Jamaica Inn: Q&A

Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan.

Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan.

“THERE’S nothing so dangerous as a headstrong girl who knows her own mind.”

Jessica Brown Findlay is mean, moody and muddy as Mary Yellan in a terrific three-part BBC1 adaptation of Jamaica Inn.

The former Downton Abbey star deserves to shake off all mentions of Lady Sybil and sentences that begin like this one after her dark and brooding performance as Mary.

Screenwriter Emma Frost stays faithful to Daphne du Maurier’s novel while adding her own stamp on the Cornish classic.

With BAFTA award-winning director Philippa Lowthorpe weaving yet more screen magic across three hours of drama.

Jamaica Inn begins at 9pm on Easter Monday and continues at the same time on the following two nights.

Co-starring Sean Harris as Jamaica Inn landlord Joss Merlyn, Matthew McNulty as his younger brother Jem Merlyn, Joanne Whalley as Aunt Patience, Ben Daniels as vicar Francis Davey and Shirley Henderson as his sister Hannah Davey.

If you’re read the book, you’ll know this is a thrilling tale of Cornish smugglers and much more set in 1821

Spirited Mary is forced to leave home after her mother dies and journeys “to the ends of the Earth” to live with her aunt and uncle in Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor.

“I never thought I’d struggle with telling good from evil,” explains Mary at the outset of a beautifully photographed epic.

Right from the opening shot of Mary dragging a heavy wooden trunk along a beaten track.

Here’s just a small flavour:

Last month I attended the London press launch of Jamaica Inn.

My full transcript of the post-screening Q&A is below, edited to remove a few sentences that would give just a little too much information for those who have not read the book, or investigated the story via Mr Google.

Taking part were Jessica Brown Findlay (Mary Yellan), Emma Frost (screenwriter), David Thompson (Producer, with Dan Winch), Philippa Lowthorpe (Director) plus chairman James Rampton.

As Philippa said: “It’s so wonderful to have a female heroine forging ahead in an adventure story, which is usually the preserve of boys’ stuff.

“I love Treasure Island – but this was wonderful to have a female heroine at the heart of it.”

While Jessica – known as Jessie – spoke about filming the role and then watching herself on the big screen at the preview:

“I was watching one scene and I almost started laughing because I remembered I stomped off and then immediately fell over flat on my face in the mud. And that’s not in there.”

Mary en route to Jamaica Inn.

Mary en route to Jamaica Inn.

All the photos on this page are by Robert Viglasky. There are links to him and lots more at the end of the Q&A below.

BBC Drama boss Ben Stephenson introduced the screening:

“I’ve always been a massive fan of Daphne du Maurier and have long wanted to bring Jamaica Inn to the screen. But Hollywood rights…you know what it’s like. So it’s been really, really difficult. So when David Thompson came and said that he thought it was going to be possible to make it, it was really exciting because she’s such an extraordinary writer. Tells popular stories but with real depth. And they always, I think, were perfect for TV. So it was a real honour to be able to bring this brilliant book to screen. I think it’s a really epic, exciting, moving story, led brilliantly by Jessica Brown Findlay who really gives a…well she’s already a star, but if she wasn’t, I would say star making performance. It’s a massive part and a massive journey that she goes on and she does it beautifully.”

Jamaica Inn

The Q&A:

Q: Jess – what was your first reaction when you were offered the role of Mary?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “I was elated. I read the first script and just thought it was incredible. And then I couldn’t help myself, between auditioning and finding out I went straight to the book and started reading. And then I realised maybe that was a bad idea because I’d be really envious if anyone else got to play Mary. I really, really, really wanted to. I thought she was incredible. And I was really happy.”

Q: What is it about her that makes her such a special character?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “So many things but…the thing that struck me immediately and the most refreshing thing was that – for the story that it’s telling, it’s led by a heroine, led by a woman. But you could change her name to a male name and you’d have the same story, almost. And that was so exciting. It wasn’t just fluffy, girly, boring stuff…it was so exciting and I’d never read anything like it. And it was dark. I just think she’s incredible. She’s really stubborn, sometimes to a fault. There was so much there.”

