TV - Marcella

Innovative and gripping crime drama Marcella is returning to ITV for a third series, starting next Tuesday (26th). Ahead of the first episode, read an interview with the star Anna Friel...

Created by internationally renowned screenwriter and novelist Hans Rosenfeldt and Nicola Larder, Marcella stars Emmy award winner Anna Friel in the title role. Hugo Speer and Ray Panthaki also return to the series whilst Amanda Burton joins the drama as the formidable matriarch of the Maguire family. 

Following on from the dramatic conclusion of the previous series, the eight new episodes focus upon Marcella’s new life in Belfast as an undercover detective. She has taken on the identity of Keira and has infiltrated the infamous Maguire family, but as she investigates their activities, questions come to the fore about how much she has embraced Keira’s persona and personality and left Marcella behind. In true Marcella style, the series has interweaving storylines with strands focusing upon the Maguires’ criminal operations. As she inhabits the character of Keira, Marcella’s quest for the truth puts her in danger and others in harm’s way. Her undercover role makes her take risks, but will her old life eventually catch up with her? 

An array of new cast members are welcomed to the series. As well as Amanda Burton who takes on the role of Katherine, the matriarch of the Maguire family, also joining the cast are Aaron McCusker who plays her son, Finn Maguire; whilst Hugo Speer, who made a brief appearance in the final scenes of series two, reprises his role as Frank Young, Marcella’s undercover handler. Kelly Gough also joins the cast, taking the role of Stacey, Katherine’s daughter; Martin McCann plays Stacey’s husband, with Eugene O’Hare as local police officer Eddie. Michael Colgan plays Rory Maguire, whilst Paul Kennedy plays Lawrence, Marcella’s initial contact within the crime family and Glen Wallace is Matt, a past acquaintance. 

Marcella is executive produced by Rosenfeldt, Buccaneer Media’s founder Tony Wood, and Anna Friel. The series is produced by Sue de Beauvoir and Amanda Black. The first four episodes are directed by Gilles Bannier with Ashley Pearce directed the following four. Hans Rosenfeldt has written the first two episodes and story-lined episodes three to eight. The writers of these episodes are David Allison (Bedlam, The Case), Rachel Flowerday (Father Brown, The Moonstone) Mike Walden (The Frankenstein Chronicle), Matthew Thomas (The Chameleon, Valentine’s Kiss) and Tim Loane (Das Boot, Versailles). The series was filmed entirely on location in and around Belfast. 

Here's the interview with Anna Friel:

Are you excited for the UK audience to see series three?

I can’t wait for everyone to see it. Even if you haven’t watched the first two seasons, this one can be watched as a standalone. People across the world have watched season three and enjoyed it so much that they then went back and watched one and two. It’s created a different momentum. More people are watching box sets because they’re at home more. So, it’s found a new audience as well, which is a really positive thing.

Series two ended on some almighty cliff-hangers. Was the story arc for the first two series always leading to that moment of Marcella discovering what really happened to baby Juliet?

Discovering what had really happened to the baby, yes, but we didn’t know that we were going to slice Marcella’s cheek or crop all her hair. Usually what happens when we get to episode five or six is I call Hans (Rosenfeldt) and ask, ‘What’s the end? How are we going do this? Please push the boundaries.’ And then we discuss where we are going to go. There’s a saying we have, ‘Let’s Marcella it up.’

What was your reaction to the idea of Marcella going undercover for series three? Was that Hans’ idea or yours?

The going undercover idea was Hans. The whole premise of Marcella not wanting to be herself. She just doesn’t want to exist anymore. The ending of season two was a collaborative decision with lots of talks between the team.

What were your thoughts about her new look and wardrobe?

The look is really important for this. We had to make her look completely different. First of all being blonde. We couldn’t just dye my hair. I’ve done that three times in my life and it went green and I had to cut it all off. It’s a really hard one to pull off. I think the department did a really good job of making it look incredibly authentic. For series three the colour palette had to change. There are the influences of who she is with now.

Have you kept the iconic green parka and jumper?

