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Interview Jemma Redgrave: The demure Victorian now has murder on her mind; Jemma Redgrave's new TV role might shock the fans of 19th-century medic Bramwell, says Rob Driscoll, but she's is happy to be raunchier.

Jemma Redgrave swaps the tender loving care of Dr Eleanor Bramwell for some red-hot bedroom action in Blue Murder, a steamy new one-off TV thriller - plus a spot of trigger-happy gun action for good measure.

In a change of image that could well startle her fans, Jemma stars in the two-hour drama as a cold-hearted and calculating murderess who shares raunchy love scenes with Gary Mavers - himself a million miles from the cosy world of Peak Practice.

"I never had any qualms about the sex scenes," says 33-year-old Jemma, "because I trusted our director, Paul Unwin, completely, and I'd worked with him before. There's not actually any nudity, although the scenes are very erotic.

"Paul and I agreed that there was no need for a lot of graphic humping and the scenes prove you can create something very sexy without seeing a lot of flesh."

Jemma does admits, however, that she won't be likely to be watching those scenes with her husband, barrister Tim Owen. "He knows the story and what it all involves," says Jemma. "And I think he'll agree it's a really stylish piece of work.

"I've watched the sex scenes and I think they're very cleverly done - but I was probably under my jumper as I watched them, a bit like the way you watch Doctor Who as a kid!"

Inspired by the Hollywood thriller Body Heat and those atmospheric film noirs of the '30s and '40s, Blue Murder stars Gary Mavers as Detective Sergeant Adam Ross, who is drawn into a web of adultery, deception and murder when he falls for the rich, beautiful and mysterious Gale Francombe, played by Jemma.

Gale lives with her millionaire husband Ben (Tim Woodward), enjoys all the trappings of the rich and appears to be well beyond Adam's wildest dreams. But the chemistry between them is immediate and they begin a passionate and dangerous affair - and soon plan the perfect murder.

"It was great fun to play someone so wicked," says Jemma, daughter of Corin Redgrave and niece of Vanessa. She agrees the role could not be more different from that of Bramwell's Victorian lady doctor.

"Gale's pulse rate never rises very much, so it's less exhausting to play than someone like Bramwell who's more emotionally engaged in life - with all the chest-beating and hair-pulling that entails."

Talking of hair, another big change for Jemma was playing Gale as a radiant red-head. "I must admit I gulped a few times when the production team said they wanted to dye my hair, but I think it works brilliantly. The whole look of Gale is great - it's the eyes and lips too - and it helped a lot getting into the glamour and decadence of the part."

Jemma guiltily admits she thoroughly enjoyed pumping several bullets into her screen husband, played by Tim Woodward. "I've not worked with a gun before, but I was told I was a total natural!" laughs Jemma.

"In truth, I wouldn't want to go anywhere near a real gun, as I find them pretty revolting and scary things, but play-acting is different. It's all make-believe and it was a real release. We had a gun trainer on set and I went out into the garden and we scared all the birds. When I pulled the trigger on Tim, I let my mind go blank. Rather like the bullets!"

All in all, Jemma was surprised that she was ever offered the role of Gale. "It's not the kind of thing I'm generally offered," she says. "I think that if you play someone for a long time, you do become identified with that character - like Bramwell.

"Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to see someone in something very different. I'd worked with director Paul Unwin on Bramwell, and he wanted me to do Blue Murder, so it's to him I'll really grateful."

With Bramwell so gory and Blue Murder so raunchy, it's little wonder that Jemma's five-year-old son Gabriel has seen so little of his mum's work on screen. "He will hopefully be able to watch my next one, Cry Wolf, which is a sitcom pilot for the BBC," says Jemma.

"I play a stroppy doctor in that. Yes, another medic. Again, though, it's a far cry from Bramwell - and my first TV comedy." So far, Gabriel has tended to accompany his mother on many of her TV shoots, and he has a reasonable idea about the work of an actress.

"I experienced the same world as a child, as my father is an actor," says Jemma. "You know that your parent is acting, but it's very difficult to distinguish real life from drama as a child. I remember seeing my Dad in something where he got killed, and it was incredibly upsetting; I thought about it for days.

"So I think you have to be very careful about what you expose your children to if you're in this business. Gabriel will understand it more as he gets older, but he's always come to work with me. I started work on Bramwell when he was six months old, so he's used to studios. He's not watching Blue Murder, though!"

Gabriel comes first and foremost in Jemma's busy schedule and she doesn't rule out the possibility of having more children. Indeed, there have been rumours of late that she might be pregnant, but she won't spill any beans on that score. "I'd love to have another baby," is what she does say, somewhat enigmatically.

"Gabriel's five and I've forgotten what it's like to have a baby in the house. No doubt it will be a rude reminder if and when I do, and I might change my mind!"

Back on the work front, the ever-busy Jemma is currently filming another BBC drama series, Fish, in which she and Paul McGann play lawyers. "It wasn't hard doing the research," she smiles, quickly adding, "Yes, I've had a lot of advice from Tim. He could tell me exactly who I should talk to.

"Paul McGann is the star of the series, as an barrister working on industrial tribunal cases, and I'm his regular opposition - for the forces of darkness, generally speaking, though she's not unsympathetic. She's just more pragmatic. And there's just a hint of UST - Unresolved Sexual Tension!"

The fact that husband Tim is a real-life lawyer hasn't put Jemma off from playing one on screen. "Quite the opposite," she laughs. "I've been dying to play a lawyer for the longest time, precisely because I know that world quite well now. I'm just worried if people spot mistakes, after all this seemingly reliable research!

"We're going to have these dinner parties, and people will be saying 'But she's married to you, Tim, couldn't you have told her this and this....!"

As for Bramwell, there are definitely no plans for any revival, despite its huge popularity in viewer ratings. "I think everyone felt we took it as far as we could," says Jemma.

"I'm really sorry to see her go, as I loved playing the character. But I think it's wrong to keep grinding a series out when there's nowhere to go with it anymore. Eleanor went through a lot of peaks and troughs, and I'm sure that was enough for one character."

As the demure, sweet-natured Eleanor Bramwell, Jemma acquired a huge fan base, especially with older viewers who took the idealistic, corsetted doctor to their hearts. So will they be shocked with Blue Murder? "I hope not," says Jemma.

"It's funny, the whole thing about image, and how TV viewers of a popular series expect to see you. A friend of mine in Bristol went to see the Irvine Welsh film I did, The Acid House, which was very in-your-face and controversial, and she said about eight pensioners came into the cinema.

"They all looked like they were Bramwell fans, and they were a bit shocked. My advice to them is 'Buy the Bramwell videos, stick with that!' But seriously, I do think it's important for an actor to explore new avenues.

"The last thing I want is to get typecast." Trust us, after Blue Murder, there'll never be any danger of that.

Blue Murder is on Central this evening at 9pm.
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Author:Driscoll, Rob
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 23, 2000
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