Fearless’s Helen Mccrory
Helen Mccrory tells TV Times about playing a lawyer whose investigation into the conviction of a child murderer uncovers a global conspiracy...
What happens when you cross a legal drama with a whodunit that has a political conspiracy at its heart? We’ll find out this week in ITV’S gripping multi-layered legal drama Fearless, starring Helen Mccrory as passionate human rights lawyer Emma Banville.
In this intense six-part series, Emma investigates whether a miscarriage of justice has taken place in the case of school caretaker Kevin Russell (played by Sam Swainsbury). Russell has been in prison for 14 years after being convicted of the murder of schoolgirl Linda Simms.
However, it’s not long before Emma’s enquiries draw her into the centre of a political conspiracy that has global repercussions.
On location in London, TV Times sat down with Peaky Blinders star Helen, 48, to find out more…
Tell us about Fearless…
I haven’t read a British series for so long that’s such a page turner with so many twists and turns. It’s a legal thriller, but it’s not a courtroom drama – it turns into something international that looks at what’s happening in the world today and touches on big political ideas.
Why is Emma so interested in Kevin’s case?
Kevin’s ex-partner Annie [Rebecca Callard] believes he’s innocent and approaches Emma to help. Emma has a passion for justice and she smells a rat with the forensics on the original case. As it unravels, it takes her into a terrifying world
that she has never been into. Emma keeps fighting, although she’s in unfamiliar water, because she cares. She’s fearless because she wants to know the truth.
Emma’s work is complicated by the fact that she has opened up her home to a Syrian mother whose husband is a terror suspect. The character’s own past also has an impact...
Yes, Emma’s under surveillance herself, but there’s also a lie that she was told in her past that has damaged her irrevocably. She’s vulnerable and is chased by her own demons. By the end you’ll realise why she’s really motivated to take this case and to defend people because of the injustice that was done to her in the past.
What’s her personal life like?
She has put it on pause for work and been a surrogate mother to her clients but now she wants to adopt a child with her photographer partner Steve [John Bishop]. I was really interested in this woman who has sacrificed so much for her job and now realises she can’t have her cake and eat it, because that has happened to a few of my friends.
What was it like working with actor and comedian John Bishop? Oh, he’s completely charismatic. I didn’t know he did straight drama but when we came to the readthrough, what he brought to the table was so perfect that they wrote several extra scenes for him. He’s just brilliant and a real laugh.
What was it like reuniting with Michael Gambon, who plays academic
Sir Alastair Mckinnon?
I’ve known him for years; he’s just the best, so we were thrilled he came on this. I did my first-ever TV job with Michael. He played Archie
Rice in a BBC2 version of The Entertainer, with Bill Owen and Billie Whitelaw, and I played his daughter Jean. Then we worked together on [2001 film] Charlotte Gray and the Harry Potters, when we just spent our time in Robbie Coltrane’s trailer chatting. Michael’s a phenomenon, but cheeky! He’s got a filthy sense of humour, but
I’ll save his glittering career by not repeating what he tells me on set!
How did you research Emma?
I read a lot of very dense books! I’m friends with a few lawyers anyway, and I’m always interested in their work, so I spoke to them. Then I was on the Tube and I heard this man chatting and realised that he was a human rights lawyer. I jumped off and said, ‘Can I talk to you?’ I went to Lincoln’s Inn Fields [the London square that’s a legal hub] a few times to meet him.
Do you see anything of yourself in Emma?
Yes! Like her, I’m totally obsessed with my work. It’s when she feels most alive and that’s common for performers, too; they feel most present when they are in the middle of a performance. Acting is similar to the law in that way.
You and your husband [Homeland star Damian Lewis] are based in New York now, with your children [Manon, 10 and Gulliver, nine]. Was it tough to be away from them while filming Fearless?
The children are at school in New York and I thought I wouldn’t be able to do Fearless if I couldn’t see them. But the production team made it work for me so I could fly back and see them every 10 days, which was amazing. I remember doing Manon’s Halloween make-up at 6.00am while telling my driver I’d be out in two minutes to get my plane. It was fine because New York is only a six-hour flight to London and the only time you get six hours to yourself is on a plane!
university prof sir alastair Mckinnon emma and former cop Dominic truelove meet with the simms family court in the act: Kevin russell with ex-partner annie Peterson and solicitor emma banville