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'The Pact' star Julie Hesmondhalgh: 'This isn't like other dramas!'

The Pact
Julie Hesmondhalgh plays a woman with a dark secret in this six-part drama. (Image credit: BBC)

The Pact star Julie Hesmondhalgh is no stranger to drama, having won plaudits for roles in Happy Valley and Broadchurch, yet she claims this latest project could be just as good as those award-winning projects. 

The story follows five brewery workers, Anna, Nancy, Louie, Cat and Tish as they struggle to keep things together when a drunken prank results in the death of their creepy boss. 

Bound by a secret that will change their lives forever, the five pals enter into a deadly vow of silence, yet it's soon clear someone else knows their secret. We chatted to Julie — who plays Nancy — who told us more about this thrilling six-part drama, which starts on Monday 17 May on BBC1 at 9pm.

Julie Hesmondhalgh on Nancy's dilemma...

"The first thing we said to each other when we got on set was 'What are they thinking?' We asked ourselves that question many times. It's just like 'Go to the police. It'll be okay if we just go to the police and they can sort it out!' But then there'd be no story and it'd be really boring.

"Nancy is the sensible one on many levels, but she's also the most respectable one and the one that's most concerned with outward appearances. She's the oldest and the 'Nan' of the group really. She's very concerned about what being embroiled in this misdemeanour would mean for her and her standing as a person and the way that she sees herself in the world. So I think that that her need to cover up comes from that in the first instance."

Julie on Nancy's home life...

"Everybody knows there’s unhappiness in Nancy’s home life, but nobody really knows the extent of it or what's caused it and we see that story unfold later in the series.

"Ade Edmondson, who plays her partner Richard, told me he took the role because there’s an episode that’s almost like a short film about the demise of a relationship. And you get to know a little bit about their backstory and about why they're where they're at now. And they were lovely, scenes to play a real slow burn, actually. I can't really say too much about it, but that definitely becomes more central to Nancy's storyline as the as the series progresses."

Julie on what makes The Pact different from other dramas...

"It's a really good story with complex and flawed female characters at the heart of it. But the quality is there, from start to finish. A lot of the dramas I've watched over the years fall off at the end. Often you're watching something and it starts off brilliantly in the first couple of episodes and you're like 'God this is going to be great. Where is this going to go?'

"And then it kind of fizzles at the end is almost like they can't quite match the expectation of the first couple of episodes. I honestly don't think The Pact does that. I feel like the suspense and the twists and turns of it do last the course of the whole six episodes. I don't think people will be disappointed by the ending, which is quite an unusual thing now!'

Julie on filming at Rhymney Brewery in Pontypool... 

"We were there for two weeks and at the end of that part of the shoot the brewery gave us a load of free beer! I don't drink, but they were well used, let's put it that way and the crew were very grateful. It was an amazing place. It's beautiful, a beautiful setting to work and really amazing. And next to the big pit as well, which was quite exciting."

The Pact

Abbie Hern, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Laura Fraser, Eiry Thomas and Heledd Gwynn star in The Pact. (Image credit: BBC)

Julie on shooting The Pact during lockdown...

"We filmed during last autumn's lockdown and there were tight COVID restrictions as Wales was in lockdown at the time. We had to take individual cars to set, we had to be masked constantly apart from when we were shooting and sometimes we forgot to take them off! We had to stop a couple of times because we started scenes, with our masks still on. 

"We all had to social distance all the time as well, but there were a few scenes when we had to hug each other and we really looked forward to those. 'Don't let go!' we'd be saying to each other!"