From the makers of Line of Duty, the five-part BBC legal drama Showtrial follows obnoxious posh girl Talitha (War Horse actress Celine Buckens) and her lawyer Cleo (The Originals’ Tracy Ifeachor), as they find themselves in the eye of a media storm when Talitha goes on trial for the murder of a Bristol student.
With the prosecution using her gender and background against her, the jury is out over whether this poor little rich girl is a damaged scapegoat, or a cold-blooded killer.
We caught up with the two leads for a briefing on this compelling series that lifts the lid on the criminal justice system, and its relationship with politics, the media, and public opinion...
What can you tell us about your characters?
Celine: "Talitha is the daughter of a famous billionaire property developer, but she's estranged from him. She's very privileged but, because of her difficult family situation, she's also had to fend for herself in a way that people can be prejudiced against. She went to the same university as the victim, and it's clear that they've had some sort of falling out."
Tracy: "Cleo is this phenomenal solicitor advocate who turns up at the police station, thinking Talitha’s case is going to be really simple. And then it turns into a massive show trial."
What attracted you to these roles?
Tracy "Just seeing somebody who looks like Cleo on screen leading a show is so rare! I hope it inspires the next generation when they see this person who they identify with on screen fighting for justice. That’s what attracted me."
Celine "My character is so difficult to pin down, because there's no end to the discoveries that you can make with Talitha. So that makes it a dream role to play. She never behaves as you expect, and that's why she's so seductive as a character."
What is different about this drama?
Tracy "It’s an amazing piece about the legal system, people's opinion of it, and the people who go through it."
Celine "It shows the criminal justice system in a way that I don't think we often see on screen now. It takes you behind the scenes."
Talitha initially comes across as very unsympathetic, doesn’t she?
Celine "She is very rude! I think her stropiness and irreverence come from the fact that Talitha doesn’t take any situation seriously."
Tracy "Cleo starts off wanting the best for her client and gives her quite a lot of grace when she first meets her. But yes, there are a few alarm bells and warning signs that don't quite sit right with her!"
How would you describe their relationship?
Tracy "Cleo is probably the only person in Talitha’s life who’s ever really said: ‘No, you can’t do that; this is how you need to behave.'"
What questions does Showtrial pose about the justice system?
Tracy "How do we try somebody, and how are we influenced by what we see, what we hear, and our own prejudices? What happens to people like Talitha if they don’t have the funds to pay? I think it will encourage us to look at each case, and try to find the facts within it."
Celine "Showtrial doesn't focus so much on the murder as on the trial and the sensationalisation of the trial. That really becomes the focal point: why is this a trial that people feel so strongly about, and get so invested in? And if Talitha wasn't from the kind of family that she is from, would she have the trial that she gets?"
'Showtrial' airs on BBC1 on Sunday Oct. 31 at 9pm and will be available on BBC iPlayer
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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.