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Suranne Jones talks about Gentleman Jack | BFI + Radio Times TV Festival 2019

Suranne Jones talks about Gentleman Jack | BFI + Radio Times TV Festival 2019


– Hello, I’m delighted to be speaking to Sally and Suranne today about Gentleman Jack, which is fantastic. I’ve seen the first episode. It’s great. But I think the best
place to start, really, would be with a clip, so that you can all meet Anne
Lister for the first time, so can we play the first clip, please? – I want to go watch it. (all laugh) – Suranne, what kind of
driving skills do you need for something like that? – You need to be sat in front of a car that you’re actually driving and there’s no horses. So, there was a lot of whip action. I was taught a lot of whip action, but actually, you’d been on set all day, and then you brought me on, because you were doing all the first bits, and then you brought me on and
I kind of just clambered up and down that carriage
like it was my carriage. For some reason, I just got on with it, didn’t I? – Like it was yours? – I felt like it was mine, yeah. So, I think by that point, we’d been filming for a good month or so. Longer, maybe, and I was in the rhythm of Anne Lister, so I was quite physical. I was like, yeah, let’s do this. Give me the horse, give me
the whip, I’m good to go. – Sally, this isn’t quite the
opening scene of this series, but it’s the first time that we meet Anne. – Yeah, it is our
introduction to Anne Lister. – Why choose that? What does that say about Anne? – Well, I always think very
long and hard about entrances. Entrances are very important. It’s like you only get one
chance to make a first impression so it was really important
to introduce Anne Lister as someone extremely unusual. For me, it was like the
passenger landing the aeroplane. Anne Lister driving the high flyer. And we know that she could drive. She told a friend that she
could drive stagecoaches, or mails, as they were called then. Bit of poetic licence there, but only a bit, because we
know that she could do it. We know that she was a very capable, well, capable at many things, but certainly she could
drive horses like that. – If a little nauseating
for the passengers, by the looks of it. – I think whoever would be driving, it would probably be
nauseating in those days. – I remember hearing the
stuntwoman had gone up the curb, and it was a mistake, and I remember hearing that Sally had gone that’s it, that’s what we want, and then she had to repeat this thing, repeat the mistake.
– It was great. I’d shot a scene similar to
that before into Walk Invisible, and they wouldn’t let me put
20 people on the carriage, and I wanted as many people as I could on top of the carriage, so we had long, long conversations
with the stunt people about whether we could legally do that and how to achieve it. (audience laughs) And when we went ’round that corner, Karen, the stunt driver, I mean, she’s a really
fantastic horsewoman. She drove the carriage, the hearse when Richard III was reburied, so she’s a very, very
prestigious horsewoman, and she was all for it. But Angie, the script supervisor, she said that it was
gonna fall over that time. It was literally going… (audience laughs) As it went over that bump. You did actually really, I mean, it was being
pulled by a Range Rover, but you were up there doing it. (audience laughs)
– Yeah, yeah. – Don’t know if we
should be telling people the trade secrets. – I would be scared myself. I would have been scared to do that. And jumping down like that. But you were owning things, weren’t you? Just like you were Anne Lister. – I’m used to jumping in, and I had my different
corset on at that point. (audience laughs) – So, how many corsets did you have? – Well, so, because she, as
you may see in other clips as you watch the series, she does a lot of walking, she does a lot of jumping, she climbs up things. She’s very, very physical, but I started to get welts, ’cause underneath all that
costume, there’s the corset, and then we built on top. I had so many clothes on,
and this summer was very hot. So, this corset, I
started to get welts here and welts down the bottom, because you shouldn’t behave
like Anne Lister behaves whilst wearing a corset, so our designer, Tom Pye, who was predominantly a
theatre opera designer, said oh, well, our ballet
dancers have powernet corsets, and I said that sounds great. I want one of those. I didn’t know what it
was, but it sounded great, and it basically gives you leeway here so that you can bend and stretch and do all the things
that I do as Anne Lister, like ripping up trees. At one point, she pulls a fir
tree out of her own garden, which is quite something. So, once I got the better
corset, I was good. – So, you had to have
the costume re-designed to do all of the amazing
things that she did. – Yeah.
– Yeah. – Yeah, went to a chiropractor. Got new corsets, I was sorted. (all laugh) – It’s glamorous, though, isn’t it? Sally, you directed this scene. You directed four of the eight episodes. It gives some sense of the
scale of the production. It’s a period drama, there’s animals. There’s everything
you’re not supposed to do for a kind of easy life. So, how did you get on with
that big, massive production? – Well, I have a very capable
first assistant, Nathan, but even he admitted that on that day, and another day when we had a
lot of carriages and horses, that he was scared and he’d never done anything
quite on that scale before. Because it’s a big production and there were lots of things we were doing for the first time, because you’d never driven
horses like that before, had you? – No, no. – We were just having to
sort of embrace the challenge and run with it, and it was exciting. I always felt like Anne
Lister was smiling down on us, though, because these things,
however challenging they were, they all seemed to go very
well at the end of the day. – Was that the one where there
was supposed to be a cow? – There was a cow. Yeah, it ran off. (all laugh) Yeah, yeah. We did have a stunt cow. (audience laughs) It wasn’t playing ball with me. I think it was frightened. I think we had something like
10 horses on set that day. – [Rebecca] It’s a lot of horses. – I don’t know if it all went too fast, but there were two high flyers both have four horses pulling each of them and they crossed in the street, and then there was
another horse rearing up. That’s nine. And there was another one as well. And a cow, yeah. – And a cow. But the cow did a runner. (Sally laughs) The cow was camera-shy. Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of Gentleman Jack, because Sally, for you, this has been a kind of passion project, and it’s been an idea that
