Friday, June 24, 2011

Law & Order UK: Freema Agyeman on Alesha Phillips, Crown Prosecutor

(Source: ITV publicity)

Freema Agyeman is
 Crown Prosecutor Alesha Phillips

Freema Agyeman was very pleased to have fellow Dr Who alumnus, Peter Davison join her in Law&Order: UK.

"I had previously met Peter at the Monte Carlo Film and TV Festival a few years back. I was there with a Dr Who producer who had been nominated and while he was off fulfilling his press requirements I spent a lot of time in Peter’s family set up," she recalls. "He was there with his wife and children and they invited me to join them for dinners and lunches; he completely scooped me up and welcomed me into his fold.

"So having that prior experience of him and of course the Dr Who connection I was over the moon when he joined the cast. Peter has such a youthfulness about him, a great sense of humour and such a great general attitude towards life so it's really been a joy.

"Dominic was a little bit worried he wouldn’t be able to understand our Gallifrey speak. But we don’t talk about it a lot so we don’t leave him out!

"Dominic and I are like fire and ice; we couldn’t be more different. He is like the furious older brother and I’m the slightly mad, hyperactive younger sister. He is so dry and so witty; it's been like peeling the layers from an onion, learning more about his personality every day. He is such a gentle soul and I really enjoyed working with him. And he brings something different to the show and certainly looks the part in that wig and gown which can make people look comedic but really suits him."

Talking about her character, Alesha's relationship with new colleague Jake Thorne, Freema says: "I think Alesha feels mild irritation towards Jake a lot of the time, which I like to think is homage to her strong feelings about James Steel. The nature of the show is to move forward and it is about the job not their personal lives, but I like to feel the change is not simply a complete substitution without it being marked in her mind. However they do have to work as a team. Alesha also seems to show a level of amusement towards Jake at times, which gives her a more mature appearance - almost like a wry smiling parent.

"She certainly comes across as the more patient and wiser of the two on occasion which is a different dynamic. It was a nice change. I think there is a power balance shift within the new team. That means different requirements for me as her level of involvement has increased. I sense a real equality between Jake and Alesha; he is in a senior role but she has been there longer so that balances their dynamic a little bit. With Henry she has a father figure, a calm, patriarchal devil's advocate but with all three it feels on more of an even keel with the new line up.

"That is great for me as an actress as my participation is upped. Alesha unearths new facts by looking for those shades of grey. She is the liberal voice and does let her emotions inform her decisions but that's great as we all have a different role to play but within that we get character developments. The audience will get a strong sense of the three of them being a team while still hearing their individual voices. It is nice after four series knowing who you are but being allowed to evolve."

Pinpointing her favourite episode of the series, Freema says: "Episode three, Crush, where Alesha is a little bit more at the helm was really enjoyable to film. Jake is unavailable so Alesha cross-examines a key witness. Typically she goes with her gut instinct and something is bothering her about that case. In the real legal world, someone in the position she is in, a junior, would be doing the plea and case managements, the bail hearings and within bigger trials the paperwork but in our world of drama Alesha gets to do the digging and the background work, the witness interviews and is sort of a bridge between the cops and the CPS.

"The other characters know that she is a bit like a dog with a bone. And if she gets an instinct about something she will want to follow it but there is a really nice moment in this episode where she is putting that forward and Henry says she can look into it in her own time. It's a nice moment in their relationship; he doesn’t just lay down the law, but gives her this free rein to do what she does best. Jake isn't best pleased in that scene, there is very much a kind of sibling like rivalry between them, an element of competition that crops up at times.

"This episode is an example of why the show continues to interest me. When you go to a script read-through you never know what angle the storyline will take. Law&Order does have a format but it can vary whether it's a case of law; how you actually prosecute someone, or a whodunit or a massive twist that exposes everything in a different light. It keeps things interesting."

Concludes Freema: "So much has changed this series but what I honestly felt proud of was when guest actors said this is one of nicest jobs they've done. You feel a sense of pride like you've had someone round your house for dinner! There is a real leveller whether you are the guest star or doing one scene because the show moves at such a pace you have to nail it every time.

"Personally I really enjoyed working with Penny Downey whose recurring character is this formidable defence lawyer, Rachel Matheson. She is so strong and characterful in the part but because she is so lovely I think her likeability spills over into the character. She gives the CPS such a hard time but Alesha has a soft spot for her nonetheless. Plus she is so much fun to have on set."


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