'Close To Me' star Christopher Eccleston: 'I'm so bored with male angst!'

Connie Nielsen
(Image credit: Channel 4)

Christopher Eccleston will be starring as the husband of a woman who loses a year of her memories in C4's new psychological thriller Close To Me

The former Doctor Who star plays Rob Holding, who nurses his wife Jo (Connie Nielsen) back to health and tries to help her rebuild her life after a terrible accident, but is he telling her truth about the fateful night she lost her memory? 

Christopher tells us all about starring in this tense six-part drama...

Christopher Eccleston on 'Close To Me'...

"It's a show I really wanted to be involved in because it had a lovely reversal of the usual, far too familiar, sensitive, caring female taking a supportive role to a male as they wrestle with existential dilemmas, which was very refreshing."

Christopher on Rob Harding... 

"He’s an estate agent in late middle age who has been married to Jo for a considerable amount of time. He realises that his role is to try and aid his life partner in a physical and emotional recovery, but also support her going through menopause. Jo is having identity issues which are, according to my female friends, very common in late middle age, where you wake up thinking: who am I? 

"The way they are treated in society shifts. Rob’s business is also in trouble and there’s a sense of emasculation, because a lot of the money has come from her side of things. He’s certainly not in the throes of youth and idealism."

Christopher on Rob and Jo's marriage... 

"I think he’s very romantic about the marriage. He’s ready for the kids to go, or at least that’s what he’s telling himself: we all tell ourselves lies and versions of the way to proceed. I’ve seen it in a couple of my friends’ marriages where the kids have left and there’s been a real rapprochement, an infusion of energy and romance. 

"I’ve also seen the opposite. I think Rob is pushing for the former, for their time together. He’s written as being very in love with his partner, possibly more in love with her than she is with him. 

"I think he's enjoying being in control of their marriage for once and control is definitely an issue and that causes tension with his wife, their friends, and the children. If there was a sense of the emasculation, pre-accident, perhaps it’s an opportunity, dysfunctionally, for him to reassert traditional masculine/feminine roles."

Christopher on director Michael Samuels... 

We spoke about how male angst and existential concerns are secondary to the female. We agreed that would only be enriched and supported if the male supporting character was three-dimensional and similarly complex. Every moment we tried to move away from the character as a cypher, which so often happens with female roles. 

"We enjoyed serving the female narrative because we’re both bored with male angst – although because he wore a mask all the time, I have no idea what Michael Samuels looks like, frankly."

Christopher on the memories he would hate to lose...

"Oh, something with the children for sure. My most recent was dropping my daughter at school, seeing how free she felt to say goodbye to her dad in the knowledge that I would be there watching her happily walk into school. Then taking my son up the road and having 15 minutes with him in a coffee shop. He was completely and utterly absorbed in his latest book, a Manga anthology. He said nothing to me! I was invisible. I took a photograph of him, absorbed in his book with his hair nicely combed because I’d done it that morning. So just being able to observe the happiness." 

Christopher on Oliver Twist origins drama 'Dodger'...

"I’ve just worked with Lucy Montgomery and Rhys Thomas on an origin story for the Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist – they’ve taken that character and they built an entire ten-part series around him for BBC and NBC. All the characters are retained from the story apart from the bore that is Oliver Twist, and I play Fagin. It’s a joyous experience working with Rhys and Lucy, they’re very creatively free. I won’t be singing in it, but if we get a second series, I'm going to suggest that." 

Sean Marland
Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV, TV & Satellite Week and whattowatch.com

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.