Sean Harris as Joss Merlyn.

Sean Harris as Joss Merlyn.

Q: Emma – for you, was that one of the appeals, that it’s an adventure story that traditionally, maybe, has been led by a male character but this has an astonishing female in the lead?

Emma Frost: “I think part of the appeal for me is that it’s the perfect fusion between…it’s a Gothic romance, it’s in the vein of Twilight, Wuthering Heights, The Piano, so many amazing films or books. But I think it’s the perfect fusion between an emotional interior story – it’s a big love story for Mary – but also that’s dramatised externally through this huge adventure in the wrecking. In the end it all comes down to…for me, when I read it, what made sense of it was that there’s central metaphor…in the wrecking they use false lights to lure ships to their destruction on their rocks. And I think the metaphor, for me, that Du Maurier is using is that she’s sort of comparing that to love and she’s saying, ‘We’re drawn to this bright light of what we’re attracted to and what you have to do is negotiate the rocks and see if you can find a way to get to what you desire without destroying yourself in the process. So there was this perfect parallel for me of the love story and this huge adventure story. And in the end the piece, for me, is a perfect triangle between desire, survival and morality. So there are people in this amazing epic physical environment who are trying to survive. Physically as well. They’re smuggling because there’s no money. There are no jobs, there is no way to survive. But, for Mary, it’s about trying to retain her own identity and her own integrity in the face of falling in love with a man who might destroy her because he might turn out to be the most criminal, worst person she’s ever met. So there’s this wonderful tension between those two things.”

Matthew McNulty as Jem Merlyn.

Matthew McNulty as Jem Merlyn.

Q: Philippa – beforehand you said to me, ‘It’s not a period drama, it’s a drama.’ Was one of the attractions for you that the characters seemed very contemporary in some ways?

Philippa Lowthorpe: “I think the characters do feel very contemporary and starting with Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Mary feels like a very modern heroine in that. And then Emma’s interpretation of that was fantastically vivid and very strikingly modern. I think all period drama should just be dramas and the word ‘period’ should be dropped. Because unless they live and breathe, for me, as real people with real passions and real faults, it doesn’t feel like you should bother making them. But that’s the wonderful thing about Mary as a character – she’s just so flawed but so full of drive and passion. She’s very attractive. She’s like any young modern woman would be.”

Joanne Whalley as Aunt Patience.

Joanne Whalley as Aunt Patience.

Q: David – I know you’ve been involved with Jamaica Inn for some time, what has made you feel that it was so right to bring to the screen?

David Thompson: “Well I first started work on this some years ago with Hilary Heath. We were thinking of making it into a movie. But as we pursued it we realised there was so much material here it worked much better in a longer form television piece, where you’d have space and scope to deal with all the elements of the story. But what really drew me to it was, I wanted to make a really passionate, epic love story. And it’s so hard to find love stories which are set in a contemporary setting because there’s much less at stake. What you get in the period stories is this incredible number of impediments, which is what you’ve got here. So that’s what really drew me to it – this mixture, as Emma was saying. Intense romantic love and a really tense, dangerous, mystery story. And that’s the kind of web that Daphne Du Maurier wove in her book. And I thought it would be a really great, exciting challenge to bring that to the screen.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: One of the appeals of Mary is her complexity and that is manifested in her attraction towards Jem – because she’s not quite sure who he is? Was that one of the things that drew you to it?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “Yeah, I suppose. It’s far more complicated than first meets the eye and also compared to many other things. Her attraction to Jem…she suppresses it hugely and hates herself for it. She’s – despite her best efforts – drawn to him and then various things come into play. She has questions about how good is he? How bad is he? What will it mean for her life to follow her heart? But also to deny her love for him, as well. It’s very complicated in that sense. But also what really attracted me and what was so exciting was the extraordinary people involved. Starting with Du Maurier, an incredible book written by an incredible woman, adapted by an incredible woman, directed by an incredible woman. It just felt really exciting and driven in a way and had something about that I’d never read before and never thought I’d even be allowed to be a part of. So that was a huge draw. It was really exciting.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Emma – you had a rather unconventional way of preparing to write this?

