AcornTV’s is ready to premiere their all-new original series, Whitstable Pearl, which is an adaptation of the popular novels by Julie Wassmer, and we’ve got a brand new interview with key cast members including Kerry Godliman, Howard Charles, Frances Barber and Isobelle Molloy which takes audiences inside this new mystery series.
Check out the full interview below:
Kerry Godliman – “Pearl Nolan”
Can you tell us the story of Whitstable Pearl?
In essence, it’s about a woman called Pearl, who I play, and she has long harbored a dream to be a private detective, an ambition she gave up on a bit when she was much younger. She was in the police force, but she had to leave because she had a child. Since then, she has gone on to become quite a successful restaurateur, with Whitstable Pearl, her oyster restaurant. The whole show is about things that happen in the community of Whitstable. You meet lots of different personalities, and a police officer comes down from London, Mike McGuire, and they have quite a lot of rapport, shall we say?
Have you found that Whitstable is like an extra character in the story?
I think that’s a unique selling point and big part of the show, seeing Whitstable. We’ve been in the harbor today and it’s so beautiful, with so many great locations, down by the Neptune pub, and down at Tankerton slopes and just all the beach shots. It’s such a beautiful part of the country and it’s a very unique place. It’s got a real mishmash of different characters, and its history is amazing, and it’s aesthetically beautiful, and then there are very industrial parts like where we’ve been filming today. There’s a concrete factory, there is a fully working harbor, these are the oyster farms. It’s a tourist place, but it’s very much a working town.
How has filming been so far with you?
I’ve enjoyed filming so far. It’s a long shoot, so I’m sort of trying to pace myself, and also ease into the world that we’re creating and the character. Make sure those story beats are hit, and then we can start enjoying the world we’ve created a bit.
You’re quite early in the process, but is there anything you’ve filmed thus far or that you can see in the scripts going forward that seems particularly challenging, or has been particularly rewarding?
Well I’ve already been in the sea, and we’ve only been here 10 days! So that was quite a challenge. It’s crime stories, so there are bits that can get a little bit physical and there’s a particular scene or two that’s quite violent. So there are things that are challenging, and once you’ve got a stunt double involved, you’re like, “Ah, right, now I’ve got to use a different part of my brain.” So yes, a lot going on. Pearl has quite a busy life.
And how’s it been filming under Covid conditions?
It is different. Covid has added another layer of complexity. Everybody’s been brilliant, and we’re all desperate to keep working, so you follow the rules and respect why they’re there and why we have to have them. They do add another dimension of concern, though, because obviously, the Covid supervisor has to make sure that everybody’s socially distanced and that we’ve all got our cohorts and our bubbles. But I find it quite reassuring that it’s all being taken so seriously, it’s really important.
How was your summer of lockdown? Was getting this series part of that time?
This materialized towards the end of lockdown, so sort of mid to late summer. I was thinking about it and I had a holiday down in Deal and we made the point of coming to Whitstable for the day to get in the zone a little bit.
How was lockdown for you?
It was doable. I’ve got two kids and some people go “Oohh, I couldn’t have done it with kids.” But actually, I found it better with kids. I think I’d have gone into a sort of existential despair if I didn’t have the kids. Having the kids and having to homeschool them and keep them buoyant gave me some focus and structure to my day. It meant that we had to get up every day and do the schooling and keep them happy and sane. There were days where it was like, “Ohhh, just play on the ps4.” But mostly, it was fine, and we did have that amazing weather and fortunately, I wasn’t adversely affected by it, so it was okay. It was pleasant to have quality family time.
Speaking of family, can you just tell me a bit about the two main relationships that you have within this series?
Yes, Pearl and her mum Dolly, played by the brilliant Frances Barber. They’re very close, but there’s something between them that we discover is a bit unsaid, and there’s a story there. There’s a bit of history, Dolly’s had quite a colorful past. And the other key relationship is with Mike McGuire, the police officer that comes down from London, and Pearl and Mike have a connection pretty much straight away, but they don’t quite know what it is initially.
Why do you think murder mysteries of this nature are so popular with the audiences? I don’t know! Why are murder mysteries so popular with the public? Is it because we have a problem-solving brain?
I think what’s quite nice for me to think about when I’m playing Pearl is that she always wants to straighten out wonky lines. She wants order and wants things to be explained. And so much of our lives are not clear or not explained or there’s so much information to process. I suppose the joy of a whodunit is there’s a clarity – this happens, and then this, and then in the library with the lead piping and then that’s it, we can all go home. There’s a closure to it. If only life were like that.
Howard Charles – “Mike McGuire”
Tell us about your character, Mike McGuire, in Whitstable Pearl.
