Bafta-winning actress Emily Watson talks to TV & Satellite Week about her family and her new drama, The Politician’s Husband’ which screens on BBC2 on Thursday at 9pm and follows an MP whose marriage to a fellow politician, played by David Tennant, is threatened by their political rivalries… Bafta-winning actress Emily Watson
How would you describe the drama?
“With political couples you wonder what goes on behind closed doors and this is about Aiden, a man who wants to be Prime Minister, and his clever wife, Freya, who is better at playing the game. It is modern, political drama, but it’s also Shakespearian with a primal base note because you see the cost of ambition; you can’t want to be Prime Minister without being lethally ambitious, some people are just better at hiding it.”
What was the most challenging part of this role?
“In a way, playing a character that is quite close to me was awkward, because I don’t often play characters who are white, middle-class Londoners, I usually have a bit more of a prop, like an accent. It was the most scrubbed up I’ve been for a while though, which was nice for me because I’m usually on my knees cleaning floors.”
What research did you do?
“I met with a former Labour minister who was a great resource for all the backroom politics, the ambition and climbing the greasy pole. I also met a lovely female MP who was everything you’d want your MP to be and was focused on making changes for the good in her constituency, so I saw different functions in the political world.”
Freya and Aiden’s son has Asperger’s syndrome – you also spoke to a mother of a child with the condition didn’t you?
“Yes, it’s a desperately hard thing to have in your life and Freya deals with it better than Aiden. The lady we spoke to was so brave and had decided that she would not give us a spin on how marvellous she was, but how bad it is, because it can be like having a home-wrecker in the family.”
You won a Bafta for Appropriate Adult last year; was that success why wanted to do more TV?
“Partly, and also the crossover between film and TV has blurred a lot. It’s easier to go back and forth between the two because there is so much good TV, especially from America. I enjoy the speed of TV too. In Appropriate Adult we filmed 11 pages a day of the script whereas in film you only do two or three, so it is really intense.”
What was it like working with David Tennant?
“I’d never met him before, but I’d admired his work. I think we’re quite similar creatures in that we’re quite intense about our work, but very private people with young families, so we don’t tend to go out!”
Do you let you children watch your work?
“There’s a high shelf of things to watch when I’m dead! They’ve watched The Water Horse, and about the first 10 minutes of War Horse, and that’s about it. They’ve been on set, so they do know what I do, but they’re not impressed by it, it annoys them quite a lot because it means I go away.”