Tag Archives: Paula

Being Paula

An award-winning stage turn changed the fortunes of actor Denise Gough, who tells DQ about starring in BBC2 three-parter Paula.

Denise Gough is really enjoying becoming, at the tender age of 38, the television industry’s hottest young find.

The Irish actor, who fronts new BBC2 drama Paula, has been the theatre world’s secret star for nearly two decades – and even that world had, at times, ignored her. But her Olivier Award-winning turn as a drug addict going through rehab in scorching drama People, Places & Things in 2015 changed everything.

It means she doesn’t take anything for granted, and now that she’s reached where she always wanted to get to in her career, she’s not just going to grab at any role. Known for her political activism, she’s also going to say exactly what she thinks.

“I don’t even really mention the name of People, Places & Things anymore, I just call it this huge thing that I did,” she grins, her big blue eyes lighting up. “If it wasn’t for that, I would never have been allowed to even look at a TV show of this calibre.”

Paula stars Denise Gough alongside Victoria’s Tom Hughes

Gough, who was also recently seen in BBC1’s Apple Tree Yard and Sky Atlantic’s Guerrilla, is in almost every scene of Paula, a tense thriller filmed in Belfast about a chemistry teacher who has a one stand that goes terribly wrong.

The three-part drama, which launches tomorrow, is produced by BBC NI Drama with Cuba Pictures and is written by Olivier- and Tony-Award winning playwright Conor McPherson in his first original work for television. The distributor is BBC Worldwide.

It also stars Victoria actor Tom Hughes as a psychopathic baddie who becomes obsessed with Paula after working as an odd-job man in her house.

Frustrated with her married lover, her emotionally incontinent parents and her alcoholic brother, Paula seduces him one evening. But he is far from the easy-going handyman he seems; he lives with two girlfriends, who each have his children, and is plagued by dark nightmares that leave him sobbing at night. His obsession leads to a trail of murder and destruction.

“What I liked about the script was no woman was tied up, raped and left as a corpse,” says Gough. “You read so much of that stuff you become immune to it. She’s also a very human woman; this isn’t just a story about a woman who is connected to all the men in the story. I love men but it’s nice to play a character who is complex. Some people say she’s not very likeable but I think that is just a funny thing we say about women. We don’t say that about Jamie Dornan in The Fall; he’s just hot.

The actor says she was drawn to her ‘complex’ character

“I like women who aren’t apologetic about the things they do in their lives. Why does she have to be likeable? I like her. I love the scene where she gets together with Tom’s character. There is a build up to why she decides to do it; she thinks, ‘I’m going to have him because I’ve had a shitty time. I am going to have this.’ Who hasn’t done that? She kind of seduces him in quite a bold way that we don’t see very often. She’s thinking that she wants to feel something other than what she is feeling. I am tired of only ever seeing women being seduced. There is something very truthful about that scene. She takes what she wants. Unfortunately for her it turns out he is a bit of a wrong’un.”

Gough admits she hopes her electrician father won’t watch her sex scene with Hughes, even though it is far from the first time his actor daughter (she is seventh out of 12 children) has stripped off for a role.

“I’m afraid he’s going to have to get used to it; now that I am 38 I can’t keep going, ‘I don’t want my dad to see that.’ I’ll never forget my first ever TV job. I was in a show with Andrew Lincoln, playing a prostitute – which for the first 10 years of my career was all I got offered – and I had two scenes. There was a lead-up scene and then the next one saw [my character] pleasuring her pimp and then blowing her head off. The whole time I did it I thought, ‘At least there is that first scene,’ so it’s not just about the sex and the blowing of the brains. But the night before it aired, the director rang to tell me the first scene had been cut.

“The next night everyone was at my house to see my big TV debut; the family, the neighbours, the bishop. They saw me doing this thing. I’ve had to do some pretty dodgy stuff on TV.”

