Tag Archives: Gentleman Jack

Intimate relations

Having worked on series including Sex Education, Gentleman Jack and Normal People, intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien explains why television’s approach to sex scenes has to change.

It’s impossible to imagine a sword fight or a battle scene being filmed without actors spending many hours choreographing and rehearsing the action in detail beforehand. Similarly, a dance routine would also be the subject of meticulous planning before being recorded.

Ita O’Brien

So, why is the way sex scenes are filmed only now coming under greater scrutiny? For the past few years, intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien (pictured top on set) has spearheaded a shift in the industry and led a new approach to intimacy on screen, one that invites greater communication and transparency during filming, puts in place a structure that allows for agreement and consent between actors and directors and that allows time for intimate scenes to be choreographed clearly.

“In the past, there wasn’t a sense of bringing a professional structure to the intimate work,” she explains, speaking during a keynote session at the Berlinale Series Market in February. “If you had a fight, you certainly wouldn’t just say, ‘Okay, we’ll hand you the swords and then just go for it.’ That wouldn’t be reasonable as you’re in severe danger of an injury happening. So you make sure a stunt coordinator or a fight director is there; they teach techniques and they choreograph the fight content. They will have spoken to the director and made sure they’re serving the director’s vision. If there’s a dance, of course, you’re not going to just talk about it and then throw the people on and say, ‘Right, just do the tango.’ You’re going to have a choreographer, who’s going to listen to the director, hear their vision, choreograph clearly and then make sure you create a scene that serves the storytelling.”

It’s that approach that O’Brien is now bringing to intimate content, having worked on series such as Sex Education, Normal People, Gangs of London, Bulletproof, Pennyworth, Gentleman Jack and Watchmen.

From the moment producers identify an intimate scene, as they might for a fight or a dance, she will speak to the director to hear what they want from that particular moment. The director will speak to the actors about degree of nudity or sexual content, and once that’s happened, she will then speak with the actors to discover if they have any concerns.

O’Brien’s work on Sex Education saw her tackle a particularly tricky scene

“I’m making sure I’m listening to those concerns, sharing that with the production and making sure everything’s put in place to make that actor feel autonomous and powered, and really happy to be serving that director’s vision,” she explains. “I’ll then go and connect with the wardrobe department, speaking to them about what genitalia coverings, modesty garments or other coverings need to be put in place. Then, if I haven’t already worked on set, I’ll speak to the first AD [assistant director], making sure that we’re collaborating and running a closed set with the best practice possible.

“When we come to the day on set, we rehearse the scene really clearly. I’ll have spoken to the second AD, making sure there’s time and space for that rehearsal. And that’s a shift in the industry as well. When I started, my first two programmes were Sex Education and Gentleman Jack. People said to me, ‘Oh, you’ll never have time for rehearsal.’ But of course, you’d never say that about a fight or a dance. So it’s the same now for intimate content; you make time to rehearse.”

Providing time for rehearsals means greater efficiency on set as the scenes then become repeatable and the actors are more comfortable with what they’re doing, which means “they can make a way better sex scene because they’re really happy with what the content is going to be, so they can act their socks off,” O’Brien says, adding that she also ensures actors are happy after filming has taken place, offering several points through the process where they can see their work before the rest of the world does.

The BBC’s adaptation of the novel Normal People

“It’s about creating a scene that honours the director’s vision, honours the writing and allows the actors to be empowered and happy with the work that they have done.”

O’Brien’s work, through her company Intimacy on Set, is now spreading across Europe, having shared her guidelines in Germany, Sweden, Norway and France. And across the board, it’s change that is desperately needed.

Asked whether she has worked with an intimacy coordinator before, Swedish star Sofia Helin (The Bridge, Atlantic Crossing) responds: “Never. I can’t think about it. I can’t deal with it. It’s tense every time you have to cross your own borders in order to satisfy the director’s needs. So I haven’t dealt with it. It has been a part of my job that I don’t like, and with Ita’s technique, it could be a part of my job that I like. But the interesting thing is that when I’ve done scenes with a character who is in charge of her sexuality, then it’s never been horrible. But the other way around, it’s always horrible, and that’s more usual.”

