When did you know what Amy’s arc was going to be for the second year?
We filmed the series in three blocks and the scripts were released two at a time, so I only knew quite general things about where the story was going. I knew that there was going to be a romance with Philip, and that she was growing intolerant to neurotryptiline, but I had no idea where it was all going to end. It was only when we were breaking for Christmas, that the producer John Rushton ran up to me and sat me down to prepare me for what I was about to read on the train home. But he also said, “Look at the last line of the script!” I think I then went off to the Wardrobe truck in a bit of a daze, to have a chat to Yves, the costume designer, and his team and we talked about what everyone should wear to the funeral, over a glass of bucks fizz. It was quite surreal!
Dom and I are good friends so obviously we would talk about the show, but he was always very professional and tight-lipped. All he had mentioned to me in passing was that Amy’s storyline was going to be ‘upsetting’ – but I had no idea what that would mean. Knowing that a Simon and Kieran romance was on the cards, I remember thinking ‘God I hope Amy doesn’t end up doing something terrible, out of jealousy or something.’ But thankfully she was more dignified than that!
Weirdest question I’ve ever asked in an interview: do you think you’re dead? Well, do you think Amy is dead?
That’s a really interesting question. Obviously just before she is stabbed, something is happening in her body which is quite special. In the doctor’s surgery, when Dr Russo is checking her eye for signs of life, it is a normal, hazel eye, rather than a pinprick. But I don’t know. It’s as much a mystery to me as it is to you.
There’s obviously a reason why ‘Burke and Hare’ dug up the grave at the end – although quite why they want the stuffed toy defeats me…
Tiger – the lovely little Tiger!
What do you think the appeal of the show has been?
I think what makes the show special is that it’s a high concept programme, yet it’s set in living rooms and at kitchen tables with people who are very rooted in reality. I think one of Dom’s incredible talents as a writer lies in capturing real people and the way they talk. It sounds so obvious to say that, but it’s an incredible skill, and every actor that works on the show will say the same – he makes the dialogue effortless. And his characters are tangible, layered and real. Characters talk about little everyday things, like the bunting being put away wrongly or the toaster only working if you use the right ‘knack’. Dom captures these moments and puts them on to the page. I also think he is very non-judgemental. No character is one-dimensional: no one is all good or all bad. You understand what drives them, you relate to them and it’s that detail that makes you really believe in these people and makes you really care.
I’ve really enjoyed seeing more of the world of Roarton; going with Jem into the high school, Bryan Parry’s character coming back to find that his wife has moved on and remarried – that was heart-breaking. I also loved the scenes in the Furness B&B, with Sara Kestelman playing the hilarious Connie. The finale of Hard Graft, where Sandra is so excited, and Connie ruins it for her was one of my favourites in the series. Fiona Wass’ speech “What have you ever given me, Clive? Apart from a failing B&B, some knock-off Cava, and a half dead mother in law who’s going to live forever” really sums up why Dom’s so brilliant: that blend of heartbreak and humour.
The final pub scene is another of the strongly written ones…
Aren’t those women wonderful – down the Legion, with their half pints of bitter… Really, really funny. All of the directors – Jim O’Hanlon, Damon Thomas and Alice Troughton – were so fantastic at pulling out those comic moments, as well as the small, deeply emotional ones and then of course, the epic action sequences. It’s such a challenging show in that respect, and we were so lucky to be in such brilliant hands.
When we visited the set, you, Emmett and Luke spent quite a bit of the lunch break chatting with us outside the formal ‘interview’ time; you hear a lot about a ‘family’ on set but it did feel like you genuinely were a strong unit…
I’m glad you felt that.. we really are. When you’re working on a project that you’re really invested in, that you’re really passionate about, with brilliant people, you’re proud and excited to be there. It leads to a lovely atmosphere.
Yes – there’s always a lot of detail: around my eyes, and then my hands and my fingernails would have a lot of work, they would be a bruisey purple-y colour, and between my fingers… any part of me that was exposed was given the full PDS treatment. Davy Jones and his team did an incredible job; luckily I didn’t have to revisit my delightful ‘rabid’ make-up state this year which sent Luke and I into a hysterical state because we were so disgusting. We laughed so much. He said I looked fried! But just for day to day Amy, it’s about an hour of makeup. I really enjoy the process actually. That time in the chair gets you into a different place. And then once I got a petticoat on and some big jewellery, and my contacts were in – I did feel completely transformed into Amy Dyer.
What would you, Emily, think of Amy if you met her?
I think I’d like her; I think Emily and Amy would get on very well. I don’t imagine there would be too many awkward silences in the conversation! I’d probably find her dress sense a bit ‘out there’ but would secretly want to dress like her too, but wouldn’t be brave enough. I’d probably also look at her and wish I was more inventive with my hair-styles. I’m useless at that kind of thing. My hair just sort of happens.
I feel very lucky to have got to play a character who is so complex and who I feel genuine affection for. And to build over the six episodes and go on that journey with her was an incredible opportunity for me. When I read the beautiful scenes in episodes 5 and 6, where everything was starting to fall apart, I found it very upsetting.
Working with Alice and Stephen on the tent scene was particularly memorable. Alice was always very sensitive in her approach and wanted to keep everything as raw and instinctual as possible. She was very protective of Stephen and I and we did minimal rehearsal. Stephen is just phenomenal and I’ve loved watching Philip’s journey across the series. He’s so generous and never complained once about having to carry me into the doctor’s surgery about ten times.
What else are you doing?
I’ve just been out to Morocco to film Tony Jordan’s new BBC One drama about Noah and the Ark, with David Threlfall as Noah and Joanne Whalley as his wife. It was an amazing experience, incredible cast and crew, and we were filming in the most staggering locations in the Atlas Mountains. I also enjoyed being tanned for once! Rather than deathly pale..
I also recently filmed a small role in Testament of Youth, which is a beautiful film about Vera Brittain. And very excitingly, a comedy feature that I worked on last summer called The Last Sparks of Sundown has just been completed and should be coming soon. It’s been directed by James Kibbey and produced by Adam Dolman, who were the brains behind House Cocktail – a short film that won the Soho House short film competition last year. It’s very funny and has a stonking comedy cast; The Pajama Men, Miles Jupp, Kayvan Novak, Christian McKay and In The Flesh’s very own Connie Furnace, Sara Kestelman! I’ve been lucky enough to work with her twice now – she’s so brilliant.
And if – and hopefully when – In the Flesh gets picked up you’d be willing to come back?
Oh absolutely. In a heartbeat.
In the Flesh (Series 1-2) is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, and click here for a chance to win a free Blu-ray copy!