BBC has a new thrilling drama based on the John Christie murders

2017-06-28 11:53

Cape Town - A chilling three-part drama, Rillington Place is based on the real-life multiple murders carried out by John Christie in Notting Hill in the 1940’s and 50’s.

The subsequent tragic miscarriage of justice, which led to Timothy Evans being hanged for a crime he did not commit, contributed towards the abolition of capital punishment in Britain.

Presenting each episode from the separate viewpoints of Ethel, Timothy and finally Christie, writers Ed Whitmore and Tracey Malone drew on original source material in the National Archives, alongside new interviews with surviving relatives, to retrace the steps that led Timothy to be accused of murder whilst Christie went unchallenged until his arrest in 1953.

See a promo here:

More about the series 

Reconciled after living apart for nine years, John Reginald Christie (Tim Roth) and his wife, Ethel (Samantha Morton), move into the ground floor flat of 10 Rillington Place, West London. The adjustment to a new life, in a small, rundown property, is particularly felt by Ethel but she strives to please her husband. 

Ten years on, Timothy Evans (Nico Mirallegro) and his wife Beryl (Jodie Comer) move into a flat upstairs and fall prey to Christie’s influence and tales. When Beryl becomes pregnant with a second child, already struggling to make ends meet following the birth of baby Geraldine, the Evans allow Christie to help them with deadly consequences for the young newlyweds.

Samantha Morton who plays Ethel sat down for a quick Q&A.

What was your first reaction to the script?

My original response to the material was about playing a woman who suffers horrific domestic violence and the grey areas of what a woman potentially could and might have done. We’ll never know with Ethel really. There are no diaries to go by. It’s just things that people have said and you can’t always really trust that. I wanted to find a character within this horrific true story, without basing it on the film, and find how to portray Ethel.

What do you know about Ethel as a person?

We have witness statements and we have the research from the police interviews she gave and how she behaved in court, but I’ve been distant with a lot of the material to free the creative process. You have to find a balance between artistic licence, creativity and trying to serve history the best way that you can.

How well do you feel that you understand Ethel and her relationship with Christie?

The script is left very open for interpretation and I think that’s right because if you start going down a road of “she knew/she did this…” we’re potentially re-writing history. You have to be very careful. We have a responsibility to people who aren’t here anymore to speak for themselves and I feel very aware of that.

It’s not just that you’re taking on a drama about the facts as we know them of a horrific serial killer, but the layers within the story are quite profound. Tim, Craig and myself have tried to make sure we captured the nuances of home life for the Christies.

How much did you know about the case beforehand?

Not very much at all, but there’s a generation above me that remembers it very well. The minute you say to somebody that you’re making a drama about 10 Rillington Place, the hairs on the back of their necks stand up because it was very public at the time. It’s heart-breaking.

How did you find the shoot itself?

I really enjoyed the experience. Working with an actor the calibre of Tim, especially when 99% of my scenes are with him, makes you better. You can’t turn up to work and short change anyone, not that you’d want to, but you can’t really have an off day because you don’t want to let the side down. It’s tough but really rewarding when you feel that you’ve achieved a scene that you’re happy with and you walk away at the end of the day and say, we did that!

How was it working with Jodie and Nico?

I had one little scene with Jodie who plays Beryl and she’s extraordinary. And Nico too – they break my heart because they are so committed as actors. Whenever I think people are getting into acting for the wrong reasons because it’s about fame or glamour, these two wonderful young actors appear who are just brilliant and they restore my faith.

Catch Rillington Place Wednesdays at 20:00 on BBC First (Dstv 119).

(Photos: BBC)

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