“I wasn’t entirely sure whether I wanted to do number two,” Suranne Jones confesses while popping the lid on a pot of porridge.
The Doctor Foster star hasn’t had time to have breakfast so she’s quite happy to sit at the head of a table while we eagerly fire questions about Mike Bartlett’s follow-up to the hit 2015 drama.
Gemma Foster’s discovery of her husband Simon’s (Bertie Carvel) two-year affair with a young woman (Kate, played by Jodie Comer) was a massive ratings hit. An average of nine million viewers tuned in to watch the Parminster GP’s world crumble across five episodes, while 10 million were mesmerised by a climactic dinner party showdown during which Gemma released her inner wolf and exposed the cheating duo in front of Kate’s family.
Why wouldn’t you want to do another series when the first was received so well? Jones has a simple answer.
“To do number two just because something was successful, I didn’t feel that was the right thing to do”, she explains between mouthfuls. “But we met Mike and talked about it and we questioned had we ever seen a couple on television dealing with divorce, the aftermath, like when everyone has gone ‘oh you’re divorced’ and turned their backs and then got on with their own life?”
Bartlett convinced her, and now she hopes that the five episodes they’ve produced can convince the audience that their story is one worth telling.
“I absolutely care that it was a success in the way that it was, so therefore I care that everyone who watched it isn’t disappointed that we made another one”, Jones says, acknowledging that many fans were opposed to the idea of a follow-up series when it was first announced.
“I just hope that people, when they see it, realise why we thought it was important to tell the story. It ends in a place where it’s still quite uncomfortable and hopefully the audience will be glad that we’ve ended it there.”
“Uncomfortable” certainly seems to be the buzzword when it comes to Doctor Foster series two, which is set two years on from the thrilling series finale.
“It’s two years later and Simon’s back in Gemma’s life and [their son] Tom’s life,” Jones reveals. “He perhaps hasn’t been around for those two years but now he’s more of a feature.” Tom is 15 years old, “becoming a man”, and the only tie that binds his bitter and bruised parents.
“It’s very dark, very uncomfortable, as in how much do you f***ing hate someone and have to be in their life?”, the actress explains. “You’re still left with an awful feeling that you have to have this person in your life because you’ve got a child”.
It’s no wonder, then, that Bartlett’s taking Gemma to some very dark places – although, not in the same way he did in series one.
“She did have a mental breakdown in the first one and that’s not where she is now,” muses Jones. “The first one was about her losing her friends, her stability, her life that she knew she had for fifteen years. That happened to her, but the second one is just anger and hatred coming out and also, what I think is very interesting but I can’t say too much about, is because they were having a full happy sexual relationship whilst he was f***ing the 23-year-old, she’s left with unresolved sexual energy, so it’s dark in that way as well.”
Could we see another dramatic showdown?
“I think there are a few set pieces,” she teases. “There’s definitely one in episode one which is brilliant, and then there’s another one in episode five which is just three people and I think it’s Mike’s best writing.”
“I feel series one, because you were following an affair, it was explosive,” Jones continues, “whereas this one is tightly coiled, just wound tight so it’s just a different feel, I think.”
How does she feel about the people who watched those “explosive” events unfold and labelled Gemma “crazy” or “mad” as a result?
“When people say ‘oh she’s f***ing mad’, I love it,” she laughs. “She’s not mad. Her husband’s been cheating on her with a young woman and she doesn’t know her life so of course she had a mental breakdown.”
Jones doesn’t seem convinced that Gemma’s actions will be quite as defensible in series two, though. She says the GP has recovered but remains very angry and “sometimes you can go too far within that and lose sight of yourself”
“Not that I want any sympathy for Simon,” Jones smiles coyly, “but it might be the case that he does get a bit of sympathy this time around.”
There’s just one last question everyone’s itching to ask – does Jones think this series will be our last with Doctor Foster?
“For me, but then I said this last time, I really do think that.”
“I mean I’ve very busy next year anyway, my whole year is booked up until December 2018 so I don’t see where we could fit it anyway. Mike has also got a million and one amazing projects so I’m really happy that we all did what we did and then moved on to do other stuff,” Jones concludes.
“I think it’s such an amazing ending that I wouldn’t want to go ‘and we’re doing another one’.”
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news