Deadwater Fell Cush

Deadwater Fell: Interview with Cush Jumbo who plays Jess Campbell

Category: Interview

Can you start by explaining what Deadwater Fell is about in your eyes?
Deadwater Fell is the examination of a traumatic event that effects a community, and that community exploring how much each of them has played a role in what may or may not have happened.

What attracted you to the project?
I thought Daisy’s script was exciting and I had no idea where the story was going. I love thrillers and I thought the character of Jess would be interesting to play because she is the audience’s eyes and they get to watch the facts unfold together. I wanted to explore what it’s like to be a person who believes they have no control but discovers that they have more control and power than they realised.

Tell us about Jess. Who is she?
Jess is what you would call a slight outsider to the community, she wasn't born there. She is from the city, a very different atmosphere, but ended up meeting Steve and becoming part of this village. She became stepmother to his two young sons, and she slipped into a life she hadn’t particularly chosen, but seems happy with, she thinks. When we meet her we realise she is a procrastinator- she isn’t quite sure what she wants out of life and so there is always a slight air of discontentment about her. When this terrible tragedy happens that involves the possible murder of her best friend and the children, she is forced to question what it is she really cares about. Whether she’s been noticing anything in her life at all or has just kind of been going with the flow. She becomes more and more determined to uncover the truth and that makes her discover what she really wants and who she is.

What is her life like with Steve? What are their biggest issues before the tragedy?
They seem pretty happy, but there’s tension in their relationship. Steve has an ex-wife who lives nearby and two small boys that ping-pong between the two families. Jess and Steve are also trying to have a baby via IVF because Jess has been unable to conceive naturally. That brings its own sense of failure. Everything that goes along with the IVF treatment is putting additional pressure on them, they’ve already had one failed attempt. On top of that there’s the question of whether Steve actually wants to have another kid at all or whether he’s just going along with it to please Jess. Then there’s her best friend Kate's life, which to her, seems completely perfect with its huge house and lovely husband and kids. She’s constantly comparing herself to that without realising what she’s seeing is a façade. Steve and Jess love each other but they don’t communicate well. It’s not until this tragedy happens that they really start to put their cards on the table and examine whether their relationship is going to be able to survive some of the secrets they've both kept in the past.

What’s her relationship with Kate like?
It’s a relationship I hope an audience will recognise. Jess and Kate are best friends and they have a very close friendship that has been built up over the years. Each friend trusts each other and vents to each other and laughs with each other. They also work together. You believe that these are two women who would tell each other anything and everything, who would share each others' secrets. Jess has always aspired to be more like Kate. She has never, ever thought Kate would like to be more like her which ironically Kate does. When she loses Kate she also realises she feels completely alone in the village. Aside from Steve Kate was her only real connection and yet she wasn’t aware of everything that was going on with her. That makes her question whether the friendship was real at all.

What would you say are the main takeaways from the series?
Do you ever really know the people you think you know? Are we, as communities as aware as we should be about what’s going on around us? In life, what is the cost of being a procrastinator? Somebody who doesn’t make decisions or choices because they are too scared or unsure, like Jess. Does following what you really want actually ensure that bad things don’t happen as often?

You filmed purely on location in Scotland across the summer. What was that experience like?
You wouldn’t have thought it was the summer! It rained a lot. Glasgow is very hydrated! But Scotland is also one of the most beautiful places you can film. We’re so lucky to have that landscape. It’s epic rockfaces and areas of water and land. We had a really good time when we weren’t fending off midges. It really added to the feeling of a thriller and the dark elements of the story actually. We also really got to know the people we were living and working around. The communities that we filmed in were so welcoming and friendly and kindly allowed us to film there over and over again. I think they’re the friendliest people in the UK, Glaswegians, they love an outsider.

There’s a female writer, producer, two exec producers and director working behind the series. Are you seeing more of that in drama or is it a rare experience?
It’s a rare experience still. I like to think we just had a great team. I don’t want to think that any special allowances were made because they were female. It was a different kind of experience. We had a different way of communicating. It was interesting. It had a different energy that was helpful, and that was a great combination with the male members of our crew and talent. We had some great masculine energy and some great feminine energy. It was a nice combination but it was really just a great team, more than anything.

The Good Fight, which More 4 viewers know you very well for, and Deadwater Fell are very different but both have timely messages and themes at their heart. You play very strong women in both. Is it important to make shows that say something about the world to you?
Yeah. Every show has to say something about the world. Coronation Street says something about the world. But for me it's even more important for me to get inside a character that’s interesting and try to investigate why they tick the way they do, that's what excites me. Thinking about it I wouldn't want to generalise either the characters of Lucca or Jess by only
calling them 'strong', they are both complex, made up of thousands of little pieces that make a person. One of those pieces is strong. I like to play complexity.

What are the main differences working between the UK and the US?
Food! On the Good Fight, there’s one amazing woman who will make you cheese toasties and cappuccinos all day if you ask nicely. I'm so spoiled now. The main difference is that I’m a Brit working in the US. I’m welcomed with open arms there but ultimately I’m an outsider, culturally it’s not where I belong. It’s always nice to be a Brit working among Brits, I love it, it makes me proud. We have different senses of humour and a different approach to work, we have a lot of fun in a different kind of British-y way. Other than that good work is good work wherever you go.

You’re filming series four of The Good Fight now, and you’re playing Hamlet in 2020. Anything you’d like to share about either project?
Just so excited to be back and doing another season of The Good Fight. I work with a fantastic team of crew and actors, I just love them, I'm very lucky. We're just starting to shoot now though so I don't have anything to reveal yet! Hamlet, is something I've wanted to do for years but you really have to be ready- technically, emotionally, physically. I'm playing him as a HIM. We're going to be investigating what the 'New Man' is because that's who Shakespeare was writing about- the 'coming' generation, a man that nobody has seen in history before. I love The Young Vic Theatre and I love the director Greg Hersov so I just can't wait.

You’ve had an incredibly varied career playing some brilliant characters. Is there a particular role you’d love to play?
I always think it's very strange when people say that- isn't being varied what actors are supposed to be doing? I enjoy being paid to play other people that aren't me. No, I don't have a list because the parts seem to come and find me, I'm already very lucky to have played who I've played. The only thing I really have a secret hankering to play is a character that loves beating bad people up. Kicking doors in, shooting things, rolling over the top of cars, jumping off buildings, zipping my boots up, putting my lipstick on, shooting something again. Like a real Bad-Ass. Other than that I'm very happy with my lot so far.