Helin says on shows she has worked on, there has always been a very “concrete and direct” vision about how intimate scenes would be portrayed, leading to the moment where the actors are on set, the clock is ticking and the actor’s voice has been taken away. “What we as actors want to do is to tell the story, and we can almost do anything to tell the story,” she says, “especially when the team is there and the camera is on. You say ‘yes’ to almost anything just to serve the story. So that ‘no’ has to be listened to by someone [like O’Brien] who can step in and say, ‘No, no. We don’t do that.’”

Gentleman Jack was among the first dramas O’Brien was involved in

Likewise, director Soleen Yusef (Skylines, Deutschland 89) has never worked with intimacy guidelines in Germany, having planned her own guidelines up to this point. “I would feel more safe if I could handle it in a way that’s much more professional, because for me, I just improvise,” she says.

“We’re not just talking about intimacy that is very sweet. We’re talking about love and sexuality. I had to do a sexual assault, for example. They weren’t naked. But still, it was very difficult for me to do that. I always meet with the actors before and I ask different questions. How far do you want to go? What do you want to wear? Do you want to be completely naked? You need to be prepared. We also had a completely closed set. You have to just create an atmosphere for everybody who’s doing the scene to feel comfortable. For me as the director, I don’t want to go too far. I don’t want to hurt people.”

O’Brien says her work introduces a process of agreement and consent between actors, directors and others involved in the scene. A key principle is ensuring the actors are present in their mind and body so they can lay down boundaries they feel comfortable with and confident any concerns will be listened to.

“Very often you hear actors go, ‘In order to get through the sex scene I downed a bottle the vodka.’ When I was in Australia and New Zealand, I had several people from different places telling me that another practice is that the production will offer the actors valium in order to get through the sex scene, which is doing the absolute opposite of what we want,” she reveals. “We want them to be ultra present, so they can really be saying yes to what they’re happy with, to be autonomous, to not feel they’re being pushed past their own boundaries.

“That’s a shift in the industry. Before now, an actor who said no might have felt they were going to be considered a troublemaker, a pain in the ass, a diva and possibly wouldn’t get employed again.”

Sky1 action thriller Bulletproof

Often in sex scenes, actors are judged to have no chemistry with each other if the audience can sense a feeling of tension or awkwardness on screen. O’Brien believes audiences are left squirming in their seats when they can feel the actors are uncomfortable with what they are being asked to do. Her work now aims to ensure the actors are happy and in control, meaning audiences will remain engaged with the scene and the storytelling. She refers to an example in season one of Netflix drama Sex Education, where a fight between two male characters ends with them having oral sex and both actors had concerns about being asked to spit on the other person, whether for real or using a substitute substance.

“We’re creative people so it was about, ‘Where are we going to put the camera?’ Very quickly, we had one actor there, a camera there and a substance made up by the make-up department was spat on to a piece of paper by one actor. The other actor was filmed responding to receiving the spit and then you’re away,” she explains. “The director of the first block didn’t even know they hadn’t spat on to each other. So it’s trusting that to know that we can use body parts and we can be creative with where the camera is in order to tell the story while keeping the actors safe.”

Through her company, O’Brien is training up new intimacy coordinators through a series of programmes to ensure preparation for sex scenes is taken as seriously as a fight or a dance sequence. She is also keen to ensure training can be provided by people of all genders, sex and ethnicities.

“My intention is that whoever is acting feels like they’re represented,” she concludes. “If they have a request, I can help to honour that, so the person performing feels as safe and careful as possible.”

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

The Wainwright direction

From Happy Valley and Gentleman Jack to Last Tango in Halifax and To Walk Invisible, writer and director Sally Wainwright has made her mark on the drama industry with her unique blend of storytelling. Here, she lifts the lid on the creative process.

A rural crime drama following a no-nonsense police officer, a septuagenarian love story, a biopic about the Brontë sisters and a regency period drama might not have many plot lines in common.

But what Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax, To Walk Invisible and Gentleman Jack (pictured above) do share is a use of visual style, pace, music and humour that links them back to one person – writer/director Sally Wainwright.

Having started her writing career almost 30 years ago on British soaps including Emmerdale and Coronation Street, she has become one of the country’s leading screenwriters, with credits also including Playing the Field, At Home with the Braithwaites and Unforgiven. She won Baftas for both best drama and best writer for Last Tango in Halifax (2013) and Happy Valley (2015 and 2017).

