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Ridley Road writer on why Agnes O'Casey was perfect as "brave" lead Vivien

The four-part BBC One series is based on Jo Bloom’s novel of the same name.

Ridley Road on BBC One
Published: Tuesday, 28th September 2021 at 11:01 pm

The writer of upcoming BBC One drama Ridley Road has spoken about the "deep bravery" of the series lead character Vivien Esptein.

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The '60s set four-parter, based on Jo Bloom’s novel of the same name, tells the story of a young Jewish woman who becomes involved in The 62 Group – a London-based anti-fascist movement – and is selected to infiltrate a neo-Nazi organisation.

The mission eventually brings Vivien face to face with the group's leader – and writer Sarah Solemani told Jane Garvey on The Radio Times Podcast why star Agnes O'Casey was the perfect person to bring the character to the screen within the Ridley Road cast.

"There was a naivety and an innocence, so she wades into this space which is far too dangerous for her," she explained.

"But she also has this deep bravery, and that was the casting of Agnes O'Casey, who’s this incredible actress who bought this vulnerability; you’re so terrified for her.

"But at the same time, this steely strength and the bravery, and by the end of the season, she’s on her own and The 62 Group are out of their depth. But she’s on her own, she’s gone rogue, and she’s going to bring these Nazis down."

Solemani also said that she hoped the new series would shed a new light on Britain's own relationship with fascism, claiming that our own understanding of it is "skewed".

"People forget that actually, it wasn’t clear cut that Hitler was this monster," she said. "At the time, he was impressive, sexy, he was a sex symbol for women in this country, who looked up to this man who had taken Germany out of the ashes of war and was giving dignity to Europe.

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"And that attitude carried on much later than we thought. We think of the 60s as being this free, multicoloured, technicolour dream place. But that was much later in the decade, in 68. And in 62, they were still calling it ‘The Jewish War’, a war that we shouldn’t have got involved with. So I really did uncover a lot of painful secrets about our history."

Ridley Road premieres on BBC One on Sunday 3rd October 2021 and you can listen to the Radio Times podcast in full today. While you’re waiting, take a look at the Ridley Road soundtrack, check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.
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