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I'm Jace Lacob and you're listening to Masterpiece Studio. Eliza Scarlet is a woman unlike any other. For starters, she's the only female detective in Victorian era London right now.
So what else can we have to go on here on ABC? Who do have time? He believes that he'll be here.
Am I being a woman? Could be a barrier for Alysa as she follows in the footsteps of her recently deceased detective father. But for Eliza Scarlett, nothing is too difficult to sort through besides paying off a mortgage. Perhaps.
I got back to the house this morning just after 8:00. I called out for her, but there was no reply. So I went into her room and the bed hadn't been slept well.
I'm sure she had risen early and made the bed herself. I've known that because she was five years old and not once has she ever made a bed or tidied a room, she can barely even cook.
Eliza is strong and smart and sharp witted and able to slip between the legal cracks to solve crimes that nobody else at Scotland Yard can handle.
Am I right in thinking you play cards with your friends or money because you should know you have the most glaringly obvious tone you sniff whenever you're about to lie?
Kate Phillips is, of course, already familiar to Masterpiece fans from her role as Jane Seymour in Wolf Hall, not to mention her appearance in the Downton Abbey movie. And she joins us here to discuss crime, anachronistic feminism and why Dublin is a perfect stand-in for Victorian era London. This week, we are joined by Miss Scarlet and the Duke star, Kate Phillips. Welcome. Hello.
What was it about Rachel new script for Miss Scarlet and the Duke that made you want to sign on a whole bunch of stuff?
Really? I mean, as you know, the world itself is so. Vividly painted by Rachel, so vast ensemble of characters and. You know, it being a period piece set in the late eighteen hundreds, yet it's very different to any period piece I've seen or I've even been a part of, really. It has a sort of punch, Yoenis, and the kind of fast paced ness to it which jumps out within the first few moments, really.
I was hooked by the end of reading the first the opening title sequence. And also this character realizes he's just awesome. She's a fully rounded character. You know, she's she's feisty and ballsy and front footed, but at the same time still quite young and and is learning and making all these mistakes all the same time. So she's very fun to play.
I mean, as you say from that opening scene with Eliza examining the prostitute's body in that glass eye, it's very clear that we're in a period drama like none other.
Oh, I'm a private detective. Yeah, I know a judge. Can we discuss this in a civilized manner? I will gladly return your I. I want to get drunk next time, check for a pulse first, it's the way it's written, the way that it's shot by Declan O'Dwyer, it feels really modern and quick paced. How do you see Miss Scarlet smashing viewer preconceptions about period mysteries and what they should be or might be?
It looks awesome. Perhaps in a in a way that other period isn't always shot. There's a great soundtrack underscoring the whole thing, so it feels like it has a real pace to it, like a great beat. But I think Rachel is just really, really keen to. To get audiences excited in this in this in the character of Liza and her relationship with the Duke, and it feels really intimate in that sense, it feels very honest and it has a great sense of humor as well, which I think, you know, life does even when its darkest, darkest moment is.
It can be quite funny. And that's definitely something that's perhaps unusual in in in it being a period drama.
I mean, I love the way in that scene that she gives as good as she gets against the would be corpse in that first episode and then simply sort of dust yourself off and leaves. There's no fainting. There's no dramatics. She's just a woman on a mission. Do you see her as an opportunist in that respect, trying to find ways of gaining experience when so many doors are just closed to her as a woman, despite everyone telling her she can't achieve all those things, she goes ahead and does it anyway.
And I guess that's what's really fun about her, is that she's constantly being told no and she's up against these not backs. But she she just sort of strives on and and she has those moments where she's perhaps doubting herself.
And then, as you say, you see those moments in the flashback, those flashback moments between her and her father, which can be really lovely. Where do you see this very vulnerable side of her? And it gives her strength to to try again.
I mean, she she's forced to become a private detective after the unexpected death of her father, taking on what acclaimed mystery novelist P.D. James once declared rather tongue in cheek as an unsuitable job for a woman. How much of her decision to become a private detective is about survival and how much is about Eliza's own desire for excitement?
