What was the attraction of Indian Summers?
I loved how there are so many stories going on in Indian Summers, including Alice’s own journey. I really got a sense of atmosphere and period and exoticism. I got caught up in it completely.
The exoticism and atmosphere must have increased tenfold when you got on set.
You imagine it, but then you get to the place, to Penang and these amazing locations – places that had been restored for the series – and it definitely helps to bring the story to life. We also flew to Borneo to film on a proper 1920s train…
There’s a lot of mystery to Alice when we first meet her.
Absolutely. Unlike most women in the Raj, Alice comes back to India by choice and alone apart from her baby. It’s not a normal situation and Alice hasn’t quite decided what she’s going to reveal to people and what she wants to keep secret. She knows she wants to leave England and the boring, unfulfilling suburban life she’s been leading. She’s desperate to get back to India and the memories she has of growing up there, but doesn’t quite know what’s going to happen once she gets there.
Does anyone know why she’s come to India?
She tells her brother, Ralph [Henry Lloyd-Hughes], that she’s been mistreated by her husband and had to leave. She knows Ralph’s instinct is to protect her. However, one or two other characters start enquiring – especially Sarah [Fiona Glascott] – and that’s when trouble begins. Then she faces the dilemma of telling the truth and the subsequent risk of being expelled from the society she’s only just been accepted by…
How would you describe her relationship with Ralph?
They haven’t seen each other in years, so there’s something very childlike about it. There’s lots of teasing and playing. But there’s also this very strong adult bond. They’re the only two surviving members of the family, so there’s this immense love and devotion that can, to others, seem slightly excessive. They’re like animals, sniffing around each other, and you never know whether a line might be crossed somewhere.
How much did you know about the era?
I had a little knowledge that grew as the weeks went by. It’s been fascinating – I love working on period pieces because you get to learn so much. Some of the characters say things that seem outrageous today but were commonplace then. Indian Summers places all that in the context of the time, so you watch the series and ask questions. That’s why I think this series will appeal, because people know a little about the story, but perhaps not the whole story.
What were the major challenges of filming in Malaysia?
Being far from home for six months is quite a challenge, but it was made easier because we were surrounded by an amazing team. The heat and the wildlife meant it wasn’t the typical filming experience, but that environment was what made it possible – you could never fake that.
Did you have any adventures while you were out there?
Some of the cast went on this crazy trek, all kitted out to walk an hour and a half to this amazing beach, see the monkeys, drink coconut milk and admire the view. We decided not to get a boat back and walk instead, which is when a mega-monsoon hit, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Afterwards we were soaking wet and some phones got destroyed. But it was a complete bonding experience for all of us!