Meet the cast of Mayday

Sophie Okonedo, Aiden Gillen and Peter Firth star in BBC1's new psychological thriller


BBC1’s new psychological drama follows the resisdents of a small Sussex town after a teenage girl goes missing. As time goes on the community start turning on each other and families struggle with the reality of suspecting someone they love…


Sophie Okonedo plays Fiona, an ex-policewoman who is now a housewife and mum of three. 

Can you tell us a bit about Fiona?

“Fiona is a housewife and an ex-copper. She has three young children and is married to a copper. She is a good mum and always really applies herself to everything she does. At the point of when the story starts, she’s feeling a little bit fed up with just being seen as a mother and seeing to her children all the time. She misses the excitement of actually working. She really enjoyed being a police woman and that’s something she’s feeling a little bit unsure of. When Hattie goes missing, Fiona sees it as an opportunity to dust off her old police badge and start investigating and looking for herself what might have gone on.”

So what is her reaction to the way the investigation begins?

“She thinks Steve [a local man who sets up a search party] is an absolute idiot and amateur. He doesn’t know how to run an investigation. He grabs a whole load of people and his own ego is leading it, and she feels he’s basically trampling over any evidence that is left anyway. Fiona certainly feels like she would do a much better job.

Fiona is quite a low key character, she gets caught up in high drama but that’s not her natural state. She’s not an outgoing, out there person. Fiona is quite straight so I wouldn’t say she’s a great big character.”

What attracted you to the role?

“I took the role because I thought it would be a quirky, interesting piece, and I was wondering whether we would pull it off or not. I always find that to be quite an interesting premise to take a job – “can this work or will I fall flat on my face?” I find that exciting.

It’s not a normal murder-mystery. There are lots of twists and turns and it was quite unusual. The characters seemed really normal but then you scratch the surface and they’re all strange and just off centre, and I thought that was good. So that’s why I took the role.

It was challenging as much as they (writers and producers) weren’t set on how it was going to end. It was also challenging to know what my character knew and what the audience could be told, so I was often having to play a lot of subtext. There was subtext going on in all my lines which doesn’t really get revealed straight away, so I often had to look like I’m saying one thing but really I’m saying something else underneath.”

Sophie was nominated for an Academy Award for her rold in Hotel Rwanda. She’s also appeared in The Slap, Doctor Who, Oliver Twist and The Secret Life of Bees.

Aidan Gillen plays Everett Newcombe, a single father living with his teenage son.

Can you tell us anything about your character?

“Everett is a single father, living like a squatter in his own respectable semi-detached. He doesn’t seem to do anything for a living. He’s louche, sexy, scruffy, and has a good yet cruel sense of humour when he can be bothered.”

Is he a recluse, a bit of a loner or hiding a secret?

“He’s seen as all of those things, by those who could be bothered, because he kind of is. Or maybe “private” would be another way of putting it. He’d definitely play into all that valley of the squinting windows type behaviour that can go on sometimes in small towns because it’d tickle him. At the root of all this, is, of course, a genuinely bruised human, dealing with it all the wrong way.”

What is his relationship with his son Linus (played by Max Fowler) like?

“That relationship would be best classed as competitive. Linus is really more like the grown up one most of the time. Everett’s reverted to teenage-hood himself, while Linus wants to break out of it. But the teenage dad cramping his style isn’t helping. They love each other though.”

What attracted you to the role?

“I liked the tone of the script – I like a bit of darkness, I have to say, especially when it’s imposed upon a seemingly peaceful, sleepy town. I always saw it as a twisted cousin of Midsomer Murders, with some very shady laughs. I was also interested in the type of dysfunctional parent/child relationship that was there for exploring. And working in such a good ensemble cast.”

Irish actor Aidan Gillen has recently starred as Petyr Baelish in Game of Thrones. He’s also appeared in The Wire, Queer as Folk and The Dark Knight Rises.


Could you tell us a bit about your character?

“Gail is middle-class, wanting to have the best house in the village and to be highly thought of. She’s kind of aloof and cold, and a bit unforthcoming. She’s the subject of a long and unhappy marriage that has really made her not a very of warm person. She’s got a dog and is one of those people who like the dog more than people really.

She wants to be perceived as somebody who is successful and who materialistically got everything she wanted, with the nicest house and the designer clothes. She wants to have the whole package and to look to the world as being a success story, but actually, privately she’s far from it. She’s in a deeply dysfunctional marriage and is actually rather lonely and isolated.”

How is her relationship with her husband Malcolm?

“God knows why they’re still together really. It’s a terrible, terrible relationship that’s deteriorated over the years but neither of them have done anything about it. The best thing that they could probably do would be to walk away from each other but it’s like a lot of marriages. There’s nothing left, it’s empty, and there’s bickering and absolutely vile really. They’ve got a son who is off and functioning having his own life. And then she’s got this dog who she seems to care about more than anything.”

