The Accident

The Accident: Interview with Joanna Scanlan (Angela Griffiths)

Category: Interview

Tell us a little about The Accident.

It’s about justice and how to find the person who’s killed your child within a lot of legal complications. How to track down and prosecute someone who’s killed your child where it’s not clear because of the way the corporate structures of responsibility, it’s not clear who, when you know who, how you can bring about that prosecution. So it’s about finding justice in a world of corporate subterfuge.

Can you tell us about your character Angela?

She’s a working class woman. She works in a supermarket. Her husband hasn’t got a job. Her son hasn’t got a job. She’s not at all unhappy at the outset of the piece. She’s a kind of fun seeking community minded fairly happy woman, despite the fact that she’s got almost no material possessions or no material support. But she’s not an unhappy person and within that she’s someone who’s always been quite bullish, the leader of the gang quality with her. No one messes with Angela. There’s the sense she’s tough and she’s always been tough. She’s a bit of a mean girl actually, at the beginning.

And what attracted you to the role?

A combination of things. The script obviously, Jack Throne’s script. The fact that it was set in Wales and that’s where I come from. I was obviously very excited to work with Sarah Lancashire, who I’ve long admired. And when I met Sandra the director and Mo the producer I really liked them. I thought they were a team that was going to make a really interesting show, and I’d love to be part of it.

Did you do any research for the role or was it all there on the page?

I didn’t do any research. I guess that was because I wanted to find it within the team. I felt that it was about a community and a team and a way of being. I thought there’s no point me going off and developing this really detailed researched characterisation if that’s not going to fit with everybody else. I needed to work with Christian Patterson who plays my husband, with Sarah, playing my best friend, with the people who are our kids… I felt it was something that wouldn’t benefit from individual research. It was always going to be something we found as a group. We did have rehearsals and it did help. It brought us together.

You’ve touched a bit upon it but what was it like working with Sarah and the rest of the cast?

A really, really great experience. I felt as soon as I started working with Sarah that I’d known her for years. I felt genuinely like we were best friends that had known each other for a long time. It was just an easeful quality. We were able to improvise and just keeping our characters bubbling all the time, our relationship bubbling. It felt like a very lovely fit and a very comfortable place to be. She’s really good, obviously, we know that, but she was so generous and able to open up so we could build something together.

Had you worked with Jack before?

I don’t think so but I’ve got this funny feeling I’m very familiar with him and I don’t know why. I’d certainly never met him before.

Were you already aware or a fan of any of his work?

Yes, I’d watched Kiri and National Treasure and I really like the strand that he’s working through with these pieces. I absolutely loved The Virtues, so I felt like I did know his work. I haven’t seen his plays but I’m not a Harry Potter person at all and I haven’t seen His Dark Materials because that hasn’t come out yet, but those are the things I’ve seen, the Channel 4 work.

As you mentioned you’re from Wales, what was it like filming there?

Lovely. I love working in Wales. I genuinely feel a sense of relaxation just being in Wales, just seeing the bilingual road signs makes me feel relaxed. I just feel at home. My shoulders drop about three inches.

All though being from Wales you don’t have a Welsh accent. How was it recreating the Welsh accent?

It was actually a nightmare because I’m much more familiar with the North Walian accent, which is what I grew up with. When I first auditioned I auditioned in a North Walian accent and then I had to shift it over to South Walian during the shoot and that was really hard! I found it really difficult to make that shift. They’re quite different and the cultures of north and south are quite different and the Welsh language is a bit different in north and south. Once I’d done it, it was fine, but it was a bit tricky getting that changeover.

What was the atmosphere like on set? Obviously it’s a very sombre and serious piece. Did you try and keep it that way or did you try and keep it light between takes?

It was actually a respectful atmosphere. It wasn’t unenjoyable at all, it was hugely enjoyable. But Sandra leads by example, really. She’s a wonderful director, a really wonderful director. I can’t praise her highly enough. She created an environment on that set that was attentive and serious but workable. It wasn’t indulgent. It was always just keeping on making what we were making. So I think we built a strong friendship there. The atmosphere was warm between us all, but it wasn’t a huge laugh together. So many scenes were held together by tears. To lose that between takes would have been very difficult and then to come back into it. Saying sacred would be a gross exaggeration but there was something of that sense of respectful quality.  Of course this is a fictional story, but it’s based on real life experiences where people have died because corporations have cut corners. It’s very hard for the families to come back from that. I think we all felt a sense of honour, honouring that reality.