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Trauma

Interview with Adrian Lester

Who is Jon Allerton?

Jon is a senior trauma surgeon at a major London hospital. He is confident, self-assured, witty, a family man who loves his daughter and wife and he's very successful in his field. He has trained very hard to get where he is. He's well off, affluent, he dresses well and he has a certain swagger that goes with the confidence. What I would call confidence in his job, others might call arrogance. He's a self-made man and he knows it. He's also completely happy and at peace with that because he feels that what he's doing is his service to his country and society.

What was it about the character of Jon that made you want to play this role?

It wasn't the character as such. It's just the writing and the drama I felt from the script. It's just so well done and so well written. I only read the first episode when I said I wanted to be a part of this so it wasn't that I knew exactly what was going to happen. It was the quality of the writing. I also knew Catherine Oldfield who's a brilliant producer and of course, Mike Bartlett is a fantastic writer. I knew it was going to be a good project.

What is it about the way in which Mike’s written this script that really digs into the truth of the character?

It's a funny thing with writing something this complex and intriguing. You want to give the audience clues as to what might happen next. So it's a real test for the writer in knowing exactly what not to say so the audience feels that they are getting enough information and they're putting the drama together in their heads themselves. What Mike Bartlett has done brilliant is to stay just ahead of the audience with the information, not behind them because the audience are clever. They are experts at watching television. Mike is a master of that because he knows exactly what not to say. Often leaving what's not said makes the audience feel empathy for the characters on screen. He makes sure that there is no good guy and no bad guy. They are just people caught in a traumatic situation.

What does Dan do that gets under Jon’s skin so much? You can see he’s slowly infiltrating aspects of Jon’s life that he’s not even aware of.

From Jon's point of view, Dan suddenly drops a piece of information into a conversation that shows he knows a lot more about Jon than he's comfortable with. Mike's written in such a way that if Jon becomes too uncomfortable, then Dan quickly backs off with 'No, I just read it on the form' or 'It's on a webpage'. So then Jon is quickly put at ease again. Every time Jon tries to put the Bowker case behind him something happens that brings it all back. That's down to Mike's very clever writing and structuring of the narrative.

The story attempts to highlight the disparities between the haves and have-nots. How has Mike achieved that?

It's all clear in the script really. You start with the differences in where the two characters live. For Jon you see the peaceful leafy streets with the large houses, the bright openness of the kitchen on to the big garden. Then you see Dan's place, which is small, claustrophobic that helps you understand his worries about money. He and his family are struggling and can't see a way out. I used that in a way to add to Jon's sense of trauma, how his job is so important to him for so many different reasons. You can juxtapose how important the job is to Jon, the money isn't the important bit about the job, and it's the status and the feeling that he gets from being that important. The feeling of self-worth is important and when that is taken away, your life can start to fall away from you. And I think that's what happens to both men, their money and position in life is used to achieve that.

How was it working with Marc Evans, the director? What guidance did he give you?

Marc is just a fantastic director. Everything for him is a collaboration, which I find is the best way to work for an actor and whenever I've directed. You start the morning or the scene with your best ideas, explain this is what we're doing and why, and then you throw it out to the group. In that way, people can add in ideas and how to best achieve the scene, in order to make it better. Marc has that about him, asking what people think so we were always able to add which was lovely.

John Simm is a terrific actor, how was it working with him?

It's been really great. It's hard playing those emotions opposite someone, when you have to target them as a negative, dangerous, argumentative person. You've got to kind of hate each other really. John and I are the same kind of actor in that we find it easy to do our job if there's a peaceful happy set where everyone is just getting on with their work. Whenever he had to get in to that emotional state, the crew were very sensitive and we all just stepped back and gave him space because he's got to put himself through something. And both he and they were the same with me. Some actors don't do that; they want it to be all about them. So it was just a fantastic experience and I'm really looking forward to us being able to do something else together in the future.

What has it been like working with Rowena and Jade?

It was brilliant. Jade is lovely, and so great to work with. Rowena was wonderful, you want to enter in to the fantasy of I am your dad, I am your husband in order to show the drama works and it was so easy to do with those two. It was just so well cast.

What do you think the audience will get out of the drama? How do you feel it will resonate with them?

I enjoy drama that's escapist but it's really nice to have drama that touches on things in our society that we should look at and know about. I hope that the audience will enjoy it and be taken on this great journey as it's a really, really intelligent thriller. But I also hope that they walk away with a slightly changed view of how things can be for some people in our society. I've come away with a slightly changed view on who's out there doing real jobs in our society and I like that, as that drama has the power to open up a little world and show you something different.

By BBC Australia