Former Coronation Street actress Suranne Jones plays Sister Joan Livesey in BBC1’s new eight-part WWI series The Crimson Field set in a field hospital on the Western Front. It’s her first period drama but her character is ahead of her times, sporting cropped hair and arriving at her new job on a motorbike. “Joan is a very modern character in this world so I think that’s what worked,” explains Jones. “I usually do contemporary pieces but Joan’s quite a contemporary character.”
She’s one of a team of nurses battling to save the young soldiers injured in the trenches, many of whom sport horrific and gory injuries – a mammoth challenge for the make up and prosthetics team that had an unexpected effect upon the Scott & Bailey actress.
“It’s a supporting artist with gauze on and pretend blood but there was one day when they said ‘action’ and there was this supporting artist who couldn’t see where he was going because he was bandaged up. He was just left wandering and no one had told him where to go.
“I started crying and it was a weird thing because obviously we’re making a drama but I suddenly started to really think about all those things. You can’t let yourself think about it too much otherwise you’d be crying all the time and a lot of our characters are stalwarts. I just grabbed this poor guy’s hand and he was just happy for me to guide him to a bed. It was odd.”
Jones joins “the older set” Hermione Norris and Kerry Fox in the drama along with “hip young things” Oona Chaplin, Alice St. Clair and Marianne Oldham. “I hope I’m in the middle of the young and the old,” quips Jones, “but it’s more sauna steam and cups of tea than a glass of wine.”
The Crimson Field begins on Sunday at 9:00pm on BBC1