Rob­bie Coltrane and Julie Wal­ters on their dark sex-scan­dal drama

TV Times - - Interview - Caren Clark

he fall­out from po­lice en­quiries into his­toric sex­ual of­fences has rocked the na­tion in re­cent years, af­ter shock­ing al­le­ga­tions about some fa­mous faces.

Now, the im­pact of this type of chal­leng­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ex­plored in C4’s grip­ping new four-part drama Na­tional Trea­sure, which cen­tres on fic­tional co­me­dian Paul Finch­ley, played by Rob­bie Coltrane, and his wife Marie (Julie Wal­ters). Paul has been a well-loved part of the show­biz world for decades, as

Tone half of a com­edy dou­ble act, and is now the ge­nial host of a teatime quiz. But his life and ca­reer are left in tat­ters when the po­lice knock on his door and he’s ac­cused of rap­ing a young woman in the 1990s. ‘The first episode is not about whether he did or didn’t do it, it’s about what it would be like for any of us if some­body came to the door and said you had raped some­body 20 years ago,’ Rob­bie, 66, tells

TV Times. ‘Your life falls off a cliff, whether you did it or not, so he’s a man at the end of his tether and is to­tally hu­mil­i­ated.

‘You have to imag­ine what it would be like to have 20 guys with cam­eras at the bot­tom of your gar­den, tabloids talk­ing rub­bish and peo­ple spit­ting at you. But it gets more and more am­bigu­ous, dark and strange as it moves on. I think view­ers’ opin­ions will keep shift­ing all the way through.’

For­mer Cracker star Rob­bie, who con­fesses he went straight to the end of the script to find out if Paul was guilty, jumped at the chance to work with Julie again. They crossed paths fleet­ingly in the Harry Pot­ter films, in which they played lov­able gi­ant Ha­grid and spir­ited Mrs Weasley.

‘We did two scenes to­gether but we didn’t hang out and we haven’t

Harry Pot­ter worked to­gether prop­erly be­fore,’ re­veals Rob­bie. ‘It was a joy to have two weeks’ re­hearsals be­fore Na­tional Trea­sure, to work out what Paul and Marie’s re­la­tion­ship was like.’

The cou­ple’s mar­riage is at the heart of the drama. As dark se­crets from the past emerge, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has a huge im­pact on deeply re­li­gious Marie, who de­cides, at least pub­licly, to stand by her hus­band. The case also has a trau­matic ef­fect on their trou­bled daugh­ter Dee (An­drea Rise­bor­ough), a re­cov­er­ing drug ad­dict, and their young grand­chil­dren.

‘Th­ese cases have been a big part of our cur­rent af­fairs for the last few years,’ says Julie, 66. ‘But it’s al­ways the wife that makes me think, “Gosh, I want to know about her”. It would be an aw­ful, heart-shat­ter­ing thing.

‘I find women like her fas­ci­nat­ing. Marie is quite con­ser­va­tive, she has

her own prob­lems and her daugh­ter is way­ward, so they have a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship, but she’s a very kind woman and I ad­mire her strength.’

Julie ad­mits, though, that she found it hard to ac­cept why Marie has stayed with Paul for so long.

‘You do think, “How can she be with him?” Whether he’s done this or not, a string of in­fi­deli­ties have gone on through­out their life. If it was me, he would be out the door – I can’t bear any kind of ly­ing – but Marie’s not like that, so it was re­ally in­ter­est­ing to do.

‘She stands by him be­cause she loves him. Also, as a Catholic, she be­lieves in the sanc­tity of mar­riage and she wants to keep the fam­ily to­gether. She de­pends on her re­li­gious faith and her faith in him. Although she knows he has slept with lots of peo­ple, she sees it as a weak­ness in him that she can tol­er­ate – but what he’s now ac­cused of is very dif­fer­ent…’

As the case grows ever more har­row­ing, the drama – which also fea­tures cameos from Robert Webb, Frank Skin­ner and Alan Carr – ex­plores the dif­fi­cul­ties in­volved in in­ves­ti­gat­ing crimes that are al­leged to have taken place decades ear­lier.

‘The cops call th­ese, “He said, she said” crimes, be­cause there were only two peo­ple there and one of them is telling the truth and one of them isn’t,’ says Rob­bie, who won­ders whether those ac­cused of such crimes should be given anonymity un­til they are proven guilty.

‘If you pub­lish the guy’s name, other peo­ple will come for­ward and there’s more chance of a con­vic­tion. Peo­ple who are in­no­cent should be pro­tected but peo­ple who have been abused must be pro­tected more.

‘The ques­tion is, what kind of cul­ture was go­ing on that peo­ple like Jimmy Sav­ile got away with it for as long as he did? But the way that tech­nol­ogy and so­cial me­dia are now, hope­fully it won’t hap­pen again – we all hope that you couldn’t get away with it to­day.’

new drama

Na­tional Trea­sure TUES­DAY / C4 / 9.00Pm marie Finch­ley Julie Wal­ters

Paul’s loyal wife has al­ways stood by him, de­spite his flaws, but will this case prove

too much for her? Rob­bie and Julie met briefly in

paul Finch­ley Rob­bie Coltrane The vet­eran en­ter­tainer is shocked when he’s ac­cused of rap­ing a young woman in the 1990s. His pri­vate life then comes un­der

in­tense scru­tiny Is Paul guilty? and will his wife and daugh­ter stand by him? Dee Finch­ley An­drea Rise­bor­ough

The Finch­leys’ daugh­ter, a mother of two, is a re­cov­er­ing drug ad­dict. The ac­cu­sa­tions against her fa­ther cause

her fresh tur­moil The con­stant me­dia frenzy takes its toll

She stands by him be­cause she loves him

Julie

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