What happens when a mother abandons her husband and children without explanation? In episode one of Come Home we saw the fallout for dad Greg (Christopher Eccleston) – but in many ways it is mum Marie’s story that is most compelling.
Part two of the BBC1 drama zooms in on Marie (Paula Malcomson). And Marie is in crisis. This unflinching episode invites us to understand a mother of two who wasn’t ready for a surprise third child; a woman who felt like she was drowning in the mundanity and conflict of family life and needed an escape.
But it also shows us the pain and rejection faced by the kids she has left behind.
“I’m sure there’ll be a lot of mixed reactions,” Malcomson tells RadioTimes.com. “She may be not liked at all, I don’t know. I can’t really worry about that. I mean, it is my job to humanise, to create a character that’s empathetic, that people will want to follow that story. But as far as likability goes I can’t really worry about that very much.
“We do that as women. And I have done that as an actress, and you hear that a lot, you know? ‘I don’t like this character…’ and it’s sort of like, right, well that’s not my job, to make you like her – it’s really not.”
But whether you have sympathy for Marie or think she is a monster, one thing is for sure: mothers get judged more harshly for abandoning their families than fathers.
“Men do it [leave their families] every day, every minute of every day, and it’s not the big deal – it certainly is for the kids – but it doesn’t have the same kind of stigma at all,” Malcomson says.
The three-part drama, written by Danny Brocklehurst and directed by Andrea Harkin, begins with one episode following Greg and one following Marie before bringing their storylines together for the final instalment. It’s a narrative device that shows us both of their perspectives as we start to understand more about Marie’s motivations.
“It’s always valuable when it’s from the woman’s point of view,” the actress tells us. “Well, in some ways it’s her story but not quite her point of view.
“I sort of liked how we played with time. Jumping in and out, fast and loose. Going back and forth and not knowing in that first episode quite what has happened. What is it? What would cause someone to leave, to walk out on their family?”
Anthony Boyle and Christopher Eccleston in Come Home (BBC)
Malcomson was born and raised in Belfast, but she left Northern Ireland in 1991 and went on to star in TV series and Hollywood movies including Ray Donovan, Deadwood and The Hunger Games.
So returning to Belfast and playing a character with an actual Irish accent was quite an experience.
“It was really, really meaningful actually, the shoot in Belfast, for me,” she explains. “Given that when I left it was a much different, darker kind of place, there was a lot less hope and opportunity. And very few people making films on the streets of Belfast, you know.
“It was really nostalgic. It was really great to hear my own tongue and to see people doing their jobs really beautifully and just how much has changed. And it’s just, I found Belfast very beautiful and I found the people just wonderful and so that was all really lovely for me.
“And yeah I’ve been in the States for 20, nearly 30 years, almost only playing Americans, so it’s very, very nice to use your own accent.”
This article was originally published on 3 April 2018