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Russell Tovey teases his dark new role in paranormal thriller The Sister

The Sister Amrita Acharia, Russell Tovey and Bertie Carvel
(Image credit: ITV)

Russell Tovey reveals the challenges he faced while making his spooky new ITV thriller The Sister

For Russell Tovey, his role in ITV’s dark thriller The Sister (opens in new tab) has proved his most difficult to date. The four-part drama, penned by Luther creator Neil Cross and based on his 2009 novel Burial, sees Years and Years and Flesh and Blood star Russell play one-time radio producer Nathan.

Along with eccentric paranormal expert Bob (Doctor Foster’s Bertie Carvel), Nathan was involved in the mysterious death of a young woman, Elise (Sex Education's Simone Ashley) after a New Year party a decade ago.

Nathan is now happily married to Elise’s unsuspecting sister Holly (The Good Karma Hospital’s Amrita Acharia). But his life falls apart when a dishevelled Bob arrives on his doorstep and reveals that the woods where they buried Elise are being dug up for a housing development and they need to move the body. To make matters worse, Elise’s ghost appears to be haunting them both…

Here Russell Tovey reveals all about his dark new role in ITV thriller The Sister…

What can you tell us about Nathan?

Russell Tovey: “At a New Year’s Eve party 10 years ago Nathan fancies this girl but they go for a drive with Bob and something happens and the girl dies. Nathan has rebuilt himself and put Pandora in the box, but now Pandora’s running around crazy and he's trying to get her back in. He’s riddled with fear. It’s about the unravelling of a good person who got involved in a situation he shouldn’t have.”

How does he react to Bob coming back into his life?

RT: “They first met when Nathan worked at the radio station and Bob came on and talked about ghosts. Now they’ve become trapped together. For Nathan, Bob epitomises all that’s bad about the world. Everything he’s trying to avoid, Bob’s digging up.”

And what does he think when Elise’s spirit seems restless?

RT: “There’s this paranormal energy they’re both feeling. But your mind can trick you… It’s something that Nathan desperately doesn’t want to believe in, but it’s imposing on his life and more terrifying than the prospect of prison.”

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Russell Tovey as Nathan in The Sister

Russell Tovey as Nathan in The Sister

Have you found the role tough to shake off?

RT: “Yes, it was a gift but when I finished I had to push Nathan away because it got under my skin, I was exhausted. It’s the hardest job I’ve done. Every scene is a panic attack or anxiety or screaming or crying. There are three timelines [2009, 2013 when Nathan falls for Holly and the present day] so it's a lot to think about. On set, I like a laugh but on this, everyone probably thought I was a moody git!"

Nathan fears he is being haunted. Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

RT: “I saw a ghost dog! My friend had an old house and this clairvoyant came round and started stroking the air and said there was a big white dog there. They told me the story and then I saw a big white dog run up the stairs! And my mum once experienced some poltergeist activity. She was watching a keep fit video and a pen rose in the air, went across the room and dropped on the floor. She said to the pen, ‘You're not doing that in my house!’ And she carried on her keep fit – that’s my mum!”

The Sister airs on ITV from Monday 26th Thursday 29 October at 9pm.

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.


Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.


Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.


In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.