Hermione Norris: ‘The Crimson Field is so visceral. Even the stage directions made me cry’

Hermione Norris is going back 100 years for her latest role as a stern matron at a World War One field hospital in Northern France in BBC1’s new period drama The Crimson Field, which starts on Sunday, April 6 at 9pm.

TV & Satellite Week caught up with Hermione to find out more…

What can you tell us about your character, Grace Carter?
“Grace is a newly-appointed matron and you see her wrangling with the difficulty of embracing that authority. She is married to her job and is stringy-lipped and a strict disciplinarian, which was absolutely required amongst such carnage, but she is also progressive and compassionate and she thinks about healing rather than just making people comfortable. Adversity does tend to draw people together and a community is formed among the staff.”

What was the appeal for you?
“The characters are so beautifully drawn and even the stage directions made me cry, it is so visceral. Being a nurse was probably the first career a woman was allowed to have and these middle and upper class women were doing jobs that seemed beyond comprehension. The First World War has always fascinated me because of the huge social change and because of the scale of devastation and adversity, the consequences of which we are still living with today, so it was a huge privilege to be part of this small act of remembrance.”

Did you have to do any medical research?
“We had a medic on set who would advise if there was anything that had to be done properly because obviously they would be doing things like administering morphine, but to be honest there was very little medical treatment because they there were working in appalling conditions, it was all about maintaining hygiene really.”

Do you think it is important that we have dramas about the First World War?
“Yes I think so because if you don’t want to make the same mistakes again, look to history. It is educational to see the reality of what those men and women went through and the loss and suffering and I am just amazed it is still going on all round the world now, which is very sad.”

Do you have any family connection to the war?
“My grandfather was in the First World War and I remember I was about four and he was confused and he told me to sit on the floor and get down so I did that and sat on floor with him and my grandma came in and she could see it was still so vivid to him and he was calling to the boys in the trenches. He also used to have to go to hospital every year and have the shrapnel removed in his leg.”

What would you do if your children ever volunteered to fight in a war?
“They wouldn’t get anywhere near it! I would kidnap them and wrestle them to the ground and lock them up for duration of the war.”

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