Marcella is Hans Rosenfeldt’s first exclusively created drama for the UK audience following the global success of The Bridge, a Swedish/Danish co-production which achieved critical acclaim when it began broadcasting in the UK in 2014.
Set in contemporary London with a British Metropolitan Police Detective at its heart, Marcella is told with Rosenfeldt’s unflinchingly multi layered Nordic style. Marcella’s eight episodes will lead the audience through a narrative maze and any character could be a witness, victim or potential suspect. Marcella will get involved in a serial murder case where the modus operandi of the killer bares a striking resemblance to an unsolved spate of killings from a decade ago.
Marcella is shocked to the core when her husband Jason (Nicholas Pinnock) leaves her unexpectedly, confessing he no longer loves her.
Heartbroken and needing a renewed purpose, Marcella returns to the Met’s Murder Squad. Ten years ago she gave up her fast-tracked police career to marry and devote her life to her family. With the abrupt end to her marriage and isolated from her 13 year old daughter and 10 year old son, Marcella throws herself into work to stop herself from falling apart. She instantly becomes involved with a serial killer case she first worked on in 2005. Has the killer re-appeared or is a copycat murderer responsible for these recent deaths? How will Marcella cope returning to duties when her own temperament is so fragile and vulnerable? Will throwing herself into her work provide the answers she’s seeking? Or lead her dangerously into territory she must avoid at all cost?
Suspicious of her husband’s motives for leaving her, Marcella finds herself playing detective away from work, but will her findings lead her to further heartbreak?
We spoke to star Anna Friel:
Q : What was your initial reaction when you read the first scripts for Marcella?
“I immediately flew over from Ireland where I was filming to meet the writer Hans Rosenfeldt and said, ‘I think this is amazing.’ I just didn’t know whether I could do it. I always go through that process before any new character. I’d never played anything in the crime world before. I’d seen so many brilliant performances and so many people do it, I just thought, ‘I don’t know what I can offer that is different?’
“I was also a little bit intimidated by The Bridge because I thought, ‘How can you do it better than that?’ But I loved the Marcella scripts. So I thought, ‘I’ll go and meet them and see what they say.’ And they wanted my take on her. By the time I’d left the meeting and flew back to Ireland, they’d got on the phone and said, ‘Look, they all think you are her. We would really like you to do it. Your take on it is quite unique. That’s why you can do it and it will be different.’
“I didn’t ever really see Marcella as a cop because she’s had more time out for 10 years than she had actually in the force. So she’s a bit more rebel-like and very unconventional. You’re on her side because you think, ‘How can you put this poor woman through this?’ You understand her and want to forgive anything she may have done.”
Q: Why are Hans’s scripts for Marcella so special?
“We’re honoured to have him write this purely about London and set in London. Everybody has watched things like The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge. Audiences don’t like to be treated as if they’re stupid. Sometimes I think we dumb things down and underestimate the intelligence of an audience. We’re not stupid. We don’t need it hammered into our head. We want to work a little bit. And I think this asks that of the audience.”
Q: Who is Marcella?
“We meet Marcella when she has just been left by her husband Jason. They have two children who were sent to boarding school, against her wishes. Something has sent her into a very big depression which started a twist within the story that viewers will discover.
“Marcella left a very good job with the police at the height of her career when she was very close to catching a serial killer. She is now very lonely in this house with no kids and no man and decides to go back to work. But never ever as a conventional copper. Marcella couldn’t be more opposite.”
Q: Did you do any of your own research for the role?
“I did. I went to Charing Cross police station and met this wonderful detective called Liz, who was so glamorous. We met there and then later we met at the Groucho Club in Soho. And if you’d have sat and looked at the two of us, she’d be the actress. Because I was in my sweat pants, doing my day’s work and she was so glamorous.
“Being a female detective as well she was really empowering. I spent the day there and asked lots of questions of people who would be Marcella’s superiors, learning about all the different ranks. Then I just concentrated on making her as real and believable as possible.”
Q: Is it true you did not want to be told who the killer is?
“They asked if I wanted to know and I said, ‘Will it inform my character? Will it make me change the way I play it?’ So I told them if it didn’t help the story I didn’t want to know. We have three blocks of scripts with episodes one to three, three to six and then six to eight. So I said, ‘Tell me in block three.”
Q: The opening scene in the series finds a confused Marcella naked in her bath. How was that to film?
“It’s a bold opening scene. At this stage of my career, of my life, I’m 39-years-old, the nakedness doesn’t really get to me and I know they’re not allowed to show certain things anyway. It’s better just not to be self-conscious and coy. I find that really off-putting when I see actresses do that.
“I was in the bath for about four hours. Obviously I got out from time to time, otherwise I’d be a wrinkly old prune.
“The funniest bit was at the end when they said, ‘That’s a wrap.’ They dropped all the curtains and I just found myself in a big studio going, ‘Freezing. All right guys? Closed set? Yeah?’ There I am sitting naked in a bath in the middle of all these people. So I stayed calm and collected and went, ‘OK, let’s put those curtains back up, shall we?’ I’m open but not that open.”
Marcella starts on Monday at 9pm on ITV.