“I like to see women being heroic, women in situations where they have to do stuff,” Wainwright tells DQ at France’s Série Series television festival. “That’s the only recurring thing for me. There are so many portraits of women on television from the male gaze of how women should be or ought to be or how men want them to be. We’ve had that in the ether for so many decades that women in real life copy or emulate the behaviour of the male construct of women on television.

“It’s become ridiculous how women behave in the way they’ve seen on telly and think that’s what women do. But it’s actually a construct created by men. It’s quite refreshing to have women written by women in a way that’s authentic.”

Sally Wainwright chats to actor Jonathan Pryce during filming on To Walk Invisible

Wainwright’s own writing process changes depending on the project she’s currently working on, because no two shows are ever the same. Her latest drama, BBC and HBO coproduction Gentleman Jack, was a particularly unique example.

The show, which takes its title from the nickname given to lead character Anne Lister (Suranne Jones), follows the real-life landowner, industrialist, traveller and secret diarist who is often referred to as the ‘first modern lesbian’ and charts her return to her ancestral home, Shibden Hall, and her blossoming relationship with Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle).

“It was unique because it all starts with her diary. Most of the diary isn’t transcribed [large parts were written in code] and it actually started because I was doing my own transcriptions,” Wainwright says. “It’s just another process to add to the processes you are already familiar with as a writer.

“Normally I would start with doing a really detailed scene breakdown in which I would hope to solve most of the problems of the episode so that by the time I’ve got that document, which can take between a week and two weeks to write, actually writing the dialogue is the fun bit.

“It should just flow then because you’ve knocked a lot of the problems on the head. You haven’t, of course, because as soon as you start to write the dialogue, other problems present themselves, but I do like to have a really detailed scene breakdown before I start.”

Writers will often explain that scenes are redundant in a series unless they have a purpose to either drive the plot forward or reveal something about one of the characters involved. Wainwright pushes that theory further by stating that a scene doesn’t just require a single justification but should do more than one thing.

Wainwright gives the thumbs up to Gentleman Jack star Suranne Jones

In fact, “a good scene will be doing at least three things,” she explains. “It will be pushing the story along, telling you something new you didn’t know about a character and it will hopefully be making you laugh, and any number of other things.”

Adapting Lister’s life for the screen was a very different process to dramatising the life of the Brontë sisters – novelists Charlotte, Emily and Anne – in To Walk Invisible, for which Wainwright relied heavily on her own knowledge of their novels, such as Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Wuthering Heights. She also leaned on Juliet Barker’s biography of the Brontës. But with Gentleman Jack, it was Lister’s own diaries that dictated the process.

“In a way, the Brontës was easier because there was less material to juggle with,” she says. “One of the hardest things with the Anne Lister project was choosing what to leave out. It was really odd because I’ve started looking at season two and immersed myself in the journals again and then watching the episodes go out on Sunday night, I was struck by how much wasn’t there, by how much we’ve had to cut out. Hopefully she does come across on screen as a multi-dimensional character. There were so many more facets I haven’t got into the script.”

But does she find writing about real life characters whose lives have already been lived restrictive compared to inventing the next moves for Happy Valley police sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) or loved up Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) in Last Tango in Halifax?

“No, oddly not with Anne Lister,” she reveals, “because she’s such a force of nature and because we made the decision for the show to break the fourth wall. Because we made the choice to be a bit more experimental, you do feel like she could do anything or go anywhere, so I never feel constricted by what she does. I always feel engaged and energised.”

Wainwright says she hasn’t quite decided on the focus for the second season of Gentleman Jack, which was quickly renewed for a sophomore run after five episodes had aired on HBO – and just one in the UK. The writer says it will cover the 18-month period after season one, though she readily admits she might “steal” some elements from earlier or later in Lister’s life to make a coherent story.

Happy Valley stars Sarah Lancashire, with whom Wainwright has worked on more than one occasion

“It’s a really interesting time next because the political backdrop gets even more intense,” she says. “It also covers a period when Ann Walker moved into Shibden Hall, when they were conspicuously living as wife and wife. So there’s the public reaction to that and how they negotiated their way through it to still maintain their position in society. Some of the diary of this period has been published but it is just a fraction and there’s tonnes of stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day. That in itself is exciting.”

Wainwright isn’t expecting to experience a difficult second season, believing her own work often improves after the first seasons due to an increased confidence in the story and the characters.

