Ever since her Corrie days, Katherine Kelly has been forging a career for herself as a serious actress. First came her critically acclaimed portrayal of Kenny Everett's wife in last year's The Best Possible Taste which heralded a string of roles, from Lady Mae Loxley in shopping drama Mr Selfridge to ruthless newspaper editor Maloney in last month's Field of Blood.
Tonight she's back as grieving Claire Reid - the mother of four-year-old Callum who disappeared from his family home five years ago. Desperate to find her son, she's been on the hunt for his assailant ever since, but the discovery of his remains just yards from her house throws her and husband Daniel (Darren Boyd) into turmoil once again as DCI Maggie Brand (Tamsin Greig) returns to the case she never solved to track down Callum's killer.
Katherine talked to RadioTimes.com all about her character Claire, working with Tamsin Greig and why The Guilty shouldn't be compared with Broadchurch...
What first got you interested in The Guilty?
I never pick things that are straightforward – what appealed to me was there are a lot of layers and a lot of detail and the detail is in the telling. On the surface, it’s a crime drama, a whodunit… The three episodes are broken down into a time when we had our son Callum around, and then there’s a time when we think he’s missing and then there’s a time when we know that he’s dead. It weaves between the three.
Who do you play?
I play his mum - I’m either really happy with the family or I’m searching for Callum or the person who killed him. The story that runs alongside that is Tamsin Greig’s character. She is investigating this case and she’s been on the case since Callum was declared missing. In that time she’s had her own son who is the same age now as Callum was when he went missing. I guess it’s two women trying to find their sons - Tamsin has her son with her but he’s not ticking boxes at school and he’s on the spectrum of Asperger’s or perhaps Autism. They’re not quite sure so she’s trying to get to the bottom of that and Claire’s trying to get to the bottom of what happened to her son. It’s very detailed and I like the fact it doesn’t give a big fat conclusion at the end. It satisfies you and you find out what happened but there’s not that wham-bam American movie pay off. It’s a much more subtle, realistic piece and it makes you really think as an audience.
Were you excited to work with Tamsin?
I knew that she was a great comedian - we all know that - but I had seen her at the Royal Court in Jumpy and she was just incredible and in my experience, the funniest actresses I know are also the best tragic actresses. So even though I’d not seen her play this type of role, I just knew she’d be able to cast her magic over it and make it really rich.
As parents, are Claire and her husband Daniel (played by Darren Boyd) ever suspected by police?
I think everybody was suspected if the police were doing their jobs correctly. There are scenes where Maggie’s going, “Do we rule out the parents?” and she’s watching back over old interviews from when Callum went missing. Everyone’s a suspect because the remains are found so close to the house and they weren’t there before - someone’s brought him back so that suggests even more that it’s someone that they know.
What does the ordeal do to Claire's relationship with Daniel?
I like the way the relationship with Daniel is written because it’s not tremendously rosy in the first place. There are obviously cracks, not because they don’t love each other but because it’s a realistic relationship. I like that Daniel and Clare are still together five years after their son has gone missing. There are many couples that would have broken, especially if they’ve got cracks in the first place.
Did you do any research for the part?
I don’t like to do that. I’m sure there are a lot of people who would be happy to sit and talk about their experience but it just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s like someone’s misfortune for my gain and I don’t like to do that. If I was playing a doctor I would go and speak to a doctor because that’s just about their routine but I wouldn’t ask them, “When someone dies, how would that affect you?” I don’t like to do that with people and there’s so much now with the internet and books. People have put something out there for everybody to have and I feel fine about having that but I don’t want to take off them – it just makes me feel uncomfortable.
The Guilty is unmistakably similar to Broadchurch which was a huge success for ITV earlier this year...
This had the green light before Broadchurch was even put on screen and it’s made by the same people - ITV - so it’s not like another channel’s trying to compete or get on the bandwagon. Laura Mackie commissioned both and I assume that she felt it was different enough to be on the same channel in the same year in a similar time slot. You would never try and repeat a show – you’d just make Broadchurch 2.
How does this stand apart from Broadchurch?
I couldn’t really compare the two but I just have to trust in Laura that she read the two scripts and decided to commission them both for her channel. It’s like if you read crime novels you’re never going to read the same crime novel twice. You read a lot of whodunits and lots of different authors write them but actually in the watching of it, they’re very different. It’s a genre – there are only seven stories, aren’t there? That’s the age-old catchphrase. There are only seven stories so it’s always going to be a version of one of them.
Were you excited by the success of Broadchurch or worried about the inevitable comparisons?
No, actually I was quite pleased because I thought that my questions were all going to be about Kate McCann – I thought I was going to have to really pull back because I don’t want to comment on that at all. In a way, Broadchurch has given me quite a good scapegoat.
We've had Top of the Lake on screens recently, too - why do you think there's suddenly such an interest in missing children cases?
What happens is people think, right, what are we going to put on telly this year for everyone to watch? Well, this script's good – we haven’t had children missing for a long time. But then they all go in to be made at a similar time and then they all go out at a similar time. I’m sure Top of the Lake was all put in place before they even knew Broadchurch was happening. It’s like showing up to a wedding with the same dress as someone else on.
The Guilty begins tonight at 9:00pm on ITV