Interview with Eleanor Tomlinson, who plays Amy in The War Of The Worlds

The War Of The Worlds A major adaptation by Peter Harness of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi title

Who is Amy and what are her key relationships within the story?

I would say that Amy is pretty groundbreaking for her time. She is a very modern woman compared to her acquaintances. She is in a relationship with George, who is married to another woman, so their relationship is not the norm in 1905. She has grown up in India so doesn’t necessarily have the sensibilities that a person brought up in Edwardian England might have had. She is strong and independent and her life force is captivating, which is refreshing for George and also for me, playing her.

Amy has a close friendship with Ogilvy, which George doesn’t quite understand. At this time women were very much the property of their husbands and weren’t really permitted to have their own independence. Amy and Ogilvy forge this friendship with the work that they do and their love of astronomy. The relationships between Amy, George and Ogilvy stem from the fact they are all considered pariahs of the time. They don’t quite fit into society. It is alluded to that Ogilvy may even be homosexual, which would have been illegal at that time. Each one of the characters, particularly Amy and Ogilvy, has an innate strength, and we see them survive and build on that strength together.

What was your first encounter of The War of the Worlds?

I had seen the film adaptation but my first proper encounter was with the book. I read it when I heard that Mammoth Screen was making this adaptation, and what I found in the book was that it was nothing like the movie I’d seen. To be part of an adaptation that was set in the time that it was written was very interesting to me. I think that it is very refreshing to see a period drama that goes futuristic as opposed to a modern or near-future drama going further into the realms of futuristic storytelling. Peter and Craig’s vision of this adaptation was immediately captivating. It breaks into a different realm of science fiction and has this fresh and different approach, which excited me.

What are your feelings on Peter Harness’s adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic and the decision to give Amy both a name and a voice?

It was so refreshing to read Peter’s adaptation of the novel which has a woman at the core of the drama, a choice which I feel is where Peter’s adaptation really updates the book. The book is almost in diary form, a journal of events as opposed to a continuous story. Amy carries the narrative throughout the scripts and she has a bravery that comes from within. It fuels her incredible sink-or-swim self-survival that drives her forward.

What difference did it make to have the physical capsule at the crash site, instead of it being added in post-production?
It's priceless to be able to have actual props and sets that are built to react. So many science fiction dramas are built around someone’s imagination, so you don’t know how someone else sees something unless you have the concept art to work from. To be able to have a physical set that we could interact with, like our Martian crash site, has been wonderful. We also had the noise of what the Martians would sound like on set in order to help us react to them. It was slightly terrifying but brilliant to have that element too.

When we were filming outside St. George’s Hall in Liverpool all of a sudden there were these very unearthly sound effects that were deeply unnerving. It really helped us get into that zone. With the Red World set, it really was like stepping into another world. Outside the studio it was blazing daylight but once you have stepped through the studio doors and onto the Red World stage you could barely see the person standing in front of you. There was mist and dust and it immediately got us into the zone and mindset of the character and the life that they were living. Pat Campbell and her design team created another planet for us to inhabit. I’ve never seen sets like them. It really was incredible.

Moving from peaceful Edwardian England in episode one through to the Red World, what physical transformation does Amy go through?

There was a huge transformation for me, from when you meet the character at the start of episode one to where she ends up toward the end of the series. There is a gap of about six years within the story. I worked closely with costume designer Howard Burden and hair and make-up designer Vickie Lang and their teams to create looks that were realistic for the story. We wanted to best represent what Amy has gone through and where she ends up.

We spoke about Amy in this period and the fact that she is so pro-active and constantly driving forwards, so I have this fantastic pair of culottes, which looked like a skirt but they were actually very comfy and practical trousers. It was wonderfully freeing to be about do the stunt and action scenes where I was running away from the aliens or jumping on a horse and not have to worry about wearing a skirt. This was a very physical shoot and the outfits were key to achieving all the stunt work that needed to be done. It was about creating the beauty of the Edwardian period, making it practical and then destroying that look for later on in Amy’s journey.

What challenges came from shooting out on location during the harsh weather conditions?

It was a bit of a bleak shoot in terms of the weather, but I have to hand it to the crew as I absolutely could not have done it without them. They were fabulous. They picked me up on more than one occasion and got me through things, especially on the days where we were exposed to all the elements. We all got through it together and I think we will be left with some pretty groundbreaking television.

November 11, 2019 5:53am ET by BBC One  


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