Unforgotten actress Nicola Walker plays a respected divorce lawyer in new BBC1 drama, The Split, starting next Tuesday. Here she talks warring couples... and walking in heels!
Unforgotten star Nicola Walker on her new role as a hot-shot divorce lawyer dealing with her own family heartache…
Every couple gets married dreaming they’ll live happily ever after. Unfortunately, not everyone gets their fairytale and, when these relationships break down, it’s time to call in the divorce lawyers. Next Tuesday, the emotionally-charged world of D-I-V-O-R-C-E is explored in new BBC1 drama, The Split.
TV Times is visiting the offices of legal eagles Olswang in Holborn, Central London, which has been transformed into the fictional Noble & Hale, a swanky law firm specialising in high-profile divorce cases.
Pacing the corridors in her stiletto heels is actress Nicola Walker (Unforgotten), who plays the drama’s central character Hannah Stern, an experienced divorce lawyer who takes a job at rivals Noble & Hale after her mother Ruth (Cranford’s Deborah Findlay) refuses her promotion at the family law firm, Defoe’s.
With an estranged father, sibling rivalries and an old flame also in the mix, we soon discover that Hannah’s own life is almost as complicated as those of the clients she represents. We chatted to Nicola, 47, to find out more…
First of all, we can’t help noticing you have a very different ‘look’ as Hannah, to how we might have seen you before…
“Yes, it’s a very different world so, as a result, Hannah has a very different wardrobe and overall look. The hair, the clothes, the high heels; it’s Hannah’s ‘armour’ for the day. She’s expected to look reassuringly ‘expensive’ because the clients these divorce lawyers are dealing with are so moneyed. The fact these clients are wealthy is irrelevant though; they’re all broken and damaged and their problems are no different to anyone else’s. When you put them in that lawyer’s office, everyone is equal.”
So, by day, Hannah’s sorting out other people’s relationships but she has a few problems of her own, doesn’t she?
“Yes, Hannah’s family is all in flux. Hannah’s mother Ruth has raised Hannah and her sisters Nina (Being Humans’ Annabel Scholey) and Rose (Outcasts’ Fiona Button) single-handed and carried Defoe’s on her own ever since husband Oscar left her for the children’s nanny. Hannah’s been with the family firm forever but she’s denied promotion, so leaves to join rival law firm, Noble & Hale.
“Defoe’s is very old school whereas Noble & Hale is incredibly modern, forward-thinking and much more interested in chasing high-profile, media-covered cases. So it’s a change for her. When Hannah moves to Noble & Hale, Ruth poaches her first big client, multi-millionaire Davey McKenzie (Trollied’s Stephen Tompkinson), so she soon finds herself going head-to-head with Ruth and Nina!”
Oscar (Girlfriends’ Anthony Head) dramatically returns after 30 years away. What impact does that have on Hannah and her family?
“It’s carnage. You come to understand that Hannah, her two sisters and their mother are surviving having lost a husband and a father and it’s still having repercussions now for all four of them. This drama explores the legacy of divorce and how no one comes out of it unscathed.”
Working at Noble & Hale also reunites Hannah with one Christie Carmichael (Dutch actor Barry Atsma). Were they lovers?
“I can’t tell you that! Hannah and Christie were very close back in law school; close enough for it to be an issue for Hannah’s husband Nathan (Episodes’ Stephen Mangan), with whom she has three children. There was definitely something beyond friendship between Hannah and Christie, so reuniting in the workplace, after all this time, is complicated. Having both her father and Christie back in her life leads Hannah to question her own relationship with Nathan and with her family. Everything starts to unravel pretty quickly.”
What more can you tell us about Davey (Stephen Tompkinson) and wife Goldie (Goodness Gracious Me’s Meera Syal)?
“The drama explores a different case every week but Davey and Goldie’s divorce runs through the whole series because it gets incredibly complicated and vicious. Hannah dislikes Davey on sight; he’s a mixture of vile and self-pitying, which Hannah really can’t tolerate. When Ruth then poaches Davey, Hannah ends up representing Goldie. Davey’s ruthless in the way he tells Goldie he’s going to divorce her; he basically DOESN’T tell her, he just brings her to the offices and introduces Hannah as his new divorce lawyer! Hannah thinks that’s utterly repulsive and wants to help Goldie any way she can…”
You work with Meera’s husband Sanjeev Bhaskar on ITV crime drama Unforgotten (filming has recently begun on series three). Are you part of the family now?
“Yes, I really want to be! I’ve really enjoyed working with Meera, she’s absolutely brilliant. I think their son is very young but, if he wants to go into the profession, I’d love to work with him, too!”
Finally, have you mastered the art of walking in high heels now?
“I don’t usually wear high heels so, for the first week of filming, I was literally sat in the corner crying in pain. However, after three weeks, I could walk in them comfortably for 10-hour days and even run in them. Literally just walking and talking, though, was a challenge I never expected to have!”
The Split starts on Tuesday April 24 at 9pm on BBC1.