Monday the 14th April sees the DVD release of Sky’s exciting fire station drama The Smoke. Our reviewer Vicki Prior has supported this 8-part series from the word go and so was really excited to speak to star Jodie Whittaker about her role.
Are you pleased with the reception the series has had?
Yes. It’s really exciting. I think particularly the first episode, you think it’s one thing and then obviously when the reveal of Kev’s injuries happen, you know it kind of splits the whole series on its head.
Were you worried some scenes would be too graphic?
Oh no! I don’t really think like that. I think for actors it’s about you getting involved in projects you are passionate about and excited by and then it’s a bonus if people like it and another bonus if people watch it, particularly if they watch it to the end! I’m doing so much stuff that I’m proud of that actually, maybe has never been released, or get’s cancelled or whatever, so you just have to kind of throw yourself into every project like it’s the last.
Some of the scenes are very emotional and very difficult. Did you, as actors, find it difficult to decompress after the emotional scenes?
Erm… no, I mean, it’s definitely with you because like, anything, if you cry or are upset or you argue with anyone, it kind of stays with you, and even though you know it’s not real, you know it’s manufactured it’s still…there. You can’t fake it. You can’t expect anyone to care about
your character if you’re not going to commit to go in to the darker places.
Trish comes across as normal human being who gets on with things. Was it refreshing to play a normal character?
I think the best thing about Trish is that she’s a person rather than playing a woman. In a lot of things that I read my role is to be the bitch or the this or the that and the wonderful thing, like you say, is that I, think Trish and Ziggy make mistakes and are flawed and as colourful and brilliant and frustrating as everyone else is. I think a lot of the time, male characters are accepted much easier, but it’s not often that our female characters are allowed to do it and to be treated like someone who has made a mistake.
What do you think the worst decision you think Trish makes over the course of the series?
Definitely sleeping with Mal, that has consequences but it certainly, it’s not that I’m suddenly the manipulative woman in this whole piece who’s going to be the downfall of the men.
What drew you to Trish and to the scripts in general?
I found it exciting that is was an ensemble piece and we’re all playing individual characters rather than playing different sexes. I also found the central theme of the series which explores what happens when your ultimate, beautiful, hero lead has his sexual organs taken away from him something really facinating for a 9pm drama. I just think that’s really different.
I think they’ve done that with Ziggy’s character as well, because she’s a very kind of feminine woman, but she’s forced into this very male role and then she’s, we’ve now sort of revealed that at home she can’t kind of play the, the woman role because she’s so used to, and then all those kind of gender norms have been completely flipped on their head so you never know what’s coming next
Absolutely! She’s got a home life that she doesn’t feel as comfortable in as work , how many people can you say that about? Most often it’s written from the male perspective, the man doesn’t like going home to his family whereas this is just brilliant, like we’ve got in a different character, it happens to be female and that I think for both of us…and I think all the guest episodes and the guest female leads in it are just…brilliant and so diverse and but it’s not a piece about feminism, it’s just that we were written without judgement and that’s, that’s the most exciting thing.
We discover late on in the series that Trish has a daughter with cerebral palsy. Did you do any research into that?
Yes I did a lot of research into this, Cerebral palsy isn’t a straight forward condition. When Grace is born, Trish realises that she’s not the person that is going to be the right
person to bring her in to the world because she’s already let her down
because she’s not looked after herself. I was really conscious that in no way were we trying to say that that’s why she gave her up for adoption, it’s certainly not that, it was not
about that, it’s that Trish carries a hell of a lot of guilt and a hell of a lot of, self-loathing and she felt like that she was not the right person to give Grace a life she deserved.
Does she feel any guilt towards what happened to Kevin?
No, I don’t think there’s any guilt towards him getting injured. There’s guilt with the way she behaved with Mal. I think there’s guilt towards the fact that she had this child and Kev can’t have children and she desperately wants a relationship with her child. What I loved about The Smoke was that a lot of characters have these secrets but they deal with them quietly and with dignity which I think is realistic to life.
The Smoke is available on DVD on Monday 14th April.
Interview contributed by Victoria Prior.