Remembering an Inspiring Encounter with Helen McCrory
by Gustav Temple | Summer 2021 Issue | The Chap
I interviewed Helen McCrory in the summer of 2019, during the build up to the screening on the BBC of the fifth series of Peaky Blinders. The main interview was done over the phone, during the whirlwind press junket she was on with all the cast, which undoubtedly would have involved dozens of similar interviews. When you interview a big star like McCrory, there is a press officer breathing on the line, ready to step in and halt the conversation if something said isn’t to their liking. You have already been briefed, usually, only to ask questions about the show they are promoting and not to stray from the approved script.
The first thing I expected, from experience with such interviews with actors, was a lot of ‘darlings’, lofty talk about “the craft” and quotes from Shakespeare, added to a refusal to discuss anything that didn’t promote the current project. So it took me by surprise when Helen immediately showed interest in the interviewer.
Dawn’s problem with Peter is that she doesn’t recognise him, and because she doesn’t recognise him, she doesn’t realise how dangerous he is.
What attracted you to the role?
I knew David Hare’s work very well. When I came out of drama school and first worked at The National Theatre I saw Racing Demon and Murmuring Judges, he was doing a triple bill there at the time. I’ve seen his work but I’d never seen him write about right-wing politics and I think that has brought another edge to his work, which is so blunt, brutal, funny and scathing. It has a sharpness that I really enjoyed when I read it. All the characters are pretty venal, but they’re quick and they’re bright and they’re ambitious. They’re also honest and I think that that is a very interesting story to watch.