Class clash

Class clash

By Michael Pickard
July 3, 2024


Actors Eva Morgan and Vinette Robinson reflect on making Channel 4 whodunnit thriller The Gathering, their shared passion for the Liverpool-set project and the importance of its working-class representation.

At the start of her career, actor Eva Morgan is setting a high bar. The rising star landed her first ever screen role as the lead in recent Channel 4 thriller The Gathering, and last month was named best actress at the Monte Carlo TV Festival’s Golden Nymph Awards.

The Gathering was also named best series, while Morgan’s co-star Warren Brown was named best actor for the second year in a row, following his 2023 triumph for his role in BBC drama Ten Pound Poms.

And it’s not just awards acclaim that has followed the show’s launch in May. Creator Helen Walsh’s series has also drawn critical praise, while episode one has pulled in 3.2 million viewers across 28 days across all platforms – and Channel 4 has credited the show as being among those driving its record streaming growth in 2024.

“It’s felt really special. It’s been amazing,” Morgan tells DQ, speaking before the awards were handed out. “Of course it’s rooted in Merseyside, we’re repping the city [of Liverpool], but it’s gone beyond, and we all care so much about this project. Everyone’s collaboration was so unique in their own way. It was brilliant how everyone came together and the fact it’s been received in this way… Many different ages and all walks of life have been enjoying it. It’s multi-generational.”

“When you care about a project, like we all do, you’re always hoping we’ll get that response, and it’s really gratifying because you never know,” says Morgan’s co-star Vinette Robinson (The Lazarus Project, Boiling Point). “There’s such an alchemy to what we do, like how it’s going to hit and how the audience is going to respond. We’re all really passionate about it, and to see an audience respond to the issues and the characters and the themes of the piece in the way they have, it’s amazing. It’s what we do it for.

L-R: The Gathering executive producer Laura Cotton with stars Eva Morgan and Vinette Robinson and creator Helen Walsh at the Monte Carlo TV Festival’s Golden Nymph Awards

“It opens up lots of conversations about parenting and about coming of age in this modern world. To be able to see people discussing these things and connecting and opening up conversation, that’s the point of what we do.”

The six-part series stars Morgan as working-class student Kelly, a hugely talented gymnast who is attacked at an illicit rave. Focusing on a disparate group of teenagers and their parents, each episode follows the perspective of a different character as numerous people’s motives for the assault on Kelly are uncovered until the truth is revealed in the final episode.

Sadie Soverall plays Kelly’s friend and fellow elite gymnast Jessica, with Robinson as her toxic, over-bearing and controlling mother Natalie. Brown is Kelly’s hard-working father, who struggles with his own impulses. The cast also includes Richard Coyle as solicitor Jules, Sonny Walker as Adam, Ryan Quarmby as Charlie and Luca Kamleh-Chapman as Bazi.

Produced by World Productions and distributed by ITV Studios, the project was also the first television series from Walsh (The Violators), who wrote all six episodes. From the very first script, she created an authentic world that the cast knew as their own.

“Helen’s characters are so well drawn, and the world is so well realised. I recognised this world, being around teenagers in my own life. Sometimes it can feel like adults writing kids, but it didn’t feel like that,” Robinson says. “It felt absolutely truthful, and the fact it’s character-driven, which is personally the kind of story I like… I’m not so bothered about ‘formulaics.’ I like to be able to fall in love with the characters, to care about their relationships. I want to get angry at them and sad for them, and I felt like with the breadth of characters in this piece, that was apparent on the page.”

“Helen’s writing is incredible,” Morgan agrees. “I will always be adamant and passionate about working-class stories, about being represented, and Helen, who has a working-class background herself, it’s amazing this has been commissioned and created.

Morgan (right) plays Kelly, a talented gymnast who is attacked at a rave

“When I read it, I was instantly excited. I wanted to know who had done it to Kelly myself when I first read it. I couldn’t stop thinking of her and I remember thinking, ‘Even if I don’t get this role, this project’s going to be so amazing.’ Representation matters, it really does, and it’s amazing that so many people have been able to view it or take it in.”

With so many young actors in the cast, Robinson admits thinking The Gathering “lived or died” on their performances. She needn’t have worried, however, and she remembers one of her “goosebump moments” coming during the script readthrough and seeing all the young actors together for the first time.

