The Virtues will air in four parts weekly from Wednesday 15th May at 9pm on Channel 4.
What is The Virtues about?
The Virtues centres around Joseph who, struggling to recover from his addiction to alcohol, finds his world beginning to spiral when his ex-partner moves away from Liverpool to Australia to start a new life with their young son.
Feeling like he has no close family to live for, he sets off for the south of Ireland to confront repressed memories from his childhood years in care and to reconnect with his long lost sister Anna, who until now had thought her brother was dead.
Anna and her husband Michael take Joseph in and give him work in the family-owned building company. There, Joseph comes face-to-face with the demons of his past when he meets Craigy, an odd figure who won’t leave him alone.
His situation gets even more complex when he becomes entangled with Michael’s troubled sister, Dinah, who is also haunted by a secret from her past.
Is The Virtues based on a true story?
Bafta-winning writer Shane Meadows recently revealed that the drama is based on his own repressed childhood memories of sexual abuse. The story was borne out of his own experience, at the age of nine, of being sexually assaulted by an older child.
“I’d been through something in my childhood that I didn’t realise had happened until I got to about 40,” said Meadows, who is now 46, at the premiere screening of The Virtues.
“And I got to the bottom of this thing that had happened in my life as a kid, and I had fragmented memories. The very basis, the acorn of Joseph’s journey, was borne out of something that happened to me as a kid.”
Meadows went on to explain that instead of confronting “the people that had done it”, he channelled his emotions into creating The Virtues.
“Fundamentally, when I discovered this thing,” he said, “I went into a place of trying to track down the people that had done it… I was just about to track down this guy I wanted to find, to confront him, basically. But I knew if I confronted him, if at any stage in that conversation he smirked at me, I was probably going to jump over the table and bite something off his face.”
Graham added that Meadows’ personal attachment to the story brought an extra weight of responsibility to the role of Joseph.
“As an actor, you’re always here to find truth in everything you do, but especially with this you have an obligation because it’s happened to a lot of people: a lot of people have had that sensitive issue of abuse, so you do have this duty of care to tell the story properly, truthfully and honestly.”
He also described how emotional it got on the set of The Virtues. “I don’t mind saying it and I’m sure Shane doesn’t – there was many a time when we had a good cry on set just after we’d done a take.”
Graham is joined by Helen Behan (This is England) as Joseph’s sister Anna, Frank Laverty (Michael Collins) as Anna’s husband Michael, Niamh Algar (The Bisexual, Pure) as Michael’s sister Dinah and Mark O’Halloran (Devils) as Michael’s shady colleague Craigy.
Who is writer-director Shane Meadows?
Shane Meadows is the Bafta-winning writer and director behind the 2006 This is England film, and the co-writer of its three TV sequels with long-time collaborator Jack Thorne (National Treasure, Kiri).
His film credits also include the Bafta-nominated Dead Man’s Shoes, as well as Once Upon a Time in the Midlands and A Room for Romeo Brass.
How did Jack Thorne come on board to co-write the project?
After Meadows tracked down his abuser, he chose to channel his emotions into making a series instead of confronting the culprit.
“I decided to ring Jack and talk about making something instead,” said Meadows, “which I thought was probably far healthier. I met with Jack a couple of years ago and sat in a room with him, and told him about this thing, and that I didn’t want it to be about me, it’s not about me. But I wanted to create a series where I had the chance to face somebody that wronged me.
“So me and Jack sat down together knowing that we were going to make something, rather than me being naughty. That was the seed, if you like.”
On meeting with Meadows to discuss the project, Thorne said, “Just imagine two bald men sobbing, that was sort of it.”
He added: “It was a real privilege to be trusted to be part of that, and an experience in my life that I’d never had before, and I just wanted to do the best with Shane’s heart.”
Thorne said that making the series was both an “honour” and a “burden” – “I didn’t want to do wrong by this man who’s very, very important to me and very special to me. That was the writing process – fear and love.”
Who wrote the soundtrack for The Virtues?
The music for the drama is provided by multi-award-winning British composer and recording artist, PJ Harvey. Harvey has also provided the score for Peaky Blinders series two, as well as for stage productions Ian Rickson (The Nest, Electra, The Goat) and Ivo Van Hove (All About Eve).
A Mercury prize winner, she has released nine studio albums and topped the UK charts in 2016 with The Hope Six Demolition Project.