New social work drama ‘Kiri’ features Happy Valley star, Sarah Lancashire, who plays Miriam, an experienced social worker who is caught up in a police investigation when a young girl named Kiri goes missing on a supervised visit.
Author Jack Thorne, who also wrote the acclaimed Channel 4 thriller National Treasure said: “My Mum spent most of her life in the caring professions and I’ve always wanted to find a way of examining the pressures they are put under. I’m so grateful as always for the bravery and brilliance of Channel 4 in being prepared to look these issues in the face.”
Interview with Sarah Lancashire who plays Miriam
Your new drama is Kiri – could you explain a little bit about the show and who you play?
I play Miriam. She’s a rather colourful character. She’s a social worker. She’s somewhat mischievous. She likes to unsettle people with her directness and earthiness. But she’s also brilliantly flawed, as are most of the best characters to play. She’s really striving to do good in an imperfect world, whilst carrying her own demons, which is very much part of the human condition. It’s what makes these characters live and breathe. She has a defiance, a very strong purpose, a need to do good in society. But she also works very instinctively, she uses her intuition, but in this instance it leads to a catastrophic end.
Can you explain a little bit about where we find Miriam at the beginning of the story?
She makes a decision to allow one of the youngsters that she’s in charge of, Kiri, to visit her paternal grandparents, unchaperoned. It’s a decision taken with all parties’ agreement, and borne out of the fact that her adoption is pending. All things considered, Miriam feels it is a safe situation. But it quickly becomes clear that this decision has devastating consequences, the effects of which are explored in in the series.
The series explores a harrowing and difficult subject matter – does that attract you to a project, or make you more cautious about it?
To be honest, neither. I can tell very early on, reading a script, within six or seven pages, whether I’m looking at real people, and whether I can see and hear real people. Very often it’s not the subject matter that’s the draw, but how it’s dealt with.
So what was it that attracted you to Kiri?
Well, without a doubt it was one of the best scripts I’ve read in a very long time. I think Jack Thorne is an exceptional writer. This piece is very real, and very raw, and it was also colourful and edgy. It just had a heartbeat. It was leaping off the page, to be honest. I suppose those are the pieces that I’m drawn to, those are the pieces that I want to do, really, because I can do something with them.
It looks like a fairly thankless task, being a social worker. Did playing Miriam give you a real appreciation of the work they do?
I think, really, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to know that anybody who’s working in that public sector finds it a thankless task. And Miriam finds herself, in this story, in the eye of a storm. Anyone who has to be accountable in a time when resources are shrinking, where transparency is necessary, where the pressures are greater, is going to find that it takes a toll. Kiri is a very exciting drama, but it’s also a terrific thing to explore these other areas, because they are very under-explored worlds, to be honest.
Did you do much research?
I spoke briefly to Jack about it, because his mother worked in the caring professions. But there’s very little that one can do, in terms of research, in this instance, because it’s such an individual piece.