Emily Watson On The Politician's Husband

David Tennant's The Politician's Husband co star Emily Watson has been talking about her role as Freya in the drama. She says:

The first thing that attracted me to this was that it was a cracking piece of writing. It's just a gripping story between these two characters. I also think Freya is quite an unusual female character. She's strong, faithful, sexual, political, ambitious, she's a mother; all of that rolled into one. She's a lot of different things that are usually compartmentalised into different packages in female characters.
When we first meet her, Freya is the junior education minister. She's seen as a high flyer with big prospects. We also know that she met Aiden and Bruce at university. So the story I constructed in my head was that they were probably all at Oxford together - all very brilliant, clever young people. In the beginning I think Freya probably wanted to change lives; I think that's innate in her. But I think they also quickly learned to embrace the political way of thinking. They're people who came through the Westminster system from a young age. They probably started off as interns and have learned how to work the system.
You don't end up being an MP or a cabinet minister without being unbelievably ambitious. But the interesting thing about Freya is that she has an emotional intelligence to go with that. Which means that she deals her cards in a more subtle way. Aiden is such a blunt instrument in the way that he tries to achieve things. He lets his lower nature get the better of him. Whereas Freya has a full orchestra of subtle, womanly ways at her disposal. And she knows how to use them.
Outwardly they look like a normal family with a nice suburban home, a couple of kids and successful careers. But that only scratches the surface. Their sexual relationship is quite interesting, put it that way! Their sexual tastes are slightly to the left of usual; quite edgy and aggressive. I think they're the sort of couple who, if they have a problem, solve it in bed. They don't necessarily talk about things in the way they should. I think that's one of the interesting things about this drama. It takes a public couple and then shows you what happens behind closed doors, to reveal an archetypal power struggle between two individuals.
There is one particularly shocking scene between them. I can't say too much about it, in case I give too much away, but basically Aiden's lower nature gets the better of him. It was quite hard to film. You just have to get through a scene like that, really. You have to go for it and then forget about it - and hope you don't have to emigrate! (I don't think I'll be doing the school run for a while). But it is an important scene in the drama. It's a turning point for the two of them. It sets them on a path that they can't get back from.
Their son Noah, who has Asperger's, is a very important part of the drama, especially in terms of David's character. I think when Noah's Asperger's became evident, Aiden basically couldn't deal with it. He stepped away from him. And in a way I think he is overcompensating in politics; he becomes more and more driven because he can't find the normal solace of what a human relationship provides.
I did quite a bit of research after taking on the role. Before filming started, Paula and the producers arranged for us to meet various different people, to get a sense of that Westminster world; the politics with a small 'p', as it were. So we met up with various MPs. It was very interesting to see what their concerns were. Some were very concerned about the party politics and the power struggles, the back-biting world of Parliament. There was an impression that that was the be-all and end-all of politics. At the other end of the spectrum you got people who were really driven to do good and to improve people's lives. And I think both the main characters in this drama, Freya and Aiden, are an interesting mixture of those two things.
We also met with a mother whose son has Asperger's. She was a brilliant and very impressive woman, but you could see how distressing it had been for her family - what an enormous challenge it had been for them. To her it felt like something that had landed in their lives that they weren't equipped to deal with. They were just having to cope with it on a daily basis and it was never going to change, never get any better. When she turned up she basically said, "Look, I decided on the way here that I'm not going to beat around the bush - I'm going to be honest with you about how hard it is. I won't do the soft sell on it. I'm just going to tell you what it's like." And we were in tears by the end. It was really distressing. You could see how destructive it can be on family life.
Obviously Asperger's is a huge spectrum. There are people who have it very mildly and people who have it intensely. But within that there's an awful lot of variation with a lot of different symptoms and behaviours. But I think for them it was that they couldn't go on holiday because the change of routine would have meant total disruption. Unless they kept the same routine and never did anything different, all hell was let loose. Of course some of that feeds into the drama. To be a parent in that situation and to also have a challenging job, to be relying on a nanny, and grandparents - I think Freya feels a very intense sense of guilt.
Aiden and Freya clearly operate in a very cynical world. There's one scene for example where Freya has to make a speech in Parliament. It's her maiden speech in the House of Commons and it's a complete bear pit. Everyone's yelling at her. And it goes very well. But if you actually analyse the speech, it's really total BS! There's nothing to it. It's just a sort of point-scoring exercise. So she manages to be a complete success without saying anything of substance whatsoever. I thought that was really interesting. And I have to say I got a real kick out of filming that scene. It was really fun. 
The House of Commons scenes were actually filmed in Wimbledon, in the studios where they used to film The Bill. There's a permanent set down there, which is about three quarters the size of the actual House of Commons. But we also did quite a bit of filming in the real parliamentary offices - for Aiden's office, and Bruce's flat. You could see Parliament from the windows. It was pretty cool to feel that we were right at the heart of things. We even had a security scare. Fortunately it was nothing serious. Somebody's car had broken down in the street so they closed the whole thing down and we couldn't get in.
For me, one of the most interesting moments in the drama was being interviewed by Kirsty Wark. In one scene in episode one, Freya agrees to an interview with her, and she gets a grilling. Obviously Kirsty filmed those scenes herself. It was amazing to meet her. I've followed her career and feel like I've grown up with her. And she was lovely. In the scene she basically turns on me and goes in for the kill. I have to say that felt quite real.
I've never really been involved in politics myself. I think I went on a couple of marches when I was at Bristol, but that was about it. I didn't take it any further. It's not really my world. As for actually being an MP? I'd be hopeless, hopeless, hopeless! I'm just not organised enough. I need other people to organise me. I have enough difficulty running my own life, let alone other people's.
The Politician's Husband comes to BBC Two later this month.