Imelda will also be playing Queen Elizabeth II on the award-winning series The Crown – a perfect choice as she’s received not only the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) from the Queen in 2006, but also the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2016.
Imelda was scheduled to star in a West End production of the stage musical Hello Dolly, which was to commence performances on August 11, 2020 at Adelphi Theatre in London, so we chatted about that and other upcoming productions as well.
In the mini-series A Confession, which is based on a true crime story, Imelda plays Karen Edwards, who is thankful when Police Detective Stephen Fulcher’s (played by Martin Freeman) actions lead to finding her daughter. However, when it turns out that because he questioned the suspect on the spot at the scene of a potential crime, Fulcher’s career is in jeopardy due to the PACE Act (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984), which doesn’t allow detectives to question a suspect until they’re at the station and have access to a lawyer. ~Alexandra Heilbron
What an emotional story, especially in the storyline involving your character, my heart was just breaking for her. Did you know about this case beforehand? Was it well known throughout Britain?
Had I heard about the story? No, I hadn’t, I hadn’t read about it in the press. So when I got the script, I was reading the second episode when I learned it was based on a true story. But I also felt that the script was so honest and straightforward and just telling the story without any frills or sensationalism. And it’s an important story about the PACE law, that’s what it’s also about, it’s not just a murder investigation. And I just thought, this is a very important piece of work to be involved with.
And the preparation for it, I met Karen Edwards twice and she’s an extraordinary woman with great strength of character and resilience. You can imagine what a journey she’s been on. She was so open and friendly and of course, extremely grateful that this was being made, so that this story was being told again to a wider or a different public. She couldn’t have been more helpful or more encouraging. And although I felt very awkward in a way, I didn’t want to ask her anything about her feelings at all, because it’s all there on the page, but I just wanted to get an essence of her — the essence of her vitality in this nightmare scenario that had been her life.
You had some very emotional scenes. How do you prepare yourself for each scene like that, do you like to have some quiet time before the cameras start rolling?
Yes, absolutely. Focus. You just get yourself into the place and keep yourself to yourself and then you’ve absolutely got to be so prepared in the moment. You can’t be laughing and joking around and then tear up, so the emotional stuff, I just keep quiet. I don’t make anyone else keep quiet, but I absent myself in my head and prepare and think about it the night before. Of course with filming, it’s then done — you could do a very emotional scene in the morning and then in the afternoon you could be driving a car in a scene or you could go home for the afternoon and not work for four days. So you just have to present it the time that it’s needed and then walk away.
A Confession has already aired in England — what’s the reception been like?
Terribly good. Really, really good. I think everyone was impressed by the writing, by the direction and you know, we had so many wonderful actors — I’m not including myself, I’m just saying I looked around me and the cast — there are about 150 actors in that piece — and I think the casting is absolutely remarkable across the board.
It was incredible to watch. You were mentioning earlier about the PACE law, has that been changed in England? Because it was so frustrating to watch it and see this murder investigation impeded by it.
Oh, totally, totally. They’re still working on it. That’s why they’re sort of hoping that maybe the program helped. Really just looking again at that law and see what can be changed.
You’ve been cast as Queen Elizabeth on The Crown. What can you tell me about that?
Well, I don’t know much more than you, I’m afraid (laughs). That’s a long way ahead, you know, I’m just doing my own little bits of research. There’s no scripts or anything yet and God knows [with the coronavirus pandemic] there are a lot of other things on all our minds now so that’s on the backburner and I can just be dipping in and out of all that research and also making sure that I want to keep the standard up. I don’t want to let everyone who’s done it from Day 1, I don’t want to let anyone down. I have to really grab that baton and do the last leg very fast indeed.
I can’t wait to see you in it. Have you seen the first three seasons?
Oh, of course I have! It’s a huge thrill and honor and of course it’s terribly frightening and daunting, but that’s okay, that’s part of the process and then you get on with the job.
Because of what the world is going through with the COVID-19 pandemic, I have to ask, how has it affected you? Have any projects been delayed and are you social distancing in Britain?
We go into lockdown as of today. Hello Dolly, I was supposed to start rehearsing in June, but I would imagine that would be pushed. It doesn’t matter, there are more important things going on in the world and I’ll just wait and see what happens. God willing that we all behave as we should behave and stay at home and do what we can to so as to put a stop to this terrible virus. In the meantime, thank God the weather is good at the moment and we’re so, so lucky we’ve got a little garden and we’ve been gardening today and talking to friends and making sure that all our neighbors are okay and looking after each other.
I also enjoyed your performance in the Downton Abbey movie. I’ve been told that Jim Carter [who plays head butler Mr. Carson] is a hoot during filming of Downton, is he just as funny at home?
Oh, I’ll say. Why do you think I married him? (laughs)
Perfect! (laughs) I heard that you’ll be filming The Canterville Ghost, what can you tell me about that?
I don’t know what that is! People have been mentioning it and I don’t even know if I’ve done it. I think that’s something from about 10 years ago, I don’t know why this keeps rearing, I have absolutely no idea if I’ve done it, or I haven’t (laughs)! I think it was like a voice, on an animated thing and I don’t remember doing it, I have no idea! Absolutely no idea. It’s very funny.
That is funny! Thank you so much for talking to me about the series A Confession, I can’t wait for it to air on BritBox so everyone in North America can see it as well.
Well, I hope so. I know it’s not light entertainment in these difficult times but it’s a great, honest piece of work.
It’s riveting, with so many gripping performances and without giving anything away, when I saw what your character goes through my heart broke for her, you did such an incredible job at portraying this woman’s journey.
Well, thank you very much indeed. Thank you and keep well please!
Yes, and you too! Thank you again.
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