“I guess they’re like puzzles, aren’t they?” says John Simm. “It’s entertainment. That’s what got me to say yes to the script, because I wanted to know what happened next.”
The drama in question is Strangers, a disorientating ITV thriller starring Simm as Professor Jonah Mulray. The earnest academic’s world is turned upside down when his wife dies in a car crash in Hong Kong, but when he flies over to claim her body, he discovers a shocking truth that sends him head-long into a web of conspiracy.
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Also drawn in to the mystery is Sally Porter from the British Embassy, played by Silent Witness star Emilia Fox.
But with the success of dramas from Innocent to Bodyguard, why are we all so fascinated by conspiracy thrillers?
“It’s fun solving a mystery, isn’t it?” says Fox at a BFI screening in London. “And solving it either along with Jonah, as in this story, or if you’re in the crime-solving [dramas] then you’re getting to see behind the scenes of crimes and how they’re solved.
“It’s for the audience to enjoy solving the mystery along with the characters.”
Simm adds: “I think if you’re into that kind of thing then you have an insatiable appetite for scripts like this.”
For the Doctor Who and Life on Mars actor, a character like Jonah is not a complete departure from his previous roles.
“We always get cast as intense, deeply intense,” he jokes.
Fox agrees: “We’ve reached an age where we’re really intense, really traumatised, crying quite a lot.”
“But moody and troubled,” Simm adds.
Still – Sally is a world (or half a world) away from Fox’s most famous role as Nikki Alexander in the long-running crime drama Silent Witness.
“I love playing Nikki Alexander and, having played her for so long, there is the luxury of the familiarity of knowing her and also knowing the people that I’m working with, and so you take more risks probably, within the seven months of filming,” she explains.
“But it does mean that in the other five months, anything which is as different from Nikki Alexander as possible is very appealing – and certainly Sally is very different.”
This article was originally published on 10 September 2018