s psychology and then being in the camera lens of the media. It feels really dense. Even with the post-natal depression at the beginning, we then go into traumatic stress and as it unravels you understand more and more, but to have someone at the edge of such emotion and unimaginable circumstances but has to suppress it means that it feels like every scene is at breaking point.”
Coleman, who is represented by UTA and Troika, admitted that she initially felt miscast in the role as she didn’t have children herself. “Fundamentally, everything for Joanna is the connection between her and her child, even when the child goes missing, everything is about the umbilical cord and the pressure I put on myself to be really access the truth of that and that’s not something [I’ve got].”
The show is set to launch on Sundance Now in the U.S. later this year. “We’re really excited about the U.S launch and I think Sundance is the right home, particularly because of the way the show is directed by Glendyn Ivin, who is a film director, who has a very filmic sensibility and it looks like top notch home.”
Up next for Coleman is Arthur Miller’s All My Sons alongside Sally Field, Bill Pullman and Colin Morgan next April. The adaptation is being directed by Jeremy Herrin. “I’m excited; it’s far enough away not to feel the fear. I’ve been looking for a while for the right [stage] part and it’s such an ensemble thing. It’s playing within veneer; it’s all coded. It’s something that is presented with so much simmering underneath and that will be really interesting to explore.”
Coleman, who has been regularly pregnant on ITV period drama Victoria, admitted that she’s looking forward to not playing a mother in her next small screen role. “I’d love to not wear a maternity bra in my next role; I’ve run out of labor noises,” she said. “After Doctor Who, the idea of doing something sci-fi [didn’t appeal] and then I wanted to do The Cry after Victoria because it was so so different. I think when the scripts come and where they catch you in your life and what you’ve been doing. It feels like an incredibly rich time in TV to try and can wait out for those good roles.”