Emma Frost: “I don’t know if it’s unconventional. I went and stayed in a yurt on Bodmin Moor because in the book…the landscape is a character. So that has to feel real, it has to feel alive. I had to know what it smelled like and felt like. I’ve actually got family in Cornwall so then I wrote most of the first episode in a place called Trevoole Farm, which is in a weird named place called Praze-an-Beeble, in the middle of Cornwall. I also made a point of meeting Kits Browning, who is Daphne du Maurier’s son. He still lives in Fowey, in the house where Daphne lived. There’s amazing big portraits of her everywhere. It’s really incredible. And Kits was brilliant. He told me all the stuff about how Daphne du Maurier had been reading Treasure Island just before she wrote this. And so she was very excited about wanting to write a really big epic action adventure but to give it to a girl as the central character because it’s obviously what her preoccupations were as well. And Kits was really amazing in helping me understand his mum’s own response to what she’d written and being really supportive as well. The whole family, they really loved the scripts and gave it their seal of approval. And gave me a watch. It’s a du Maurier watch – there’s a reason I’m showing you. It says ‘du Maurier’.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Philippa – some very challenging scenes. The filming in the sea must have been quite difficult?

Philippa Lowthorpe: “The filming in the sea was extremely exhilarating but very scary – because I’m actually a bit of a wimp. I’m not very brave. We wanted to go to Cornwall to do the majority of the exteriors to make it feel very authentic, as Emma was saying. And following in her footsteps, I think you wrote some of it at Rough Tor, didn’t you?”

Emma Frost: “Yes.”

Philippa Lowthorpe: “We just wanted to go to the placed where Daphne du Maurier had been and then Emma had been. And then go and film in these extraordinary places. The landscape in Cornwall is quite extraordinary and Bodmin Moor is this great flat plain with these funny conical tors on it. Amazing. And the beaches there, obviously, are perfect for smuggling stories. But we spent a long time, five days I think, filming in and out of the sea. Poor Jessie was in there. We were all in there. The whole crew were in there and we all had to have an individual life guard to prop us up because it was a surfing beach and the waves were very high. It was a real adventure. But we wanted to go there and feel what they’d felt, when smugglers really had operated there.”

Jamaica Inn

Emma Frost: “And you can’t shoot anywhere else for Cornwall, can you? There are certain really iconic bits of the landscape that you’d just know if it was somewhere else.”

Philippa Lowthorpe: “Absolutely. These weird hills are sort of made out rocks and they’re conical shaped. Up on those we went and filmed the final scenes in episode three up there. And it took 45 minutes to walk up. The 4x4s could only take us half way up. You came there didn’t you, Emma, to the filming? We trekked up to the top of this hill. Thank goodness it wasn’t too windy.”

