Oscar-nominated British actress Sophie Okonedo returns to our screens as a young mum in new five-part BBC1 drama Mayday (Sunday-Thursday). We caught up with her to talk about the week-long thriller..
How does the series kick-off?
“Well it’s set on Mayday. There’s a Mayday Parade going on and the local village is out in full force. And right at the top of the programme we discover that Hattie, the girl who was going to be the Mayday Queen, has not turned up. So something has gone wrong. The question is: where is she?”
What can you tell us about your character?
“I play Fiona. She’s a mum with three kids. She’s married to a police officer (played by the wonderful Peter Macdonald), and in fact she used to be a police officer herself. I think she misses her career, which she has given up to become a stay-at-home mum. She’s a good mum and always really applies herself to everything she does. At the point of when the story starts, she’s feeling a little bit fed up with just being seen as a mother and seeing to her children all the time. She misses the excitement of actually working. She really enjoyed being a police woman and that’s something she’s feeling a little bit unsure of. When Hattie goes missing, Fiona sees it as an opportunity to dust off her old police badge and start investigating and looking for herself what might have gone on.”
Is Fiona a suspect in Hattie’s disappearance?
“I don’t know if she’s a prime suspect. But she certainly has her own suspects. She actually spies on one particular person because she’s very suspicious of them.”
How does Fiona react to Steve Docker rounding up the community to search for missing Hattie?
“She thinks Steve is an absolute idiot and amateur. He doesn’t know how to run an investigation. He grabs a whole load of people and his own ego is leading it, and she feels he’s basically trampling over any evidence that is left anyway. Fiona certainly feels like she would do a much better job.”
Is it true that the actors themselves don’t know who the killer is?
“Yes! So all the actors are suspecting each other! We’ve been looking over at each other in the green room and thinking, ‘Hmm, it could be him… or her… He looks very suspicious…’ Of course it could also be me, and I’m just very good at covering it up…”
How did you approach the role?
“I would say I went into this role with open arms. I normally do when I take things on. It was complicated because I had the first couple of episodes, but I didn’t have all of them. They were constantly being changed – that’s really usual in television nowadays. So I wasn’t really knowing how or which way it was going to go at the beginning. I was having to do things on blind faith which was interesting.
“When I take on a role all I tend to do is get to know the script and ask millions of questions, and keep fine tuning what I think the character is trying to say.”
Were there any memorable moments during filming?
“The Mayday Parade was quite memorable. We had a load of hot weather, then it rained on the day of the Parade so I spent most of the day sitting in a pub round the corner. I think I drank enough cappuccinos to last a lifetime.”
We haven’t seen you in a British drama for a while. Where have you been?
“I’ve been all over the world – Majorca for Sinbad, Australia for The Slap and America for a film called After Earth – so I haven’t filmed in England for about two years. But it’s really nice to be back. I love working from home. It’s more relaxed. I’ve also got a child, so I have to be there for her. I never like to take more than one job away from home each year.”
Do you tend to watch the shows you’re in?
“Not really. In the last few years I’ve watched less and less of my own stuff. I think the less I see of myself and the way that I do things, the better I am. It’s a bit like looking in the mirror too much. You become too self-conscious.”
Will you be watching Mayday?
“I watch the first half an hour as I’m interested to see the style the director has chosen. I wouldn’t usually watch something I’m in, but I’m quite interested to know how heightened they’ll make Mayday.”