Thriller Wolf is a mix of dark comedy, murder mystery and horror
Truly, madly…WEIRDLY! Dark comedy? Murder mystery? Horror? The BBC’s bizarre new thriller Wolf is a mix of all three, says its star Juliet Stevenson
- The BBC’s bizarre new dark comedic thriller, Wolf, is set Monmouthshire, Wales
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Maybe it’s just the actor in her, but Juliet Stevenson admits to having an extremely vivid imagination.
She can’t go to sleep until she has checked her wardrobes and looked under the bed because she’s terrified that something – or someone – might be lurking there.
‘From early childhood it has always terrified me that people might break into my house,’ says the Truly, Madly, Deeply star, 66. ‘I was always scared there was somebody in the cupboard or I could hear conversations between murderers.
‘I know I’m old enough to be a grandmother but I still check my wardrobes every night to make sure nobody’s hiding,’ she adds. ‘It’s a sort of mythical terror I have, so it’s weird to finally end up playing that out as an actor, exploring a very long-held dark fear in my imagination.’
She finally comes face to face with her nightmares in new crime thriller series Wolf, a six-part adaptation by the BBC of the Jack Caffery novels by Mo Hayder.
Murder Mystery: The BBC’s bizarre new dark comedic thriller, Wolf, is set Monmouthshire, Wales
In some ways it’s a standard police drama, but here the darkest of dark comedy merges with horror and mystery, making it ever-so-slightly uncomfortable and weird, but also utterly watchable.
Juliet plays the role of a wealthy woman, Matilda Anchor-Ferrers, who has returned to her family’s Monmouthshire country pile for the first time in five years, along with her husband Oliver (Game Of Thrones’ Owen Teale) and grown-up daughter Lucia (Little Women star Annes Elwy).
Oliver has just had a heart operation and needs to recuperate, but the family is on edge from the moment they arrive.
The house is near the site of a horrific double murder, and when they discover human intestines in the shape of a heart hung on a tree outside their house – just as there had been at the murder scene – they’re understandably terrified. Little do they know that things are going to get much worse.
When two police officers – Honey (Sacha Dhawan, star of The Great and Doctor Who) and Molina (Game Of Thrones’s Iwan Rheon) – turn up at the door, they are at first a reassuring presence for the Anchor-Ferrers. But it quickly emerges that they’re not quite what they seem.
The family are soon robbed of all their valuables and find themselves shackled to the radiators, while slowly the truth about their own dark secrets starts to emerge.
Meanwhile, in a parallel story-line that only dovetails with the first at the end, we meet DI Jack Caffery (played by The Midwich Cuckoos’ Ukweli Roach). He became a police officer because he was obsessed with the disappearance of his ten-year-old brother in the 90s. He’s convinced his family’s neighbour kidnapped his brother, but the police have never been able to find any evidence and his own investigations have come to nothing.
Suspended by the force for taking his research too far, Caffery follows a lead to Wales which sets him, unwittingly, on a collision course with the Anchor-Ferrers.
Juliet Stevenson (pictured) admits to having an extremely vivid imagination. She can’t go to sleep until she has checked her wardrobes and looked under the bed
He’s like a wolf sniffing out his next lead, but to begin with all he has to go on is a dog that’s been found with a limp and a note attached to it saying, ‘Help us’. We see the stories play out in tandem, but will Caffery be too late to save the family?
Juliet has been in the acting profession for more than 40 years and has four BAFTA nominations to her name, but she says she has never suffered for her art more than she did for this role.
‘It was a really strange filming experience because Owen and I spent months tied up,’ she reveals, flinching at the memory of it. ‘For every minute of that you see on screen, imagine hours and hours of actually filming it.
‘At the start they did ask me whether I wanted the handcuffs unlocked and I said, ‘No, handcuff me properly.’
After a while I got angry and frustrated because you’re literally pinned, you can’t move your body. That makes you slightly crazy – which was quite challenging, but also helpful for playing the role.’
But that wasn’t the worst of it. After being shackled to a radiator, Juliet then had to film several scenes in which she is completely upside down as the torture continues. ‘I actually had to train for that,’ she recalls.
When two police officers – Honey (Sacha Dhawan, star of The Great and Doctor Who) and Molina (Game Of Thrones’s Iwan Rheon) – turn up at the door, they are at first a reassuring presence for the Anchor-Ferrers
‘I went on a machine to get acclimatised to having my head full of blood, which is what happens when you hang upside down. That really was the most difficult thing as Matilda’s upside down for long stretches.’
The series was filmed in Cardiff, but Juliet says she didn’t really get to enjoy it. ‘Cardiff is a beautiful place, although the whole experience was strange,’ she admits.
‘Once you’ve seen human intestines hanging in the tree in the garden it partly ruins it for you. It’s a pretty horrific story, although it was a wonderful job.
‘As viewers, we’ve become quite sophisticated, we’re good at guessing where something might be going or who the criminals might be,’ she adds.
‘What I love about this drama is that you don’t really see what’s coming, it’s constantly surprising. I also love having two completely separate narratives that only connect at the very end. This really is an edge-of-your-seat series.’
Which sounds more comfortable than being tied to a radiator.
- Wolf begins later this month on BBC1 and BBC iPlayer.
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