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Penned by Sherlock and Doctor Who writer, Steve Thompson, Jericho looks set to be our new favourite period drama, with a twist. Set in the 1870s, the eight-part ITV series brings a taste of the Wild West to the Yorkshire Dales. Jericho, a town that is just beginning to establish itself, is being built as people arrive to live in it. Intrigued? We certainly are!
Jericho is a place where people can start anew, but it’s also a place of danger. Inspired by the real shanty towns of England in the 1800s, the community is made up of navvies from all around the world, working to build the world that we know now, with tunnels and train lines. It’s difficult and treacherous work, meaning that death is an all-too-present force for the families, wives, girlfriends and lovers within this new Yorkshire town.
Call the Midwife star Jessica Raine plays feisty northerner, Annie Quaintain, a woman who, along with her two teenage children, is forced to venture to the town, following the death of her husband. The drama also stars Clarke Peters (The Wire) as the unspoken leader of the town, Ralph Coates, and Hans Matheson (The Tudors, Tess of the D’Ubervilles) as the honourable but flawed Johnny Jackson. Jessica Raine shares what is was like to play a mother to two teenagers, master a new accent and contend with more corsets…
How did you feel when you found out you were being cast as a mother of two teenage children?
My character, Annie, got married very young, as they did in those days and popped out two lovely children. But I just loved my kids – it was just a dream and they both brought very different things. Amy [James-Kelly who plays Annie’s daughter, Martha] has got some experience, and Sam, [Bottomley, who plays Annie’s son, George] not so much. The whole story of this series is George’s journey and it’s a big one for him – he’s a boy becoming a man and Annie is holding on to that, not wanting her little boy to grow up yet.
What did you do to master the accent?
I had a meeting with my acting coach who was really helpful. I’d played a proper northerner before – from Hereford, slightly more towards London – but all these things helped. I was hyperaware of it in that first episode because I really wanted her to have an authentic northern accent. But by the time we were filming, I just absorbed it. You talk to the locals and you start picking up little idiosyncrasies. Then it does start to happen naturally and you can really start to have fun with it.
How do you think you would have fared in real life in that tough environment?
What was really challenging was the scenes with those tapestry bags [in the first episode we see Annie walking across the moors to Jericho with all her possessions in bags], which I grew to hate! We also wore incredibly restrictive corsets and when you’re trekking across moors you get incredibly out of breath! But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because it felt very true to Annie to be doing that.
What would you most miss about the present day if you were transported back there?
Those beds weren’t comfy! So I’d miss my bed, and some central heating.
After Call the Midwife, Agatha Christie and now this, are you keen to get out of period costume for a while?
Actually, Jericho was a real breath of fresh air for me because it was Victorian times. I don’t think in terms of, “Should I do another period drama or not?” It always comes down to the script and the story. What attracted me to this was its originality because this was a period in time and a place we’ve not seen on television before to my knowledge. Watching it now, I still get goose bumps.
Jericho starts on ITV in January 2016.