“Everybody knows each other, everybody knows what they’re doing, they’ve already broken down a lot of the barriers,” she adds. “Sometimes second seasons go wrong because a showrunner starts to delegate, so they might not write the whole of it or they might not be across it in the same way because they’re off doing something else. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to make sure I’m there, which I always do. I’ve done that with Last Tango in Halifax, Happy Valley and Scott & Bailey.”

To that end, Wainwright’s plan is to repeat her own involvement beyond writing and directing the first two and the last two episodes, with a second director picking up the middle four. She first took up behind the camera on a season one episode of Happy Valley, before picking up four more in season two, helming To Walk Invisible and then leading the direction of Gentleman Jack.

As a writer who directs her own work, she says she’s usually very conscious of penning scenes she knows she can direct. The one time she didn’t follow that practice was a set piece in episode one of Gentleman Jack, involving three carriages hurtling towards each other on a country lane.

“I didn’t really know how we were going to do that. But I knew one of the first things you do as a director is find people who do know about it,” she explains. “We’d got six horses and literally one set of horses had to go through two sets of horses going the other way. We discussed it with the horsemen and with the VFX people about how best to achieve this, and the VFX guys said the best way to achieve this was in camera.

Wainwright won a Bafta for her work on Last Tango in Halifax

“The horseman was quite nervous but was willing to push it. So we shot it about four times and each time, the four going one way got closer to the two going the other way. They got tighter and tighter together so by the fourth time they did it, it looked credibly like there could have been a collision.

“It’s communicating with people effectively because you’re out of your depth and you are reliant on people with expertise. By the end of it, we all had a respect for each other. At the beginning, the horseman probably thought I was bonkers but we were quite good mates by the end.”

If Anne Lister was a force of nature in person, with Suranne Jones regularly captured tearing up the countryside on foot, the music backing the series from composer Murray Gold certainly adds an extra layer of pace and momentum to the story. Wainwright believes music can take a series to another level, even making or breaking the show.

“It’s so particular and vital to what you’re creating in terms of how you can push it further towards what you’re trying to achieve,” she says. “On To Walk Invisible we used John Lunn’s beautiful music. It’s got a Beethoven quality to it. It’s very classical and it really heightened the scenes. It felt very appropriate for the Brontës, whereas with the Anne Lister piece, I wanted it to feel more modern and I wanted it to have an energy Murray always brings to his work.”

In Jones and Lancashire, Wainwright also has two leading actors who she has cast on more than one occasion. Most notably, Jones starred in five seasons of detective drama Scott & Bailey before leading Gentleman Jack, while Lancashire had been ever present in Last Tango in Halifax before stepping up to front Happy Valley. Season five of Last Tango is now in production, while a third season of Happy Valley is likely to follow the second season of Gentleman Jack in Wainwright’s busy schedule.

“What I love about Sarah and Suranne, what they’ve got in common – and I don’t know if it’s because they’re northerners – is that they’re not afraid of being funny,” Wainwright says. “A lot of actors have this idea they’re going to be serious actors, they want to do serious things and it’s as if they’re frightened to be funny as well. What I love about Sarah and Suranne is they’re both capable of doing the deepest, darkest things and then two minutes later they can make you laugh. I do that in my writing, so to get actors who get that and want to do it and can turn it around on a sixpence is quite rare.”

Ultimately, it’s Wainwright’s range of material and approach to different genres that keeps her motivated to keep writing, and with the launch of a glut of new global streaming services amid the continuing expansion of the drama industry, she admits there’s a lot of work around.

“One of the anxieties for me as a viewer is that I put on Netflix and I can’t often find something I personally want to watch,” she adds. “There’s a lot of testosterone-fuelled thrillers and that kind of thing and I don’t see so much I’m personally drawn to. I find it quite hard to find stuff that’s for me, a woman in her mid-50s, so we need to make sure there’s a nice variety of content in this huge morass of stuff we’ve got now. People will always want to be told new stories.”

tagged in: , , ,

Jack and Jones

Sally Wainwright writes and directs Gentleman Jack, which sees Suranne Jones play Anne Lister, a landowner, industrialist, traveller and diarist who is often referred to as the ‘first modern lesbian.’ DQ visits the set of the BBC and HBO period drama.

The entrance to Shibden Hall is marked by imposing black iron gates and stone walls, with a large stone lion making its presence felt. The grand house, which dates back to 1420, is noticeable for its black and white Tudor frontage and large Gothic-style tower.

