Olivia Colman on new drama The 7.39: 'It's like Brief Encounter!'

Broadchurch star Olivia Colman appears as a wronged wife in BBC1's new two-parter The 7.39 (Monday, 9pm), alongside David Morrissey and Sheridan Smith. She tells What's On TV all about the drama that follows an affair on a rush-hour train...


Tell us about your character, Maggie...

"She's a straightforward devoted wife and mum. She's an occupational therapist, she's bright and funny and in love with her family. So it's a bit of a shocker when it goes wrong!"


Maggie's husband Carl (David Morrissey) has an affair with a fellow commuter, Sally (Sheridan Smith). But were there cracks in the relationship beforehand?

"No. They're happily married and everything seems fine. Admittedly, they don't necessarily listen to each other, but they're still loving and they still get on. It's interesting that solid and lovely relationships still have moments of fragility."


So what happens?

"They start to drift apart. She puts it down to him being tired and disenchanted with his job and only later worries that there's something else. Then she has a sudden rush of blood and decides to follow him and that's when she finds out... It's a bit like the film Brief Encounter with people falling in love on a train, but the added bonus is that you see the fallout."


But Maggie fights for Carl, doesn't she?

"Yes. She's aware of what they've got and that it's good. There's something about her that's very strong because she tells him it's not worth losing him over what's happened. She doesn't give up."


Will viewers sympathise with Carl as well as Maggie?

"In a way, because it's about that monotony and that boredom of going to a job that doesn't do it for you. So that frisson makes everything a little bit more exciting. I suppose that's why affairs happen."


Have you ever had to commute before?

"Yes, I was a temp. But my husband and I worked together, so we got the bus in together and the bus home together!"


You've been on our screens a lot lately. Do you ever worry about taking on too much?

"No, I'm very grateful to be working! I remember what it's like to not work and I'd rather have it this way around. I've got friends who are brilliant actors and I can't work out why they're not getting the work."

So what's next for you?

"I didn't do Peep Show last year because of Broadchurch, so hopefully I'll do that, as the guys are my best friends. Then there's Sky1's romantic comedy Mr Sloane. That was fun! I had to wear a sort of 60s helmet hairstyle and a mini skirt with a pinny!"

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.