DESPITE tropical heatwaves, long hours and vicious mosquito bites, Indian Summers star Jemima West still reckons she’s landed the best job on TV.
Ask what Indian Summers star Jemima West misses most when she’s on location and the actress, who spends six months a year in the sweltering Malaysian heat, doesn’t hesitate.
“I miss fresh air, wearing a coat and feeling the breeze in the evening,” sighs London-based Jemima. “In Penang, the sun sets and rises at the same time every day, but I do miss the seasons. There’s something quite comforting about it.”
With the second series of the 1930s-set drama on our screens and Jemima now back in the UK, she admits she’s relishing the simple joys of home.
“I’m enjoying the cold and wearing multiple layers,” laughs the 28 year old. That said, Jemima is quick to lavish praise on the series and feels privileged to be a part of it.
“I feel incredibly lucky and I really hope it will be renewed for a third. I’d like to delve deeper into the character of my character, Alice Whelan – even if the heat doesn’t get any easier to handle!”
The toughest scene to shoot this time round was the finale where things between Alice and her husband Charlie Havistock (Blake Ritson) come to a dramatic head. Careful not to give any spoilers, she’s only at liberty to say that temperatures soared to 100-plus degrees and they were in a car which, true to the period, had no air conditioning.
“People in the crew were fainting because it was so hot, so I’m proud we got through that,” says Jemima, who has been acting professionally since the age of 12 and came to fame in The Borgias TV series and The Mortal Instruments movie.
The heat aside, she loves playing feisty Alice. In the first series, believing her husband to be dead, we saw her arrive in India with her young son in tow to start a new life. She fell for Parsi clerk Aafrin (Nikesh Patel) but her still-alive husband has now turned up and he’s up to all sorts of manipulative tricks.
“So she’s trying to live her relationship as freely as possible while very much treading on eggshells,” Jemima explains of where we find Alice this weekend. “She’s constantly being spied upon by Charlie, or rather he’s paid the housemaid to spy on her.”
In tomorrow’s episode, Alice finally decides to take a stand against her abusive husband because, the actress explains, “She’s at a turning point where she has to decide what she wants to do, because this can’t go on much longer.”
This year has seen new additions to the cast like Muriel’s Wedding star Rachel Griffiths as the Maharaja’s mistress Sirene. Jemima is a fan of the Australian actress, though doesn’t get much screen time with her.
“But she seemed to be enjoying herself and it’s nice when you have actors come in who’ve seen the show and want to be a part of it. It makes you feel you’re involved in a fantastic piece of work and it’s flattering that others want to come on board.”
She does, however, have more scenes with Julie Walters, who is back as formidable British Club proprietor Cynthia Coffin. “You can tell she’s having fun and loves her job,” the younger star says of the multiple Bafta winner. “She’s uplifting to be around.”
Jemima is happy flitting between period and contemporary dramas. “I like doing contemporary stuff because I love wearing jeans,” she laughs. “But with period dramas you get to dive into a different world.”
Jemima was spotted with her co-star Nikesh Patel at the BBC Breakfast Studios in Manchester, UK on march 8, 2016. I have added 10 photos to the gallery, enjoy! Please credit our site if you repost, thanks
A lot has changed for Alice, where do we find her at the start of season 2?
Well three years have gone by and Alice is still in India, not in the place we thought we’d left her. She’s married to a man who no one knows is her actual husband that she left behind three years prior to that. He has come back and they are raising their son together and Alice has had no choice to get back together with him or she will be shipped off back to England or left in India without her son so she’s made the decision to stay in India with her son and try to face the relationship with her husband which is growing bitterly harder by the day.
Speaking of your husband, he’s not that nice of a person is he…
No! He puts on a very charming persona so he’s managed to woo over everyone in Simla but the way he exerts his power is in front of Alice and more and more so at home in front of Alice and her brother ralph and Madeline, her brother’s wife, and he just starts making life a nightmare as time goes by. The more she tries to escape from that the harder it becomes and the more trapped she is.
Blake Ritson plays your husband in the show – he plays sinister very well…
Oh yes he’s quite Machiavellic in the way he portrays him, he makes him unbelievably cruel with a constant smile on his face so that makes him even nastier I guess.
Was it weird playing scenes where he is so horrible to you? Was it hard to play that?
