Helen McCrory, 48, is currently starring in ITV's new Monday night thriller Fearless.
The award-winning actress, who has two children with husband Damian Lewis, chats to us about playing an introvert, stalking in the name of research and why she is political with a small 'p'.
How did you prepare for playing Emma in Fearless?
I approached her as she approaches her work. She's all about finding out the truth and she's all about not trusting anything until she's double-checked it herself. And so that's really the way that I looked at Emma.
As an actress, you're so often given roles that require you to show the emotional response to something and it's nice to play a woman who always has an intellectual response. She's an introvert. She doesn't really tell you what's she's feeling or thinking all the time and I really liked that and that her vulnerability comes out despite herself. Those vulnerabilities and complexities are something that she's embarrassed about.
How much research did you do? Did you look to Amal Clooney for inspiration?
For about two seconds, and thought 'my legs will never be that long, my hair will never be that long'. I looked at Michael Mansfield and I looked at Gareth Peirce and I hijacked somebody that was on the train. I was on the northern line, and this guy was just chatting to another guy and I thought, 'I'm sure this guy's a human rights lawyer' so when he got off at the Strand I just ran after him and said, 'I'm an actress, can I please come and talk to you'.
And I did and just listened to him. That was interesting because, of course Emma's not a barrister, this isn't Silks. As it goes on, I think you see her in court once. But you know, what I realised is that people choose to be solicitors because they like getting close, they identify with their clients, they do become very close to victims and victims' families as it can be two, three or four years before these cases come before the jury.
Is it usual for you to stalk someone in the name of research?
Oh yeah, because I'd never be arrogant enough to think that I just know who Emma is by just thinking about her. You've got to go and do your research, otherwise you end up playing the same thing and you're just an actress in every situation rather than a lawyer or a solicitor or whatever the hell you're supposed to be.
Social media is mentioned within the first few minutes of Fearless. What are your thoughts on it, as a parent and an actor?
Well I'm not involved on social media because no-one is interested, frankly. My personal life is personal. I don't understand the temptation of it. I can't tell you how untempting I find it. But when it comes to my own children, I suppose what's hard for any parent is that it's so glittery and so fantastic and it can do so many things and it's so fun, it's very hard to tell your children how big their footprint will be. So I think [I am] just trying to keep them long enough away from it that they are not going to have damaged themselves publicly in it.
Emma's quite politicised; How similar are you in that sense?
Well I'm political with a small 'p'. When I came to Britain from France I remember sitting on the tube and talking to some students about going on an apartheid march. We were going up to see Desmond Tutu talk in Trafalgar Square and these people weren't really interested and I remember saying to my mum, 'These arrogant people sitting with this democratic freedom and they are abusing it by not marching for others who don't have it.'
And I remember her saying to me, 'Look at the miners' strike, look at what happened in Britain, look at all those people that marched, look at how disenfranchised they felt' and I became interested in it. I marched against poll tax and my daughter, who's only 10, was in the last big march for women in January. I've brought my children up to feel you absolutely can change the world and not only can, you must. You must be angry, you should be angry, there is a lot to be angry about.
Does that affect the roles you tackle?
Oh god, no. I would never lecture or be involved in any kind of diatribe on acting, definitely not. But in my life, yes. I'm involved in various charities and I'm the patron of various things. I get involved in that way, in a much more useful way.
Fearless continues on ITV on Monday nights at 9pm.
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Photo Credit: ITV Pictures/PA