Tuesday sees the start of a brand new 2-part drama as part of Sky Living’s Drama Matters series. Talking the Dead tells the modern story of wayward police officer, DC Fiona Griffiths (Sophie Rundle), who suffers from a secret history of Cotard’s Syndrome; a mental illness which has left her with a deep and peculiar empathy for the dead. Fiona is a bright new Detective Constable who wants to get her teeth into a case surrounding the brutal murders of a prostitute and her young daughter. I recently spoke to Sophie about the challenges of the role and learnt more about Cotard’s Syndrome.
This is your first leading role. Did you feel any pressure being the focus of the drama?
There is a certain amount of pressure because it’s your job to sort of carry the show and drive it forward, but I noticed it more after we finished filming. When you’re filming it means you get more scenes to do and more time to explore the character.
What drew you to the script?
I got the script through and I was doing a play at the time. I was really busy and read through it quite quickly and I found that I just kept thinking about it. Fiona seemed so strange to me which is immediately quite exciting. She’s a very unusual character, she’s so many different things that I just wanted to go back and find out more about her. It’s a very interesting story and it caught my imagination.
How do you think audiences will take to her?
I think she demands a bit of work from the audience. We’re so used to being instantly presented with who everybody is and Fiona’s a bit different. She looks young but she’s got this old head on her shoulders. She’s a bit goofy and funny but she’s got this incredible vulnerability to her, so hopefully people will just want to know more about her.
What sort of a detective is she?
She’s became qualified this quickly because she’s incredibly bright but she’s someone who gets an idea and runs with it. She doesn’t always follow protocol or the rules and has no real sense of social etiquette. Part of her charm is that you think “oh my God what is she doing now?!”
How do her colleagues feel about her?
I think she grates on a lot of people. She’s very nice to them all but she’s a bit of a wildcard and I think most of them find her a bit like an annoying fly buzzing around. Russell Tovey’s character Brydon sees something special in her and warms to her very quickly and so he looks after her a bit.
Fiona suffers from Cotard’s Syndrome, had you heard of the condition before?
I didn’t know anything about it at all. I think it’s a very rare mental illness. When I got the role I did a lot of research into it and what it’s like to be recovering from a mental breakdown. It was important to me not to overplay or trivialise it. It’s who she is but it’s not all that she’s about.
How does the condition affect her working life?
She’s very private and secretive about it. I think she would encounter a lot of problems if people knew too much about it, so she definitely keeps it close to her and never talks about it.
Why is Fiona so keen to be involved in this case inparticular?
She’s new to the job and she wants to prove her worth as a new Detective Constable. Perhaps unbeknownst to her it’s also a product of her Cotard’s. The syndrome is a delusion that you’ve died, and she spends a lot of time thinking she was dead so she has an incredible empathy for the victims.
How would you describe the tone of the piece?
The case that we cover is incredibly distressing and a very dark subject matter. In lots of ways she’s quite funny. When you first meet her she’s a bit of a goofball and very charming but the show feels very real and very quickly gets darker and darker.
Congratulations on the success of The Bletchley Circle. You’ve just finished shooting Series 2, what was it like coming back to it?
It was a big surprise how much of a hit it was, people seemed to really warm to it. It was lovely coming back and knowing we’d done a good job with it. We have so much fun when we’re shooting and the stories are great. The characters have room to grow and we go into some new directions, so it was fun to come back to it.
Talking To The Dead starts on Tuesday 15 October at 9pm on Sky Living, concluding at the same time on Thursday 17 October