Explain a little bit about Pure – what’s it all about?
Pure is based on the memoir of Rose Cartwright, and her dealing with her OCD. It’s adapted from her memoir, but it’s not an exact portrayal of her story, it’s not the exact events but it’s very much based on the mental health issues that Rose has had to deal with. It’s one young woman’s journey into discovering what mental health condition she has. Marnie [newcomer Charly Clive]is not necessarily even aware that she has a mental health condition, she just thinks that something’s wrong with her, it’s ‘gross’, it’s embarrassing, and she’s really ashamed of it. So she leaves her home town of Scotland and moves to London to start afresh and to rid herself of this ‘thing’. And she meets a group of friends in London who help her discover what it is that she has. And it’s all about their friendship, and about her coming to terms with the fact that she has Pure O. She didn’t even know she had OCD, let alone Pure O.
You play Joe – what’s his story?
Joe is one of the characters Marnie meets when she comes to work for a magazine in London. They become workmates. Actually, I should say, they meet on a previous night, when she dates his roommate. She ends up working with him, and they form a friendship, which becomes this kind of will-they, won’t they romance- type of relationship. As for Joe, he’s kind of your average nice guy, boy-next-door type. He hasn’t, seemingly, got too many issues. He’s there for Marnie when she needs help. Joe is sort of a lesson in what it’s like to be a good friend to someone who is struggling with their mental health, as well as struggling with coming to London and knowing no one.
What attracted you to the role?
I just thought Joe was quite nerdy-but-cool, and I guess that kind of reminds me of myself a little bit! Although I think really I’m quite nerdy, I just reckon I’m a lot cooler than I actually am! But it was more than just the role, it came as a big package. Aneil [Karia] is such a great director, I watched his short films before we started working together; I thought he was brilliant. And I thought the script was about something that we should be hearing more about. And I knew that Joe Cole was going to be doing it, and I’d met him a few times and thought he was great. I hadn’t met Charly [Clive] but I’d heard great things about her. I’d also worked with Kiran [Sonia-Sawar] before and she’s brilliant. And it’s Channel 4, and they always tend to do these really cool comedy dramas. I just felt like I wanted to be a part of that.
The show is, on paper, tricky subject matter, but it is also very funny, isn’t it?
Yeah, I think it’s absolutely hilarious. I think it’s a really good perspective to have, because of course those who have mental health issues still see the ridiculousness in some of the things they have to go through. When you’re making something like this, it needs to be entertaining, and then you put that little bit of knowledge or learning inside of the entertainment, so that you enjoy it, but you’re also learning something. I thought I knew what OCD was. It turns out I only knew what one type of OCD was – the one that most people know about, with lots of rituals and tics. I had no idea there could be something like Pure O, where you have intrusive thoughts that aren’t visible to people, but they’re very real to the person feeling them.
What did you do by way of research into the role? Did you read Rose Cartwright’s book?
No I didn’t, which could sound lazy, but my character doesn’t find out about Marnie’s condition until further down the line so I didn’t want to read too much about it beforehand. Also, the series is not a direct adaptation of Rose’s experiences. I wanted to take what was happening to Joe’s friend, Marnie, at face value, I didn’t want to have too much of an understanding of it before we started shooting.
How do you ensure that a comedy drama about mental illness isn’t in bad taste?
I think it’s about context. I think because it’s coming from Rose and Kirstie, it’s coming from someone who’s gone through it, and I think that gives it a license to be a bit more out there at times. The show has been made by an incredibly sensitive and diligent team. There are people going through this, and it’s right to represent them.
Do you think it’s important to address this sort of subject matter on TV? Does it help?
I think the thing that seems to be a common denominator among people who are having mental health issues is the existing stigma; other people’s reactions. I feel as though the more we are able to speak about it and talk about it more openly, then people can be more accepting of those who are going through these things. As long as it’s handled in a tasteful and sensitive way, I think we’re able to help people be more accepting.
The cast is full of exciting new talent, how was your experience on set?
I’ve always loved working with new talent. I love that new energy because it really reinvigorates me. I love collaborating, and I love working with people, and looking to people who are new for inspiration, and for learning things, as well as hopefully helping them learn things. It was a really cool bunch of people on the show, we had a lot of fun on set. I can’t tell you how much fun we had.
Does that make for a better end product, having a happy set?
I think so, yes. It’s so great when you enjoy it. I always feel that our job is like a summer camp. We all come together and forge this bond, it’s really intense, and you just want to have the best time. It’s not always the case, and that’s fine, that’s part of the job, but where possible, if everyone can get on and have a good time, that’s better.
Do you get nervous before working on a new project?
Yeah, always. It hasn’t changed. I get really nervous before every job.
And how long until it goes away?
I’m not sure it goes away, but I‘m able to manage it better as the job goes on. It depends on what scenes we’re doing that day. Some scenes are more demanding than others, or require something that isn’t, for me, easily accessible. I think that’s probably a normal anxiety to have, just because I want to do a good job, because I love what I do. I really respect the craft and there are so many amazing actors and actresses out there who can do what I do, l so I need to make sure that I’m on my game. So there’s always a nervousness, but I think nerves are good, if I don’t have nerves, maybe I don’t care anymore.