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Holliday Grainger: "I seem to have only become tabloid interesting since I had babies"

The Capture star on the latest season of the BBC drama, working with Bong Joon-ho and new motherhood.

Holliday Grainger
Published: Thursday, 1st September 2022 at 4:18 pm
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Holliday Grainger has not long stepped off set when we sit down for a chat. Her latest project is arguably her most exciting to date.

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"The NDA I've had to sign," she says of Mickey7, an upcoming sci-fi feature from Oscar-winner Bong Joon-ho (Parasite, Okja, Snowpiercer). The cast is dynamite – Robert Pattinson, Toni Collette, Mark Ruffalo, Naomi Ackie and Steven Yeun – and worlds away from the single episode of Casualty she appeared in back in 2000, or Yorkshire-set ITV drama Where the Heart Is, which was one of her more substantial earlier roles.

"That you even know [about Mickey7] means that I should probably kill you," she laughs. "All I can say is I didn't even have a hard copy version of the script."

Like everyone who has worked with the South Korean director and enjoyed his singular brand of filmmaking, Grainger can't speak highly enough of him: "I projected [this]. I wanted to work with someone amazing that I respected, that every day on set would feel like a learning curve. He is the most prepared and efficient director I've ever worked with. He makes it look really easy. He is a bit of a genius."

That's as much as she can say so we move swiftly on to The Capture, which recently returned to the BBC for its second outing. Grainger is once again leading the charge as Rachel Carey, a shrewd, driven detective who isn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers if it means getting the job done.

"I've played characters who are much younger than myself for so many years," she says. "I feel like it took me a while to grow up on-screen. But Carey certainly feels like one of the most mature and with gravitas characters that I've played. I feel like a lot of characters have been leading up to this grown-up version."

Rachel looking directly at the camera
Holliday Grainger as Rachel Carey in The Capture. Heyday Films/Laurence Cendrowicz Heyday films/Laurence Cendrowicz

In The Capture's sophomore season, Carey is swept up in a fresh deepfake conspiracy that threatens UK national security. All fingers point to the Chinese government but by the end of the second episode, the invisible assassins and digital doppelgängers look to be the work of another.

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There's a lot to digest – it's blink-and-you-miss-it stuff – which Grainger is acutely aware of.

"It's not just challenging emotionally," she admits. "Ben Chanan's script is so intricate that Carey's role within the piece, and my job as an actor, is to hold the plot and translate it and lead the audience through it. And I do feel the importance of that when I'm on set, so in a way this job does feel more pressured than other parts that I've had. It's not just turn up to work and do it. I feel responsible for the clarity of the plot."

The Carey that we meet in the latest episodes is, in many ways, the woman we were first introduced to. But there has been a shift following the injustice that saw soldier Shaun Emery convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

"She goes on a massive transformation throughout season 2," says Grainger. "In season 1 she had a slightly ballsy confidence, but here she's certainly more anxious and paranoid.

"But I think the mistrust that she has, the fact that she fears for her own safety, she's [always been] incredibly smart but she's now learning how to be manipulative. Her intelligence is not just clear-cut, black and white, for-the-good anymore. And with that her choices become more complex and interesting."

Rachel stood in an office looking ahead with her arms folded
Holliday Grainger as Rachel Carey in The Capture. Heyday Films/Laurence Cendrowicz

Carey's commitment to exposing the CCTV manipulation technology that was instrumental in pinning the blame on Emery brings that "manipulation" into play. The detective is building a dossier of incriminating evidence against Correction, its nickname in the series, which is easier said than done considering she's being watched at all times, even in her own home.

As a woman in the public eye, does Grainger relate to that feeling of being observed?

"Luckily, I feel that hasn't entered my world," she says. "I very rarely get recognised unless something's just come out. And I'm so unaware of people recognising me unless they come and speak to me. Anytime that I have found out I've been papped, I only ever find out afterwards."