you’ve had for 20 years or more. How did you first come across Anne Lister? – Well, I grew up in Halifax, so I was always aware of Shibden Hall. It was somewhere I always
visited as a child, but I didn’t become aware of Anne Lister probably till sometime in the ’90s. I became aware that
this extraordinary woman that owned Shibden Hall, I can’t even use the word extraordinary. Just became aware that somebody intriguing and unusual had owned Shibden Hall, and I couldn’t find things out about her. This was before the Internet. It’s before you could just order
a book like that on Amazon, and I asked a friend of mine. I was living down south at the time, so I asked a friend of
mine who still lived there if she could do some finding-out for me. She would go into the archives, go up to Shibden, just find out a little bit
more about who this woman was, and this is my friend Tabitha. It transpired that Tabitha’s mum at been at Greenham Common will Jill Liddington, and Jill had written a
book about Anne Lister, so Tabitha just said, oh,
I’ll send you Jill’s book. So, it was when I read
Jill’s book, Female Fortune, that just got this huge hit
of the Anne Lister world. I’d always felt like I had
a connection to Shibden. I love Shibden Hall. It’s the most sublime place on Earth, and then to find out that this extraordinary woman had owned it was… It was wonderful, and straightaway, I really felt that I wanted to
dramatise this woman’s life. That she’s such an extraordinary woman. There’s almost to much to say about her. I pitched it probably first
to a broadcaster about 2003, and no one was interested at all, but it never went away, so I went away and wrote other shows and that sort of thing, but I was always working on the diaries. I was always going back to the diaries. I was able to do my own
little bit of transcription, trying to develop it again. And then I think it
was after Happy Valley, Charlotte at the BBC asked
me what I wanted to do next, and it was the first time I’d been asked what I wanted to do next. I think I pitched about five ideas, and she said, what do you want to do else, and I said Anne Lister. And that’s how it finally got greenlit. – And you’ve written shows with Suranne at least three times, three times before. What made you think that
Suranne was your Anne Lister? Because you’ve had this
idea of her for so long. – Well, I think Suranne came to read, because HBO, I mean, normally, you
wouldn’t ask Suranne to read. You just–
– I do get asked to read. (audience laughing) – Just offer her a part. But because HBO were involved, they specified that we
had to ask people to read. It was just the way Suranne came in and it was just extraordinary, because I’ve never been able to see Anne Lister in my mind’s eye. There were three portraits of Anne Lister, and they don’t all agree with
each other, these portraits, and it’s very difficult to… I’ve never had a three-dimensional
image of Anne Lister and I couldn’t see her. I’ve never been able to see her, and then Suranne came in, and just, really, just knocked it out of the park. It was just this extraordinary… It’s the mental and physical energy that I think you have hugely
in common with Anne Lister. Anne Lister had more
mental and physical energy than she knew what to do with, and I think when you came and
you got that straightaway, and–
– Nervous. I was nervous. (laughs) – Had you heard of Anne
Lister before this? – So, I’d known Sally for
about 10 years, I think, and so, you know, in my head, I
think that I’d seen a script. Would you ever have sent
me a script years ago? Or maybe you just talked about it. – I think we just talked ad nauseam (all laugh) about Anne Lister. I don’t think there was– – There wasn’t like an early
script or something, but– – Well, there was, but I can’t remember. – Maybe we just chatted a lot. So, I’d heard a little bit. My first agent was in
Halifax at Dean Clough Mill, so I knew of Shibden a little bit, but then, I mean, so 10 years, not heard, forgot, whatever, and then my agent said you’ve
got to look at these scripts, and then they want you to go in and read, and ’cause obviously, I’ve done Sally’s shows with her writing, but never directing, so I was like, right, okay. So, I learned some scenes, but I remember that day, I’d
been to Buckingham Palace, to, like you do– (audience laughs) But the point being is,
I never wear skirts, or heels or, you know, I’m
not really a girly-girl, but that particular day, just as you’re auditioning for someone who’s not really a girly-girl, I walked in with heels and a skirt and a quite a pretty blouse thing on, and was like, oh, shit. I thought, this is not a good look. Could I have got ready? I remember you coming in. Do you not remember? – I remember you saying I’m
going to take me shoes off. – Yeah, because they were
killing me by that point, and then you said, I’m
sorry you’re reading, but I thought it was a good thing to do for such a big part, anyway, and also, for us kind of
getting our chemistry. We hadn’t seen each other for a while, but as soon as Sally started
talking about Anne Lister and the scenes, I was like, oh, okay, but you did say I don’t know who I’m going to get to play this part, and you listed off a
million things about her that this actress would
need to be to play her, and then you went, anyway,
would you fancy having a read? I was just like, oh, God. Okay. The important thing about this and the development of our relationship and my relationship to Anne, because then, obviously,
my research began, which was a huge thing, but I think, you probably agree, that when you chose me, you were thinking I
was a work in progress, because sometimes you get the part because you just are the finished product and you can then kind of
start to spin your plates and work on the dialogue, but I think whoever you would
have got needed to then go, right, we’ll start here,
she’s got the potential to, and then we worked on me
to get me to where I was, because I don’t think you could have ever have given the part to
someone who was done. Fully cooked.
– But I think what was interesting that day was, for me, as I say, I’ve never been able to
picture in my mind’s eye and then suddenly I could. I could see that you could do it, and I think I’d written
about four episodes by then, and for me, it really helps when I know who’s playing the part. It helps to visualise someone, and even if I don’t know that person, if it doesn’t end up being
that person, it helps, so when you did the audition that day, the writing just took off. It was brilliant and fantastic. We did rehearse quite a lot, didn’t we? ‘Cause you don’t get enough
time to rehearse in telly ever, and I’d asked for longer, so we used to meet for a couple of hours once a fortnight over quite
a long period of time, and just talking about her
