In The Flesh series 2 interview: Harriet Cains

Interview Rob Smedley 29 Apr 2014 - 06:19

Rob chats to In The Flesh's Jem Walker about series 2, the fan response, PTSD and Gareth the gun...

It's a cliché November day when we're on set for In The Flesh series two, located in the corrugated outskirts of Salford. Cold, windy, grey, didn't-bring-a-brolly-but-should-have sort of weather. The kind of weather your mum tuts at. Cliché though it may be, it feels like the perfect natural proscenium for the undead to be wandering under. Like fish on a radiator, zombies and sunshine don't really go together.

Protected from the elements, and clustered on the top deck of the show's catering bus (today's special: duck breast and veg), we meet Harriet Cains, aka the pistol-packing Jem Walker, who's clearly having a great time filming. As the North wind blows harder than a Gallagher brother, and we clutch our steaming cups of tea, the effervescent Harriet gives us the lowdown on series two, the online reaction to series one, and her adopted gun of a son. Yes, you read that right...

On where Jem is at the start of series two...

Jem has become accepting of Kieren and she's very much on 'Team Kieren', but she's also been through a lot and it all hits her at once in the first couple of episodes. She's almost suffering with post-traumatic stree from fighting in the HVF. She's going through a lot of stuff personally and people aren't very aware of it. So in terms of her brother and her family, things are a lot better for her, but in her own head she's still got some issues.

On how series two differs to series one...

The story's moved on quite far ahead, and PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) sufferers are more accepted in the village and the big issue now are with the political party called Victus, who are sort of keeping PDS sufferers in check. They've started this 'Give Back' scheme where they make PDS sufferers give back to the society that they destroyed. It's addressing different issues. There's loads going off. It's not so much centred around the Walker family, it's branching off a lot more, so there's a lot more to watch.

On discussing her character with series creator/writer Dom Mitchell...

He's really helpful to have there. He's always there and he knows everything about everyone, it's so in depth. So you've always got an answer there about your character if you're unsure. Whoever's directing – because we've got three directors this year – they know the characters as well, so it's nice to have people on hand. We're really close with Dom, especially me, Luke, and Emily. Jem's based on his sister – not completely, obvioiusly! - but the attitude of Jem was loosely based on his sister when she was my age. The thing is with Dom is, you trust him because he's quality. He's always there to ressure for questions and that.

On whether Jem has put away her gun for good... (and her nickname for it...)

I called it Gareth! Gareth the Gun! No, Gareth has not gone into retirement just yet...he definitely definitely makes an appearance, and I'm really glad about it, because I get to see Toby the armourer, and Gareth is our child together. Yeah, I love that gun, that gun is like my child that's why I named it! I asked if I could buy it but apparently I'm not allowed. I'll keep in touch with Toby so I can make visits! I'm glad it made an apprearance as well, because we spent so much time last year gun training, and this year it just all came straight back to me so I didn't have so much training this year. I know how it works now.

On the fan reaction to the first series...

It was a crazy reaction, I really wasn't expecting it. The crazy reponse on Twitter...I felt like I needed to reply to everyone, because I was just so grateful. I kinda made myself a bit ill because I was up til three in the morning trying to be polite to everyone! But it's really nice, and we still get a response to it now, like if you ever tweet about anything In The Flesh people are still buzzing about it.

I think it's because it wasn't what people were expecting. When there were trailers for it on BBC Three everyone was like 'Aw cool, zombies!', and then as soon as you watch it you realise that's in the peripheral if anything really. And it wasn't like anything that's done before. It was so far ahead of where the genre usually starts that I think people were surprised by it, and I think that's why we got such a big response. People wanted to let us know that we'd done something different, and appreciated it was different.

Luke (Newberry) got some really nice responses. He was representing the prejudices of it, so he got some really nice stories and thanks off people for this and that. I got quite a bit of abuse actually when I think about it! (laughs). People get dead into it. I got a lot of 'You should be really nice to your brother!', and I was like 'It's not real!'. But the majority of it was really nice.

A lot of Brazillians really like it, and they always sign off their Tweets by putting 'kisses from Brazil'. I think they're really nice and brilliant. I'd like to go there. But there's a massive response from all over the place really. You don't expect it either. You don't realise that it's going to go global.

On being aware of her more prominent role in series two and Jem's Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome...

I was, very. And I was also aware of Post-Traumatic Stress as an issue and an illness people suffer with. I was very nervous about trying to make that real for people. I don't want to make it caricature and for people to go 'that's not real at all'. That played on my mind quite a bit. But it's written so well that that can't really happen. I was excited that I got my own storyline, and I think we all are as well, cos as an actor it's more to get your teeth into. You want something that's going to challenge you and push you, and it definitely has.

As soon as I started researching it I was like 'I wish I'd listened in Psychology when I was doing it at A-level!', because a lot of it iss the same as what I was learning at school, but obviously I didn't give a shit at school, I never thought it would come in handy at some point. I watched a lot of people having panic attacks on YouTube. The internet was great, and leaflets and stuff, but also my best friend struggles with anxiety and she was probably my best source of information, because I could watch her and ask her about stuff. It was really helpful and she she spent a lot of time with me talking about it.

I probably did a little too much on the way it's treated – I could tell you anything about how it's treated – and then I realised I've probably gone too far. But YouTube was really good for watching how people have panic attacks, because it's the physicality of it that you need.

There's this scene for Jem when she's at school and it's when her PTSD goes full-blown, and we had this scene where Jem pees herself; she loses control of her bladder – thanks Dom! - and it was really interesting to film. They put this rig on me which looks like a saline bag on a drip, and it was all wired up and there was this lever you pulled and it made me pee. That was really interesting to do. That's been a highlight! (laughs).

On how Jem is involved with the new characters...

She doesn't have much involvement with Simon, she is going to have some involvement with Maxine, from what Dom's hinted to me...

There's a character called Charlotte, when Jem goes back to school, and Jem's out of her comfort zone because she's nineteen and they're all younger than her. Those years make a difference. The Charlotte character takes her under her wing with these three girls and Jem talks about being in the HVF and they find it really cool, but Charlotte's got an ulterior motive...

And Gary (the gun) and Jem are going to have a storyline together!

On the future of In The Flesh...

It'd be exciting to see where it would go. There's always that thing where you think 'Could this go...?'. Even last year people were like 'Where would this go next?', and then as soon as it's written you're like 'Oh of course it goes there! That's exactly how it should go', and that's so cool. You wouldn't think of it, obviosuly you wouldn't. Dom's mind is too big for it to stop here, I think. But then who knows? I'm not one of the bosses so I don't really have any control, do I! I think it could go on for a long time yet and I think it's worthy of that. 

Harriet Cains, thank you very much!

In The Flesh series 2 starts on Sunday the 4th of May at 10pm on BBC Three.

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I'm sure Harriet is a lovely young lady, but the character Jem sux. All of series 2 she made horrible decisions and then reacted like an idiot. Yeah, she had trauma, so fukking what. One of the show's biggest azzholez.

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