Emma Frost: “And Jessie was amazing. The more difficult anything was, the more keen you were, weren’t you?”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Jessie – can you give us your recollections of filming in the sea? Did you find it actually quite exhilarating?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “Er, yeah. It’s ridiculous. Well the thing is, at the end of day you do get to go home and have a nice cup of tea and a warm dinner, so it’s fine. But it was exhilarating and really special because if it had been in a studio or pretend…you were able to get to a place so far beyond where you would. Where it feels pretend, I hate that. It’s weird and I can’t do it. So it’s real and there is a certain level of fear. And working with Sean (Harris, who plays Joss Merlyn) was amazing and he just brought this…you were in the sea and everyone disappeared and you are there and you may drown. You wouldn’t but…you go under and for a second you can’t see where up is. But obviously within about half a second someone is like, ‘There you are, you’re fine.’ But it was extraordinary. I’d never worked in that way before. And it was great to be able to be allowed to be in that situation. And the rest of the time the landscape is so integral to the story. You get the sense that there’s a reason why Mary…she tries, numerous times, to leave but where will she go? There is nowhere. She could walk for hours and hours and hours and days and get nowhere. So it was an important thing to feel really isolated. And the way it’s described in the book, it feels desolate. At the end of the Earth, as she says.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Did you identify with Mary?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “Yeah. It’s not necessarily similarities between you and your character that’s interesting. In fact the more different the better. But you find things within those characters that you can relate to that excite you. I loved her stubborness, stomping around. She’s always off on some stomp somewhere. And then reluctantly goes back. But I love that she trusts her gut and goes with it and tries and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But she’s headstrong and believes in something even if she starts believing in exactly what she thinks she knows and she ends up changed but still with that central core there. It’s still unshaken but shaped, maybe, by the people in her life and what’s happened. And I love that. I love that she comes out at the end of it and she has changed but she embraces the fact that it may not be for the better. She’s really flawed.”

Shirley Henderson as Hannah Davey and Ben Daniels as Vicar Francis Davey.

Shirley Henderson as Hannah Davey and Ben Daniels as Vicar Francis Davey.

Q: Emma – there is a famous 1939 Hitchcock film of Jamaica Inn. Did you worry about following in his footsteps?

Emma Frost: “No. It’s the only time you can re-make something Hitchcock did and people don’t throw bricks at you. Ther Hitchcock film is terrible. I don’t know if anyone has seen it. It’s a terrible film where Charles Laughton just grandstands and just goes, ‘It’s all about me.’ It couldn’t be more different. Daphne du Maurier hated it. It’s not even a story about Mary, is it? She’s kind of a bit part with a balsa wood trunk that gets thrown on the carriage and off again, and is so obviously really light. It’s a really bad film. Which is great for us.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Philippa – what is it that makes du Maurier’s writing so special and how did Emma render that in the script?

Philippa Lowthorpe: “Well I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t read the book before I read Emma’s script. What I loved about Emma’s script is that it was so visual, which is a very rare thing in a lot of writing. It was just so visual and so atmospheric and felt like something that was very, very different from a lot of normal television stuff. It was just so exciting to read it. And then, obviously, after reading Emma’s script I did go back to the novel and I thought how beautifully Emma had captured the heart and soul of the book, which is just so full of excitement and atmosphere. Like everybody’s being saying, it’s so wonderful to have a female heroine forging ahead in an adventure story, which is usually the preserve of boys’ stuff. I love Treasure Island and books like this. But this was wonderful to have a female heroine at the heart of it.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: David – without embarrassing Jessie too much, could you say why you think she’s so right for this role?

David Thompson: “This is an incredibly dangerous, sexually-charged and emotionally overwhelming story and Jessie just seems to have that kind of strength, solidity and power and also – this will embarrass her – beauty, which is very important for this. Because this is a heroine who has to hold the screen across three hours. And Jessie does that quite amazingly well. In so many little facets and aspects. Whether she’s plunging in the water – and incidentally those scenes are usually filmed in a tank in the studio. So it was quite a challenge for an actress to do that. We did it all in the sea. Whether she’s in the water or riding across the moors – an incredible prowess on a horse. Have you ever ridden before?”

Jessica Brown Findlay: “Not really.”

