At the heart of the Anomaly Research Centre (the ARC) in season four of Primeval sat new character Jess Parker, monitoring the screens that indicate anomaly activity. Speaking to Paul Simpson during filming of the fourth episode , she explained that Jess had become one of the key members of the new set-up…
How does Jess fit into the team?
She is basically filling a new slot that was never anyone’s specific job before. She has taken over as the lady who sits in front of the Anomaly Detector, who is on the ball watching each of the characters when they’re out in the field, checking whether they’re safe and where they’re gone.
When an anomaly comes up, she sends them on the way and then she’s like Mission Control, very important to the team. She keeps them all on their toes, but is watching their backs – and at the same time has her eye on everything else that is going on around her in the ARC.
She’s a very interesting character – there are two sides to her. She’s so efficient and amazing when she’s working, but the minute she turns off the computer, she’s very girly. I think she really enjoys having Abby back. She treats her and Connor like they were celebrities: she’s in awe of them when they arrive back from the Cretaceous. She’s thrilled to have another girl around. She gets on very well with Matt and Becker, obviously, but she’s a girly girl at heart, so I think she enjoys having that sort of relationship.
What was her backstory before she came to the ARC?
She’s a bit of a whizz-kid. She was headhunted after taking a degree in engineering and computer sciences; taken out of that because they saw her potential. She’s got an amazing aptitude for computer science – she’s just got that sort of a brain.
I think she’s always struggled with that side of herself, because it’s made her stand out from other people. She loves being sociable, but I think because her mind works in that way, maybe she didn’t have loads of friends, didn’t go out a lot at uni. But now she’s got this job and is able to use her mind in that way, she’s more excited at getting on with other people.
It’s quite reminiscent of how Connor was when the show began, memorably described by Douglas Henshall as an overexcited Labrador!
Yes, in a way that’s what Jess is like as well. She’s very excitable, just loves coming into the ARC every day. She can’t believe this is her job. I think she enjoys learning. Every time there’s a creature, she’s amazed: she wants to find out everything about it. As time goes on, she becomes more casual and cool with it, like the rest of them.
She and Connor definitely have similarities, which is nice, because when he comes back he’s like, “Who’s this sitting in front of the Anomaly Detector? That was my job.” Slowly they start to get on, realise they have a lot in common.
I think she’s absolutely thrilled to have been plucked out and put into something that just suits her down to the ground. She’s always on her toes, always learning new things. She’s constantly being challenged: things go wrong all the time! She really suits the bigness of it, because I think she’s well able for the job, very capable, but at the same time, she absolutely loves it.
What’s her relationship like with Lester?
It’s great. I love my scenes with Ben because he’s obviously so dry. Lester pretends to be so tough, and Jess has none of it. She happily takes the piss out of him. She goes in and chats away, with him going, “What are you doing in my office?” She doesn’t treat him with the same respect as he feels that he should be treated with.
No! I don’t know where he thinks it will come from. Everybody sees him as a bit more of a cuddly character.
How much does she have to do with Philip?
Not loads, but as Jess is always in the ARC, she always has an eye on everything that’s going on. Even though Philip is her superior, she will go with things she might hear or be concerned about to Lester. Philip is an absolute genius in her eyes, and she has a respect for that. She’s more respectful to him. She doesn’t have much one on one time with him…
Oh Becker (said in a very dreamy voice!) She’s definitely got a soft spot for him. I think he’s a bit oblivious. She doesn’t try very hard to hide it, but his head is totally on the job. Any time he comes in, there’s a bit of a distraction for her from the important work that’s going on. She watches his every move. That’s fun as well. She’s definitely got a human side to her…
Does it ever distract her too much?
No, not yet. Nothing’s gone wrong because she’s been keeping her eyes on Becker instead of the screens. She’s good at juggling. She’s always got her earpiece on and the screens are big enough for her not to miss anything. But she enjoys going to work every day just for that little extra…
How much does Jess deal with the creatures?
Not much. She came face to face with a dracorex in the first episode, which was the main thing, but that was within the ARC when the creature escaped. That’s been my only real experience – but I’d love to get her out. She’s chained to the chair at the moment, but I’m sure she’ll get the chance at some stage.
Did you enjoy working with the special effects?
It was so interesting because I’ve never done anything like that before. I didn’t even know what to expect. It made me really respect the rest of them who have to do it the whole time. It’s a very tough thing on the mind. I loved it, because Jess was obviously terrified, running and hiding, which was great to film. I think it takes a few goes to feel completely comfortable with it all.
Andrew and I had a scene with Rex, where he was flying round the room really fast. The director was saying, “You’re looking there, he’s looking here…” It’s hard, but great – if you can master that, it’s a pretty big thing.
What’s the biggest challenge been?
That was definitely one of them, even though I only had to do two days of it. I was thanking my lucky stars that I didn’t have to do it every day.
It was a challenge figuring my big hub all out, what does what, and getting Jess comfortable within her zone, so it looks like she knows what she’s doing.
What’s the best thing been?
Just working with the cast and the crew. I feel really lucky at how well we’ve all got on. The other day I was doing a scene with Ben and we just couldn’t stop laughing. It was awkward, because there was a whole crew standing around waiting for us to be ready!