I think probably a bit of both, really. You know, she, I think, enjoys the using the excuse of needing to go out and work in order to keep her household going, but really I think she's driven by this yearning to go out and be a private detective.
She's watched her father do it all those years and she knows she's got the skills. And I think she just is desperate to follow in her dad's footsteps.
I think, as I said, I think she enjoys the fact that she has become a necessity. Of course, I don't think for one second she is thrilled her father has passed the. On that note, Henry Scarlett, we learn in this week's episode has been murdered, the loss of both Eliza's parents seems to put her on par with, say, Batman. I mean, she has this sort of spirit of justice within her that does recall Batman.
What would you say is the role of justice in her life as opposed to, say, vengeance?
Yeah, I she she is a very strong sense of right and wrong, which I think she really has to what she really works through in Episode three when she's with the suffragists. And it's a sense of believing in justice and the rule of law. But also she's conflicted because she sees these women doing things that she completely believes in, too. So in terms of trying to strive for justice in Episode five. That's that's her goal, ultimately, she wants to find out the truth, which is, of course, what any great detective is, is really looking to uncover.
And we want to know the truth and. I think in her heart of hearts, she's she's all about that, she really wants to. Set things right, there's so much love between Eliza and her father, so ably played here by Kevin Doyle, a.k.a. Mr. Molesley from Downton Abbey. I love that that really does exist beyond the grave. Eliza imagines her father is a sort of advisor guiding her with his wisdom. How did you read those scenes between Eliza and her?
And I'm using this in air quotes here, her her ghostly mentor.
I think that's one of my favorite bits in the series I love. I loved working with Kevin and I felt like that really those scenes are fantastic tools for you to kind of you to see Eliza in a completely different light. And it's one of the few moments where she really drops her guard and where she has to really looking in on herself. I mean, it's when it's in those reflective moments that he appears for her, I suppose, when she's lost and needing guidance.
So the role that he plays for her is just a very, very gorgeous one and some really, really precious scenes. And between them, I hit that casebook for a reason.
I knew if something happened to me, you come looking for answers. What would you have me do? Let them get away with it.
William and his men do their jobs as a they or they miss something, some vital clue. I like small. You've done enough. But now you're being reckless. You're risking your life. You've shown how capable you are. You don't need to die to prove the point, proving anything to anyone, listening, calling me out of a crowd.
You are no stranger to Downton yourself. You played Princess Mary in the Downton film and you are, as I know, a Downton devotee. So how crazy was it to be acting opposite Kevin Doyle then in these scenes?
Very special. I have a huge amount of respect for him. And, you know, as anyone who is a Downton fan or of any show, in fact, when you see those.
Sort of those iconic figures appear to you in a different context, it's a very weird Alysa often runs afoul of the Duke William Wellington, who has his his own ideas about what Alysa ought to be doing and not doing with her life. How do you categorize their dynamic?
Oh, well, I mean, they're like, you know, they have this brotherly sisterly Bakary relationship and in some respects, they've been brought up in it as to be such, you know, they've known each other for a really young age, but. You know, this is very fun, will they won't they thing going on, and she pushes him in a way that makes him feel incredibly uncomfortable and but there's a huge amount of respect there, too.
So it's really fun watching them both drop their guard over the course of the series and and really come to realize how much they need each other.
Their relationship, despite the sexual tension between them, is chaste, except for a stolen kiss between the two of them as teenagers after the death of Eliza's dog. How important to their story is that incident and how does it inform their rapport, especially after Iliza learns that it's Henry who put the dog out of its misery?
I, I think it's a it's a lovely hook. I think they they they have something that he uses to he loves to return to to to to sort of trigger fury in her. I think he enjoys that. It's nice that they've got that in their history. So we'll see if it ever happens again.
What is it like having Stuart Martin as your partner in crime, as it were?
