JEMMA REDGRAVE swaps the tender loving care of Dr Eleanor Bramwell for some red- hot bedroom action in Blue Murder, ITV’s steamy new one-off thriller – plus a spot of trigger- happy gun action for good measure.
In contrast to her familiar image as Victorian lady doctor, Bramwell, Jemma stars in the two- hour drama as a calculating murderess who shares raunchy love scenes with Gary Mavers, himself a million miles from the cosy world of Peak Practice.
“I never had any qualms about the sex scenes,” says 33-year-old Jemma, “I trusted our director, Paul Unwin completely because I’d worked with him before on Bramwell. There’s not actually any nudity, although the scenes are very erotic.
“We agreed there was no need for a lot of graphic sex. The scenes prove you can create something sexy without seeing lots of flesh.”
Jemma admits, however, she won’t be likely to be watching those scenes with her husband, barrister Tim Owen. “He knows the story and what it all involves,” she explains.
“I think he’ll agree it’s a stylish piece of work. I’ve watched the sex scenes, and I think they’re cleverly done – although I was probably under my jumper as I watched them, the way you watch Doctor Who as a kid!”
Inspired by the Hollywood thriller Body Heat and those atmospheric film noirs of the ’30s and ’40s, Blue Murder stars Gary Mavers as Detective Sergeant Adam Ross, who is drawn into a web of adultery, deception and murder when he falls for the rich, beautiful and mysterious Gale Francombe, played by Jemma.
Gale lives with millionaire husband Ben (Tim Woodward), and enjoys all the trappings of the rich and appears to be well beyond Adam’s wildest dreams. The chemistry between them is immediate and they begin a passionate and dangerous affair.
“It was great fun to play someone so wicked,” says Jemma, daughter of Corin Redgrave and niece of Vanessa.
The role couldn’t be more different from that of Bramwell’s Victorian lady doctor. “Gale’s pulse rate never raises much, so it’s less exhausting to play than someone like Bramwell who’s more emotionally engaged in life.”
Jemma admits she thoroughly enjoyed pumping several bullets into Woodward, her screen husband. “I’ve not worked with a gun before, but I was told I was a total natural!” she laughs. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near a real gun as I find them pretty revolting and scary things, but play- acting is different.
“It’s all make-believe and it was a real release. We had a gun trainer on set and I went out into the garden and we scared all the birds. When I pulled the trigger on Tim, I let my mind go blank. Rather like the bullets!”
Jemma was surprised to be offered the role of Gale. “It’s not the kind of thing I’m generally offered,” she says. “If you play someone for a long time, you do become identified with that character – like Bramwell. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to see someone in something different.” With Bramwell so gory and Blue Murder so raunchy, it’s no wonder Jemma’s five- year-old son Gabriel has seen so little of his mum’s work on screen. “He will hopefully be able to watch my next one, Cry Wolf, which is a sitcom pilot for the BBC,” says Jemma. “I play a stroppy doctor.
“Yes, another medic, though, it’s a far cry from Bramwell.”
So far, Gabriel has tended to accompany his mother on many of her TV shoots, and he has a reasonable idea about the work of an actress.
“I experienced the same world as a child,” says Jemma. “You know your parent is acting, but it’s difficult to distinguish real life from drama. I remember seeing my Dad in something where he got killed. It was upsetting.”
Jemma is filming another BBC drama series, Fish, in which she and Paul McGann play lawyers. “It wasn’t hard doing the research,” she smiles, quickly adding, “Yes, I’ve had a lot of advice from Tim.
“Paul McGann is the star of the series, as a barrister working on industrial tribunal cases, and I’m his regular opposition – for the forces of darkness, generally speaking, though she’s not unsympathetic. She’s just more pragmatic. And there’s just a hint of UST – Unresolved Sexual Tension!”
There are no plans for a revival of Bramwell, despite its huge popularity. “I think everyone felt we took it as far as we could,” says Jemma.
So will Bramwell fans be shocked by Blue Murder? “I hope not,” she says. “It’s funny, the whole thing about image, and how viewers of a popular series expect to see you.
“A friend of mine in Bristol went to see the Irvine Welsh film I did, The Acid House, which was very in- your-face and controversial, and she said about eight pensioners came into the cinema. They all looked like they were Bramwell fans, and they were shocked.
“My advice to them is `Buy the Bramwell videos, stick with that!’ But seriously, I do think it’s important for an actor to explore new avenues. The last thing I want is to get typecast.” Trust us, after Blue Murder, there’ll never be any danger of that.