David Thompson: “Well she’s extraordinary on a horse. It’s an incredibly dynamic…and that’s the whole thing about the story, Philippa and Emma have brought this to the screen…it’s a very dynamic and visual evocation of the story. So in just that scene of her charging across the moors it’s incredibly evocative of her emotional state. And above all, Jessie has the emotional range as an actress. An incredible amount she has to do by saying very little often, actually. Just by reacting and responding. So she’s got the subtlety and that emotional intensity to really convey this dangerous and sexually charged story. And I would say that all the actors were in some danger at various moments. The great thing about the film was…I guess the elements work for the story but they were also very challenging for the production. At one stage the inn, which is a real inn, threatened to blow down in the hurricane. So we had to stop filming because bits of the roof went hurtling across the front of it. So it was quite a challenge to film, given all the elements working against us and also with us.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Jessie – excellent accent. How did you go about nailing that?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “We had a week of rehearsals in London, where we got to talk through everything with Philippa and Emma was there as well some days. And we had a voice coach for all of us for a week. We were also given some actors who are based in Cornwall. They recorded a lot of the script, just repeating certain words that are quite hard to say. It was just really useful. Now everything is quite distilled and we all travel, whereas this is a point in time where you grew up in one place and you stayed there pretty much. And so sounds are a lot stronger and far more specific to certain areas. So you had to find a balance between what was right for the time, which would have been really strong, but also so that everyone can understand what you’re saying. Which is useful. But also because of the landscape and the world in which you’re in, you don’t waste time with warmth of vowels and things like that. You’re shouting across moors, so thinks are shorter and harsher. And with Mary’s character as well, for me I found she suddenly started taking on a really deep voice. So yeah. Another masking quality of Mary’s.”

Jamaica Inn

Questions were then opened up to other members of the media in the audience:

Q: Emma – I found the psychology of the ‘sexual’ relationships very interesting. Particularly between Mary and her uncle. I’ve not read the book, I wondered how much you brought out from the book or whether it is actually already there?

Emma Frost: “I think there is a lot of it in the book. Daphne du Maurier always comes back to as central theme – gender battles and gender roles. She very famously said that she perceived herself as being half male, half female and it was the male part of her that actually writes and where the creativity was vested. It was something she struggled with enormously, her own sexuality, her own response to gender. So her books are always very full of it. And Mary, in the book, says she’d rather be a boy, she’d like to go and do man’s work on a farm. When she falls in love with Jem she says she doesn’t want to love like a woman because she perceives that to be weakness. So there’s a really strong seam through the book of Mary recognising her limitations as female and feeling that to fall in love is to lose herself and lose her identity. I think what du Maurier does between Jem and Joss, who obviously are brothers, is there’s this splitting of the same character almost. And Jem is the version of him when he was good or still redeemable. And Joss represents what Jem might turn out to be. So Mary and Jem could turn out to be Patience and Joss down the line and that’s the horrible spectre that she’s dealing with. He (Joss) does, I think, in the book say…he holds his finger out and says is she tame or does she bite? She doesn’t bite in the book but I felt she should. Which is about her ballsy-ness. It’s about her saying, ‘Don’t dismiss me just because you think I’m a girl. I’m equal to you, mate.’ The whole journey for Mary that feeds into that is about her being so sure. And so she thinks she knows what the difference is between right and wrong. She thinks she knows who she is. She thinks she knows everything and she’s challenged on it at every single stage. And the sexual challenge I think is part of that. In the book…she’s completely repulsed by Joss. He hits her aunt, he’s brutal, he’s vile, he’s horrible. And yet there’s a certain magnetism about that and, obviously, he echoes Jem. So there’s this man she’s really attracted to and Joss is like the dark side of that. So it’s confusing and dangerous.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: (From me) Jessie – you touched on it earlier on when you were talking about the sea scenes and David also mentioned the weather, which you can see a lot of on screen. Can you talk a little more about acting in all that mud and rain? And does it add to how you play the character in terms of how earthy it is and her predicament?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “Yeah. It helps pretty much in every single way. It was really incredibly muddy outside the Inn. It changes how you walk. You can’t just elegantly walk down the road. It’s a massive effort. Whoever invented those dresses, I don’t know what they were thinking. They’re really long and so as soon as you step outdoors it just drinks mud and rain. So it changes how you walk, how you hold yourself. It starts pouring with rain and you’re cold. We had no hair and no make-up. Well I obviously had hair. We just kept everything incredibly minimal. So if it was cold and windy and raining, normally there would be someone running and and making your nose as if you’re not cold at all. Whereas if you are, you’ve got a bright red nose and blotched cheeks, blue lips quite often. And that’s fantastic because it looks how it would. You wouldn’t look perfect. I hate that, ‘Oh look, it’s raining,’ but she’s come inside and her hair is lovely and she’s had a manicure. How convenient. So all that helps. You’re just grubby for seven weeks. I don’t know how many people would like that. But I liked it.”