Generations of residents have seen the building and its grounds undergo an extensive transformation over the years, though its biggest evolution came during the ownership of its most famous resident. Anne Lister added the tower for use as a library where she could write, while also installing terraced gardens and a boating lake, with views from the grounds overlooking the stunning Shibden Valley scenery.

It’s here at the house near the English town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, where the majority of filming took place for an eight-part miniseries about the life of Lister – landowner, industrialist, traveller, diarist and the woman described as the first modern lesbian. The way she dressed and conducted herself saw her given the nickname – and the show’s title – Gentleman Jack.

The BBC1 and HBO series opens in 1832, when Lister (played by Suranne Jones) returns from Hastings to Shibden Hall after discovering that her would-be companion and lover, the aristocratic Vere Hobart (Jodhi May), has accepted a marriage proposal from a man.

Sally Wainwright

Despite her affection for her elderly aunt (Gemma Jones), Anne is frustrated by the shabbiness of her ancestral home and finds her father (Timothy West) and long-suffering sister (Gemma Whelan) difficult to live with.

However, when Anne discovers that her land is rich in coal, her plans to transform the estate provide a welcome distraction from her broken heart. On the neighbouring estate, Crow Nest, shy heiress Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) is quietly delighted to hear that the charismatic Lister is back.

On a bright but extremely blustery September day last year at Shibden Hall, filming is continuing inside the dark, constricted rooms, presenting a significant task for the lighting crew. Only the small bedrooms have been recreated in a studio, giving Gentleman Jack the remarkable authenticity of filming in Lister’s real-life home.

The historic house is usually open to members of the public, though filming between April and November has seen visitor numbers restricted. Each room has been dressed immaculately for the series, with the kitchen displaying a table laid with cutlery and glasses while pans and tankards hang above the open stove. A shotgun sits above the door.

The series comes from writer and lead director Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax), who has long been fascinated by Lister. “What made me want to write about her primarily was just her character, just what an extraordinarily huge personality she was and the outrageous brilliant bold things she did,” she explains on set.

“I couldn’t imagine who could play Anne Lister because there are so many facets to her personality. She’s so extraordinary. She’s this mass of contradictions, she’s very bold and brilliant and she did so many fantastic, extraordinary things. It was hard to imagine anybody on the planet being able to embody all of that. I think the number of people who could play this part, there’s probably about one of them – we got her.”

Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster) as Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack

The actor in question is Jones, who first teamed up with Wainwright on TV movie Dead Clever in 2007 before they were reunited on dramas Unforgiven and Scott & Bailey.

“I have a vague memory of [Wainwright] talking about this project because she’s written scripts before on this, but it wasn’t this,” says Jones, wearing a dressing gown in between takes but still sporting Lister’s unique hairstyle. She was asked to audition for the role and read the scripts, and admits she was intrigued to work with Wainwright the director, having previously only worked with her as a writer.

“The work started when I got the call to say yes. A year ago, I then said give me everything. So I got five books sent through, I got a dissertation sent through, some of Sally’s notes sent through. Then we came here and walked all the way round Shibden and stomped over to the coal mines. We even fed some pigs on the way.”

Rehearsals started just before Christmas 2017, with Wainwright keen to afford Jones time to allow her performance to “germinate” as the actor tried to soak up the Bafta-winning writer’s years of research into Lister’s life. “It was very thorough and it was really brilliant. We got the right person,” Wainwright notes.

The production also employed an “intimacy director,” Ita O’Brien, to ensure the actors felt comfortable during the sex scenes between Lister and Walker. Jones would run through scenes in full costume so she could practice carrying herself as the top hat-wearing Lister before the cameras started rolling. “If I hadn’t had all of that, I don’t think I’d have been able to do the part,” the actor says.

Some 320,000 words of Lister’s coded diary entries were translated to inform the drama

Jones says playing Lister has been the most demanding role of her career, becoming totally invested in playing the character through painstaking research and preparation with Wainwright. In fact, her work on BBC drama Doctor Foster, in which Jones played the central character, proved to be valuable preparation for Gentleman Jack, as she was already used to working through every beat of a series. “So when I got to this, it wasn’t a shock because I’m in a lot of it,” she says. “If I hadn’t done Doctor Foster, this might have been a shock in a way – going, ‘Oh, is it me again?’ So I was prepared for it.

