Landscapers Interview: Olivia Colman

Coming to SKY TV and NOW on December 7th, Landscapers tells a unique love story involving a seemingly ordinary couple who become the focus of an extraordinary investigation when a couple of dead bodies are discovered in the back garden of a house in Nottingham.

Mild-mannered husband and wife Susan (Colman) and Christopher Edwards (Thewlis) have been on the run from reality for over 15 years. When Christopher makes a startling call home to his step-mother, their role in a terrible crime that remained undiscovered for over a decade begins to emerge into the light. As their relationship is subjected to the glare of a full police investigation the devoted couple are separated for the first time in their marriage.

As the investigation moves forward, inspired by Susan’s obsession with old Westerns and
classic cinema the fantasists cast themselves as Hollywood heroes in narratives of their own
invention. Powered by Susan’s extraordinary imagination, Susan and Chris’s fantasy world
provides a much needed sanctuary from realworld horrors and their own clawing guilt, but
also threatens to undo them completely.

Olivia Colman tells us more…

How did this role come about?
Ed [Sinclair, creator, Olivia’s husband] wrote it. And so I did it. He was looking for something to write for me, which is very nice, because this was started years ago. And then in the interim I’ve been very lucky but Ed was still writing this because he got totally into it. And it was just a part that I wanted to play – just purely from an acting point of view it was a great opportunity to play someone like that. And he’d written it beautifully. Every actor that turned up on set said,
‘Oh, my God, the scripts are amazing.’ From an acting point of view, it was like a dream.

What’s story is Landscapers telling?
It’s about a couple, the Edwards, who we know from the very beginning have committed a crime – they’ve committed a murder. So you automatically go, ‘Bad! Oh, awful people!’ But
then you look into it more and you see that they are two gentle people who are very devoted to each other, and in love. You don’t know what happened that night [when Susan Edwards’ parents were murdered]. But the fact that there’s historical abuse, that she was abused by her father: that does something to a person. We know now that if this happens to you as a child it might not come out until you’re an adult. But for some reason in Susan’s case that was
thrown out of court as impermissible evidence I think Ed, as an empathetic person, wanted to tell a story. It might not be exactly their story, they did murder people and they did get
away with it for 15 years. But I don’t know what any of us would do in those situations.

To what extent is this a love story?

It is a total love story. He was her knight in shining armour. He took her away from this place that she was so unhappy about, and he has done nothing but stand by her side. They’ve really got each other’s backs. Landscapers is not your standard True Crime series.

How does it tell that story?

It’s quite hard to describe – there’s intrigue, there’s crime, there’s, ‘Why the hell did they do it?’ And then it goes quite fantastical – Susan loved 1950’s Hollywood movies and as she retreats into her mind to find a place where she feels safe, they all become cowboys like in High Noon for example. It’s sumptuous; there’s so much in it, so much imaginative stuff at play. It’s not your average true crime drama. I haven’t seen anything like it before. I’m so excited.

Why did you want to play this part?

Firstly, I remember reading a first draft and realising that Ed, knowing me, had put in parts that I would want to play, scenes that I loved, the sort of stuff I want to do. So for me I was excited about the screenplay, rather than the actual people – the Edwards – that he had been so involved with. Beyond that I love playing that person who’s timid and shy and sweet but has something hidden and dark behind them. You don’t often get those characters in a script coming through your letterbox. I loved the fantasy nature of it as well. Had Ed had nothing to do with it I would have still really wanted to do this job, based on the scripts alone: they were
just interesting, gripping and I couldn’t put them down. I know I’m not biased, because sometimes I will go, ‘Oh, God, I don’t like it,’ when Ed writes a scene. That’s a good litmus
test as well. Would I have wanted to do it if Ed hadn’t written it? I definitely would have done. But I can only see it in Ed’s hands because not many people would have been brave enough to go for something with this massive imagination and scope. I don’t think anyone would have written it as well as Ed.

What sort of person is Susan?
She’s a perfectly straightforward, normal, shy, quiet, you probably-wouldn’t-notice-her-walking-past-her, introverted, devoted wife, who was brought up under really extraordinary
circumstances. Humans can put up with enormous amounts of torture, but at some point they can be pushed to do something you never would have imagined that you’d do. Susan is that quiet person who has absolutely been pushed. Now none of us will ever know what happened that night [when the Wycherleys, her parents, were killed]. But we do know that there were historical issues of abuse. And God knows what that does to someone.

What research did you do in to the character?
I always do just stick to the script: a good writer has done so much work already. But we did meet the real Douglas [Susan’s solicitor Darrell Ennis-Gaynes]. Ed and he got on really well: he’s an incredible guy, who is everything that Dipo [Ola] has played. Douglas’s background and the fact that as a youth he did the wrong thing and then decided to change his ways and to help other people is absolutely real. We met him and I said, ‘What’s her voice like?’ He said, ‘Well, I think she sounds exactly like you.’ Okay, great! Whether or not that’s true I don’t know – he might have a terrible ear for accents, not sure. So I just did my voice. But I’ve never heard
her, I’ve never had any contact with her, never seen any of the interviews. I was left to just make something up really.

Landscapers is on Sky Atlantic and NOW from 7 December.

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