Sarah Lancashire is starring in Kiri, a gripping whodunnit about a girl murdered before adoption
Sarah is the star of Kiri, a new Channel 4 four-parter written by Jack Thorne, who penned last year’s acclaimed National Treasure.
She plays a social worker, Miriam, who gets blamed when a child in her care (Kiri) is murdered.
Sarah is obviously moved by issue-led dramas, having starred in 2005’s Cherished as Angela Cannings, a woman wrongly convicted of murdering her children, and in 2010’s Five Daughters; a depiction of the Ipswich serial murders.
Sarah insists she doesn’t choose gritty dramas on purpose – instead, she’s drawn to good scripts.
“I just hold out for pieces where I immediately feel an emotional connection with a part,” muses Sarah, 53.
Sarah Lancashire is hailed as a national treasure, after appearing in gripping issue-led dramas
It’s a hard-hitting story that asks questions about adoption, society and where blame should lie when a tragedy occurs
“I was so excited when I received this piece.
“I thought Miriam was fantastic when I read her. She kind of got under my skin very quickly. She’s complex and direct and forthright – everything you want in a character that’s brilliantly drawn – and it makes it challenging, but at the same time Jack’s writing is so beautiful that it sort of navigates the pathway for you.”
It’s a ringing endorsement from Sarah, who has no shortage of work coming her way – except funny roles.
“I never get offered comedy,” she says with a laugh.
Sarah’s character, Miriam, is larger than life and a bit dishevelled, devoted to her job and her dog; she also drinks too much on the sly and there’s a sadness behind her eyes that we get hints of – she has an unpleasantly fractious relationship with her bed-bound mother, played by The Royle Family’s Sue Johnston.
Sarah’s acting pedigree pushes her towards more serious roles
Although she says Miriam got under her skin, Sarah had to work to master a West Country accent.
“I found the accent by kind of shutting myself away at home with a few YouTube clips, finding accents and just listening and hoping,” says Sarah.
“Accents are interesting, because they very often inform the way a person moves.
“Where possible I tend not to use dialect coaches, purely because I have to find it in my own time. We also had a Bristolian spark [electrician] on set and we’d call the spark over and I’d be, ‘Do I put a ‘t’ on this word?’”
The plot of Kiri is a whodunnit as well as an issue-led piece. Miriam is the social worker in charge of Kiri, a young girl about to be adopted by Alice and Jim (Lia Williams and Steven Mackintosh) – before that happens, Miriam rubber-stamps Kiri’s first unsupervised visit to her biological grandparents.
Kiri is killed before she meets her adopted parents played by Lia Williams and Steven Mackintosh
But when Kiri is murdered sometime during that day, the media spotlight is turned full force onto Miriam, as has happened in real-life cases in which children in care are killed.
Devastated, she faces intense scrutiny and harsh questioning about her decision to allow the visit, and is drawn into the murder investigation led by DI Mercer (Wunmi Mosaku) into Kiri’s death.
“Miriam is very exposed,” explains Sarah.
“Word is out that Kiri was in her care and there is anger in the community.
“It’s a hard-hitting story that asks questions about adoption, society and where blame should lie when a tragedy occurs.”
Wunmi Mosaku’s DI Mercer heads the investigation that follows Miriam
It’s unsurprising that Sarah finds such distressing subject matter hard to shake off at the end of the day.
“You do become very involved in pieces like this, because of where it has to come from [emotionally], but also it’s a kind of cruel experience when you’re an actor, because there’s no cooling down period,” she muses.
“It’s a bit of an adjustment, really. I do find it quite difficult to complete a job and return to normality – it does take a bit of time to find my healthy place.”
On set, Sarah found solace in her relationship with Miriam’s dog, called Chase. Sarah found that he made the job easier.
“I was so relieved to have a dog, because Miriam was quite a lonely character to play,” she says.
“Miriam’s not affiliated to other characters, so the dog was lovely; we did have a wee love affair.”
Kiri airs this Wednesday on Channel 4 at 9pm
Published at Sat, 06 Jan 2018 00:01:00 +0000