Gough recently appeared in John Ridley’s Guerrilla

Now the actor has a choice of roles, it’s something she appreciates all the more because it has been so hard-fought. “I know I have been painted as a Cinderella story and that’s OK,” she says. “I am an old-school story; this is a story of old-fashioned graft. I have been working since the age of 22 when I left drama school. It hasn’t been easy. There were a huge amount of times when I phoned my agent and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’

“It’s hard to keep up your self-esteem when you are being constantly rejected and have no money. But I kept working and this is my pay-off. I am enjoying that. There is a raft of very young people coming out of drama school or who have millions of followers on Twitter and suddenly become movie stars. There has to be somebody who is flying the flag for hard graft and I’m fine if that’s me. There were hard times, there were terrible times but I won’t have those terrible times in the same way now I’ve got loads of money,” she laughs.

Now that she is in a position to be listened to, the actor, who is currently working at the National Theatre in Angels in America, wants to do her bit to make things better for women in the drama industry.

“It feels like a good time, there are a lot of scripts that are being written now that are female-driven and written by women, but we still need to do more,” she says. “With the whole pay gap thing, I am pleased that women are getting bolder. It’s a conversation that we need to keep having. I remember reading Jennifer Lawrence talking about how she blamed herself for not getting paid the same as a man because she didn’t even question it. Well, now we are questioning it. I make sure I am on top whack.”

Her financial security means we should be seeing plenty more of Gough in work she is passionate about. “It’s so nice I don’t have to do something just to pay the rent,” she adds. “I have everything I have ever wanted.”

tagged in: , , ,

BBC heads in the write direction

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

UK TV audiences enjoyed some great drama over the Christmas period. But while all the major broadcasters offered something of interest, the BBC’s scripted output was simply outstanding.

A key reason for this is the corporation’s excellent relationship with writing talent. The Sherlock Christmas Special’s slightly warped view of the suffragette movement may have had its critics, but the episode – titled The Abominable Bride – was still a brilliantly written piece of TV from Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss that was watched by 8.4 million viewers.

Equally enjoyable were the opening episodes of Andrew Davies’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s War & Peace and Sarah Phelps’ take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. And not to be overlooked is Tony Jordan’s Dickensian, an inspired piece of TV that I watched out of idle curiosity and which thus far has more than exceeded my modest expectations. See this Telegraph review for a good summary.

Charles Dance in And Then There Were None
Charles Dance in And Then There Were None

The strength of the BBC’s Christmas drama slate won’t have come as a surprise to those who have been following the broadcaster’s scripted output over the last year or two. Among numerous highlights have been Wolf Hall (adapted from the Hilary Mantel novel by Peter Straughan), The Honourable Woman (written by Hugo Blick), Banished (Jimmy McGovern), Happy Valley (Sally Wainwright) and Doctor Foster (Mike Bartlett). In each case, it has been the quality of the writing that has really shone through.

Coming into 2016, it looks like the BBC is sticking with the same successful formula. Announcing a new slate of 35 hours of drama, Polly Hill, controller of BBC drama commissioning, said: “I will continue to reinvent and broaden the range of drama on the BBC. It is because we make great drama for everyone that we can offer audiences and the creative community something unique and distinct. I want the BBC to be the best creative home for writers.”

Hugo Blick's The Honourable Woman
Hugo Blick’s The Honourable Woman

So what’s on offer? Well, Hugo Blick will be back with Black Earth Rising, a BBC2 thriller set in Africa. Blick describes the show as a “longform thriller which, through the prism of a black Anglo-American family, examines the West’s relationship with Africa by exploring issues of justice guilt, and self-determination.”

The series will be produced by Drama Republic and Eight Rooks Production. Drama Republic MD Greg Brenman, whose company also produced The Honourable Woman and Doctor Foster, said: “We are excited to be teaming up with Hugo once more. Black Earth Rising is ambitious, thought-provoking and searingly relevant – the hallmarks that are fast defining Hugo Blick.”

Also recalled for 2016 is Bartlett, whose Doctor Foster was the top-rated UK drama of 2015. With Bartlett already committed to writing a follow-up series, Hill revealed the writer will also be writing a six-hour serial called Press for BBC1. Press is set in the fast-changing world of newspapers.