I’m an outsider. A man wracked with guilt, plagued by an event – the death of my wife – in the not too distant past. I’ve lost my connection with the vibrancy of life. I’m a functioning widower and a good detective who is running on empty. I am transferred from a major crimes unit in London’s MET police to an English seaside town (Whitstable) where I can effectively do no harm. I meet Pearl Nolan, a local restaurateur and private detective. Pearl and McGuire relight something in one another. They have a lot in common: they know the ship named ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ has well and truly sailed. They’ve both loved and lost. Neither is fulfilled. They’re both hurting. They are both guarded. Initially, there is conflict between them, however, as time passes, they grow to respect one another and begin to enjoy each other’s company, which opens up new avenues of possibility…and conflict.
Would you describe Whitstable as being like another character in the series?
Yes. It’s a charming seaside town which, in the context of the series, provides the perfect backdrop for murder, debauchery and the like. Bad things don’t happen in places like this, or to people like this. They happen to other people, somewhere else, somewhere worse. In story terms, Whitstable has secrets and those secrets are beginning to wash up onshore. Every tide brings a new mystery to be solved.
What would you say is special about Whitstable?
We all fell in love with Whitstable. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place. Somewhere you can relax. A bit of a hidden gem, and I’m sure the people who live there would like to keep it that way.
How has filming been so far for you in terms of the other cast, the crew, have you worked with any of them before?
It’s been great. We’ve got a wonderful cast, great creative team, top producers, a wonderful director, David Caffrey who’s started it all off. Kerry, Frances, Sophia, Rohan and Isobelle — and the rest of the Whitstable family – a complete joy to work with. On so many occasions…it’s hard to articulate…I’ve had this sensation…a certain ebullience, respect, an appreciation of the focus being employed on set. And despite the challenges we face due to the pandemic, people are adapting, getting on with it and doing what they need to do.
How’s it been working under the Covid lockdown?
You just have to adapt, I think. I personally haven’t found it that difficult. It’s different, of course. Everyone is in masks, socially distanced, it’s not very pleasant, there’s no socializing off set etc, but we all want to work so we will do whatever we need to do in order to keep working. Production are doing a tremendous job keeping everyone safe. We’re all tested twice a week and we have stringent protocols in place. And we follow them. If we want to keep working, and keep telling stories, then we must.
Have you filmed anything so far, or looking forward in the scripts, are you filming anything that you’re really looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to the swimming in the sea. At this time of year, it is extremely cold. For McGuire, it is an act of self-flagellation. As soon as I read that, I couldn’t wait. They asked me if I wanted to do it and, of course, I
jumped at the chance. They were going to get a stuntman in, but that’s something I have to do. It’s not just having a merry swim, it’s swimming to cause pain and release something. So yeah, I’m looking forward to that.
How was your summer of lockdown?
It was challenging. I’m sure everyone can say that, to a greater or lesser degree, it was challenging. But at the same time, it’s been a period of reflection and re-evaluation. I spent the whole time with my partner so I was quite fortunate that I got to spend so much time with my favorite person. We tried to make it as productive as possible. Did a lot of writing. But yes, a challenging time — unprecedented, isn’t it?
How was it auditioning for this role during that period?
Well, it came across my desk a few months before a lot of the pieces were in place, and then Kerry was on board which I was very excited about. Wonderful actor. Once I heard she was on board and of course, David [Caffrey], you just jump at these things. And the writing’s great too. Something about McGuire spoke to me. There are certain times as an actor where, because of what’s in your mind and in your heart, you’re drawn to certain things…I was in the mood to play Mike McGuire.
Do you have any theories as to why murder mysteries and the like are so popular with the public? We all like to play detective, don’t we? We all like a certain amount of justice being seen to be done and we like to solve the puzzle and make things right again. I suppose that’s maybe representative of us fixing something in our own lives in some way. We love the thrill of the chase and there’s something about feeling the heat but not being burned. Getting the thrill and being exposed to danger, but from the safety of our sofas. You know, it’s close, but it’s not real. We collectively enjoy stepping into that world and getting an insight into the criminal act and the criminal mind, but from a safe distance.
True Crime documentaries, Podcasts, TV series, they’re fascinating because the subject matter is so otherworldly. Most of us do not partake, we don’t go into those dark recesses of the criminal space and the morbid space, and we’re drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
Frances Barber – “Dolly”
Can you describe you character on Whitstable Pearl?
I don’t want to give too much away, because it is a mystery and the MacGuffin runs all the way through the six episodes. But Dolly is larger than life. She’s still on Tinder at her tender age. Whereas her daughter Pearl, who runs a PI agency, is rather strait-laced, and Dolly appears to be rather frivolous and a little bit out there, an old hippie really. But she features very heavily in the story-within-a-story, as the episodes unravel themselves, so she might come across as a little shallow at first, but actually you then realize she’s been covering something up all the way through, as have most people in the series.