Following the news of her pregnancy and the subsequent arrival of her twins last year, Grainger has noticed an uptick in how much attention she receives from certain media outlets: "The bizarre thing is I seem to have only become tabloid interesting since I had babies. It's like people aren't really interested in your career as an actor, they're just interested in your family life, which is kind of depressing really."

Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia Borgia in The Borgias. Jonathan Hession/CBS/Showtime

That said, Grainger is happy to field the inevitable questions about what it's like being a working mother. The topic has become something of a no-go zone in recent years, with a spate of comment pieces online attesting to the exasperation some women feel when everything in their life is brought back to being a parent.

But it's not an issue for Grainger, and she'd like to see more men asked about how they balance their responsibilities as caregivers with what's required from them in their careers:

"People should ask, 'What's it like being a working father?' as well. These are questions that both my partner [Star Trek: Picard's Harry Treadaway] and I are dealing with because it's so new to us. We're both learning how to be a working mum and a working father, so those questions are actually really relevant in my own mind at the moment, because that is my world. I honestly don’t mind engaging with them because I feel like they're not engaged with enough."

When you consider how little practical support there is for so many parents, from a lack of affordable childcare to inflexible employers, she has a point. It's a long-standing issue, and one that disproportionately impacts women. But it's not enough to just talk about it. That conversation should be a catalyst for positive change, otherwise it's just words.

Patrick Melrose stood facing Bridget Watson Scott while she looks away
Holliday Grainger as Bridget Watson Scott in Patrick Melrose. Justin Downing/Sky

You won't find Grainger retweeting Guardian op-eds about why it isn't anti-feminist to talk about parenting while promoting your work because she's not on social media. That would have been somewhat radical several years ago, but many of us are now re-evaluating our relationships with the cost of being ~ online ~ and what we might gain from muting those apps, or removing them from our lives altogether.

But for Grainger it's not born out of the need to keep her life as her own, but how she perceives herself.

"Personally I just find it really cringe, like tongue-tightening embarrassing, when something personal about my life [is known], or even a quote of mine makes it into public knowledge," she explains. "I'm not not on social media to keep my private life private, but because I can't stand having the idea of my private life and my own views known to my wider circle of friends.

"In a weird way if I read interviews and I'm like, 'I didn't say that, you've completely misquoted me,' I actually prefer it. I much prefer being completely misquoted and misrepresented because it doesn't feel as exposing. When you read an interview that's really close to yourself, you're like, 'Oh my God. Oh, God. I didn't say that? Oh, cringe!' My toes hurt from cringing so much."

Wanting to spare Grainger the discomfort of talking about herself any longer, we move swiftly onto Strike, another BBC crime drama which has built up a loyal and enthusiastic following since it first aired back in 2017.

Holliday Grainger and Tom Burke in Strike
Holliday Grainger as Robin Ellacott in Strike. BBC

Her character Robin, who entered the frame as an office-based assistant for private investigator Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke), but swiftly demonstrated her nose for solving crime, has a "newfound independence for the first time" in season 5 as she wades through an acrimonious divorce.

"It's like finally, go and leave [her ex] Matthew behind," she adds. "She's matured as a person."

Grainger stops herself and chuckles: "Matured as a person. She's not going to mature as a fox, is she?"

Does she think Rachel and Robin would hit it off if their paths crossed?

"I reckon they would get on eventually, but it'd be a slow burn," she muses. "If they did get on, they'd be best mates, but I think it might take a while."

Grainger pauses for thought: "It depends on how they met. If they got off on the right foot professionally, I think they'd both respect each other, and a friendship would grow. Whereas if they disagreed, or they wanted something from the other one that they weren't giving, they'd be worst enemies."

If both of them make it out of their respective capers unscathed, which isn't guaranteed, some Correction-esque technology could engineer that.

Read more Big RT Interviews:

The Capture continues on Sunday 4th September on BBC One at 9pm. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

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