Philippa Lowthorpe: “Jessie told me a very funny story…because she was very dirty for the whole shoot…and going into the chemist to buy some aspirin or something and giving you very funny looks. You still had all your dirt ingrained into your hands.”

Jessica Brown Findlay: “They asked me, ‘Do you pay for your prescriptions?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I do.’ And they said, ‘Are you sure?’ Because I had mud all over my face and a cut lip. I was like, ‘That’s really weird. I am willing to pay.’ Then later I looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I understand maybe why the might have asked me.’”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Where was the real Inn?

David Thompson: “The real inn was actually in Yorkshire, because we had some investment from Yorkshire. In a very wild location. We hadn’t quite realised how wild it was until we started shooting, it’s fair to say. To light these night scenes you had to put up these great cherry pickers, which are kind of cranes. And Sod’s Law, the nights we were filming it the wind really whipped up to an incredible speed to the point where it was too dangerous to have these great big crane lights up. So we had to bring them down. So there were a lot of production problems. We had to build a road to get the equipment to the Inn. But Philippa, quite rightly, wanted it to feel really authentically remote and wild. Of course that did present a lot of production challenges. And the mud, of course. Great on screen, it looks really authentic. But unfortunately bloody hard for the actors to move in – and the crew. The actors might have sucked down into the mud, it was so thick.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Getting the rights to the book?

David Thompson: “For many years it was held by a studio and eventually Hilary Heath got the rights and then we worked together with Hilary to turn into a television drama. So it had been something we’d been tracking for a long time. A lot of people have been tracking it for a long time. But the moment just seemed right. As I said before, the story seems to lend itself best to television adaptation, to give it that long form treatment and to really let it burn with that kind of intensity.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Jessie – what was it like knowing that you were going to be make-up free on HD TV and what was it like watching yourself?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “I wasn’t fussed at all. Nick, who was our head of hair and make-up, she called me and said that herself and Philippa had been talking and asked how I felt about minimal and I said that I hoped that it would be nothing. And then it was. So that was good. It fitted the story. It would be ridiculous if everything else was as it was but everyone looked perfect and clearly wearing make-up, mascara and whatever. We had mud added and Sean was covered in tattoos and broken skin, which was fantastic. So there was plenty of work to be done. But just not prettifying. Whatever, it’s fine!” (laughs)

Q: Lady Sybil was quite headstrong when it came to men. Did you draw on that character at all for this or did you find it completely different?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “No it’s totally irrelevant. Just the book and the scripts. That’s all you needed. I went back to the book, read it once, picked out some key paragraphs or moments of description or conversations or whatever that related, that I wanted to go back to. And then it was just the scripts. But everything was there. She was so fully formed. As soon as you met her she was just an absolute real, round, whole person. So not at all.”

Q: Are you quite Tomboyish yourself?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “I don’t know. I just think there was so much within this story. There’s a love story side to it but there’s struggle emotionally. Everyone has something…no-one’s just good or bad. Everyone has this other side to them that slowly starts to come out or in certain situations are challenged. Even Joss. Mary says at one point, ‘There must be good in you. I know there is.’ There were so many elements within the story.”

Jamaica Inn

Q: Philippa – the shipwreck scenes look amazing. How did you realise them?

