It was a defining moment in 2018’s hit thriller Bodyguard – but creator Jed Mercurio says he actually considered not killing off Keeley Hawes’ character Julia Montague.
Asked whether there was a point where he considered keeping her in the BBC drama, Mercurio told the audience at the BFI & Radio Times Festival: “Oh sure, of course.”
He added: “We examine everything, and there certainly was that discussion.”
Bodyguard fans were stunned when Home Secretary Julia Montague was hit by a massive bomb blast in the cliffhanger ending to episode three. Had she lived or died? And would Jed Mercurio really kill off one of his main characters – just like that?
The answer came in the next episode, when a horrified David Budd (Richard Madden) heard the news: Julia had died of her injuries in hospital.
But crucially, Mercurio decided not to show the Home Secretary’s actual death or her body – a choice which left many fans convinced that Julia was still alive.
So was this always the plan, or did Mercurio ever contemplate showing her death on screen?
“Yeah we did. We did consider that as well,” the showrunner revealed.
“It was purely actually about the point of view, and I think we’re all familiar with some shows where you’re watching it and you’re thinking, hang on, how is that person witnessing – you know what hospitals are like! Try getting into an operating theatre, it’s not easy. So it felt like if we were staying true to the idea that it was David Budd’s point of view, there was no circumstance in which he would be allowed in.
“So, what we created was a sense of him observing the news being given, and then it kind of plays on his mind about whether – firstly that he’s been excluded from that moment and he feels tremendous responsibility for it, but then, yes, it also opens up that other possibility, which is: he hasn’t seen the body.
“It’s not so much that the audience hasn’t, it’s that David Budd hasn’t seen the body. So that was something that was useful to us if we wanted to exploit it.”
As for why he decided to have Julia die in hospital after the terror attack instead of killing her in the explosion itself, he explained: “Well, there was definitely intentional ambiguity… The choice was that it was instant or there was something to play with dramatically by having an aftermath. We felt that the best way to go was to create an aftermath.”
All that ambiguity certainly paid off – more than the team behind Bodyguard had ever imagined. There was feverish speculation from fans as the whole nation tried to work out what exactly was going on.
“Well it was something that did take us by surprise,” Mercurio said. “And Keeley, as well – we were quite overwhelmed by the theories that were coming out. So we did, I suppose, milk it.”
Bodyguard is available on Netflix now