Peaky Blinders star Charlie Murphy is playing a deeply complicated character in the new four-part thriller Deadline, which starts on Channel 5 on Tuesday, April 5.
Natalie Varga stands accused of murdering her wealthy husband, and while she has not been convicted of any crime, a salacious 'trial by media' has already labeled her a femme fatale who killed her husband in cold blood.
After a bizarre public press conference where she refuses to answer any questions at all, Natalie reaches out to James Alden (Broadchurch's James D'Arcy) — a formerly respected investigative journalist who has moved into producing low-budget true-crime documentaries since his career went downhill — and makes him a tantalizing offer: she'll give him the exclusive interview everyone has been chasing in exchange for his help in finding her husband's real killer.
Here Charlie reveals why she was excited to play the enigmatic Natalie Varga...
Charlie Murphy on playing Natalie Varga in Deadline
"She's quite buttoned-up. It was so much fun to have so many secrets — to navigate that, and eke out what she wants to give away in that moment. You wonder, is she shy, or is she this kind of manipulative character? That was a really fun line to dance — we had some really good, long scenes, and we played them in many different ways."
Did you already know if she was guilty or not when you first got the scripts?
"No, I was a complete audience member reading them! I didn't have a clue what her trajectory was, and what secrets she was holding. There are so many twists and turns in each episode, and Barunka [O'Shaughnessy] and Gareth [Tunley], who wrote it in tandem, are just brilliant writers. They really give you some great cliffhangers. It was so exciting to read, a real page-turner."
How did you and James prepare for your roles?
"It's very much a commentary on 'trial by media' and things like the Amanda Knox story. I'm a big crime junkie, so Making A Murderer, The Jinx, those documentary series that are in the ether now, there were a lot of conversations about those cases on set. We didn't have much rehearsal time, but James and I had lots of conversations over dinner, bringing our homework to the table — and from that lots of happy accidents happened!"
You filmed in Budapest — what was it like?
"I was out in Budapest filming Halo, I'd just finished that. I came back to the UK for a week and then I got this job, so I went straight back out to Budapest! I was like 'guys, I know all the local places — come on, I'll show you around!'"
The series is going out across four consecutive nights. Do you think that's a good way to schedule a drama?
"It's so unusual now, we can binge everything — I'm such a binger! But yeah, this invites the kind of watercooler moments that you don't get any more, like 'oh my God, what do you think is going to happen next?' Giving it time to sit with you is good, I think. I'm happy it's a four-nighter - it feels like an event."
Deadline looks at our obsession with true-crime stories. Why do you think we're so fascinated by them?
"I don't know! It's just a real study of human behaviour, really. Is it a thing where you study it to know how to protect yourself, or to understand what a psychopath is? I'm fascinated by it too — and I'm still wondering why I am!"
- Deadline launches on Tuesday, April 5 on Channel 5 at 9pm, and continues every night at 9pm until Friday April 8. Each episode will then become available on the streaming service My5.
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Steven Perkins is a Staff Writer for TV & Satellite Week, TV Times, What's On TV and whattowatch.com, who has been writing about TV professionally since 2008. He was previously the TV Editor for Inside Soap before taking up his current role in 2020. He loves everything from gritty dramas to docusoaps about airports and thinks about the Eurovision Song Contest all year round.