Would you describe Whitstable almost as being like another character in the series? Oh, without a doubt, I mean, when I first read it I thought it was like a Scandi noir series. It’s set in a very small town where everybody knows everybody else. They’re either related or they’re neighbors or sisters and brothers, and it’s a little claustrophobic and as well as being utterly beautiful, even on a rather grey day. And so, it has that Scandi noir feel. Something’s going on behind the scenes and you’re not quite sure what it is until it’s actually revealed. I think it’s fascinating.
How do you like Whitstable? What’s special about it?
I’ve been here several times, I filmed here many years ago for a short film. But I’ve been here lots of times to have oysters, of course. It’s a gorgeous place. I mean, it just feels so lovely, as a Londoner to be by the sea. So, I couldn’t be happier that we’re filming here.
And how has filming been so far with Covid protocols?
Well, we’re in unusual times, and we’re working with Covid restrictions, and they’re very, very strict, as they should be. I did one film earlier this year, which was actually about Covid. It’s a whole new way of filming and I feel a bit more used to it, now. Everyone’s in a mask and I’ve got my alcohol hand sanitizer. I’ve got all sorts of gubbins around me. We’re just all happy that we’re working again, to be perfectly honest. So, in that respect, I don’t mind.
How has it been for your character in the series thus far? Is there anything that you’ve done that you’re really excited about or that you’re looking forward to further down the road?
I’m excited about all of it, actually. I just think it’s a wonderful script and it keeps you guessing all the time. Because even though it’s episodic and there are various stories going on within each episode, there’s this thread that Dolly is very, very much a part of, that’s running all the way through. So, I’m getting very excited about it day by day, and it’s a wonderful cast and a fabulous crew, so I couldn’t be happier.
What do you think about murder mysteries that keeps the public so enthralled?
I’m an obsessive about murder mysteries. I used to be fanatical about reading everything that PD James wrote and then Ruth Rendell and even as she wrote it in her alter ego, Barbara Vine. I love all the Patricia Highsmith novels. Honestly, I’m just an addict. And I just think particularly for America, when you see a small town like this, it excites them to see the way English people live, which is slightly different. Or maybe it’s not, maybe it’s the same. I know I love all the Scandi noir dramas – I’ve said it twice now – and it just fascinates me about just even the meals they eat. And because this is the land of oysters, Pearl and I run an oyster bar. The irony is, Dolly hates oysters, but she has to pretend she loves them. So, she eats them and goes, “Oh, they’re delicious” for her customers and then goes into the back and spits them out because she can’t stand them.
Isobelle Molloy – “Ruby”
Can you tell us about your character in Whitstable Pearl?
Ruby’s a young girl, and throughout the series, we see her go from a damaged girl to a flourishing woman. She’s quite troubled, and she puts her all into everything, the good and the bad. So, we see her go on quite a journey through the series.
Pearl is kind of like a mother figure to Ruby. She works in Pearl’s restaurant, and they become really connected, because they go through quite a lot together.
Would you say that Whitstable is like another character in the series?
It is like another character, for sure. I think it’s just really beautiful here, and it has such a lovely and communal feel that matches the tone of the series. It’s quite family-oriented, but also has a moody tone that underlines it, especially in the winter. I love it here.
How has filming been so far? Have Covid conditions made things more challenging?
It’s been so amazing, a really fun experience, and everyone is so lovely. We’ve had a right laugh. Filming during Covid has its challenges. It’s getting used to the new normal, but we’re getting through, and if there are restrictions in place, you follow them and do what’s best and safe for everyone.
So, what’s been the most interesting thing that you’ve had to film so far?
We did a really intense scene the other day on the beach, where there’s quite a lot going on and my character is in a really troubled place. She’s not in a good state, and so there was lots of crying and screaming and stunts in the sea. We were all freezing all day ‘cause we actually had to go in the sea in all of our costumes! But it was so much fun, very intense.
How was your lockdown? Did you get cast in Whitstable Pearl during that time?
It was okay. You know, lockdown is a very strange place to be, but you get through, you do what you have to do. Lots of self-tape auditions, including for Whitstable Pearl, and script learning and things like that. When this role came up, it really stuck out to me because it was such a great character and it was really something that I could get my teeth into, so I taped for it and then my agent sent it away. And then they asked me to do it in a different accent and I did, and then a few weeks later, I got the call and here we are.
Whitstable Pearl is set to premiere on AcornTV on March 24.