“I just thought they were incredible,” she says. “It was all there; they had it from the readthrough. I had that feeling of, ‘Oh, this is going to be something special.’ Sometimes they don’t all bounce off a page – how can they, because you’re just getting to grips with it – but this one really did. That’s why it felt electric in the room.”

Morgan was one of those who brought plenty of energy to that first readthrough, the first one she had ever been a part of. “I was thinking, ‘Are people going to fully go for it?’ There were directions in the script and I remember one of Kelly’s first things is she knocks on a door and I was like, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to bang on the table.’ And I did. I thought, ‘I’ve got to give it my all, it’s my first one.’ I just remember everyone was doing their own thing and I liked that because it came together in the way it did and it was very special.”

Morgan retained that level of enthusiasm throughout filming, not least when it came to entering the world of parkour, with Kelly a keen traceur. And it wasn’t just the sport she came to learn about on The Gathering, but also the wider world of television production.

“It was even down to simple things like working long hours. It was a big step because I hadn’t had any prior experience. I was just learning as I went,” she says. “It was nice that people were supportive of that. You never stop learning, wherever you are in your career and life in general.

Robinson is Natalie, the mother of Jessica (Sadie Soverall, left), Kelly’s friend and fellow gymnast

“But in terms of prep, there’s only so much you can do. For me, it was the active learning, active listening with scene partners, and discovering Kelly. As much as it was about the character, I gained a lot of confidence, which was a little breakthrough in itself.”

Her priority was always to make her performance as “realistic” as possible, which meant taking part in some physical training to help her prepare for Kelly’s gymnastic and parkour scenes. She also worked with a parkour double, Rachel Gough, and found she could relate to the parkour world champion through Kelly.

“The parkour community’s so welcoming, so it was nice to gauge that from a female parkour athlete point of view, because Kelly’s the only female parkour athlete on the show,” Morgan adds. “She was like, I relate to Kelly so much. That was a real reflection in itself.”

Morgan also found she admired Kelly, a young, strong-willed woman who carries a lot of responsibility at home while also upsetting people along the way – leading multiple people to be in the frame for her attack when the series reaches its conclusion.

“She wears her heart on her sleeve. A lot of us could do with being more honest,” the actor says. “I admired her confidence. She’s a very protective young woman and she gets that from her dad and the way she’s been brought up. It’s all the external factors going on, the pressures and responsibilities, and being a victim of an awful attack. But Kelly at her core, she’s a young girl navigating teenagerhood and doesn’t lose sight of herself, which is important.”

Natalie is equally formidable. But rather than looking out for others, she is very much out to get what is best for her and her daughter, and it seems nothing can stand in her way.

The show also stars Warren Brown, who won best actor for the second year in a row in Monte Carlo

But because of that, “Natalie is just such fun. She’s such good fun to play,” Robinson laughs. “She has no social embarrassment and she will get what she wants by any means necessary, just because she’s learned it’s a dog-eat-dog world and she will survive. She’s a survivor. It means she can behave in pretty divisive ways, but I really wanted to lean into that and not apologise for it or make excuses for the kind of woman she is.

“I know people didn’t respond to her well – they loved to hate her. And that’s her function in the plot. She was great fun to play and it was a nice challenge, and very different from the other things I’ve done recently.”

Talking about the series, Morgan and Robinson always return to Walsh’s writing, her focus on the working-class community and the show’s Merseyside setting that sits at the heart of the story.

“Helen is a working-class writer of colour and we have woefully few of those, so it starts there,” Robinson says. “She’s writing from her viewpoint and the world she knows, and she’s exploring class as well. For Helen, it was really important in exploring that to cast working-class actors and Liverpudlian characters to be native to Liverpool, because she wanted that representation to be true.”

“I’ve got to say, I think a lot of people can have misconceptions of Liverpool if you’re not from Merseyside,” Morgan adds. “This show is reflective of how big of a heart the city has. Helen was talking about Merseyside being a character in itself, and that’s brilliant. People from Liverpool are so friendly, and the way it was written, the way it was shot and the way it was important… it wasn’t just that grim thing. When I watched it, I felt like I was watching the Liverpool I know, which was a very special thing.”

tagged in: , , , , ,