Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
0

TV News

'The Jury' Julie Walters, Peter Morgan Q&A

By
Julie Walters

© WENN

Back in 2002, a writer called Peter Morgan wrote an ITV drama called The Jury, which starred some actor called Gerard Butler. Well, nine years later, Peter's decided to do it all over again!

Yes, after writing movies like The Queen and Frost/Nixon, Morgan's penned a new series of The Jury, which will air every day next week.

There's no Gerard Butler this time - instead, Julie Walters is playing a QC alongside a whole host of other great acting talent. Over the five episodes, not only do we get to see a controversial court case unfold, but we get to learn about those jury members.

At a recent BAFTA screening of the show, Julie and Peter joined producer Lee Morris and Michael Offer to answer questions about The Jury - read on to find out what they had to say!

Julie, your character in The Jury - Emma Watts - is quite formidable. What attracted you to her?
Julie: "That very thing! She was so formidable and utterly and completely not like me, in that she was cool-headed and articulate and dealt in fact and didn't get aerated when she was arguing and all the things that I can't do. So it's heaven to be able to do it."

Did you do a lot of research?
Julie: "Lee put me in touch with a woman QC and I went to the Old Bailey - it was fantastic. I watched two or three trials and went backstage, as it were, and had tea with a judge and watched them all eating and that sort of thing. I wanted to see just how people conduct themselves in court."

Do you think there's quite a lot of similarities between actors and lawyers, in terms of performing to a gallery?
Julie: "Yes, you've got to convince a jury of your truth so it is very [similar]. That's what I saw in court. Even on days when I thought, 'God, it's terribly undramatic' - they're dealing with awful murders but it's still very undramatic and dry - it was still riveting and they were still performing and scoring points and cracking jokes."

Do you think you could be a QC?
Julie: "Oh no! I'd be utterly anxious and tongue-tied - the minute someone came back at me I'd go [ahh]! That's why I loved the part."

Emma Watts QC

© ITV



Is it important she's a defence barrister? Is she a bit of a socialist?
Julie: "Yes, she would be a socialist, wouldn't she? Am I right in saying that, Peter? An old socialist."
Peter: "I think so. She's also somebody who gets very involved, I think, with her clients, and likes to break the rules."
Julie: "Yes, a bit of a maverick."
Peter: "You get the feeling the part played by Roger Allam - he's an advocate. He'll go this way, he'll go that way, he's slightly thinking of the weekend but he'll be brilliant!"

Peter, what made you want to return to The Jury after so long?
Peter: "I had fun doing the original one and enjoyed it and missed it. I suddenly thought, 'I'd like to do that again'. There'd been silence from ITV so I assumed they didn't want me to do another one, and I think maybe they thought because I was writing films I wouldn't want to do one. So there was this misunderstanding. But I said, 'Fancy another one? Because I'd really love to write one'. And they said, 'Sure'."

Why did you decide to follow the different jurors?
Peter: "I liked writing it. I hope people like watching it! I start by trying to find an excuse to tell a multi-character story because really that's where my passion starts, but then I get hooked into the whodunnit and I start enjoying working on that. Watching it, I felt, 'Oh, it's a character story, no it's a thriller, no it's a character story'. And I liked writing that way so hopefully it fits together."

There's one storyline about a woman pretending to be her boss and ending up in the jury - was that based on a real life case?
Peter: "No, but I wanted to allow myself one piece of heightened nonsense! Everything else is so believable so I just thought, 'Oh, for God's sake!' The interesting bit for me was what happens in subsequent episodes. It's all very well having a, 'Haha, my assistant's gone in my place and oops, she's been called'.

"But there comes a point where the character played by Natalie Press thinks, 'What do you think? Is Tony Blair a war criminal or victim of good intent, would you rather sh*g David Cameron or David Beckham, do you believe in euthanasia?' and so on. They disagree about everything, and suddenly it's a point - the boss is the one that's been summoned and it needs to be the boss whose verdict is recorded.