and developing the mannerisms. – Because it’s quite a
physical transformation. Even her walk, it’s very fast and it’s very kind of strident. – Yeah, I’ve only just lost that. (all laugh) It’s like, my husband’s
here somewhere, but yeah, you kind of stick with things, so, yeah, she walks very fast, and Sully would always say walk quicker. I’m like, the camera’s
not even gonna see me, I’m walking that quick. Yeah, I know, but we need the energy, which it became, for you, something that really
moved the show along. So, I was shattered by
the end of eight months, but it just added to the way that it drove the story along in the end, and the mannerisms and the mms, and the– – Yeah, we talked a lot
about mm, the voice, as well as the walk, and the manners. It was really fun. Just brilliant ideas like that I did that she just gets a bit close to people and she’s always checking people out. By the end of a conversation
with Anne Lister, you’ve talked to her for 10 minutes and she knows what
you’ve had for breakfast and what your dog’s called, and without telling, even a bit Sherlock Holmes
in that she’d pick up lots of odd bits of information just by sort of looking
someone up and down and getting a bit too close to them. – And the more we spent time together, the more we were falling in love with Anne Lister as a person, and then you just want to get on set, and then you want to do more, and then you want to do more, and eventually, you’ve got to say, right, let’s leave all that, and
let’s just do the scene, but I think that… And we sat together a lot and said aren’t we lucky to be doing this, because we were filming in
Anne Lister’s actual house, which blows your mind, but I remember that we were both, throughout the whole eight months, it was hard work, it was exhausting, but we always felt very, very grateful and had that bond of this is good. We’re really humbled by
the experience, I think, which helps keep it… – There wasn’t a day that
passed that I didn’t think, God, I am so lucky. I am the luckiest person on the planet. And then being in her house. I mean, you said that. Just being in the house. Couple of times, you
were kind of like, weird. – Yeah, weird.
– It just struck you occasionally how wonderful
it was that we were there doing this thing. – Should we see inside of the house? Should we watch the second clip? – Can I go stand over there again? – Yeah, you go and take your– – Guys, I’m worried I’m in the way. (audience applauding) That speech was about
a page and a half long. – I was going to ask Suranne how you felt when you got that through. – Oh, shit? (all laugh) So, at the read-through, that sounded like… I mean, it just sounded
like an idiot was saying it at the read-through, ’cause I couldn’t even get, I was like what? I couldn’t make sense of it, and then– – [Sally] What’s a corf? – Yeah, exactly. What’s a corf, what’s a
shilling, how much is what? – What is a corf? For the uninitiated. – It’s a little… It’s a tub about that big,
that long, by about that wide, on wheels that they put coal in and then trundle it out of the mine on. (all laugh) – So, I think with anything like that, you have to take the information and then you have to
learn the information, just kind of make sure that
you absolutely know that so then you can have fun with it and then you can start spinning plates and put
the character back into it. So, I think with that one, I just wrote it out and I had it pinned on walls. I just kept looking at it, so then by the day, I could. And everyone was so nice
because we had to shoot that quite a lot of times, didn’t we? Just because you had to get
everyone’s reaction for it and then the wides and whatever. And I think with period, you tend to shoot more than
you would contemporary. So, yeah, by the end of the
day, everyone hugged me on-set, and it nearly took a day, didn’t it? To shoot, I think. – It was a big-old scene
to shoot, yeah, yeah. – Is it still in there now, do you think? – No way. I’m watching it going hmm. Good. It’s like, glad that’s in the
bag, but as were were in– – [Rebecca] Never again. – Never again. No, in fact, Shaun Dooley, who I’ve worked with about five times, said, all right, mate. It’s me again. I bet you like seeing
me, because we’re mates, but I bet you think, oh,
shit, it’s the coal stuff. Every time he came on-set, I’d speak to him like that and I just literally
wiped the floor with him, and it’s all coal stuff, isn’t it? Except maybe one scene,
which is slightly less, but it’s usually, I just
run rings ’round him. So, yeah. And he’s great. He’s just lovely to be
around, so, you know, the support of other actors. I had a lots of mates
come in onto this show, so it was great. – Sally, the coal stuff, how did you know there was
such entertainment value to be had in the coal
industry in Halifax in 1832? – What was exciting about Anne Lister was that she was going into a man’s world. She knew her estate was
valuable because of the coal and she wasn’t gonna give it away. She was going to make money out of it, and it’s just something women didn’t do, so, obviously, that’s
gonna be a good storyline that she does run rings around people. She’s 3/4 of everyone else,
including Jeremiah Rawson. What was hard about extrapolating
the story about the coal from the journals, which I did in the end, it’s a consistent story that
goes across the whole series, in the journals, she gives
you a lot of information, like all that. That is pretty much direct
from the journal, that speech. I didn’t have to invent a lot. But the problem is she tells you so much and not quite enough, because she knows most of it herself, so while she gives this fantastic detail, like, I didn’t know what a corf was. The first time I’m transcribing that, I don’t know what she’s on about. And again, because it’s a
journal, it’s not a novel, it’s not a story. It’s not got a beginning,
a middle, and an end, so the coal references in the journal don’t have a beginning,
a middle, and an end. It’s just an ongoing record
of what she’s done that day and what she said, so, I had to construct a story from not quite enough information. I mean, we did quite a lot of research and we got a guy on-board
who knows a lot about mining in Yorkshire in the 1830s. I hope it’s an entertaining story. – I bet he was surprised
that he was being called up to consult on a BBC One drama. – Yeah, well, he was
fascinated about the subject, but it was filling in holes where she just doesn’t tell
you quite enough all the time, so for me, it was filling in gaps. – And you really get a sense
of her intellectual force in that scene. How do you think she was
able to operate in that world as a woman at that time. Do you think it was by
force of her personality? – She was phenomenally
intelligent, Anne Lister. She was fascinated by the