Oh, well, I mean, Stuart, it's like the nicest man in the world, really. And so I'm so lucky to have him as a as a friend and and partner on set. I mean, he's he's great, very good at his job. We as soon as we met him for the do we it was just so clear that he was the perfect guy for the job and he embodies him fully and was also being, you know, not not not not as grumpy as the Duke in any way.
But he's just he's perfect. And I we I love working with him. He's great.
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Coming up next on Masterpiece on PBS, the season finale of Miss Scarlet and the Duke and All Creatures Great and small in a special extended finale episode. That's Sunday, February twenty, first starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Central. I love the scene in Episode three, which shows Eliza teaching Kathy Belton's I've to write the vowels of the alphabet. It's such a small but powerful moment that connects these two women from two very different classes. What did that scene mean to you as a woman today?
Well, again. I think working with Kathy and the scenes, the relationship that she has with Ivy is one of my favorite relationships that Eliza has. And I think it's really important that you see Eliza have this relationship with another strong and brilliant female. It's something that she has lacked in her life. And it's really lovely to see that relationship play out. And also that particular scene for me was always felt so important as well, because it really, you know, Mark, that bit of learning that Eliza goes goes through during that series, you know, she realizes that it's her responsibility really to give back and give Ivy an opportunity to you know, she's never had the education that Eliza was gifted, so.
I should have that in her life, too, and it was a very lovely seemed to shoot on and Kathy's wonderful she's she's one of the great Irish actresses, so he was so lucky to have her.
Margaret Fairfax, the murderous suffragette, says of Eliza, quote, I do not need pity from a woman like you. At least I have tried to make a difference. But you everything you are, everything you do is for yourself, no one else. Why does that strike such a chord within Eliza?
Because I think on some level, perhaps it's true. But this is what's so exciting about Eliza is a character that she, while she's a woman fighting for her own rights, she doesn't understand what it is to fight for women's rights.
And that's something that she comes to understand when she meets these group of women, doing things that she, Eliza, would see as law breaking and low.
And it's I think it's the first time she's shattered her ideas of what's right and wrong, you know, black and white. She sees the world in a very in that sense. And Margaret says that lying to her and she she doesn't have any defense. And that's what's great. You know, she's taking on she's a and she's learning.
And I and you know that that will come out later in the series and in a sort of different way, you know, she'll have to, you know, to to treat people in a different way because of that relationship she had with Margaret, that encounter she had with Margaret.
Do you ultimately see Eliza Scarlet as being a feminist character?
Yes, I see her as a feminist in her in her time. Yeah, definitely.
I mean, nearly all of the characters in Miss Scarlet are outliers of a sort. There's the lady detective, the Glaswegian copper, rubbing elbows with the elite public schools that the Jamaican criminal, the closeted gay suitor, the disgraced police detective inspector turned P.I. How much of that do you feel is by design?
Oh, it's definitely something that Rachel and showrunner talks about, that she wanted every character for each character. There's a glass ceiling. There's only so far they can they can go. And that's what brings them together. And they they've all got a similar. Narrative in that sense, they bond over this frustration that they don't quite fit in this world.
I mean, despite what the Duke might say, Eliza's involvement in these cases has helped him immeasurably, which is why the newspaper story about his latest case is such a disappointment. Is it male ego that prevents him from mentioning Alysa initially?
I mean, I yes. And I think it's made very easy for him because also we've got to remember that the world that they both live in, no one expects her to succeed. And no one's really asking about her, so it's very easy for him to deflect all the attention onto himself. And so in that way, we kind of forgive him. But again, he he he goes on to tell them that there is space in this world for for a brilliant woman.
So, yeah, it's it's lovely.
He does in the end make good I mean, he does mention her involvement. What is Eliza's reaction to William finally taking a stand and including her in the newspaper article in Episode four?
Well, she's incredibly moved. I felt like when we played that scene perhaps more than I thought she would be. It felt like a very moving moment. And, you know, looking at it from the lens of a modern woman, you'd be like, well, you know, why is she so thrilled that he's finally mentioned her role in something that he should have should have brought that up? But I think what's moving in that moment is his ability to shift his position and his this very Victorian man be able to reach out and a generosity to her.
