Timothy Spall: ‘The Enfield Haunting frightened the life out of me!’

'The Enfield Haunting' cast.
'The Enfield Haunting' cast. (Image credit: Nick Briggs)

Timothy Spall goes back to 1977 in Sky Living’s new drama The Enfield Haunting about a real-life haunted council house in north London. He stars alongside Matthew Macfadyen and Juliet Stevenson in the three-part drama that follows the true story of weird supernatural happenings at the Enfield home of single mum Peggy Hodgson and her three children.

Here, Mr Turner star Timothy tells What’s On TV all about the drama…

You play real-life amateur paranormal expert Maurice Grosse. How would you describe him?

“Maurice was an enthusiast for the paranormal who never did anything by halves, so his intention is very much to help this family. He was a man of great warmth, kindness and passion. He’d also been a very successful inventor - he invented the revolving poster in bus stops - so he had a very successful business head.”

What was it about The Enfield Haunting that appealed to you?

“I actually turned it down when I first read the script. It frightened the life out of me. But I was very tired then because I’d just come back from Cannes. Then I read the whole thing again, with much more of an eye on what it was really about and not purely the ghost aspect. It’s very much exploring relationships, agendas and what motivates these things. The tragedy in Maurice’s life, his kindness and desire to help others made him very interesting. There’s also this sweet relationship that develops between older man Maurice and young girl Janet who’s badly affected by the poltergeist. They’re almost like old souls.”

It seems 11-year-old Janet reminds Maurice of his own daughter, who died in an accident around the same age. How deeply does the loss of his own child affect him throughout the drama?

“Very deeply. It would be central to anyone’s life if that happened, and the fact that it’s so recent for him means he’s still grieving. The tragedy is something he’s carrying which is a motivation for him to help Janet, but he doesn’t recognise this himself.”

Did Maurice really believe all that he saw in the haunted house?

“Absolutely. What would be his motivation to the contrary? He had nothing to prove, he was a successful man and he didn’t intend to achieve any celebrity. He just approached it from a paranormal researcher’s point of view. Being new to it all he was carrying emotion, but he was no pushover. It’s not until he sees a teapot moving by itself that he’s convinced that there’s an entity in the house.”

The Society for Paranormal Research (SPR) eventually sends its own expert Guy Lyon Playfair (played by Ripper Street star Matthew Macfadyen) to investigate what’s going on in Enfield. How do the pair get on?

"When Guy arrives things are prickly. While Maurice is respectful of Guy and impressed by his experience, he becomes suspicious of him because Guy seems to be there to destroy Maurice’s reputation."

How are things between Maurice and his wife Betty (Juliet Stevenson)?

"Tragedy in people’s lives can bring them together but it can also destroy them. They don’t discuss the grief over their daughter and his wife is seeing mediums which he doesn’t believe in. He adores Betty but this painful tragedy has marred their relationship, and what happens in Enfield doesn’t help."

What do you think of the supernatural – can some people exploit it?

“I think so, but I don’t know. I’ve never paid to see a medium and I’ve never seen people hurt by them. People who do it could either be talented or opportunistic…”

The Enfield Haunting premieres at 9pm on Sunday, May 3 on Sky Living. Straight after the first epsiode is shown, all three epsiodes in the series will be available via Sky On Demand.

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.