world and everything in it. She was really curious. She loved information. She read as prolifically as she wrote. She could absorb complex information. She could turn it ’round very quickly, and she could utilise it very quickly. In a way, what you see in the storyline at the beginning of the episode, she talks to James Holt about mining. She picks up a lot of
information very quickly and then towards the end of the episode, she could turn it ’round and do that. So it was just trying
to dramatise this woman who can really turn the
information around quickly and use it very effectively. – And we saw shabby little Shibden there. It doesn’t look too shabby,
but Suranne, was this– – [Suranne] She’s a snob. She’s a total snob, yeah. – But did it really
give you something to be on in her actual house, because I can’t imagine it
was the easiest place to film. – We were allowed some places and then other places had to
be recreated in the studio because the floors wouldn’t have taken the cameras and stuff, but right from our very
first visit six months before we started filming, probably. So, Sully introduced me to
Shibden and the grounds, and then all of Anne Lister’s, you took me right up to
where the coal mines were, where I’m walking out of her house and we really stomped the ground, so I felt like I was just a part of it. There’s a scene where she says that she’s going to re-landscape
the whole of Shibden and then, of course, being on Shibden, and my son was two at the time, we used to go there, ’cause it’s a lovely, there’s a calf there and
there’s a boating lake and there’s a kids play park. So, my husband or my nanny and
my son could come and visit and then go to the park. Just being there was great, and he ended up calling it Mummy’s Park rather than Shibden Park. I was like, quite right. Yeah, let’s go to Mummy’s park. (audience laughs) And we built the chaumière on the land, which was a little shed, as Marian would call it, that she built for Ann Walker, so we built that in the ground, so it was lovely. It was really magical, but I remember, there was a land train, with tourists on get taken ’round, and this is the Shibden, and this is this, and this is the boating lake. So, I get a bit hemmed in, so at lunchtime you’re supposed to get where everyone can see you. You’re supposed to get in the car and get taken down away
from the public down to… I’m like, no, I’m fine. I’ll walk down the middle, it’s fine. And so I became like
a bit of an attraction for the land train. (audience laughs) Waving at the people on the land train. So, they were just like, is that? Yeah, that’s Suranne Jones. She’s playing Anne Lister and
she should be in, you know, but, I just felt like it was, I’d go straight down and get my lunch. – I hope you got an extra fee for that. – No, no, I probably got an extra sausage or something like that on my lunch. – Sally, how did you get
permission to film at Shibden Hall? Because it’s the first time, isn’t it, that they’ve let it be used? – I think they’ve got a really, the people who run Shibden
now are very can-do. They’re very, just very user-friendly. Well, and they were very
excited about the project. In the past, people
haven’t been quite as open and excited about it, but they are now, and I think they realised it would hopefully be good for them. So, they were great. They were very supportive and they made everything available to us. The only bits we couldn’t film at Shibden were in Anne’s bedroom
and in Anne’s office, just ’cause the fabric
of the building upstairs is so delicate, so everything downstairs is real. And, again, it just added
to the quality of the show that we could follow. We used Steadicam a lot,
obviously, to keep up with Suranne, because walking so fast (audience laughs) which, again, gave a real energy that we’re often behind and we’re often following
her from room to room, right from outside through the barn through the courtyard, through the house. So, it gave us a real… I just think you get a really strong sense that that house is such a character and it really comes across on-screen. Yeah, they were great to work with. They were wonderful. – Should we go back into the house and look at the final clip, and let’s see Anne with her family and how she eats with her family. Suranne, how much time
did you spend arguing with Gemma Whelan? – Well, Gemma is so funny, naturally, so kind, so supportive, so good to be on set with, so generous. Like, she spends all the time
saying, that was really good. That was really good. She’s just a joy to be around, so I think because we got on so well, and I have a little one and
she has a little one as well, so we just bonded. You can then be as horrible
to each other as you like, because you’ve got a nice friendship. But how much time we spent around that table was more to the point, so, all our family… So, universally, everyone
can see that that’s, you know, you can relate
to your own family. Sat a round on a Sunday or whatever and, you know, or at Christmas, whether you love or hate them, which is what Sally does amazingly. She kind of roots us in this
really dysfunctional family and but the thing is, Sally always wanted the authenticity of us talking over each other and passing things and dropping
things out of our mouths, and once you’ve got that set, you then have to repeat
it a million times, and those two older actors there, as well, that, you know, sometimes you
have to get it done quicker than if we’d have younger
actors ’round the table. So, it was quite a
challenge, but always fun. I mean, could be a nightmare at times because of the amount of times you have to go ’round the thing, but really, on the
whole, I like those days. They were just fun, fun days. – She was great throughout
the dinner shoot. I also got the feeling that, there was this joke that she was always trying to upstage you in the way that Marian would
always try to upstage Anne and just never, ever could, because how could you upstage Anne Lister? And she started doing these
looks to camera, Gemma, and we ended up using them,
because I’d originally, it was just Anne Lister
was meant to talk to camera and to tease, but then, Gemma sneaked
a few looks in for fun, and I thought, oh, we’ll use those. (audience laughing) – But you do like bickering
sisters in your shows, don’t you? – Well, they’re always good value. (all laugh) And, again, it goes back to the diary. It’s very truthful. Anne and Marian did have a
very difficult relationship. You know, you feel underneath that they probably did love
each other like sisters do, but they just could never,
ever be articulate about that. And of course, we’ve only got it from Anne Lister’s point of view, and reading between the