And that, I think, is is such an important step in that relationship.
Episode five begins with a bang. Eliza has disappeared, and William's investigation leads him to the abandoned Woolwich prison where Eliza has gotten herself locked in one of the old cells. Only they're not alone. How fantastic was it to shoot these very creepy sequences on location in in Wicklow? Gail?
They were definitely our favorite scenes to shoot. We shot that episode five right at the end of the shoot, in fact. So we were kind of locked in the prison for about two weeks and it was just a completely different change of scene. I mean, I think the episode itself stands out as a very different kind of energy. And and it it it just sort of upped the pace dramatically from what we've been doing up until then. It's yet to date so much until my favorite episode to shoot.
How surprised were you that Dr Edwards, the physician who attended to Eliza's father, Henry, in Episode one, would be revealed to be Harwood, a major player in the conspiracy surrounding his death? I was I was stunned.
I never saw that coming. No idea. That was a real surprise. The scene where Eliza Wrap's, William's arm is overloaded with clear sexual tension, has a lot of blood, and it's stressful.
And the thing is, I think there's a bone broken. Did you open the door?
This is since you should try it sometime, at least in the beginning, and take off your jacket. No, no, this is just fine, Eliza and I know.
What was it like filming the scene and walking this very fine line between text and subtext?
Again, I really enjoyed playing that scene. It you know, that's what's great about that scene, is that what's happening is that the aim is to escape and get out. So that's sort of in the back of their mind the whole time. But of course, suddenly they're required to become very physical and very intimate in a way that they hadn't before. And then finally they sort of dropped their guard because and they they need each other to survive, really.
And so that's sort of sexual tension.
And that's that's loaded in that scene as it was great fun.
I mean, these are some of the most tense and nerve wracking scenes in the series so far as Eliza and William try to escape the witch with their lives intact. They come up against Harwood gas mask man and the terrifying arm. I mean, how much fun was it to lose yourself in this high stakes scenario, Kate?
I mean, we were we were running down corridors and sprinting down staircases and hiding in prison cells. I think I had a gun at one point.
I mean, completely absurd in some respects, but certainly for fertiliser, that's not something that chichi I had the opportunity to do up until then.
And I think perhaps more had been written in for me to do action wise until they saw that my my outfit.
So I would I would I with them more. But they're very heavy skirts to running. But what was great about that whole episode is that, you know, Alize is the one sort of at the locked door trying to open the door with the keys, you know what I mean? It is not let William. To do all that kind of stuff, perhaps he should have done it because maybe he he had the strength to open that the prison door quicker than Eliza, I'm sure.
But still, it was great that it was never up to William to jump in with his strength. You know, Eliza was there solving solving everything to. And so that was just it's a great episode in that respect.
The shoot at the prison might be my favorite scene in this episode because it shows Eliza as being Clear-headed clever and unstoppable at every turn, even when facing down gasmask. Man, how fantastic was it to get to draw against this masked villain? So great.
You know, I come running round the corner pulling this gun.
It was it. Yeah, it felt like a wind in my hair. I felt like that was it felt very exciting. Was great.
I love Batman. You're Batman. I am Batman. Yeah. And Stuart's my Robin.
I mean, it's such a powerful image with Eliza squaring off against the masked man with William in danger, it's a reversal of the sort of gendered tropes we've come to expect from period or even contemporary mystery thrillers. Is this Eliza Scarlet at her finest, do you think?
Yeah, I mean, I for some reason, I don't like to glorify these guns, but she's definitely I love seeing her when she's like in action. That's just great. And she's she's. And I even feel like in that moment, you know, she still she scared as well. You know, she's not infallible. You know, she's got all of this power and gung ho energy. But at the same time, she's she's terrified as anyone else.