“There’s so much to love [about Lister]. She is noble, unlikeable, flawed, beautiful, true to herself, and harsh to herself and to others. She’s a perfectionist, she’s a self-educator, she is an amazing lover. There’s a joyfulness about her love of women, yet there’s such a sadness when her heart’s broken – and it gets broken a lot. She is a carer, she is funny, and a bit mean. And she’s very blokeish but very sensitive. I mean, what isn’t she? She is everything. And getting to play all those things yet finding a constant was the difficult thing.”

Wainwright describes Lister as “a mass of contradictions,” which made the character incredibly hard to realise on screen. “As soon as you think of one thing to say about her, you can think of several things that contradict,” she says. “Hopefully that’s part of the excitement of the drama – that there’s a lot of conflict within her – and I hope the kind of choices we made give it an edginess.”

Central to the scriptwriting process has been Wainwright’s use of the extensive diaries Lister wrote throughout her life. Between 1806 and 1840, she filled 7,500-plus pages with around five million words, as well as writing hundreds of letters, account books and other papers that offer a fascinating insight into her life and the 19th century experience in general. But what makes the diaries unique is that her more personal thoughts – ranging from her relationships with other women and financial information to scathing comments about other residents in Halifax – were all written in code, a mixture of symbols, numbers and Greek letters that Lister appeared to switch into effortlessly.

For the series, Wainwright and advisor Anne Choma, who has written a book about Lister, translated 340,000 coded words for the first time.

Gemma Whelan (left) and Gemma Jones (right) also star in the series

“Sections of the diary have been transcribed before but never all of it,” explains Faith Penhale, executive producer on Gentlemen Jack and CEO of producer Lookout Point. “The section we were looking at, we knew elements but we didn’t know the whole thing. One of the joys that Sally’s found with this is every time you transcribe a new section of the diaries, something new arises that you didn’t know, so it does feel like we’re uncovering something. Anne Lister was a natural dramatist. She loved the drama of her own life.”

Choma consulted on the scripts from the beginning of development to help ensure Lister’s authentic voice could be heard through the series. “Sally would say Anne would write far more exciting things than she could ever dramatise,” she recalls. “We had two major themes, the affair with Ann Walker and the business rivalry with the Rawsons.

“Sally’s scripts are so strong. The big challenge was staying true to Anne Lister and making sure we were producing a portrait that Anne would recognise herself. Some bits are very difficult to get your head around, so some of the dialogue had to be adapted for modern audiences.”

Despite her extensive writing credits, Wainwright has only previously helmed episodes of crime series Happy Valley and single drama To Walk Invisible. Here, she directs the  series alongside Sarah Harding and Jennifer Perrott.

Wainwright says her approach behind the camera puts authenticity above everything else in an attempt to reflect the real Lister and the world around her. “We’re trying to make it for a modern audience as well, so people will sufficiently believe the authenticity and accuracy about the amount of research that’s gone in but equally find it entertaining as well,” she says. “It’s finding that balance. It’s finding a way of telling our story that creates a true semblance of going back into the past, but [in a way that] that will entertain people as well in the here and now and has a resonance now and has things to say, which it clearly does.”

Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders) plays Lister’s partner, Ann Walker

The director went against standard period drama convention by making extensive use of a steadicam on set, enabling her to capture sweeping shots of the landscape around Shibden Hall while trying to keep up with Jones.

“It’s in the diaries that Anne worked out she walked at four miles an hour. I got the electric bike out and pushed it so I got up to four miles an hour just to see how fast it was, and I was thinking, ‘That’s fucking fast.’ But I think Suranne walks faster than four miles.”

But it’s those moments at Shibden and in the surrounding countryside where Jones says she truly valued being part of the production. “Every day, even when it’s tough and there are long hours and I can’t remember my lines or whatever, you have to take a step back and breathe and go, I can’t actually believe they let us in this house because it’s her house.”

Though ostensibly a period drama, the series is thrilling from the outset, and while there are elements of it being a domestic drama, it is never dull. Lister, as played by Jones, is a whirlwind of energy, charging around the countryside, driving horse-drawn carriages or climbing walls. Most notable is the fact that the character often breaks the fourth wall to look directly into the camera, while Lister’s inner thoughts are sometimes narrated.

“I always aim to entertain, that’s my big thing,” Wainwright adds. “I always want to make people laugh. It’s got to be true and there’s got to be drama but I do find Anne Lister very funny. I think she was funny. That’s one of the things I’ve tried to do.”

tagged in: , , , ,