Gemma Whelan reveals more about appearing alongside Suranne Jones in Gentleman Jack...
After starting out as a stand-up comedian, Gemma Whelan is fast becoming one of TV’s most prolific stars, with roles in Upstart Crow, The Moorside and The End of the ****ing World. Now, the 38-year-old, aka fearsome Ironborn warrior Yara Greyjoy in Game of Thrones, will be on our screens in 19th-century period drama Gentleman Jack, playing Marian, the disapproving sister of lesbian landowner Anne Lister (Suranne Jones).
TV & Satellite Week caught up with Gemma Whelan to hear more about Gentleman Jack…
How would you describe Marian and Anne’s relationship?
Gemma Whelan: “They really do respect each other as sisters. Anne knows that Marian runs the household while she’s away, and without Marian she wouldn’t be able to travel and enjoy her life so much. Marian takes care of their aunt [Gemma Jones] and father [Timothy West], so she’s important in that respect for the whole family.”
The sisters seem to have quite a volatile relationship, don’t they?
Gemma: “Yes, and I very much enjoyed our bickering, though there are some extremely tender moments later on in this series as well. Marian’s not a pushover, that’s for sure, but when you put her against her sister Anne she suddenly looks a little bit pale and uninteresting.”
How did you prepare for the role of Marian Lister?
Gemma Whelan: “I just trusted that the amazing writer Sally Wainwright had written the truth. It felt like a very real sibling relationship, just as I have with my brother – we bicker and we argue, but at the core of it there is a lot of love there.”
Did you enjoy filming at Shibden Hall, where the Listers lived in the 1830s?
Gemma: “We were very lucky to be able to shoot there, as it isn’t often you get to film at the location where your drama is set. I actually shot all of my scenes at Shibden Hall because Marian never leaves!”
How does Marian compare with Yara Greyjoy, your kick-ass character in Game of Thrones?
Gemma: “ I do think Marian is kick-ass in her own way, but it was great to turn the volume up and play Yara battling all in Game of Thrones. She was often the more dominant sibling to her brother Theon, so it’s really fun to play the more meek half of a sibling set-up in Gentleman Jack, because Anne certainly is the more forward of the two. But then, it’s always nice to play a variety of roles.”
Gentleman Jack is on BBC1 on Sundays 9pm