Well Blake is the loveliest most charming person to work with he’s an absolute delight so obviously when we’re acting we’re acting – we switch on the acting button and get down to business but it was actually quite enjoyable because we really had a good connection acting wise and it was great fun. I do know that there were a couple of scenes which I know were slightly trickier and Blake came up and apologised quite a few times afterwards which was very lovely but completely unnecessary because he’s such a nice human being as opposed to his character.
How does Ralph cope with all of this – seeing his sister this way?
Ralph has a lot on his mind, he’s sort of aware of it but he also has got a lot to deal with it. He finds it quite unbearable but he’s also tied to Charlie because Charlie works for a bank that owes Ralph some money so he’s trapped in a different way to Alice, but still trapped by him in that and can’t exactly speak his mind or do as he pleases when Charlie is around so we all have to bear with it and grin and plough on until it reaches a point of no return.
Alice and Ralph have a weirdly ambiguous relationship you could say – what’s your take on that?
It’s definitely portrayed that way in the first season but as time has passed they’ve grown slightly more distant and more accustomed to one another so tis not as clear as it was to start with partly because three years later they have more preoccupations and have turned more outwards for their mother but there remains a huge strong very intense bond which makes them inseparable whatever happens, so even when things become harder for one of them and they grow more distant they still have an eye on each other and take care of each other.
You have some key scenes with Julie this series – what was it like to act with her?
Well Julie is just fantastic, in the way you hope and imagine she’s going to be she has the most amazing energy, she walks on set so well prepared but she gives herself the space for fun as well I think that’s what makes her amazing, she’s a very hard worker but she’s also very entertaining and she’s a lovely presence to have a round she makes things seem effortlessly easy, she’s beaming and wonderful!
Did it feel easier and more natural filming series 2?
I think that happens when you go back for a second series, you know your character so when you read the script you get a sense of what makes sense and what doesn’t so we were in a positon where if a line or scene didn’t make sense we were able to say ‘that’s not quite right I think Alice would do it this way or that way’ so in that sense its easier because were more familiar with it but I think the beauty of Paul’s writing is that he’s constantly challenging his characters so its comfortable because we know them but its not comfortable as were always on our toes having new storylines to play out. I’d say its familiar which helps but we’re always faced with novelty and a surprise or two coming our way.
As you’re away filming for 5 or 6 months at a time do you all become dependent on each other?
Well we’ve built a very strong group when we went out last year and all in all over the past year and a half we would have spent a year together so we definitely have a strong bond which is much need. Were out there without our families and close ones so it’s a necessity but also we were very lucky and that’s all down to our producers and creative team who have gathered a group of people that all get a long, even though were all very different. We’re out there working or playing cards or eating pizza and going on little trips together so its absolutely fundamental to have people out there that you can rely on or it would make the job very hard.
What are the best and worst things about filming in Malaysia?
The best things are discovering a new place as an actor I love going to a new country and living a new experience alongside working alongside a new project and new role – it’s a wonderful place to be and to travel around on time off so I’ve explored quite a few countries in South East Asia which before I hadn’t done at all. Downsides are heat and insects – your daily routine becomes so different – I apply sun cream then anti-mosquito spray and then anti-mosquito cream as I’ve been bitten already! The humidity is very hard to cope with and the pollution as Penang is very developed. We all have fantastic pictures of spiders and cockroaches and weird mosquitos that can pass on diseases but you sort of get used to it. When you get home and think ah I don’t have to check for all of these things it’s because you’re in Europe and they don’t exist here!
What are your tips for coping in the heat?
Honestly, I guess you get used to it but there’s not much that you can do other than discover the pleasures of air con. I’ve always hated it but air conditioned rooms and electric fans especially for all the boys in their three piece suits! We have mechanically built fans that Doris in our costume department built – she saved us all! And then just trying to sat in the shade – drink water but it doesn’t make it that much easier it’s still very hard to deal with.
Do the costumes make it worse?
I’m alright as Alice wears lots of flowy dresses and skirts so there is room for air and occasionally we’ll have props like a little parasol but its mainly the boys as they have really heave linen suits, sometimes dark filming in the blazing heat in the height of the day it can be quite tricky. For girls I can’t complain much, the only thing I have a problem with is the high heels, wearing trainers is far more comfortable!
I read that you found a Waitrose out there is that true?
Ah yes they did have something, as Penang’s very developed there’s lots of expats there so obviously they’ve adapted to European needs who need home comforting foods and they have a shop called Cold Storage that sells lots of Waitrose products so you can pick up your favourite cereal and snacks when you feel homesick!
(Source Channel 4)