lines of the journal, I often feel sorry for Marian because, you know, she’s never gonna get the better of Anne Lister, her sister. I felt it was ripe for comedy and dysfunctional
at-home with the Listers. (audience laughs) – Because Anne is not
particularly kind to Marian here, and you get, when we were talking about
her being a snob earlier, and I think you get sense
of sense of her snobbery from this scene a little bit. Was it important to
include that side of her? The kind of, the snobbier side? – Oh, completely, yeah, because
I think the thing about, you know, the great
thing about Anne Lister, why she’s a great character to dramatise is she’s a massive contradiction. Anne Lister was very down-to-earth, but she was also very mercurial. She was a chameleon. She was somebody who could
talk to anybody on any level. She’s actually quite difficult
to describe, in many ways. Sorry, what was the question? – We were talking about her… I’m lost as well. (audience laughs) It’s ’cause she’s so mercurial
and she’s hard to pin down. – The different sides of her… – Her snobby side. – Her snobby side. – I knew the complexities of Anne Lister. I love the fact that she wasn’t, you know, she wasn’t
a goodie by any means. She was really, really complex. – I think it was important, because anyone who knows
the diaries, as well, will probably have an
opinion about Anne Lister and sometimes she’s quite unlikeable, but, of course, by the
time we meet her, she’s 41, so she’s started to dress
the way she’s dressed because it’s armour, and she’s decided to present
herself in the world this way. She’s running her business. She’s had her love affairs
and been heartbroken, and every time that that happens, she’s put on another layer. She’s changed her accent
because she’s a social climber. She behaves in different ways depending on where she is in society
and social situations, and she can be rude to Marian because it’s a sibling relationship and, you know, God, the way
that you talk to your family, you know, is when you’ve
got that familiarity, can be harsh, so we had fun with that. The way that she speaks to some of the servants can be harsh, but then also Sally’s
put in the bits where she needs to do that to
show that she’s in charge, because A, she’s a woman
and running a house as well, so she has to to behave in a certain way. Even in 2019, women have
to behave in a certain way to a point to get what they want, and, you know, we get in there and we’re having this great
conversation at this time, but I think when people
see her in a certain light, it’s because she had to behave that way. But then Sally just had
these brilliant moments when you just capture the
complete vulnerability and courage that it takes
to exist as her in that way. – Because Marian is
talking about her staying at all of these women’s houses, and obviously there’s a
kind of subtext to that that we’re supposed to understand, but is it fair to say that she
got about a bit in her time? Anne Lister? – Yeah. (all laugh) She absolutely loved sex. Yeah, she loved women and she loved sex. I mean, talking to our advisor, the pool of women that she
could chose from is quite small because you have to be very
careful who you’re talking to. The women that she had affairs with or dalliances with or fell in love with often then went on to
marry men for love or to keep up appearances or for money. So, yeah, she then moved on and had, but when we talked about each of the women you see in these eight episodes, they were very different relationships, so we spent a lot of time
talking about each one, and then there’s a brilliant
relationship with Marianna. Had they known each other
for 17 years by this point? – [Sally] Yes. – So, that was a real
historical relationship, that comes back in Episode Two, One? Oh, she comes in episode– – Episode One. And then, yeah, later on,
there’s a big Marianna episode. – So, that’s a particular relationship, and then we have the new relationship where you see myself and the
brilliant Sofie Gråbøl play out because it’s basically
her coming-out story as well as us getting together, and also it’s on her patch for once. And then we see Vere Hobart who Anne Lister is running away from, and that’s why she’s
coming back to Halifax and that one just went completely wrong. Sally will be able to tell
you a bit more about that, because she thought she was
heading into a relationship with someone of high class, and… She wasn’t interested in
women, was she, actually? – Vere was fascinated by Anne. – But not in that– – But not in that way, so the story actually
starts in Episode One when she’s coming back on the high flyer. Anne’s come from Hurst and it’s where she’s had her heart broke. She was absolutely
besotted with Vere Hobart, and we see a bit of what
happened in retrospect where Vere, like a lot of Anne’s lovers, not that they were quite
lovers, Vere and Anne, takes the conventional
route of marrying a man and Anne is left devastated,
absolutely devastated, and that’s where we start the story, when she comes back to Shibden. – How was she able to live
this life at this time in quite such plain sight? – It was a combination of… I think it was largely her intelligence her ability to negotiate very
skillfully through society, to run rings around people, to not allow people to
challenge her over it. And it’s kind of discussed in Episode One. She never contemplated a
lavender marriage, ever. She knew she wanted to be with a woman, and the other thing, as well, is there wasn’t language for it in the way that we have
a lot of language now. I mean, the title Gentleman
Jack, Jack meant dyke, lesbian, so it was either very
vulgar language like that or very sort of posh language like wenching in Rome. (audience laughs) Things like that, so nobody could actually call her out on it, and if they got anywhere close to it, she would just run rings ’round them. She was a great conversationalist. She was very charismatic, and
she was just unusually clever. – Why do you think it’s
taken so long for her to be celebrated as who she was now? – I think because people
haven’t been aware of her. When I used to visit Shibden
in the 1970s as a kid, there was no… I don’t recall any
references to Anne Lister. She wasn’t someone they showed off about. I kind of remember the
first time I heard her name. I became aware of her very, very gradually sort of in the ’90s, and I think she’s been hidden away. She’s been not shown off about until now, and the time is just right now. We do talk. You know, the conversations
about sexuality and gender are just becoming more, everybody’s just able to be articulate about things like that now. – It seems both of you have spoken about how much of an
effect Anne Lister herself has had on your life. Suranne, do you want to talk about, it must be very inspirational
