Tuesday 11 December 2018

Indira Varma says period dramas aren’t commonplace for mixed race actors

The Game Of Thrones and Luther actress is due to star in Channel 4’s one-off drama Unspeakable.

Indira Varma stars in Unspeakable (Channel 4/Laura Radford)
Indira Varma stars in Unspeakable (Channel 4/Laura Radford)

By Kerri-Ann Roper

Game Of Thrones star Indira Varma said she relished the chance to do a period drama because as a mixed race actress it is not something “you get to do very often”.

The actress, 44, added that while things are changing “we’ve still got a way to go”.


Varma played Ellaria Sand in the TV series adaption of George RR Martin’s fantasy novels and viewers saw her Thrones character chained up and made to watch her daughter die after seeing her poisoned by Cersei Lannister as revenge.

She will next be seen in the Channel 4 drama, Unspeakable, and following that will star in Sky period drama series Melrose, which is based on Edward St Aubyn’s series of semi-autobiographical Patrick Melrose novels.

She told the Press Association: “I am halfway through Melrose for Sky. I am loving that.

“I think the books that it’s based on are incredible and I think David Nicholls’ is an amazing adaptation and I get to work with Hugo Weaving and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who I am such fans of, and Benedict Cumberbatch. And it’s 1960s!

“I never get to do period drama, you know, if you’re mixed race you don’t get to do period drama in this country very often.”

Asked if she thought things were changing, she replied: “Yes it’s changing – but we’ve still got a way to go. Age, gender, everything, race…”.

Melrose will be executive produced by Cumberbatch, who will also star in the five-part series as an aristocratic playboy. The series has been written by One Day author Nicholls.

In Unspeakable, Varma plays Jo, a mother whose life is turned upside down following an anonymous text warning her of an inappropriate relationship between her boyfriend and 11-year-old daughter.

Bend It Like Beckham The Musical – London

Talking about the project, the Luther actress said: “I wanted to do it, because I don’t get the chance to do dramas where I’m playing the lead in it and it’s not me dressed as a queen or something.”

“It’s a really great opportunity to be asked to play the protagonist. So often its exposition and pushing plot, whereas this is all about what’s going on inside her head, and it’s really delicate. It has to be really delicately played.”

“There’s loads of shades of it and nuance and that’s what you get off on. And it’s about relationships and that’s always good.”

Playing her boyfriend in the one-off Channel 4 film is A Street Cat Named Bob star Luke Treadaway.

Olivier Awards 2013 Press Room – London

Filmed over a short, two-week period in Bristol, he said of the project: “A one-off drama is so rare and I remember certain ones I saw when I was growing up, which was a big thing for me.”

Treadaway, 33, who also won an Olivier for his performance in the theatre production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, said it was an “immediate yes” for him to accept the role in the small budget film.

He said: “It felt like you were really involved and sometimes on a big-budget thing, you can feel quite like ‘OK, we’ve hired you to come in and put those clothes on and say those words and that’s it’, which is fine.

“It can be great and if the script’s great then that’s cool, but sometimes it’s not and you want to change it – and you know because you’ve been the one imagining how you can get from that thought to that thought.”

Unspeakable airs on Channel 4 on Sunday November 5.

Press Association

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