What appealed about doing Deceit?
I always have a very strong calling to things with a female perspective, and Deceit is written by a woman about a time when female undercover officers were few and far between. Working with a powerhouse like Niamh [Algar] is really important – she’s a top lass. Open, generous and fun to be around. I look forward to having a pint with her, because we couldn’t during shooting, then she went off to Cape Town.
Who is Lucy?
She’s a fictional character, Sadie’s best mate who sort of acts in opposition to Baz [Nathaniel Martello-White] Lizzie’s professional confidant. Baz is the angel on Sadie’s shoulder, saying “come on, take care of yourself, watch what they’re making you do”, and Lucy is the devil, baiting her to do well because it’s so important for other women in the police. She’s championing Sadie without realising she’s sending her into a pit of alligators in terms of all she has to deal with.
Would Lucy have fancied the job for herself?
Definitely, she’s just as ambitious as Sadie. Lucy’s off to work on another sexual assault case when we meet her which is what many female undercover operatives were utilised for, and she’s going, “you lucky cow…” A lot of the undercover work was sadly to do with paedophile rings and drugs, never a huge, high-profile murder case. Women weren’t trusted with those at the time I don’t think.
Can you explain the additional obstacles a woman in undercover policing would have had to face at the time?
The difficulty is having to have that hardline personality where you can take the banter, drink as many pints as the fellas in the pub and take the shit the guys dish out. You see frissons of that in the piece, but it would have been constant in that job. These girls have to field that all the time, which is why they can come across as quite brutal. It’s different as a woman now, to say you want a career rather than a family. People still judge you, just not quite as harshly.
What does Lucy get out of undercover work?
She’s a thrill-seeker. They’re performers in a way. The glimmer of seeing the other officers everywhere while you’re undercover must be so exciting.
Were there aspects of Lucy you could relate to?
Of course, I’ve always had the female ambition. Coming from Grimsby where they don’t even really do plays, doing something as alien as acting was a definite similarity – going for something nobody thinks you can do.
How was the experience of filming under Covid protocols?
Everybody has been incredible – it ran like clockwork. I feel so lucky to have completed on three jobs during Covid, when lots of others got stopped. These TV channels face huge responsibilities, and I don’t think you can see any drop in quality. It’s been a beautiful thing.
What are the key messages of Deceit?
The planning of undercover work has been tested and assessed in this piece. What is coercion and how many levels of it are there? What is Deceit? It looks at blame and who gets it, given they put a female officer in danger to save their own situation though for well-intended reasons. We need to stop the blame game because it’s easy to have a scapegoat. It’ll make people think.
What most surprised you about this story?
Policework was so rudimentary and basic back then, even though it’s not that long ago. People were being pressured for numbers and with no internet, they had to use pieces of paper – the paper trail must have been enormous. You can see why people were desperate to get it done and solved.