‘We are far too hard on mothers’
Jenna Coleman has set aside Victoria’s crown to tackle an ‘emotional marathon’ in the BBC’s new lost-child drama
depression whose baby son suddenly disappears – talks about what it is like having two faces: one to be scrutinised by the public, another that exists in private.
It is, of course, a terrible cliché for an interviewer to draw parallels between an actor and the character they are playing. But given our insatiable social-media-fuelled appetite for personal information (and the fact that Coleman has had her love life very publicly dissected), when I meet the 32-year-old in a London hotel, I feel vaguely justified in trying to do just that.
She smiles. “I guess there is that,” she says. “I mean, I can definitely associate with that sensation of feeling… exposed.” Coleman was once linked with Prince Harry after she was photographed talking to him at a polo match. She used to go out with Richard Madden, star of Bodyguard (yes, she watched it) and is now shacked up with Tom Hughes, who plays her on-screen husband in Victoria. So she knows a bit about having all eyes on her.
The twist in The Cry, Coleman points out, is that the mother, Joanna, hasn’t signed up for anything like that. “She is a primary school teacher, who is quite shy, who is having to go through these horrific circumstances with all of these cameras pointed at her.” She notes that in the novel on which the new four-part drama is based, by the Australian thriller writer Helen FitzGerald, Joanna describes “feeling like an animal in a zoo”.
We now live in a world where every facial expression, every move, gets interpreted – and often as something that it isn’t. Coleman asks if I have seen the episode of Charlie Brooker’s science fiction series Black Mirror, in which people give each other star ratings after every interaction.
“It’s not far off reality, is it,” she says, her eyes widening. “I mean, I need to check my Uber rating. I think we have been trained to like stars from school. When you got a star, it was a good thing, wasn’t it? Maybe we’ve been conditioned all wrong.”
I wonder how she protects herself from this kind of thing, as someone in the public eye. “Putting up a veneer, do you mean?” Well that, and a desire for “likes” on social media. “Instagram is tricky because…” she pauses for a moment. “I think if you’re a comedian or a presenter, where your personality is part of your job, it’s different. But as an actress, I always feel a bit conflicted. Because I love Instagram – like, I really love it – and there’s a lot more I would like to put out but I also hate that people are watching you in a part, and they know what you’ve eaten for breakfast.”