to spend that much time as someone so extraordinary. – Yeah. The whole eight months
that I spent in Yorkshire, you come out the other end feeling like… Obviously, we talk about her love affairs, and it’s a great celebration
of a lesbian woman, but I think besides from that as well, what she was doing at that time, it’s a lesson in courage,
in being authentic, having a voice and using it, standing up for yourself. There’s a message within class there of how everyone has a
right to be educated. The more you delve into her,
and then on top of that, the fact that she got married in 1834 because the talk in the
diaries are of wife and wife, and she absolutely knew
that that’s what she wanted, and as Sally said, lesbian
wasn’t a word then. There was no community. There was no blueprint
for what she was doing. She was just being herself because that’s what she
says nature intended. She could only love the fairer sex, and as you’re playing her, you just become aware that you
have a right to be a person, and you have a right to be who you are, regardless of your sexuality, and we talked a lot about how uplifting and how… I’ve done a lot of shows,
if you know my work, I’m sure you know, that are quite dark. Doctor Foster was about betrayal and that sticky stuff within a marriage. Save Me and Frozen were about
paedophilia and losing a child. They’re very dark
subjects, which of course, we’re all drawn to. Me and my husband just started on Series Three of Line of Duty. We’re addicted to Scott & Bailey. You know, we all want to know… I understand why that’s so popular, but with this, I think whether you love it or hate it, you go along with a person
that as you’re watching goes, I want to be a bit more like this person, and she kind of teaches you how to. And I’ve started a diary, as well, which is something I never thought I’d do, but I’ve been doing it since Christmas. – Are we going to decode it in 200 years? – No, ’cause it’s really boring. My diary is really boring.
– Start with the temperature. – No, but I should do. But it’s dull when you write a diary. Went to my coffee shop. (Sally and Rebecca laugh) Gave my son Ready Brek. (audience laughs)
And then every now and then, you’ll get a bit of juice, so feel like, oh, I’m gonna write that
about this person, whatever, but you can’t say enough
about how inspiring she is. And I remember an actress
on-set said to me, you should be more like Anne
Lister because it suits you. And I think that’s, I know I
talk a lot when I’m nervous and I’m in front of people, but I’m quite a shy person, really, and quite a private person, but I think she just can
teach us all a lesson or two regardless of, yeah, sex. And with gender, like Sally said, she just challenges that. Even back then. If she was sat here now in 2019, we’d still say you’re a
fucking amazing woman. Like, oh my God. And I think that’s the point of her. – Just to add to that, one of the things I always
thing about Anne Lister, and again, it’s reading between
the lines of the journal and being familiar with it
over a long period of time. One of the things that
I always think about is that she enjoyed
really good mental health, and people often say this
is an insult about people, but I don’t think of this at all as an insult with Anne Lister, but she had a really
good opinion of herself. She had a really healthy
sense of her own self-worth, and I think that’s something I like to take away from Anne Lister. You know, we could all
do with a dose of that. – I think we should open
this up to the audience, and I should say as well
that this is on in May. We can’t give specific
dates, but it’s on very soon. If anyone has any
questions, raise your hand and we’ll bring the microphone to you. – It was a 90-minute single
and it covered her whole life. So, there’s just too much to say about Anne Lister in 90 minutes. We’ve covered just under
two years in eight hours. (audiences laughs) And even then, we’ve
had to leave a lot out. So, I felt it was too… I mean, it was fine. I’m not sorry I’ve had to criticise it, but it tended to look at
the earlier part of her life in a bit more detail before
she inherited Shibden. When she was just being a
bit of a wand with the women. (audience laughs) Which is fine, but when
she inherited Shibden, she just became a lot more complex. She was spinning a lot more plates. She was doing a lot more things and the more she had to do, the
more adept she became at it. So, for me, Anne Lister is always been a lot more fascinating
after she inherited Shibden, and I think they kind of skirted over that and Ann Walker was kind of an afterthought towards the end of the drama where it was just Ann walking Anne Lister, puttering around in a potting
shed, as far as I recall, together, and, you know, these are two women who
explored Europe together. They explored the most outlandish
places in Eastern Europe. I think it had just a different
agenda to what we’ve done. And I think the person who wrote it didn’t know the journals. (wheezes) – If you get a second series, will you take them off the
Europe on these adventures? – Yeah, God, I mean,
there’s a lot more, yeah. There’s some real exciting places to go if we did get another series. I don’t want to spoil the end, but where it ends is where
things really start to take off. I don’t really know. (audience laughs) I mean, I love writing for women. I find women heroic. I think women are really heroic. I think they, you know,
before they even start, they have so much more
to deal with than men. (audience laughs)
Sorry. (audience cheers and applauds) I think I’m quite rare. I just like writing for women. That’s what excites me. I am a woman. I am inside a woman’s head. For me, on TV, you often
don’t see characters explored as well as I
want them to be explored, and that’s my job. I can explore them as well as I like. I create characters I want to see, who I personally want to see on-screen. – We’re on Series Three, so
we’ve just finished Three because everyone just
said how brilliant it was. Me and my hubby said, and
also Lenny was in Series One, and I’d promised him… Save Me is up for a BAFTA,
so before I see him again, I had to watch it, because I can’t bear to say to him again, I will watch you in it,
so we started again. So, I don’t know, but it’s brilliant. Have you seen it? – [Sally] Yeah. – My hubby says, shut up,
because it’s a cop show that affects you and you
just want to be part of it. I think Jed’s a brilliant writer. (man in audience comments) Well, she’s here, yeah, she could do it. She could talk to some people and see if I can get in that, but, yeah, it’s great, and like I said, cop shows are great. People just love them. – I think we’ve run out of time, sadly, so there’s no time for any more questions, but please join me in
thanking Suranne and Sally. (all clap)

