‘The se­rial bigamy of my

Sunday Express - - LETTERS -

IT CAN be un­com­fort­able to have your fam­ily watch your creative ef­forts on screen. But it can be dou­bly awk­ward if the sub­ject is your own grand­fa­ther – and, in this case, a com­plete bounder – and you in­vite your close rel­a­tives along to a cen­tral Lon­don screen­ing.

But lead­ing Bri­tish ac­tress Ruth Wil­son, star of HBO’s The Af­fair and the BBC’s hit show Luther, pre­sented her se­ries Mrs Wil­son to jour­nal­ists and fam­ily at an ex­clu­sive screen­ing which could have dou­bled as a fam­ily re­union. Af­ter the first episode, which was given the seal of ap­proval by her father and un­cle, Ruth talked frankly about de­vel­op­ing a project based on her grand­mother’s mem­oir, which ex­posed the se­rial bigamy of her hus­band Alexan­der Wil­son.

She says: “The drama came to­gether or­gan­i­cally. I would tell var­i­ous peo­ple the story and they all said to me, ‘You’ve got to get this made’. I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily want to get it made but it was an amaz­ing story and the more I told it, the more it be­came fas­ci­nat­ing and the more things we kept find­ing out about my grand­fa­ther.”

Ruth set about ap­proach­ing pro­duc­ers to see if the ex­tra­or­di­nary story could reach a wider au­di­ence on screen. Her grand­mother Ali­son Wil­son had writ­ten at great length about her ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, her re­la­tion­ship with Alex, his death and her ul­ti­mate em­brace of reli­gion.

Ruth ex­plains: “Then I met Neil Blair [Mrs Wil­son’s ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer] just ran­domly af­ter a theatre show, who said to me we could get the books pub­lished but we could also make a drama out of this.”

Her grand­mother’s vivid au­to­bi­og­ra­phy would form the heart of the drama.

“We had this mem­oir that my grand­mother had writ­ten, which was re­ally the emo­tional truth of the story and from a fe­male per­spec­tive, too. It made sense that if you fo­cused on her, you could still tell his story but through her eyes.”

Writer Anna Sy­mon was en­listed and the project was un­der way.

Wil­son says: “We needed some­one who had a jour­nal­is­tic air about them. Some­one who would make it into a thriller about who this man was. But also, some­one who had an emo­tional at­tach­ment to Ali­son and all of the mem­bers of the fam­ily. When we met Anna Sy­mon, she had such a clear per­spec­tive on the story. She had so much em­pa­thy for Ali­son Wil­son and un­der­stood the re­spon­si­bil­ity that went with it.”

The story be­gins when Ali­son Wil­son opens the front door to an­other Mrs Wil­son. This Mrs

Wil­son – Gla­dys – be­lieves she is still mar­ried to Ali­son’s hus­band, the for­mer spy-turned-es­pi­onage thriller writer, and there are more rev­e­la­tions to come.

When did Ruth Wil­son first learn

‘In re­al­ity my grand­mother only knew about one wife. Thank God she didn’t know about the other two’

about her grand­mother’s mem­oir? “She passed the first part of the mem­oir to me, my father and his brother when I was 15. Then, my grand­mother only knew about one fur­ther wife.”

That other wife was Gla­dys Wil­son, and Alexan­der, to whom she was still of­fi­cially mar­ried, ex­plained his ab­sence by telling her he was liv­ing in digs in Lon­don.

RUTH WIL­SON con­tin­ues: “My grand­mother only al­lowed the sec­ond part of the mem­oir to be pub­lished when she died. Then we found out more about my grand­fa­ther, that he was a spy, his work. That is shown in episode three. In re­al­ity she only knew about one wife. Thank God she didn’t know about the other two.

“A year af­ter she died, we then had cor­re­spon­dence to my un­cle from two more peo­ple who thought they had the same father [Alexan­der Wil­son]. So in the drama, we’ve amal­ga­mated truth with what my grand­mother Al­ice wrote in her mem­oir. But the book was the in­spi­ra­tion for the drama. It took about three years to bring the whole thing to the screen.”

Ruth, born in Ash­ford, Kent, and ed­u­cated at Not­ting­ham Uni­ver­sity, turns in a pin­point per­for­mance as her grand­mother, chan­nelling the in­dig­nity of the sit­u­a­tion while try­ing

FAM­ILY SE­CRETS: Ruth Wil­son plays her ow

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