They’re all in storage. They’re not mine to keep. Hopefully they will be auctioned off or something one day. I try and keep character pieces of costume for that purpose. You never know when you’re going to be asked to auction this or that. If it can help someone else in some way even better. I was very attached to season one and season two’s look which I liked to call Tintin. We buckled her up and gave her a signature look that was cool and stylish with a shirt and sweater and her Marcella boots and the Marcella walk. She’d just been left by her husband. She wasn’t going to be flaunting her cleavage. People seemed to really cotton on to Marcella’s look.

Was it refreshing to leave behind the Edgware Road and Joe Strummer subway and relocate to Belfast?

I really love that police station. I got very attached to it. There’s not a day when I drive over the A40 when I don’t look at it and sigh. That will always be Marcella’s office. It just belonged to London so much. I even missed those subways that were cold and damp and depressing, because it was part of Marcella’s world. Hans was really fascinated that my family were from Belfast. He always tries to add as many elements of your own life into the story. He thought wouldn’t it be interesting if she moved country because how would she be able to facilitate a life with a cover for the family in this country?

Do you still have family in Belfast?

I have family in the area still, it was so lovely to live there whilst filming and be surrounded by family. Sadly, my grandmother didn’t quite make 100, but I got to catch up with everyone else. I have 82 cousins! I’ve a lot of family in Donegal so they were proud for their girl to be back on home turf where I spent so much of my childhood.

In terms of the storytelling did it feel that you could go to very different places now that the show isn’t tied to a murder mystery?

I think it had to. I was concerned how we were going to do that when we hadn’t got those things like ‘who’s the killer’, Hans said he wanted to put her in a completely different environment. We didn’t want it to be formulaic. Marcella was ground-breaking for its time because it was the first Scandi Noir to be written in Swedish and then translated into the English language and set in London. Hans wanted the audience to think, ‘Ooh hang on. What’s this now?’

How is Marcella’s life better in her undercover guise as Keira and what is the price she is having to pay to be Keira?

I think the fact that she gets to start again is a big plus for her. She didn’t like who she was or what she did. Somehow, she gets to leave the guilt and the grief behind. What she should have done is go through very deep therapy and not blamed herself to the extent that she did. She needed help but instead of asking for help she buried it. This is about her journey of how she gets herself better this time. This series is really about redemption.

What makes Amanda Burton perfect casting as the crime family matriarch Katherine Maguire? Wasn’t Amanda born and raised in Derry?

Yes, isn’t that incredible? It was like going home for her. She’s great to watch.

With the body of work she has, she’s powerful, specific, strong. I was really happy when I heard it was her I was going to be working with. You need to be really scared of the boss of the house and she does it tonally cleverly without have to push it. It just lands. You don’t have to shout to be scary. She is 100 percent Marcella’s most formidable adversary. They meet their match in each other.

Did yours and Amanda’s paths ever cross with Brookside? Her character Heather Haversham was gone by the time The Jordache family moved into the close.

I only did 17 months when I was 16 and Amanda had already left the series. We couldn’t even sit and chat and reminisce. We had worked with totally different cast and crew. We knew that it gave us both a great start.

What does Katherine make of Keira?

Initially, she doesn’t give her a chance at all and doesn’t seem to like or trust her. Katherine is quite narcissistic. Keira is very subservient around her. But Marcella learns how not to be. One of Hans’ points was at what stage of her being undercover as Keira does Marcella enjoy playing her more than she does being Marcella? When the two lines become blurred as she already suffers from fugues you’ve got a real mess on your hands.

Can you talk about Keira’s intense relationship with Finn Maguire?

She uses sex as a tool. I think in the past it’s always worked against her. She’s been left by every single man. She’s got every reason not to trust anybody. She is desperately hurt and fearfully vulnerable and alone. She thinks, ‘Well, I’ve got nothing to lose. This guy falls for that so let’s use it.’

What was it like playing scenes with Aaron McCusker?

Aaron was so brilliant to work with. I really liked him. We got on so well and thank God we did as had quite a few intimate scenes. After 30 years in the business it’s almost like composing a dance those scenes. He was very respectful. We got it done quickly and didn’t have to do lots of takes. There was an element of violence to it. We were just careful with each other that no one got hurt. The aim of the game is to make things look believable.

Why do you think Marcella has had such bad luck with men?

