Feb 01, 2011 – A major new Channel 4 drama looks at the bloody and brutal history of Israel. TV Choice talks to its two stars, Claire Foy and Christian Cooke…
Tell us about your characters
Claire Foy: I play Erin who’s on a gap year before university and goes off to Israel with her schoolfriend Eliza, who is doing her National Service. Erin is very moody. She feels her life is not as good as anyone else’s and has got a massive chip on her shoulder. But when she reads her grandfather Len’s diary she starts to change. It’s about his experiences in post-war Israel and all of a sudden she feels she has something to believe in and someone to love.
Christian Cooke: And I play her grandad in the scenes set after the war. Len was part of the British peacekeeping force sent to Israel in accordance with the 1917 mandate. He’s young and naive but he’s got a strong sense of justice.
Did you heavily research the roles?
Claire Foy: No, we left that to Peter Kosminsky who wrote the drama. He was out in Israel for a year. Having said that, reading the scripts did make me open my eyes a bit more, to the extent that I now find it hard to think back to before filming because I learnt so much.
Christian Cooke: I didn’t want to research it because my character knew nothing about the situation either. I had to imagine what an uneducated young man in Forties Palestine would be thinking of the situation. However there was a book called Cordon And Search: 6th Airborne Division In Palestine 1945-1948 which details every undertaking. It was fascinating.
Why do you think Len kept a diary?
Christian Cooke: I suppose you would call it a form of therapy. In those days, any therapy would be seen as showing a sign of moral fibre. I mean, I also think people who have been in those situations find it easier to bury it rather than articulate it.
Have either of you kept a diary before?
Claire Foy: I did when I was much younger. It’s quite interesting to look back at what I was thinking at the time. I’ve changed a lot. Or at least I hope I have. I was a nightmare — so angry about everything. It’s as if I came out of a coma when I was 21.
What was it like filming in Israel?
Christian Cooke: I missed everyone back home but I had an amazing time. There was a real sense of camaraderie with the rest of the cast. We hung out together a lot and it just felt like a real privilege to be out there filming for such a long time.
Claire Foy: I have mixed feelings. Don’t get me wrong, Tel Aviv is incredible but by the end of filming I was ready to go home. My other half came over and nearly got stranded because of the ash cloud. He had to drive from Rome to Paris and then get the Eurostar. Then the cloud came back and I thought I was going to be stranded for even longer. I thought, ‘Oh no, I just want to go home.’