“It’s nice to see female detectives in a crime drama that are flawed and real!”
Ahead of the release of Viewpoint – ITV’s long-awaited brand new crime drama – Don’t Die Wondering recently sat down with Bronagh Waugh (The Fall, Unforgotten), who stars alongside Bulletproof’s Noel Clarke as DC Stella Beckett.
If you’ve met anyone for the first time over Zoom during the past year, chances are that you’ll be more than familiar with the uncomfortable silences and staggered small talk that these sorts of meetings sometimes bring with them. When we spoke to Bronagh, any worries regarding such awkwardness melted away in an instant!
Immediately warm and infectiously funny, the Northern Irish actress was all-smiles as she took a break from new home renovations and new baby preparations to talk remote photoshoots, life post-lockdown and breaking TV’s female detective tropes in her fiery new role.
DDW: There’s certainly plenty of anticipation surrounding Viewpoint! Could you tell us a little more about it?
Bronagh: Sure! Viewpoint is a new crime drama thriller – it’s all about surveillance. Noel (Clarke) and I play surveillance detectives who are tasked with watching a terraced street in Manchester after a young woman goes missing.
It’s not just about us watching the people, though! It’s about the people that they’re watching, too. The audience get to play detective themselves and be quite nosy. I think that’s definitely something that’s happened to us in lockdown. We’ve all been watching our neighbours lives – I certainly have! Viewpoint piques that interest in us – curtain-twitching and being able to kind of spy on people.
It’s also got a lot to do with the things that we judge about people and whether things are true or not – how we can misjudge and misrepresent people, whether you can mistake someone’s grief for guilt or anger or how different emotions can be misinterpreted from observing them. Also, just how all of us can be biased with our judgement and our viewpoint of people. It’s quite interesting to see how each of us kind of takes that.
It’s a bit of a whodunit, too – everybody watching can play armchair detective with us, which we all love to do!
DDW: It’s definitely one that’s going to get people talking…
Bronagh: I hope so! I hope we’ve got home watercooler moments. We can’t have office water cooler moments, so we’ll have to gather round the dining table and chat about it.
DDW: Tell us a little bit about your character, Stella Beckett.
Bronagh: She’s feisty, fiery, sarcastic, funny, she’s got loads of energy, a bit of a firecracker and she doesn’t take any shit! She sometimes cuts corners with things, as well. She’s happy to leave the job at the door, which is quite different from Noel’s character, Martin.
They’ve kind of subverted Martin and Stella’s characters – I think there’s a lot more masculine energy to Stella, which I love. I love to see that she is subverting the norms and is quite complicated and flawed. It’s nice to see female detectives in a crime drama that are flawed, rough around the edges and real. You know, I’m a bit sick of seeing women in dramas be these martyrs – all sweetness and light. It gets a bit exhausting. None of us are really like that, are we?
We’re as messy and as rough around the edges as everyone else, so it’s nice to see a bit of that truth reflected back through the lens. Hopefully people will identify with Stella – everyone should know a Stella! She’s very loyal to Martin. They have a real friendship.
Again, it’s really refreshing to not have sexual tension or any kind of love interest there – they’re just colleagues and best mates who have got a great connection. Noel’s ace – he’s awesome. We really enjoyed working together.
DDW: What was it about Viewpoint that made you want to get on board?
Bronagh: I think it really was my character! I get sent a lot of scripts and there’s a lot that I kind of swerve because I think ‘this has been done before and I don’t know what more I can bring to this’.
What I loved about Stella was that she felt real and funny and raw. I just identified with her a lot. I fought really hard for the part, as well. She’s from Manchester, so I was obviously a bit of a wild card for the part but when I read it, I was like ‘No, I really want this! I really like her!’ She’s just really kickass, you know?
DDW: What was it like filming in the city – in Manchester – with everything going on?
Bronagh: Well, we were there from August until just before Christmas, so we kind of went through two separate lockdowns.