Philippa Lowthorpe: “We had to film massive great plate shots and then we had a fantastic production company called ‘BlueBolt’ who created the ships and put all the mist in. It’s their fantastic work that’s enabled those ship scenes to look so brilliant. They’re very hard to do. And then the actors had an incredibly hard…all my lovely smugglers, and Jessie as well and obviously Sean, had to act as if the ship was breaking up, just with their imaginations. Because obviously there was nothing to see. We were at the beach. And I thought they did that particularly well, to have to inhabit the world of fear and tension just before you were going to kill people or whatever. It was hard for them but they did it brilliantly.”

Q: Do you think there are any resonances of this having been made during a recession, that people feel desperate to learn a living?

Philippa Lowthorpe: “I think what Emma was saying is very true – that these people had no living, so how did they survive? And it’s about survival, really. They’re not bad people although they do very bad things. I remember Sean Harris was very, very interesting about his character Joss. He said that he felt like he was a working man. I think that’s very true. They had to do that to survive. There was no work. no food. So how else would they have kept going?”

Jamaica Inn

Q: In the book, the vicar is an albino. Is there a reason why you didn’t make him an albino in this?

Emma Frost: “From the script point of view…it’s interesting…the thing about him being an albino is, it’s a physical manifestation of his freakishness. And that’s how it’s described. And he says in the novel that he’s a freak of nature. He’s actually described almost as a hermaphrodite. He has a soft voice like a woman and he has long eye lashes like a woman. So du Maurier kind of fuses male and female into one and that’s sort of the basis of his freakishness and it’s also why Mary doesn’t find him threatening at all. What was important for me was to try and find a different way to dramatise what du Maurier does within one character, which you can do in a novel because it’s all in the description and in how Mary responds to him. So actually in my version he’s sort of split into two. So he’s split back into the male and female version. So that’s why his sister appears, so that there is still the male and female and they’re transgressive and threating and slightly sexually odd in a slightly different way.”

Philippa Lowthorpe: “Ben Daniels (who plays the vicar)…it was a nod to the albino. He is blond himself and he’s got very, very pale blue eyes in real life. And that seemed to be enough of a nod to the albino. I agree with Emma’s decision.”

Jamaica Inn

David Thompson: “Generally speaking the television drama is pretty close to the book but there have been some changes, particularly in the third episode. Necessary changes to make the story unfold over three hours. But I think both Philippa and Emma have been really truthful to the spirit and elemental qualities of the book. Whilst from time to time making the kind of adaptations that are necessary to make the drama really work.”

Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan.

Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan.

Q: Jessie – I noticed a couple of times while you were watching, you were hands over your face…how did you find watching it and how do you find that in general? Can you watch yourself, do you watch yourself?

Jessica Brown Findlay: “Yeah. It’s fine. It’s a learning curve. You watch it a few times and think about what you’ve done. ‘Do that again, don’t do that again.’ And then move on. It was such an emotional incredible…the best job in the world. I can’t detach myself from it at all. I can’t be objective, whatsoever. And you watch it and certain things you can remember, like what happened that day and how that drives you. I was watching one scene and I almost started laughing because I remembered I stomped off and then immediately fell over flat on my face in the mud. And that’s not in there. But I know it’s there. So it’s a different experience. It’s always just a bit weird.”

Jamaica Inn begins on BBC1 at 9pm on Easter Monday and continues over the next two nights.

BBC Jamaica Inn

Character Biographies

Daphne du Maurier

Origin Pictures

Screen Yorkshire

Robert Viglasky

Visit Cornwall

Jamaica Inn Cornwall

Ian Wylie on Twitter

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1 Comment

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One response to “Jamaica Inn: Q&A

  1. Dawn Williamson

    Really enjoyed the series, the characters, especially Joss brilliant. Scenery beautiful yea good job BBC. All the fuss with the sound, annoyingly takes away from what a great production Jamica Inn was.

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