Husband Jason, cheat. Tim at work, cheat. Finn, psychotic.

I think it’s because she put her job first. Then, when she gave up the job, she thought she’d be alright with that and then wasn’t. I don’t really think she was supported in that decision. Once bitten twice shy. I think she really really loved Jason and I think she never got over the pain. She tried with Tim and then the same happened again.

DCI Rav Sangha played by Ray Panthaki is back. Was Rav always the best of the men that Marcella had to deal with in the first two seasons?

I always wanted them to get together. He’s her saving grace because he believes in her. He’s the only person who exists who actually really understands her, but she finds it impossible to let anyone in.

Everyone loves Rav and Anna loves Ray. We’re good mates. I adore working with him. We’ve got such a good rapport. The only thing that is a negative is that we do make each other giggle. We have to really keep an eye on that but it’s great to have a team mate still on board. After all these years we’ve become incredibly tight. It was hard because when we started this time not only was there no police station, there was no recurring cast apart from him. At times it was like going onto a whole new series. It was a whole new crew and all Irish cast apart from Ray and all Irish crew, which was brilliant. Having Ray there gave me a level of safety.

It was a little bit harsh Marcella hitting Ray with a toilet lid at the end of season two after he’d talked her down from the ledge, wasn’t it?

Of course, it was so mean. She wasn’t in the right state of mind. I think if anything in this is to resonate with people being under lockdown up for so many months it is mental health awareness. We’ve got to keep asking people, ‘Are you ok? Are you suffering?’ Hans is very forward thinking in his writing. Marcella suffers from mental health problems. She wasn’t helped and didn’t know how to deal with them but was exceptional at her job so she just kept going.

Do you have a way of decompressing from Marcella at the end of the day?

Like everything in life it’s time. For me nature is everything. I get out. I walk. I level myself and ground myself with my family and my daughter specifically. I live in Windsor and when we were filming the first two seasons of Marcella in London I did the two hour drive there and back so that I could just get back and see Gracie. For this one I was lucky enough to have her at home and in school in Belfast. That’s your leveller. She doesn’t want to see Marcella so you immediately snap out of it.

What were the trickiest scenes to shoot? You posted a video of you in your trailer with hailstones pelting down on it.

The rain was pretty tough out there and it was pretty cold. To keep continuity when we were going through three different seasons as we were shooting was a challenge but it was more about having to reapply the scar and going from dark to blonde in the same day. So it was less about shooting one particular scene and more about emotionally mapping it out when we weren’t shooting in sequence.

What’s Keira/Marcella’s relationship like with her undercover boss Frank Young played by Hugo Speer?

Marcella doesn’t trust anybody. Worse than that she knows that nobody cares so why pretend that you care? I think the trust lessens when she realises how vulnerable she is. It’s like she’s surrounded by lots of narcissists. I don’t think she’d really hurt good people apart from Rav who she doesn’t intend to hurt. People want what they can get out of her because they know she’s a good cop. When they’ve got what they want they’ll throw her aside. I think Frank unfortunately becomes one of those people. He pretends to care but in actual fact he doesn’t.

Has lockdown been a creative time for you?

I think lockdown has been a challenge for everyone at times. It’s been up and down. You have to count your blessings. Living in Windsor I’ve never been so grateful for the great park and long walks. Being able to get outside and do that every day. What you’ve got to remember is not to just think of your world, but think of all of us as a nation. I had my brother and his three under-threes staying with me because both parents are doctors so one had to be at the hospital and one not. At least I got to be aunty Anna. I cooked for everybody every day. Last year I had just four weeks in my house. I was five and a half months filming in Belfast and then Nova Scotia and Madison. This year I’ve had four weeks out of my house. For some people relationships have blossomed, other people have been hit by the lockdown. Luckily I’m the latter.

What’s your next job?

My next job is The Box which was meant to be shooting now but they’ve pushed it to January because of COVID in Sweden. The Box is actually working with the Scandi team so that’s going to be brilliant, fascinating and interesting.

Series 3 of Marcella starts weekly episodes on ITV at 9pm on Tuesday 26th January. The whole series will be available on ITV Hub and Britbox after the first episode is shown on TV.

Images & info - ITV

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