It was lush to be in the city centre. I was so excited to be back in Manchester and I’ve got so many friends that live there – but I wasn’t able to see anyone! It was cruel! Fehinti (Balogun), who plays Greg in the show – we’re really good friends – was so excited about being in the city centre and I wanted to show him around places and we couldn’t. So it was nice, but it just was a bit quiet, you know.
Bronagh: It’s funny, isn’t it? It definitely looks like that, but it really isn’t something I’ve done on purpose – I guess it’s just the way things have fallen recently. I love doing them but it wasn’t ever a conscious decision. It’s always the story for me and character. What’s different, too – I’m always looking to try and play a different character from what I’ve just played. I’ve been really lucky with those series that they are all very different.
But yeah, I did say to my agent after Viewpoint – especially because I was pregnant – ‘I’m ready for some comedy now!’. I’ve just finished filming King Gary, which is a sitcom for the BBC. It was really nice to do that because you don’t want to get stuck doing the same thing over and over again.
I’ve been really lucky that every role has been so different and I do love watching crime drama, too. I mean, I’m sure I’m the same as everybody else in the UK – I’m glued to Line Of Duty at the moment and glued to Unforgotten, you know. I think it’s quite a cultural thing for us, isn’t it? To have that kind of TV.
DDW: Yes, I’d say crime is definitely the genre that gets talked about the most in the UK. I suppose because we can all discuss it and theorise…
Bronagh: Yeah! And I think that we’re really good at it in the UK. There’s a lot of Danish and Norwegian television that does the same kind of thing, but I think that we’re equally up there, creating really good crime dramas that keep you gripped. It’s quite cool.
DDW: You mentioned that all the characters you’ve played over the years have been so different. Is there one that stands out for you as your favourite part you’ve played so far?
Bronagh: I really love Stella – I really, really love Stella!
It was just nice to have a break from playing trauma, because I’ve played quite a lot of trauma. As an actor, that can be really taxing and exhausting – you put so much into it and it kind of leaves you feeling a bit bled dry. With Stella, I really loved her energy and it felt very empowering to play her – I feel like there’s so much more that I want to see from her, like her backstory and why she is the way she is. You never know, we’ll see how the series does – but if it did well, I would love to see a bit more from her, you know? I’d definitely like to play her again.
DDW: Is there a second series in the pipeline then?
Bronagh: Well, it’s one of those things where you just have to kind of wait and see how it does, see what the response is by the British public – we’ll just play it by ear. If there’s an appetite for it, there’s definitely a lot more there. I definitely think Ed (Whitmore, who wrote the series) has been thinking about it, but we have to wait and see if there’s the appetite for it.
Noel and I got on so well, too. I think we’re quite an unusual pairing, but it was so fun. It’s nice seeing two really different people together – I think we have good chemistry and hopefully that comes across, you know. We would love it if it was picked up again.
DDW: Congratulations are in order in your personal life, too, as you mentioned earlier that you’re expecting a baby! Have you got long to go now?
Bronagh: No, not long at all! The baby’s due in the middle of May.
We only moved house ten days ago, too, so it’s been really crazy getting everything ready. I was up till like eleven o’clock last night painting a wall because I hated the wallpaper – I just couldn’t bear it any longer, so I was frantically painting like a madwoman! Then today, I was straight out to the baby shops to go and pick up essentials.
Everybody in my antenatal class has shamed me because they’ve all completed their nurseries. They’re all model students and I feel like a rebel school kid! I’m just so underprepared – I’m going to be flat-pack building for the next week at least!
DDW: Definitely a really busy time for you, then?
Bronagh: Yes, it is. It’s quite crazy. I was looking forward to having a bit of time to relax once I finished filming last week, but I think now it’s just like ‘go, go, go’! We’re trying to get the house in order and get everything ready for the baby – hopefully we’ll get it all done before the baby arrives. Maybe I can even take five minutes for myself!
DDW: You announced your pregnancy with a series of photographs by Stewart Bywater – that shoot was really stunning.