So William finally comes clean to his boss, Superintendent Sterling, about Eliza and woman. Running around London, making a fool of us so. That she really needs our protection, she does. That'll be all. There is one more thing, sir. Eliza Scarlett was the reason that we made this discovery in the first place. She has, in fact helped me on several occasions in the solving of other crimes.
What makes it possible, do you think, for him to finally acknowledge her in that way to his superior?
I feel like for for William. I think he suddenly understands who Sterling is and what their relationship is. And actually, it's not about mutual respect. But for William, he's not going to get the respect that he desires from Sterling by playing Sterling's game and that perhaps the one person in his life that does truly respect him is a liar.
So perhaps he he shifts in he shifts in that regard and realizes that he needs to give give back to Annisa.
I mean, the Alysa that ends episode five is very different to the allies that we met at the beginning of Episode one. Her eyes have been opened in more ways than one. How do you see her as having changed over the course of this first series?
I feel like she's older, you know, I mean that the allies are at the beginning of Episode one, she didn't even know at that point that her father had died. It's you know, she's gone out on an on going out on her own and she's succeeded and she's got a number of battles yet to fight, but I think she knows that she's got it in her at this stage. So she's a more worldly young woman than than the one we meet at the beginning.
I mean, what many viewers may not realize is that it's Dublin filling in for 19th century London in Miss Scarlet. Which location in Dublin surprised you the most?
Oh, well, a number of locations. Dublin is very clever to look so like London. And we we we found a lot in a high school cabin, TD House. And I loved I loved working there. It was a great place to be shooting when you had family or friends come and visit because and you could just walk down one long corridor and, you know, you walk in one door and it would be Rupert Park, his living room and then the next the next door would be allies.
It's got a living room. And then you wrote down the next one and it would be the kitchen. So I always find that quite sort of madge that in one small place you can have a lot of these different worlds that take you into completely different places. And and I love the house as well. The the attention to detail. The set designer did a fantastic, wonderful job. I remember walking into his living room for the first time and the kind of scheme just felt so right, vivid and punchy, blue wallpaper.
And it just made sense of everything for the first time. And yeah, it was lovely.
Besides, from his scarlet, your CV is full of things like Wolf Hall, War and Peace, the Crown Peaky Blinders, among many other period dramas. Do you ever find yourself just itching to do a contemporary drama?
Of course I do. But there fab about that. The jobs I have done, I while they're all under the umbrella of being a period drama, they're all very different, of course. I mean and I worked on the English game, which was set at exactly the same time as Miss Got in the Duke. But of course they they're both Victorian dramas, but they have a completely different energy and. Peaky Blinders set in the 20s, so it's very different to Downton Abbey, for example, set at various in the time.
So I feel like I've I've been in lots of different worlds, but I, I do say this often.
But I do I do wonder what it will feel like to be on set in a pair of jeans that will I mean, as a huge Downton fan, what was it like getting an opportunity to become part of its narrative?
Yeah, totally surreal. I talked about my my first day on set. Walking across the lawns and towards. This iconic building, which you see in the opening title sequence of the show and it feels anyone who's visited a high class house understands that feeling, it it it does feel like your.
Yeah, like a real pinch me moment. I'm I'm walking on stepped out. So, yeah, it was very it was very surreal.
Kate Phillips, thank you so very much.
Thank you. Thank you very much. David, let me speak to you. We turn next to a different part of the world in an even earlier era, Jamaica at the very end of slavery, as Miss July's personal and wrenching story is told amid the Real-Life backdrop of the Christmas rebellion.
Oh, you must I would like to please me. I cannot see any Negroes now. The doctor has made it quite like it is Negroes that, of course, this includes me. Make it out of the question.
I hope that the long songster Tamara Lawrence joins us next to look at the conclusion of her powerful miniseries. Masterpiece Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob, and produced by Nick Anderson, Elisheva Itude is our editor, the executive producer of Masterpiece, Suzanne Simpson. Sponsors for Masterpiece on PBS are Viking Cruises, Raymond James and the Masterpiece Trust.