"The story becomes serious in so far as it is then about the boss's responsibility to connect with the story and reach her own decision. In the end, it was her who was picked, and if it totally boils down to the Natalie Press character, who has totally different views, that's where it would have been irresponsible."

Are you making any political point about juries? In the show, the home secretary is against trial by jury.
Peter: "In this cutback, austerity Britain, it's one of the things that people have looked at [cutting]. I personally am a great believer. I quite like the idea - just as an abstract idea - of 12 people's collective life experience and wisdom being this formidable thing. People say juries can be led - I think 12 people from different backgrounds, different races, different genders, different ages, it's hard to hoodwink. So I have great faith in juries and trust that they can see those nuances that lie between tricky legal questions."

What do you think of people saying television drama has been dumbed down? Do you agree?
Peter: "No. I mean, I don't think so. I haven't noticed that. I get a sense whenever I meet people that they're trying to do their best. I've never been asked to make something more stupid!

"You get the sense that [ITV] is a very confident network at the moment, and when the network is confident and the commissioners are confident in their own ability to find an audience, address an audience, stimulate an audience, then they're more relaxed. And the more relaxed they are the more they empower the people doing the creative jobs.

Alan Lane

© ITV




"You're quite infantile as artists and a channel is a bit like a parent in that sense. And if you sense that they're relaxed and that they're confident in themselves and mature about what the responsibilities are, then it allows you to do your job better.

"We've all experienced upswings and downswings - sometimes you get a channel where people are frightened. They've been on a bad streak and they no longer know what works and what doesn't work so they interfere more and they panic more and that filters down. The trickle down goes all the way down to the performers."

Did the show being on ITV affect anything?
Peter: "I think probably once or twice I did think, 'Ooh, be careful, this is a show that's going to have to go on ITV at 9pm'. But very rarely. Most of the time I was just writing and if it had been going out on Channel 4 or BBC Two or BBC One I'd be writing it exactly the same way. I think as a writer you need to feel that confidence and that level of support so you don't over censor yourself because the minute you start censoring yourself and second guessing yourself to try and provide what you think people want..."

Are you worried about reality TV taking over drama?
Peter: "I will worry about that the day someone says, 'We don't want to do your drama, we'd sooner do fill-in-the-blank reality show'. But at the moment I see good drama on television and I've been allowed to write for television, so I can't see it yet, though people do talk about it.

"I would have liked longer - I would have liked to have been more ambitious with The Jury. I wasn't told to do that. Now that I've done it I think actually to compress a court case into five episodes, it's a little like Cinderella's sister putting her foot in the shoe - it doesn't quite fit. I could have done with a couple more hours, but hey."

You've both worked on movies - are there any differences in television?
Peter: "Yeah, there's a lot less money. And people were a lot happier! They were saner - there's a lot to recommend it! I think there's a correlation between how little you pay people and how well they're behaved."
Julie: "I think that's about right. Otherwise in terms of the process of the acting and things, no, I don't really notice. You might get a bigger trailer on Harry Potter, but..."

Do you think we could see Emma again?
Julie: "I don't know - you'd better ask Peter that!"
Peter: "I have [thought about further episodes]. I would assume that Julie would be too busy, but who knows - let's see how this one goes. If this one goes well, fingers crossed. I can think of a gazillion stories I'd like to write, so let's see."

What's next for both of you?
Julie: "What, tonight? I'm doing a film with Emma Thompson, called Effie. It's about John Ruskin and his peculiar marriage and his relationship with his mother. I'm not the wife - I suggested it! They said, 'She's only 17' and I said, 'So?' Anyway, I'm playing the mother. I'm looking forward to it."
Peter: "I'm doing this film about the rivalry between [racing drivers] James Hunt and Niki Lauda in 1976. We're doing the read through on Sunday!"

The Jury begins on Monday at 9pm on ITV1.

You May Like

Comments

Loading...