What attracted you to the role?

“The character is interesting and I really like Brian (Welsh, the director). When I met him I wanted to know how he was going to do it because I think if it was treated another way it could be quite sort of mundane television. But he was quite clearly going to make it a bit quirky and I could tell by the way he was shooting it as well that it was going to have an oddness about it – an unconventional take on the whole thing and that was one of the key factors. That was ultimately what made me keen to do it really.”

Lesley has appeared in Another Year, Cranford and North & South. She is set to star in An Adventure in Space and Time and Sky’s Fleming later this year.

Peter McDonald plays Alan, Fiona’s husband and a police officer who has been accused of assault.

Can you tell us a bit about your character?

“My character is a policeman who lives in a community and who has been accused by someone while on duty of assault. For any policeman in that situation, his future is in the balance. So there’s a lot of stress going on in his life as a result of that particular incident, and it’s having a bearing on his wife, him and their family life.

When Hattie goes missing I am one of several people who fall under the suspicion of even their nearest and dearest in relation to the crime, as a suspect.”

What is the relationship between Alan and Fiona like?

“Basically their sex life has been on the rails for a bit. This seems to be stress related to Alan’s job and how he is handling the situation. He overcomes this and then comes back to being a good family guy and dealing with the pressure on him. But once the seed of doubt is open in Fiona’s mind, things are open to interpretation, things he says or does plays out in her head. To Alan she’s acting weirdly and it seems there’s an ongoing tension.”

Did you enjoy being part of Mayday?

“I liked the subtextual nature of Alan and Fiona’s relationship and how by using domestic conversations in a picturesque way they contain a different meaning. To me that seemed to be at the heart of what the show is about. This small market town where something very dark happens and often it’s one of those cases it’s someone within the community who does this. Once that happens it puts a shard of fear and suspicion and paranoia through a small, otherwise normal community and takes that concept and heightens it.”

Peter McDonald plays has recently appeared in ITV’s Titanic and Sky1’s Moone Boy.

Peter Firth plays Malcolm, an unpopular property developer and Gail’s husband.

Can you tell us a bit about Malcolm?

“Malcolm is quite typical of many men who are trapped by circumstance. By that I mean the circumstances of his life and what has become of his life in middle age, which is very often for people a disappointment. Unfortunately at that point it’s often too late to do anything about it because people have either lost the will or the ability, physically and in their imagination, to change their life. So they get stuck in a less than idyllic domestic situation which clearly he is, and consequently they look for outlets and often those outlets are secret.”

Does Malcom resent his wife Gail? 

“Resents is one word, but that’s a mild word I think, for she is his jailer, and often in those situations you’re in love with your jailer. I think that’s called the Stockholm syndrome. That exists not only in hostage situations, but also in domestic situations as well, and people are so in love/in hate, or in a loving/loathing relationship with their jailer. Gail is very much the keeper of Malcolm’s keys. Again, that’s when people will do things secretly and are able to have some outlets without them knowing about it.”

What attracted you to the role?

“It was a bit of a departure for me, from what I’m mostly known for which is Spooks, so I felt this was a change. It’s always nice to put on different shoes. On the other hand nobody knows how you take your tea! So you have to go through all of the familiarity of the work situation. It’s always nice to have a change of course.”

Peter Firth is most well known for his stint as Harry Pearce in BBC1’s Spooks. He’s also recently had roles in World Without End and South Riding.

Sam Spruell plays Steve, a well meaning member of the community who lives with his brother Seth.

Can you tell us a bit about Steve?

“Steve is a member of the community and is a well-meaning individual who is full of misjudgement. You get these situations where he tries to get involved but does it in quite a ham-fisted way. He’s a slightly self-styled law enforcer in the respect that nobody has given him a position of authority. He’s just assumed it in his own eyes which ultimately leads to him being a figure of fun amongst his community even though he’s pretty unaware of that. The last thing he would want is for people to be laughing behind his back. He yearns to be taken very seriously by the other members of the community in which he lives.

Steve also has a brother, Seth (played by Tom Fisher), who weighs quite heavily on him, not only because he feels compelled to make sure Seth is alright and look after him, but it doesn’t help that it feels like Seth’s presence distracts from his standing in the community. Steve is really worried about that.”

What did you enjoy about filming Mayday?

“I’d like to say how original, incisive and interesting the director (Brian Welsh) was. He really forced us to re-think scenes in the moment, because you can prepare as an actor and turn up, but he really gave interesting notes that changed the dimensions of scenes and made our characters more interesting. He’s really good at trying to get the juice out of these small town local political tensions and was excellent in upping the tension within the scenes.”

Sam Spruell has recently appeared in Snow White and the Huntsman, The Runaway and Luther.

Watch the trailer:


Mayday starts on Sunday at 9:00pm on BBC1