100 thoughts on “Suranne Jones talks about Gentleman Jack | BFI + Radio Times TV Festival 2019”

  1. Love this woman and the show. I’m sure HBO will give us more seasons, I can’t wait. I look forward to every episode.

  2. The introduction of Anne Lister was filmed in Little Germany, Bradford.

    Those same streets have been used in at least 20 different productions in the last 10 years alone with the some of the most recent ones being Downton Abbey (2019), Peaky Blinders and The ABC Murders.

    She parks the stagecoach on Cater Street which is around the back of:
    Tommy's factory in Peaky Blinders,
    The theatre exterior in The ABC Murders, and
    The place where the Beligians are hiding out in the flashback scenes of The ABC Murders.

  3. 22:35 Been to Shibden Park many many times as a kid, but I can't remember if I've ever actually visited Shibden Hall. I think I faintly remember cycing around the hall on my bike, with my uncle, and a few of my cousins, but I don't remember ever going inside. I loved the park, the boating lake, the miniature railway, and the land train however. One day I'll get on the bus 5 minutes walk from my house straight to Shibden Hall, and be there in just 15 minutes, with hours and hours worth of exploring to do.

  4. Whilst I already love this series, it's annoying me that everyone keeps acting like this is the first time it's been done. A TV film (The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister) was shown on BBC2 in 2010 with Maxine Peake (Twink from Dinner Ladies) playing Anne Lister and she did it very well too.

  5. the thing is. after watching the show I hyperventilate each time I see or hear Suranne. this woman can read the back of a cereal box and I will be completely smitten.

  6. I love this show! After the first two minutes I was HOOKED. However, this is suppose to be HBO, so not enough sex? Am I the only one who noticed this? I want more game of thrones sex scenes! Don’t judge me.

  7. I was into the series…until finding out that AL didnt really like the wealthy nervous lady, and just used her for her money to repair her old house and for the mines. When AL got tired of the rich lady, she dumps her and goes to climb mountains and then dies from a plague from ticks.

  8. This is a brilliant series! I can see a BAFTA coming it's way for her! What an amazing inspiring woman Anne Lister was.

  9. It's a really beautiful show. I love the relationships–all of them, quite frankly, but the relationship between Anne and Ann is so real and touching! It becomes just another love story, which is brilliant because it's as it should be. Though of course, the relationship, for its time, is extraordinary because the women are, but I love the writing and the acting is brilliant!

  10. it was tough to watch but brilliant – Suranne cre-cre fantastic – stunning performance – #famazing performance – it was a tour de force – she demonstrated female lust to an unsettling degree – a tad cringe worthy as you see her as a sexual predator

  11. I love period pieces and historical fiction, therefore I started watching this show and I can't get over what such a great Character Anne Lister is and who she was in real life. Makes me want to make more of an impact in my life now since i can.

  12. Great great show. I didn't know what to expect but was blown away by the story and acting. Suranne Jones is phenomenal. Hope season 2 is released.

  13. im straight but my God what a Woman! way ahead of her time…a real trail blazer, love and be loved was her message, without predjudice..love her!!!!

  14. Please cross your fingers we get a few seasons of Gentlemen Jack…I hope they put out her complete journals in book form so all of them can be read by the public…

  15. This is an amazing expose' of a life condition to which I was exposed in the late 60's / early 70's. As a man and father of a teen daughter, her peer group included a few unsure young ladies some of whom came out to me because parents would probably have not approved. I am totally enjoying the character and feel her unrequited sexual need as if it were me. Rock on the character, Ann Lister, a true pioneer.