The critically acclaimed Doctor Foster was written by Mike Bartlett
The critically acclaimed Doctor Foster was written by Mike Bartlett

Explaining the premise, Bartlett said: “From exposing political corruption to splashing on celebrity scandal, editors and journalists have enormous influence over us, yet recent events have shown there’s high-stakes, life-changing drama going on in the news organisations themselves. I’m hugely excited to be working with the BBC to make Press, a behind-the-scenes story about a group of diverse and troubled people who shape the stories and headlines we read every day.”

Although Jimmy McGovern’s period drama Banished was not renewed, the programme was a tour de force – so it’s no surprise the BBC has commissioned McGovern to write a new show. Broken “plots the perspective of local catholic priest Father Michael Kerrigan and that of his congregation and their struggle with both Catholicism and contemporary Britain.”

Set in Liverpool, the six-hour series will be produced by Colin McKeown and Donna Molloy of LA Productions. McGovern and McKeown said: “We are both proud and privileged to be producing this drama from our home city of Liverpool. The BBC is also the rightful home for this state-of-the-nation piece.”

Jimmy McGovern's Banished will not return
Jimmy McGovern’s Banished will not return

One writer joining the BBC fold for the first time is Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter/playwright Kenneth Lonergan, who has been tasked with adapting EM Forster’s Howards End for BBC1.

“I’m very proud to have been entrusted with this adaptation of Howards End,” he said. “The book belongs to millions of readers past and present; I only have the nerve to take it on at all because of the bottomless wealth and availability of its ideas, the richness of its characters and the imperishable strain of humanity running through every scene.

“The blissfully expansive miniseries format makes it possible to mine these materials with a freedom and fidelity that would be otherwise impossible. It’s a thrilling creative venture transporting the Schlegels, Wilcoxes and Basts from page to the screen. I hope audiences will enjoy spending time with them as much as I do.”

The show is being produced by Playground Entertainment, City Entertainment and KippSter Entertainment for the BBC. Rights to use the original novel as source material for the miniseries were acquired from Jonathan Sissons at Peters, Fraser & Dunlop, on behalf of the Forster estate.

Playground founder and CEO Colin Callender said: “At a time when there is a raging debate about the BBC licence fee, it is worth reminding ourselves that it is because this great institution is funded by a licence fee rather than advertising or subscription that it is able to bring to the British audience dramas that no one else in the UK would produce. The boldness of commissioning a playwright like Ken Lonergan to adapt this great literary classic and make it accessible and relevant to a modern audience is a testament to the BBC’s crucial and unique role in the broadcast landscape worldwide.”

Fiona Seres, who wrote The Lady Vanishes (pictured), is now working on Woman in White
Fiona Seres, who wrote The Lady Vanishes (pictured), is now working on Woman in White

Equally exciting is the prospect of Wilkie Collins’s Woman in White coming to BBC1. Made by Origin Pictures with BBC Northern Ireland Drama, the four-part adaptation will be written by Fiona Seres, who wrote a new version of The Lady Vanishes for BBC1 in 2013.

David Thompson and Ed Rubin, from Origin Pictures, said: “We are so excited to be bringing a bold new version of Wilkie Collins’ beloved Gothic classic to the screen. His gift for gripping, atmospheric storytelling is as thrilling for contemporary readers as it was for Victorians, and Fiona’s unique take brings out the intense psychological drama that has captivated so many.”

Other writers lined up include Joe Ahearne (for The Replacement), Conor McPherson (for Paula) and Kris Mrksa (Requiem). The decision to work with Mrksa, best known for titles such as The Slap and Underbelly, is interesting because he is Australian.

The BBC’s blurb for Requiem (which will be produced by New Pictures) says: “What if your parent died and you suddenly discovered that everything they’d said about themselves, and about you, was untrue? Requiem is part psychological thriller – the story of a young woman, who, in the wake of her mother’s death, sets out to learn the truth about herself, even to the point of unravelling her own identity. But it is also a subtle tale of the supernatural that avoids giving easy answers, playing instead on uncertainty, mystery and ambiguity.”

Mrksa calls it “a show I’ve always wanted to make. To be making it with the team at New Pictures (Indian Summers), and for the BBC, a network that I so greatly admire, really is a dream come true.”

Right now, that would probably be true for any TV writer.

tagged in: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,