Episode 1 of David Hare’s (The Hours, The Reader) new drama airs tonight at 9pm on BBC Two. Directed by SJ Clarkson (Dexter, Jessica Jones, Love Nina, Toast), the four-part drama follows the fallout from the seemingly unimportant murder of a pizza delivery man, Abdullah Asif (Sam Otto).
The new thriller features a number of well-known actors to Doctor Who fans. Carey Mulligan (An Education, Suffragette and the iconic Doctor Who episode – Blink) stars as Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie (Casey Mulligan) refuses to accept this as just another act of senseless violence and tracks down the truth behind the young man’s death. John Simm (Life on Mars, Doctor Who) portrays MP David Mars, who becomes instantly involved when he arrives to comfort his troubled and unpredictable ex-wife Karen (Billie Piper), a customer on the scene at the murder. And Nicola Walker (Medtech Liv Chenka from various Big Finish productions with the 7th and 8th Doctor) is Jane Oliver, a compassionate vicar, becomes embroiled with the crime as she struggles to conceal her affair with the only witness to the crime.
Nicola discussed her role in the new series that airs tonight.
What attracted you to the drama?
It was unique because it was so modern and relevant and I loved the character straight away. It’s incredibly filmic and it has that clear, movie thriller feeling, it’s such a page-turner. I binge read all of the scripts in one sitting, as soon as they sent them to me.
There is this terrible initial act of violence, which spirals and takes you through every stratum of our society, from the bottom, right to the very top. I also really liked that the story takes place over the short time span of four days – it gives it a genuine and dramatic drive.
Had you worked with David Hare before?
In 2008 I was in David’s play Gethsemane. I played a teacher who gets drawn into the world of high-level politicians because she teaches a politician’s daughter. So, as soon as my agent told me about Collateral and mentioned it was David I was excited – you know it’s going to be very current and that is what I am interested in at the moment, things that are about now.
David poses a lot of questions throughout this drama about the times we are living in. As viewers, we are all looking for drama like this at the moment because it is about the state we find ourselves in now. It is a relief to have a British writer asking questions about that.
You play Jane Oliver, a vicar who becomes embroiled in the investigation…
I’ve never played a vicar before so that alone was quite an interesting challenge. To be asked to play someone who has true, solid religious faith and then to find that she is someone who has to navigate the world we are living in now with that faith, and is also incredibly forward thinking and liberal, was really fascinating to me.
Jane is incredibly good at her job, she is committed to her community and she is a doer. She isn’t just a figurehead in the church, she actively makes a difference. She is also not interested in being humble because she is aware that there are things needing to be done and that she is the one who can get them done.
She takes you into this complicated area of the church’s role, both socially and politically. She’s always pushing the boundaries of this institution that she has fought her way into and she does that with varying degrees of success. She thinks she can change it from within but it doesn’t always work.
How did it feel to dress as the clergy?
Getting fitted for my dog collar was a fascinating experience for me. It has such an effect on people and it brings with it a lot of preconceptions – and because Jane pushes at those preconceptions I found it specifically interesting. When she was in church she is praying, but she is praying for her relationship not to be taken away from her, having finally found happiness in her personal life. So she is pushing at quite a lot of our preconceptions about that collar and about being a woman in that institution.
Did you enjoy filming in London?
I was born in East London and the church I filmed most of my scenes in was in Clerkenwell and my vicarage in Camberwell. My whole family were from the East End but they moved away when I was a child. They still cannot get their heads around the fact that I ran back to London as soon as I could when I was 21. They can’t believe that East London has gentrified in the way it has now. It was a very different place when we were all living there in the 1970s. Filming in London is brilliant. I love seeing London on film and with the questions that this piece is raising, an urban setting is ideal and London is perfect for it.