In the tense new thriller Penance, running over three nights this week, Julie Graham, as Rosalie, faces every parent’s nightmare. Police arrive late at night with the shocking news that her son Rob has drowned while travelling in Thailand.
The tragedy of losing a child can bring a couple closer, but for many the trauma tears them apart. It’s soon apparent that there are serious issues within Rosalie’s marriage to Luke, played by Neil Morrissey.
And Julie, whose long list of credits includes At Home with the Braithwaites, William and Mary, and Benidorm, loved the chance to act out the fractured relationship with co-star Neil, who’s an old pal. ‘I’ve known Neil for ever,’ she says.
‘Because we know each other so well we had a shorthand, which is nice. And because we are playing a husband and wife with a tricky relationship, to have that shorthand was great.’
Rosalie and her daughter Maddie (Tallulah Greive) find some comfort at a bereavement group, where they meet Jed (Nico Mirallegro), an orphan mourning his gran.
He quickly becomes a rock for the family, but as his interest in Rosalie grows, it appears that the seemingly saintly Jed isn’t all he seems…
‘Yeah, it gets a bit mad!’ laughs Julie, who in real life married second husband Davy last October and is mum to teenage daughters Edie and Cyd. She’s not giving away how the suspenseful story pans out, but she does admit that just reading the first script got her hooked. ‘I rang my agent and said “Yes!”’, she says.
‘Parts like that don’t come along very often for women of my age. Work has definitely trailed off since I hit 50. I’m sent scripts and if there’s a woman over 50 in it, there’s only one. There’s one part and we are all up for it. So it’s limited, but I’ve hung on in there.’
There’s a twinkle in her eye as forthright Julie makes it clear that the acting industry still needs to wake up to the potential of women her age.
‘There are still a lot of dinosaurs in the business.. there needs to be an Ice Age, so we can get rid of them all, so the new generation can come up,’ she says. ‘It’s getting better, there are more women writing, commissioning, behind the camera. It just needs to speed up a bit or I will be too old to capitalise on it!’
Julie Graham: My favourite roles and co-stars
‘I’d say William and Mary was probably my favourite job, because I’ve got such fond memories of it,' says Julie. 'Martin Clunes is my favourite male co-star ever.
'I was pregnant during filming, so I had Edie on that job and it was just a great time. It was also the first time I’d played a big lead in something.
'But I loved The Bletchley Circle, just because of the women, we had such a hoot. Rachael Stirling is hilarious, and Anna Maxwell Martin and Sophie Rundle… I don’t know how we ever got any work done!’
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