TV & Satellite Week - 'In The Dock'

November 13-19, 2010
// Scans provided by Jen

Christopher Eccleston and writer Jimmy McGovern team up once again to create more TV gold

From Cracker to Hillsborough, whenever actor Christopher Eccleston collaborates with writer Jimmy McGovern, the result is must-see TV, and their latest effort, Accused, is no exception.
Like McGovern's BAFTA-winning The Street, each episode of the compelling six-part BBC1 series centres on a different character, each of whom ends up in the dock accused of a crime.
Eccleston stars in this week's opener as Willy, a plumber who is about to tell his family he has been having an affair when his daughter announces that she is getting married. Willy can't afford to pay for the wedding, but then he finds a package in the back of the cab that he thinks could be the answer to his problems, setting in course a series of events that spiral out of his control.
We caught up with Eccleston to find out more...

How would you sum up Accused?
It's a human drama rather than a courtroom drama. In each episode, we meet a different character on trial, and we are aware they have transgressed and are about to be judged. Then the focus is on how and why they did what they did. There are a number of things Willy could have done wrong, but the audience is kept guessing until the end.

How would you describe Willy?
He has a good life, but it has become too predictable, so he throws in a hand grenade. He's a good man who has always worked hard and loves his family, but wanting to give his daughter a special wedding leads him to make fatal errors of judgement.

Will we be on his side?
That question is what fascinates me. We are hoping the series will provoke debate in the nation's front rooms and that, when we return to the courtroom at the end for the verdict, the audience will be the jury.

You have worked with Jimmy McGovern a lot. What do you enjoy about his writing?
As an actor, if the words aren't good, you look bad, but Jimmy always makes me look like a good actor. He credits the audience with intelligence and doesn't give them easy options.

You appeared in the sci-fi drama Heroes in America. Would you do another series over there?
I would if it was well-written, but I have a fierce attachment to my own country and culture. I enjoyed Heroes, but it was hard for me to care about it in the way that I cared about Our Friends In The North. I have always wanted the work that I do to have some gravity, and I need that to fire myself up. If I do something just for the money and the glamour, then I'm rubbish. I can't deliver if I don't believe in the project.

Is there anything left that you would still love to do?
I'd like to do some comedy and more theatre. I became a film and television actor by default, and I am fortunate that I have made a good living from it, but I would have developed differently as an actor if I'd done more theatre.

You played John Lennon earlier in the year. Would you like to play another real-life person?
I wouldn't mind playing Arthur Scargill. Playing a real person is interesting, because you can study them physically and psychologically. But everybody else has that information, too, so they have strong views about your performance.

What role are you proudest of?
Trevor Hicks in Hillsborough. My involvement fulfilled a dream, because I believed what we were doing had real weight and urgency, and needed to be made.

What's next for you?
I've just finished filming a BBC2 drama called The Shadow Line. It is a psychological thriller and I play a devoted husband who has to do things that morally compromise him in order to support his wife.

The Eccleston and McGovern double act

Accused is not the first time Christopher Eccleston has worked on a project with writer Jimmy McGovern...

Cracker (1993-4) Eccleston made an impact as ill-fated DCI Bilborough in his first project with McGovern.
Hearts and Minds (1995) A drama based on McGovern's own teaching experience, in which Eccleston played an idealistic teacher at a Liverpool comprehensive school.
Hillsborough (1996) Played bereaved father Trevor Hicks in the BAFTA-winning ITV drama about the 1989 football disaster in Sheffield.
Heart (1999) Eccleston was cast as a heart transplant patient pursued by the donor's mother in the moving big-screen drama.
Sunday (2002) The Emmy-nominated Channel 4 drama about the events of Bloody Sunday in 1972 featured Eccleston as British army officer General Ford.

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