A new series about domestic violence is about to hit our screens. Georgia Humphreys meets stars Joanne Froggatt, Michael Huisman and Samuel Adewunmi.

Harry and Jack Williams started writing Angela Black before Covid-19, when we had no idea of how a national lockdown would change our lives.

But the captivating new drama, which explores the issue of domestic abuse through the eyes of a woman whose life appears idyllic, now feels even more pertinent, following horrifying statistics reflecting a rise in domestic violence during the pandemic.

According to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, between April and December last year, they logged a 34% increase in calls and contacts, compared to the same period in 2019.

Glasgow Times:

“Being in an abusive relationship and being literally stuck inside with that person, I can’t imagine the terror and fear that that brings,” says Yorkshire-born Joanne Froggatt, 41, who takes on the titular role in Angela Black. “Jack and Harry have written a very timely story and an important story.”

The Downton Abbey star, who is also known for Liar, which the Williams brothers were behind too, notes: “It would be amazing if somebody out there sat there and went, ‘This makes me feel less alone’.”

The six-part series is set in suburban London, where Angela lives with her two sons and charming husband, Olivier (Game Of Thrones star Michiel Huisman).

A former professional pianist, the mum spends her days volunteering at a dogs’ home, and it seems like a lovely life, although, as we heartbreakingly realise very early on in the first episode, Angela is a victim of domestic abuse at the hands of Olivier (poignantly, we don’t see the violence, but hear her cries and screams).

“I would describe his behaviour as extremely manipulative,” offers Dutch actor Huisman, 40.

“As an actor, you must always try and find a way into your character, and the biggest challenge for me was to try and understand where all his anger stems from and how I could possibly relate to that.”

The abuse began after the birth of their first son, and we learn Angela has threatened to leave Olivier before.

But she loves him, and he’s the father of her children, so she stays, and is forced to finds ways to cover up her injuries.

Where Angela Black becomes a twisty thriller is the appearance of Ed, played by Samuel Adewunmi.

A private investigator, he comes to Angela with some terrifying truths and secrets about her deceitful, controlling husband.

But Angela is very cautious and wary of Ed, unsure whether to trust him straight away.

“Why would you?!” exclaims Adewunmi.

“A stranger turns up to your house in the middle of the night, he’s been following you all day and tells you your husband is this person you don’t know… “I think Ed acts as a sliver of hope for her, to escape the torment that she’s going through with Olivier,” continues the rising star, who has also appeared in the 2019 film, The Last Tree.

“I doubt people will trust him straight away, but we’ll see how that changes throughout the show.”

Glasgow Times:

Discussing what we can expect from her character as the series progresses, Froggatt teases: “She really does go on a huge journey that breaks her world apart and breaks her sense of self apart.

“Everything that she believes her life to be changes, and she almost has to fall apart to rebuild herself back to where she’s supposed to be.”

The most challenging part of this role for the lead star was “keeping the level of intensity and emotion for such an elongated period of time”.

“I was in pretty much all of the time, and when I’ve got to do really emotional stuff, I’m listening to music, because I can’t just laugh and joke and then burst into tears,” she recalls of being on set.

Glasgow Times:

While he is playing a dark character, Huisman, who is also known for comedy-drama The Flight Attendant, reveals he tried to lean into Olivier’s charm during filming.

“Secretly I hoped that, for a little while, the audience would think, ‘Is it really that bad? They do have a nice life together’ and I think that that puts the audience in a terrible position once they really realise that, yes, he is that bad,” he elaborates.

“I thought that would be a great challenge, to play a character that is mean, controlling, possessive, gaslighting his wife, but at the same time, he seemed so charming on the outside.”

How did he get into the headspace of Olivier?

“There is a lot of stuff I do when I prepare for a role, ranging from watching documentaries to reading books or drawing from the experience of people around me and memories.

At the end of the day, you have to pull it towards yourself and find something that gives you a way into the character’s anger.”

What makes Angela Black such chilling viewing is that domestic violence is sadly far too common and, as Froggatt suggests, “could be happening in the house next door, or possibly, in your own house”.

“That is what is so unnerving about it, and what really stuck with me.”

So, she hopes that viewers will also be left thinking about “Angela’s situation and how people are affected by these issues, and possibly not being as dismissive about them as they were before, or possibly just being a bit more open to checking in on a friend or making sure they are treating people the way they should be treated.”

Glasgow Times:

Adewunmi echoes this sentiment when asked what he thinks audiences will take away from the show.

“I hope that it teaches people to just question things a little bit more and try and be there for people,” he muses.

“I guess in that sense, what I find most compelling about the show is that it just feels so real.”

He follows, thoughtfully: “I think it’s brave of Harry and Jack to go ahead and write a story like this, something that could be very triggering for people.

“But at the same time, it may also be something that people find educational. It shines a light on something that happens behind closed doors and in the shadows.”

Angela Black airs on ITV from Sunday October 10