Interview: Maeve Dermody

We grab a moment with Maeve Dermody, star of new BBC drama SS-GB.

Australian-born Maeve Dermody has appeared in a string of successful productions, ranging from BBC1’s detective drama Marcella to the acclaimed Ripper Street, quickly establishing her as one to watch on British television. Her latest venture sees her taking on the role of Sylvia Manning in the BBC adaption of Len Deighton’s historic novel SS-GB, in which he explores an alternative outcome to the Battle of Britain.

The cast includes acting heavyweights such as the gorgeous Sam Riley and Kate Bosworth in leading roles and was written by super-talented duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have put their pens to major flicks such as 007’s Skyfall and Spectre.

We grabbed a moment with actress Maeve Dormody to discuss SS-GB, body confidence and how filming in the U.K compares to Australia.

Let’s talk about the new BBC series, SS-GB. What was it that interested you in the project?

I was really interested in historical fantasy, I’ve never done that before. I was curious about exploring what that looks like in a story sense, the different possibilities for our reality, that there are things that happen in every moment. I keep talking about this particular Trump moment around all of this, I know everyone is talking about it generally, but how history just changes in an instant and how much we are engaged with that, how we respond to it, this sense that you have to be taking into account history and the future in the same moment, in a way. So I was interested in that. And I was also interested in Sam Riley, who plays the lead. I’ve always admired him hugely as an actor and it was sort of a no brainer to say yes to playing opposite him. I really like the mini-series format, you know, three or five episodes. I think it’s really satisfying. You have enough room to perform but it’s not taking over years and years of your life either.

The series is based on Len Deighton history novel of the same name. Be honest, have you read the book?

Yeah, they gave us all a copy at the very beginning. The character I play, Sylvia, they wrote her up for the series. She dies quite early on in the novel actually. So it’s nice that they kept me on!

What kind of research did you have to do for the part?

I guess I thought a lot, and read a lot, and looked at a lot of pictures of the 1940s. I think it’s sort of pivotal to the Nazi moment what the ‘40s was about, what came before the ‘40s, the Depression and the, sort of, ingenuity of living in the ‘40s, like in the fashion. Things were so sort of utilitarian, just really functional and simple. So just sort of getting inside that frame. And being a woman in the 1940s was such a different thing. And we researched the French Resistance because that’s what Sylvia ends up working for, as a part of the Resistance, and it was based on the French Resistance. So, yeah, just sort of going through all that. And then just enjoying the research of everyone else. The sets and art direction was so brilliant and so detailed. And the costumes, when it’s that high quality, it makes it so much easier because you can literally step into it.

What was it like to work alongside industry heavyweights like Sam Riley and Kate Bosworth?

Brilliant. I didn’t actually do much with Kate, we just sort of saw each other in the make-up van. Our story lines were actually quite separate. So I was just working with James (Cosmo) and Sam Riley. And Sam’s gorgeous, he’s so easy, and funny, and everyone just kind of falls in love with him as you can imagine.

“I was curious about exploring what that looks like in a story sense, the different possibilities for our reality, that there are things that happen in every moment.”

You appear semi-nude in the first episode of the series. Would you say you’re quite body confident?

I think you learn to pick your battles with that stuff. I wouldn’t say I’m completely into getting my gear off at any opportunity, but if it’s for the story it’s more natural than you kind of holding a sheet up against you, you know when it’s sort of contrived. I’m not shy, but I’ve been working as an actress for 12 years and that’s something that you grow into, especially as you get older, it’s easier. I think it’s really important that women in particular have a say about it and a voice. I chose that edit and I had to approve it, and I think it’s really important that you approve. And I cultivate a healthy body image, I think.

You’re originally from Australia, but you’ve shot a few TV shows in London (Marcella, SS-SB). How do you find shooting in London?

I find it great. I really enjoy it. It’s really close to Australian film sets and TV crews, to be honest. I know the British have more of a sense of humour and work ethic. I’ve found it a very sweet little transition. I’m very grateful for it to have come up, I didn’t plan it. It’s just been a good run. I’ve had such respect for people who make stuff here, there’s something about such a long tradition and everyone is so highly skilled. It’s incredible. In Australia as well! But it’s sort of different in that the lineage is about a third as long or something.

Tell us a bit about what you have lined up for the rest of the year.

It’s one of those beautiful things when I’m working on about three different things but I wouldn’t wanna jinx my luck by mentioning them! I’ve been on the audition train for the last few months. I actually went home to Australia for a few months as a bit of a break before that. There’s so much about, so many good things, but I’m gonna have to be really boring and say that it’s all unknown at the moment.

SS-GB starts on Sunday 19th at 9pm on BBC1.

Interview: Maeve Dermody

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