Interview With Lesley Sharp From ITV's 'Red Eye', Which Premieres on April 21

Red Eye, told over an adrenaline-filled six parts, is set between an all-night flight from London to Beijing, the streets of London, and the corridors of power within Whitehall



ITV Press Centre

What drew you to Red Eye?

Aside from the fact that I thought Delaney was a really compelling character, the script was a real page turner, I was intrigued by what was going to happen next. I thought it was really audacious …..…Individuals in mortal terror, unable to escape because they’re 30,000 feet above ground!

How would you describe Delaney at the point we meet her?

She’s a woman returning to work after a big moment in her personal life, where what she had taken for granted has been compromised. As she steps back into the work arena she immediately has to deal with this crisis around Nolan and she’s forced to handle this situation against the backdrop of work place politics,…. other people want her job. She's fighting fires on several fronts in a really controlled and mindful way. She's not someone who loses it easily, she’s very good at keeping it together.

Do you get the sense that she is well prepared for the difficult negotiations she is facing?

I think years of training allow people like Delaney to click into a totally focussed mindset. In heightened dramatic situations, they operate in a different way. Our director, Kieron [Hawkes] and I talked about Delaney's back story. We decided she’d been an agent in the field and if necessary would have been a killer Negotiating with someone who's got the ear of the President of China, and being authorised to give a statement on behalf of the British government is a huge responsibility. She takes it very seriously but wears it lightly. She has risen to the top because she's brilliant at her job, but she's also got a really good, moral, human core, which underpins all of that. She’s one of the good guys.

Do you think she has been shaped by working in a male-dominated profession?

Absolutely, I really think that will be part of her generational story to be offered the role as Head of MI5, you know that will have come at a cost. And it will have meant that she really was the best of the best. Delaney’s husband is now severely disabled and requires a full-time carer. She also has a lover.

How much do those complications in her personal life impact her?

As the drama unfolds we mainly see Delaney at work, but she certainly has a complex home life. She obviously had a very strong relationship with her husband, and she shares with him her attraction to her colleague. The mutual respect is very moving. And when it all goes wrong, all he wants is someone who is worthy of her...

Are you fascinated by the inner workings of MI5, like so many of us?

Yes, absolutely. Every time I drive over Vauxhall Bridge, I have a look at that MI6 building and I wonder what's going on in there. I love John le Carre’s Smiley books, Slow Horses on Apple TV…..I'm really heavily invested in that genre. I was super happy to be asked to play the Head of MI5 in Red Eye, what can I say, it’s a dream come true!

Is it fun to play a woman who seems so utterly capable and in control?

Totally. It is amazing to play people who have exactly the right riposte at the right moment, or make the right decision, or even just manage to take a breath before they respond. Don't we all wish that we could be like that?!

What were the biggest challenges for you in making this drama?

I think after the readthrough it was difficult to say goodbye to all the colleagues who were going off to shoot the plane sequences! We then had a very concentrated period later on where we shot all of the MI5 scenes back to back. Eventually the characters do all come together So I did actually get to spend time with Jing [Lusi] and Richard [Armitage], which was great. I worked with Jing on the last series of Scott & Bailey and was delighted to be working with her again. Richard and I have crossed paths for years – we have never worked together, but always wanted to, so we were so happy to be to be on the same set together.

There’s so much suspense in this drama, was that hard to shake off at the end of the day?

The viewer sees all of that adrenaline in the final cut and they are being taken to the place that they need to go to for the story. But for me at the end of a filming day? I’m thinking about learning my lines for the next day and getting to bed early. Sleeping isn’t a problem when there’s a 5am start the next day!

What inspires you about new projects at this point of your career – are you looking for strong female characters like Delaney to play?

I think the optimum place for any actor is that they get offered a full range of characters to investigate. And it’s also the credentials of the other people involved in the project… But mainly it’s about terrific writing, I think describing female characters as ‘strong’ is kind of outdated now… and I don’t really know what that means…... I prefer the prefix three dimensional or complex!

How do you hope viewers will respond to Red Eye?

I really just hope the series is the visual equivalent of a cracking good page turner, and at the end of every episode I would love people to say, “Oh my God, what’s going to happen next?” And then either head straight for ITX to binge it all in one go or look forward to the next episode like we all used to…water cooler TV magic.


Red Eye is set to premiere on ITV1 and ITVX in the UK on the 21 April.

April 19, 2024 7:00am ET by Newsdesk  

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