The new spice girls: Meet the five young actresses set to sizzle in the hottest new show on the box, Indian Summers
As period drama Indian Summers prepares to steam up our TV screens, Daphne Lockyer meets the young stars of the hottest new show on the box
THE RISK-TAKER: JEMIMA WEST
Jemima, 27, plays Alice, who was born in India, then sent to boarding school in England. She married and had a child there but wasn’t happy, so she headed back to India with her baby. She’s staying with her brother, Ralph Whelan – and the two appear at times to be unnaturally close. ‘They adore each other, but Alice is going to discover that her brother has some deep flaws,’ says the actress. Alice is also going to shock Simla society, too, with a passionate, forbidden, mixed-race relationship.
Alice and Ralph are each other’s only family, so it’s an intense bond. The boundaries are pretty blurred and there’s an undeniable attraction that’s always on the brink. When I read the script I thought. ‘Have they? Will they!?’ It’s a fine line.
Alice is drawn to difficult relationships. And because mixed-race relationships are socially unacceptable, her instant connection with an Indian man she encounters by chance is impossibly hard. It’s also like a first love because the emotions are so raw and intense they overwhelm her. She almost forgets the risk she’s taking.
The love scenes weren’t too explicit. But, then, I was in a French drama about prostitutes called Maison Close – and nothing would seem challenging after that!
I wasn’t sure I wanted to work away from home for five months – until I read the script. Then, I thought, ‘I love this.’ I came to an audition in London from Paris, where I live, and thought, ‘If I don’t get this role, I’m really screwed.’ I wanted it so much. When I was finally cast I threw a big party.
I’m happy that filming brought so many new friends. You’re working in a different world, with snakes and bugs all over the place – including an acid beetle that can burn your skin! Often we were stuck inside because it was the middle of the monsoon, so we’d order a pizza, open a bottle of wine and play a game of Uno.
The English cast were banned from sunbathing. The parts required us to stay milk white. So no lying by the pool on days off!
My clothes in the show are amazing. Every stitch was created by costume designer Nic Ede and his team, from beautiful fabrics sourced in Malaysia.
I have a dual cultural identity. I was born in France, lived in the UK until I was five and then my mum and dad – a teacher and an interpreter – took me and my three younger siblings back to Paris. I’m bilingual, of course. I did a history of art degree at the Sorbonne, but at home we speak English.
My background has given me adaptability…and wanderlust. I visited Japan and Cambodia during breaks in filming. Next up is India!
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I have added 4 scans from Mail On Sunday: Event Magazine to the gallery
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!
(source Channel 4)
Jemima West attended the Launch of Channel 4’s new period drama ‘Indian Summers’ at The Arts Club on January 27, 2015 in London, England. I have added some pictures to the gallery
I have added 2 stills from Kidnapping Mr. Heineken to the gallery. Thanks Kimberly for these pictures!