'Britannia' stars David Morrissey and Sophie Okonedo on marriage, Roman-style

(Image credit: Sky Atlantic)

Across two series of Britannia, Roman General Aulus Plautius (David Morrissey) has remained coolly unruffled in the face of dreadful weather, warring Celtic tribes, mysterious Druids, and even a trip to the Underworld. 

However, as the brilliantly bonkers Roman Britain period drama returns for a third run, Aulus is placed firmly on the back foot as his formidable and hedonistic wife Hemple, played by Modern Love's Sophie Okonedo, turns up at his Verulamium [now St Albans] villa, along with her creepy entourage, unusual pets and penchant for the pleasures of the flesh! 

Here Sophie, 52, and David, 57, tell us what's in store… 

Hemple’s a pretty crazy character! What did you make of her? 

Sophie: "I love her! She’s quite naughty, and she doesn’t follow the rules. She’s full-on fierce, complicated, fearsome, scary, funny, sexy, and dangerous."

David: "She’s the ultimate puppet master. She’s the high manipulator of people, and Aulus is not immune to that — he’s right in the middle of it." 

David Morrissey

David Morrissey as General Aulus Plautius. (Image credit: Sky Atlantic)

How would you describe their relationship?

David: "Volatile, very sexy, and very territorial. Aulus doesn’t know where he is with her, but they have this amazing attraction to and need for each other. She also brings all this history with her, so that was really good."

Sophie: "She’s a difficult wife and doesn’t give him an easy ride. He might be in charge, but she’s the dominant person in that relationship, so he’s never going to get off lightly. She’s a pain in the neck as far as he’s concerned!"

Hemple (Sophie Okonedo) and her acolytes

Hemple (Sophie Okonedo) arrives with her acolytes. (Image credit: Sky Atlantic)

Have the two of you worked together before? 

Sophie: "I’ve known David for so many years. We’ve worked together, he’s directed me in a show [the 2001 drama Sweet Revenge], and we’re friends. When I got cast, I sent him a text saying: ‘Fancy me as your wife?’!"

David: "I heard that Sophie had been asked to join the cast as Aulus’s wife, so I was very excited as I’d worked with her before and she’s a friend. When I got the scripts, I thought: ‘I hope she says yes’, because it was so perfect!"

How was it playing opposite each other? 

Sophie: "A lot of the time we just had to try not to laugh, as we were having good fun, and some of David’s lines are very funny. Also I loved some of the insults I got to use against him!"

David: "We have a real laugh together, not just Sophie and me, but all the guys. We’ve always been very professional, but you have to be able to laugh, as they’re long days!"

What can you tell us about Aulus and Hemple’s rather unusual sex life? 

Sophie: "Everywhere Hemple goes, there’s an orgy! She’s either going to one or she’s just left one, or she’s involved in a [human] sacrifice. In the same way other people get on the bus and go to work – that’s her general day-to-day existence."

David: "We know that Nero and Caligula were very debauched, hedonistic people who liked to party, and Hemple is very much in Caligula mode! That type of hedonistic world is a way of controlling people, as they do things when they’re in a state of drunkenness or drug addiction that they can be shamed about."

What was it like filming those scenes?

David: "Well, it was brilliant, but it was in the age of Covid. We were reading the scenes and thinking: ‘How are we going to do this?’ Of course, how we did it was that everybody got tested, and everybody stayed in a bubble. We also had an ‘intimacy coach’, so it felt very safe." 

Sophie: "In one post-orgy scene, David ends up wearing nothing but one of my dresses and a Roman helmet, and it looks like he’s not wearing anything from behind. I’ve got a picture of us side by side – we look like The Odd Couple or something!"

When can I watch series three of Britannia? 

On Sky Atlantic and NOW from Tuesday 24 August 2021. The previous two series are also available to watch. Britannia is on EPIX in the US.

Ian MacEwan
Senior Writer

Ian writes about TV and film for TV Times, What’s on TV and TV & Satellite Week magazines. He co-hosts the weekly TV streaming podcast, Bingewatch.