The daily grind
The Mill, Channel 4, Sunday, 8pm
are a lot of surprise alliances in it. I saw the first episode the other day and I was quite shocked by it.”
Hayes’ previous credits include TV dramas Lilies and Good Cop, and the films Nowhere Boy and Brighton Rock, but it’s The Mill that’s set to make her a household name. She plays Esther Price, a young Liverpudlian who decides to take a stand against the appalling conditions she and her co-workers – many of them children forced to endure gruelling 12hour shifts for only board and lodging – are forced to live with.
Esther really did exist, and the actress admits that as a result she felt an extra responsibility when playing her.
“I do feel as if it was my duty to not make a mockery out of her and justify everything that she does. Her life was probably a lot worse than we portray on camera, because we only have so much information to go on. It was important for me not make a parody of it and be true to the person.”
What helped bring the characters to life – not just Esther – was the fact that the drama’s shot at Cheshire’s Quarry Bank Mill, where the events depicted really took place.
“On the first day I did a scene up in an attic room, and then I was told that was where the event actually happened, we were kind of recreating it,” recalls Hayes. “So that was weird, and also a bit scary!”
Also appearing in the drama are established TV talents including Kevin McNally, Donald Sumpter, Jamie Draven and Claire Rushbrook. Did Hayes feel starstruck?
“Yeah,” she admits, grinning. “Actually, it’s more like a pressure. When I came to do a scene with Donald, for instance, I was super, super nervous because I knew that I was working with someone who’s been doing this for a lot longer than I’ve been alive. There’s also a pressure to keep up with them because they’re so quick and I’m still learning.”
Hayes is ambitious, but she has no plans to move to Hollywood any time soon.
“I’m very excited that I get to work in good dramas in England, and keep up a certain kind of quality, which is kind of what my aspirations are, to just be involved in good quality work, be it here or abroad,” she says.