Interview with Holliday Grainger about Strike - Lethal White
Holliday Grainger plays Robin Ellacott in Lethal White
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Can you intro us to Lethal White?
Lethal White is the fourth installment in the Strike saga. We join Strike and Robin on a new case, investigating blackmail attempts made against an MP, but - spoiler alert - that soon turns into a murder investigation.
We’ve seen Robin go on a significant journey across the four series. How do you approach Robin’s character as we learn more about who she is and what’s happened to her?
I’ve always loved how, for readers of the books, or viewers of the series, Robin and Strike are introduced with minimal backstory. It’s only as the series develops that they begin to open up to one another and, by extension, to the audience too. Slowly, we learn more about their individual histories and the reasons for them being who they are.
Robin’s experience at uni, for example, the horrendous assault she suffered there, which we only learn about later on. It’s a trauma that continues to affect her daily life and relationships, and yet it doesn’t define her either. I think that’s what’s so beautiful about the way Jo has written the role: it isn’t who she is, but it informs some of the ways she deals with the world.
Has anything changed in terms of how you play her or how you approach her, since the first series?
Definitely. She’s had some tough experiences in the last two books, and I think they’ve set her back a bit, in terms of her recovery. She’s experiencing and going through so much, while at the same time having to re-heal herself. She was deeply affected by what she went through at the end of Career Of Evil, and that’s where we join her at the moment, having to cope with her trauma and anxieties.
Can you talk about the different worlds and roles that Robin takes on in Lethal White?
Robin has a great sense of fun, and she relishes taking on different roles. In Lethal White, she goes undercover as the goddaughter of an MP in the House of Commons, complete with a pair of brown contact lenses and all! To be completely honest, when I first read the book, I was a bit dubious that contacts could change a person’s appearance that much, but I was completely wrong - they really do, it transforms your whole face! And it’s fascinating the effect that then has on your personality too.
It's not her only stint undercover, either. She also goes from the corridors of Whitehall to Camden Town, where she starts working in a jewellery shop in the hope of infiltrating a left-wing protest group. So I’ve also got this black wig, black clothes, Doc Martens and gothy eye make-up look going on too.
Can you tell us about how Robin’s relationship with Matthew has evolved in Lethal White, and how that shows us how far her character has developed?
We’ve seen the ups and downs of Robin and Matthew’s relationship from the very first book. He’s her first love, it’s a very long-term relationship, and he’s been there for her through a lot. But by the time we get to Lethal White, I think she realises that they’ve reached the end of the road, something she’s probably known deep down for a while. It takes a certain, final, nail in the coffin for her to have - if not the confidence to leave him - she’s very loyal, Robin - but the strength to say, no, you know what, I don’t think I can do this anymore.
What’s appealing for the audience, watching that relationship essentially disintegrating?
I think we’re all just rooting for her and Strike, aren’t we? She and Matthew have to end. And maybe that’s because she’s growing into the person she’s meant to become, doing the work she was meant to. Something she’s brilliant at, passionate about, and which Matthew has been totally unsupportive of from the very start. We see their relationship begin to strain from the very moment she takes the job and starts to become the person she wants to be. The person she is.
Can we talk about Strike and Robin, and how their relationship has moved on when we find them at the beginning of Lethal White?
I’m not sure their relationship has moved on much at the beginning. Any closeness that they’d developed over the first few books has been pushed back a bit, as they’ve both been busy dealing with their own lives and their separate relationships. But they do open up to each other a lot in this book.
How does Robin react to Strike’s relationships with other women in this series, to both Lorelei and with the return of Charlotte?
I think seeing Strike with a beautiful, interesting, funny, and charming girlfriend cuts a little bit. It also forces her to face up to her reality. The acknowledgment of that jealousy really draws into focus the fact that her own marriage isn’t where it should be.
You’ve shot in some wonderful locations in this series and you’ve driven the Land Rover again. Can you tell us about your experience of that?
It’s actually a different car this time, it’s just been made to look like the last one. So I’ve had to kind of relearn all of that again. There’s no choke on this one, but the gearbox is just as challenging to make friends with. But I do quite enjoy it. I like an old car. What it lacks in power steering and tight turns it makes up for in fun! So I’m not too worried if the acting falls through. I’ll become a stunt driver instead!
What is it about Strike that has fans gripped and keeps them coming back for more?
Well, Robin and Strike’s relationship has captured so many hearts and minds, mine included! But I also think the series’ success lies in the way that each new case leads us into a new world. J.K. Rowling takes us on so many journeys to so many different places, but wherever you are, you feel as if you know the people in it because they’re all so fully realized.
A lot of Lethal White takes place in and around the Houses of Parliament, following an old aristocratic family. It’s an entirely alien environment to most people reading the book, but you feel like you’re getting a glimpse at real people in the real world, all through the eyes of these two brilliant characters in Strike and Robin. And that’s down to J.K. Rowling’s writing. And of course, she’s managed to create this brilliant ‘will they, won’t they’? ‘Should they, shouldn’t they’? And it’s as if the audience knows better than they do, how much they love and respect each other. I think we’re all rooting for them.
What do you think the future holds for Strike and Robin?
Oh, I don’t know. Marriage and babies, perfectly, happily ever after. But I think the most exciting thing is precisely that. The ‘will they, won’t they’ becomes the heartbreaking ‘not quite there yet’. That’s what’s so compelling to read and watch. I almost don’t know where they’d go if they ever did get together. I reckon it’d be quite a slow process.
I do want to know what’s going to go on with Strike and Charlotte, though. She’s far too interesting a character to not get to know more of. Robin might have to wait for a bit.
Source BBC One
August 13, 2020 8:15am ET by BBC One