Bronagh: Thank you so much! That was a really last minute thing that I decided to do because I hadn’t told anyone that I was pregnant and I was starting to get recognised on the maternity ward. I thought ‘Oh, God, what if someone just says on Twitter that I’m pregnant and I haven’t even told some of my closest friends or extended family?’.
I just didn’t really know how to do it, because you physically can’t see anyone – it almost doesn’t feel real that you’re pregnant. I definitely wanted to mark it in some way and I saw my friend Laura (Whitmore, TV presenter) who has just had a baby – she looks so beautiful and so empowered in her shoot. I thought I might just embrace Laura’s attitude and this kind of kick-ass motherhood thing and go ‘This is me and this is what I’m like at the moment’. It’s a great way of being able to tell your friends and family all at once, as well as the rest of the world.
Also, I think there’s something about being pregnant – certainly for me, anyway – where I feel so great about my body at the moment! I wasn’t expecting to feel like that. I was expecting to be very sluggish, but I’ve really just been amazed by how incredible women’s bodies are and what we can do with our bodies.
It felt like an apt thing to post on International Women’s Day – to celebrate that, you know. Also, I can’t see the world and I can’t see my friends and family, so that felt like the next best thing. You know, I don’t know if I would have done it if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, but it just felt like a way of connecting with people when I can’t see anyone. It can be very isolating being pregnant during a pandemic – it can be very lonely.
DDW: Is it quite strange doing a photoshoot over zoom?
Bronagh: It’s the first time I’ve done a Zoom photo shoot, but I’d love to do more – they’re great! You do them in your own home, you do your own hair and makeup, grab your own clothes… that’s why most of them were in my underwear, because none of my clothes fit! But yeah, it was great. I really enjoyed it.
It was such a creative way of working with Stewart, as well. It felt very 2021 and very of-the-time. Everything we’ve done has been on Zoom. I’ve done sitcom readings for the BBC on Zoom, I’ve done a film read-through – everything we do is on zoom, so it just kind of felt quite fitting for 2021 and the pandemic to do a photo shoot like that.
DDW: And what an effective way to mark what the world was like when your baby was born, too.
Bronagh: Yeah. It’s going to be so mad when the baby grows up to be like ‘You were born in the middle of a pandemic and I was pregnant all the way through that’. Also, it’s so cool to be able to film things and go ‘You were there’, you know?
I think it’s going to be a time that we’ll look back on and just kind of shake our heads in disbelief. It’s wild, everything that the world has gone through. It’s just such an odd time – we’re still processing it and people are still dying. It’s an ongoing thing. I think it’s something that we’re going to take a long time to process and take stock of.
Certainly for me, it’s made me really value my time with my family and friends. I always have done, but especially now, I’ve seen how incredibly important that is. My mum and I haven’t been able to get back to Ireland now for over a year – I think it’s been like 15, 16 months that we’ve not been home now. We normally go home every Christmas to see my grandma. That’s been really, really hard – not seeing the family. We’re not going to get a chance to get home before the baby comes, either. I definitely think that it makes you take stock of things and really look at what matters to you.
DDW: Absolutely. So that’ll be your first port of call?
Bronagh: Exactly. As soon as I feel healthy and well enough to get on a boat, I’ll be straight across the water to see my family.
DDW: So, Viewpoint is out soon, you’ve just wrapped on King Gary – is there anything else we can expect to see you in that’s coming up?
Bronagh: I’ve got a film that was postponed because of the pandemic, which I’m really excited to start shooting. It’s with an incredible team and it explores autism in children. I play the mum of an autistic little girl, so that’s something I’ve been researching loads recently and have a real interest in. I’ve met the little girl that’s playing my daughter and she’s neurodiverse herself – in fact, on the whole creative team, I would say that about 56% of the team are neurodiverse. That’s going to be a really new adventure and a new learning curve.
It’s a beautiful story. I’m excited about shooting that whenever things lift enough that we can get back out there.
Viewpoint starts 9pm, Monday 26th April on ITV1 and ITV Hub.
Photo Credit: Stewart Bywater // Tiger Aspect Productions