  16. Wow! 😯 I’m utterly impressed and simply taken by the talent of these ladies! My god I feel so blessed that I am able to watch and enjoy this show. 🥰❤️

  17. The first episode was like a punch in the gut for me, the scene where she was kneeling and crying to the lady, damn! that was too relatable for me.

  18. Fabulous!!!! I too from Halifax love shibden hall never thought I wasn't the only gay in the village.

  19. Wainwright is a genius.
    Sadly or not, Shibden Hall and dear little Halifax will become overrun by tourists from across the world.

  20. I love this show! You dont have to be gay, it's a great story of a fierce women. What an inspiration!

  21. Suranne Jones is absolutely delightful in this. She's charming, genuine and thoughtful, and from my perspective she carries the entire interview.

  22. Shibden Hall is going to be inundated with Gentleman Jack fans …..from first episode I'm hooked want to know everything about Ann Lister. Thanks to Sally Wainwright for bringing it to our screens. Suranne Jones as usual is brilliant couldn't be a better portrayal. Ann will be very pleased.

  23. A fascinating story and fortunate that Anne Lister was such an interesting character to carry 8 episodes.
    Another excellent BBC costume drama with a lead character beautifully played by Suranne Jones and an excellent supporting cast.
    Anne Lister wasn’t the only famous Lesbian in history – Lady Hestor Stanhope and the Ladies of Llangollen deserve more recognition for their place in Lesbian history.

  24. Love the show n characters they are so good together and this is from a person who dont really watch TV. This show keeps you glued to the television. Looking foward to Season 2. 😉😎

  25. I just love how the character engages with the camera – a touch of "Alfie" perhaps – with a saucy conspiritorial wink !

  26. In love with this production. Just binge-watched it this past weekend. Brilliant piece! First time I've seen Suranne and she is mesmerizing (perfect choice…PERFECT I tell you). Anne Lister was an amazing woman and so glad that her journals were decoded and her life brought to life, and in such a relevant time in our history. And the music………………….love love love the jaunty theme. I rather think I'd like this as my theme music as I purposely make my way thru the office LOL 🙂 So nice to see Gemma (formerly Yara Gregjoy in GOT)…the sister dynamic is quite hilarious. And I think the use of Suranne looking into the camera directly at times is quite engaging. I've heard there will be a second season and I am delighted. Well done!

  27. I am naturally a masculine woman. I like and enjoy the show, but I dont like tha way she put words in GODs mouth! Gay and Fornicationers is ALL SIN! Let's do OUR LUSTING SIN without bringing GOD in as an accepted partaker in these kind of relationships.

  28. Great interview,I'm hooked to the show Suranne Jones and the rest of the cast are brilliant thanks to Sally Wainwright 👍❤

  29. I've discovered this show 5 day's ago, i watch all saison 1 and OMG i can't wait for a saison 2 !!! Thanks Sally !!!! Thanks Suranne !!!

  30. love her in this roll, she was born to do it. The music is great too. Love the outfit. This is quality TV

  31. I think it's kind of sad that a woman with a lot of male aspects is so idolized for her character and accomplishments. It's really saying saying that the male nature gives a female validity respect and admiration. Which is incorrect and has strong elements of setting women back into that yawning hole of invalidity and invisibility not forward Into truth. There are many women who have accomplished amazing things without being lesbian. This excitement over this movie is ridiculous and basically insulting toward women as if they can't be great creative beings with honor intelligence and character without being masculine. Lmao. It's incredibly stupid.

  32. Love the show! We live in the U.S., and I stumbled upon the show on HBO. I've watched the entire series twice, in a matter of a week ! Amazing storyline, out-of-this-world acting…chomping at the bit for Season 2!!

  33. Why do white writers always write out the mixed race first lover of Anne Lister? I really want an answer to this question.

  34. Omg I can't wait to watch that in in german TV (or maybe Netflix?)! I always dreamed of a story about strong a lesbian main character in an historical context, a british production like the ones the made out of Jane Austens books. This seems to be more than I ever wanted and I'm almost addicted before I ever got the chance to watch a complete episode. 😱🤗

  35. Beautifully and skilfully written and acted by everyone in it! It brought the whole Lister family to life,, roll on Series 2!

  36. Brilliant show, wonderful writing & production and incredible acting. Can't wait for 2nd season! I'm also anxious to read Ms Lister's journals.

  37. Well, I started watching for the intriguing story and the fresh telling of history in England. Great writing, directing, acting….!

  38. I also visited Shibden Hall as a child in the 1970's/80's and never knew of Anne Lister. But I always loved the place – and when I finally heard of Anne … I was just blown away … She makes my heart sing; I really identify with her (in sooooo many ways, and I did then, without realising why.

  39. The most wonderful portrayal of a historical character. Recently visited Shibden hall. Magical experience. Anne Lister a most wonderful subject. A real force of nature.

  40. The staff at Shibden are superb, had the most wonderful day there recently. Please visit, 4 quid it's a bargain. The Bankfield museum just down the road houses all the costumes from the show. There's a wonderful cafe on site in the park as well.

  41. This is possibly the best new show I've watched… Anytime anyone asks me what they should watch, I say "Gentleman Jack." I think I'm a little bit in love with Suranne Jones… (please don't tell my husband.)

  42. Straight here, but enchanted with the series. Watched the cliff scene more times than I care to admit. Everything is top shelf.

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