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“The Salisbury Poisonings is not always an easy watch,” admit writers Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn, who have been working on this TV series since autumn 2018.
Anne-Marie Duff, Rafe Spall, MyAnna Buring and Johnny Harris are among the recognisable actors in this exceptional drama about a massive global political event and tragedy that happened on the doorstep of ordinary people.
The nerve agent attack and the death of local Salisbury woman Dawn Sturgess was already a tough subject to cover when Patterson and Lawn first began researching the individual accounts of the people involved. But the story has become even more pertinent following the events so far this year,
“Naturally, we have watched the recent events around COVID-19 with fascination, because there are so many resonances with the story we tell in Salisbury,” they said.
“Many of the things we observed there have subsequently played out across the country.”
Hopefully, viewers will be able to handle the real trauma of the story because of the hope and human story at the heart of the series.
“It is a story of people coming together in remarkable ways, finding strength in family and community. It’s a story that reflects the internal reality of an emergency public health response, with all of its critical decisions,” said the writers.
“But perhaps most of all, because it reflects a kind of heroism that we have all come to recognise recently. A heroism that is quiet - ordinary even - and that is wrapped up in a simple sense of civic duty that we had wrongly assumed was on the wane, but that really had only been lying dormant. An everyday kind of heroism that nonetheless changes the world.”
For such a powerful and emotional story, the series needed the perfect cast and the Salisbury Poisonings has an incredible ensemble.
Meet the cast and characters in this must-watch series.
Anne-Marie Duff plays Tracy Daszkiewicz
Daszkiewicz was Wiltshire’s Director of Public Health, who was in charge of coordinating the response to the nerve agent poisonings
Talking about what she hoped people would learn about Tracy from the show, Duff said: “We had a real sense with Tracy that her story hadn't been told, and that's palpable. She was such a key part of it all.
“So we all had that objective in mind, that she got to tell her story. Even when you google this subject, she's hardly there and it seems such an irony because she was very much there and very much in the middle of it all, orchestrating and negotiating and circumnavigating things.
“So I was keen to tell her story and let people know what an extraordinary carer she is. She is the kind of person who doesn't let go of the truth and will hunt it down. She is not interested in bureaucracy or people pleasing. She's just absolutely interested in taking care of people in a very true way, that's her innate personality.”
Duff is best known for starring in the hit Channel 4 series Shameless, Netflix’s Sex Education, the BBC and HBO adaptation His Dark Materials and period drama Parade’s End.
Rafe Spall plays Nick Bailey
Nick Bailey was a high-flying, extremely dedicated, intelligent police officer who had made the rank of Detective Sergeant.
Talking about his character, Spall said: “He’s at work on a Sunday and he hears over the radio that there are two people with a suspected fentanyl overdose, and he decides to go there as its walking distance from him.
“Then these desperate circumstances ensue that change his life, and his family’s lives, forever. It's been really harrowing for them and I just want to do them a service of getting their story out there.”
Rafe Spall has starred in hit movies and TV series such as the BBC’s recent War of the Worlds adaptation, Apple TV+ series Trying, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Men in Black: International. Black Mirror, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, One Day and The BFG.
MyAnna Buring plays Dawn Sturgess
Dawn Sturgess was a victim of the Novichok poisoning.
Talking about the sensitives of the role, Buring said: “The most important thing was not to exactly replicate Dawn, but to tell the story of a woman who was a multifaceted human being. She had highs and lows, she was struggling but she was trying to make her life good and be a better mother, better daughter and better person. That was the journey she was on.
“The general consensus was that most media outlets had portrayed quite a simplistic and dismissive version of Dawn Sturgess, suggesting she was a homeless addict who passed away because of her lifestyle choices. And that's simply not true.
“She was a complicated and wonderful human being who left behind an incredible family, and a partner, Charlie, who was also poisoned. She should never have been dismissed like that, and we should not be dismissing her now.
“I felt that if we just tried to play the truth in every scene then we would achieve, hopefully, that kind of empathy and understanding of a real human being. Her death wasn't just a statistic, her death was a tragedy. She was simply an innocent pawn in major geopolitical games being played.”
Buring is known for her role as Long Susan in Ripper Street and appearances in films and series including the Twilight movies, Netflix’s The Witcher, The Descent and Doctor Who.
Johnny Harris plays Charlie Rowley
“You feel a sense of responsibility, especially with this story,” said Johnny Harris, talking about his role as the partner of victim Dawn Sturgess.
“This man's gone through something that's extraordinary. There are not many people on the planet who've experienced what this man's experienced, not only being poisoned himself, but obviously, losing his loved one. It was fascinating meeting him, like when you meet someone you really admire, like a musician, looking at him in awe, and thinking, ‘Wow, you're that person.’ And it's poignant.
“He's a lovely man and innately kind, one of those guys who would give you his last fiver. I was there as a professional in the first instance, observing and trying to work out how much of him I could take on, physically and vocally, because we didn't have lots of time between meeting and starting filming. So I had to make decisions of how much I was going to try to embody and capture something of Charlie. He was very welcoming from the start, but understandably, a little bit wary, and it took a day or two for us to work each other out and develop a trust. And by the second time we met, we just formed a connection as two human beings.”
Johnny Harris is well known for playing Mick in This England, he starred as Franklin Scrooge in the BBC’s recent A Christmas Carol and he also starred in Sky drama Fortitude. He also wrote and starred in the British drama Jawbone.
Darren Boyd plays Superintendent Dave Minty
Boyd has starred in TV series such as Green Wing, Spy, Fortitude, Killing Eve and recently starred on the big screen in The Personal History of David Copperfield.
He plays Dave Minty, who was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service in the 2020 New Year Honours list for his response to the nerve agent attack.
Nigel Lindsay plays DCC Paul Mills
You will recognise Lindsay from his roles in The Last Kingdom, The Capture, White Gold, Unforgotten, Victoria and The Tunnel.
He plays the Deputy Chief Constable from Wiltshire Police, who had a key role in the Novichok attack response.
Mark Addy plays Ross Cassidy
Cassidy was the friend and neighbour of Sergei Skripal, who drove to pick him and his daughter up from the airport shortly before she was poisoned.
Addy is a well-known British TV and movie stars who starred as Dave in The Full Monty, Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones, Gary Boyle in The Thin Blue Line and recently played DS Stan Jones in ITV’s White House Farm.
Kimberley Nixon plays Hannah Mitchell
Mitchell was Tracy’s counterpart from central government and she is played by Fresh Meat, New Blood and Cranford star Kimberley Nixon.
Nixon’s other screen roles include Outlander, Hebburn, The Left Behind and The Accident.
Michael Shaeffer plays Stephen Kemp
Kemp worked with Hannah Mitchell as part of the national government response to the attack.
Shaeffer famously played the shady Longcross in BBC thriller Bodyguard and he’s also starred in The ABC Murders, Rellik and Star Wars: Rogue One.
The Salisbury Poisonings airs on BBC One on Monday, June 15th and Tuesday, June 16th at 9pm.
Watch the full box set on BBC iPlayer.
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