Emilia Fox is Angel
Emilia Fox relished the chance to play a character through different stages of her life.
“It was easier playing a character with three strongly defined stages of life. So much of the time with a drama you’re working from scripts which only deal with the present, so you end up making up your own history for the character and these decisions could be different from those of the director or writer.
“But with Fallen Angel, Andrew Taylor in the novels and Peter Ransley in his adaptation, map out Angel’s entire life so you are very clear about every stage. The only strange thing was not being there to see Tigerlily play little Rosie so I couldn’t pick up any mannerisms of hers and include them in my portrayal. Although I did join in her rehearsal process so that I could get an idea of how she might be.”
Emilia read Andrew Taylor’s Roth Trilogy before her audition and, according to the novelist, knows the books better than he does himself.
“I found the books utterly compelling and, once I was cast and had the scripts, I used the text to bring back bits of Rosie as Andrew is very, very clear about little details which made Rosie become Angel. I found the original book very useful as a ‘bible’.
“We filmed over the summer months and I felt totally immersed in the project and the character. I had time to develop ideas and include them in various stages of the character development. In his book Andrew laces Rosie with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from a little girl, seemingly as a result of lack of control as a child and the lack of attention her father showed her. So you see it in the containment she had as a little girl and then as a teenager when she’s trying to control her emotions, then this becomes a fully fledged disorder as an adult when she likes to have everything planned and she’s totally thrown by spontaneity.”
“She has to have everything clean and tidy which is in total contrast to the disorder she is creating in everyone else’s lives. It’s an efficiency executed over herself that she tries to impose on all around her. It was really satisfying trying to inject that into the whole span of Rosie’s life.”
Describing her character from childhood to adulthood – as opposed to the order we see in the films – Emilia says: “It’s both exciting and terrifying to try and achieve the balance between the reality of that character, so that an audience can totally believe that Angel might be the person living next door to them, but also to maintain something of the gothic, heightened realism that Andrew Taylor invests in the novel.
“Rosie is the daughter of the Reverend David Byfield and Janet, who had this very strained marriage due to his professional ambitions and a lack of good communication in the marriage. Rosie’s childhood relationship with her grandfather is ambiguous, but there is the suggestion that all is not as innocent as the grandfather – granddaughter relationship should be. Maybe because she was forced into an adult world far too young, Rosie becomes an expert manipulator of situations – and especially of Wendy. She listens to and absorbs what the adults say and do and then she uses things against them to ultimately tragic affect.
“In the second film you see Rosie at first as this happy, well developed teenager. She’s just taken her A-levels and she’s hoping to go to Cambridge University. She has a totally exclusive relationship with her father and she’s the most important figure in his life – but the peace and balance between them is shattered by the arrival of Vanessa who David plans to, and does, marry. Then Michael Appleton, Wendy’s son, seems to usurp her role in the family by coming to stay with them and this destroys Rosie’s relationship with her father, and her once high achieving academic life is shattered in consequence. Film Two really charts the falling apart of Rosie’s world.”
And as an actress in her 30s, Emilia slipped into the youthful character of 17-year-old Rosie quite happily.
“It was frighteningly easy to remember what it was like with all those hormones rushing round. I took it as a huge compliment being asked to play 17 again. But it took a lot of brilliant work from make-up and costume! And what surprised me most was the amount of energy you have to invest in being a teenager. I wanted to find a balance between what Andrew had written in the book which was this very contained 17 year-old girl, and Peter’s interpretation of Rosie which was much more of a teenager with volatile emotions, but I wouldn’t ever want her to be too melodramatic so I asked David Drury, the director, to keep a constant check on me.
“Then in the third part of Rosie’s life, as she becomes Angel, we meet her as a fully fledged psychopath with ‘antisocial behaviour’ living with a man called Eddie who she’s manipulated, through his own desires, into doing exactly as she wants. They’ve been kidnapping children under the pretence that it’s for the good of the children, whereas in fact they both have entirely different motives for their actions. Eddie’s seemingly suppressed paedophilia, which Angel uses against him, and Angel’s motives which relate to her own upbringing where her unsatisfactory parenting develops into her own mothering of the kidnapped children. And the children become objects of desire and ultimately victims.”
Emilia believes Rosie’s driving force is the pursuit of her father’s attention.
“It’s the absolute key to her character and all she does stems from that desire. He is a highly intelligent man who failed to recognise his daughter’s needs. He loves her blindly and he ignores what’s right in front of him and she in turn mimics his behaviour. She adores him but when she doesn’t get his attention she seeks it in other ways and tries to preserve herself as his little girl.”
Emilia is currently filming a new series of Silent Witness for the BBC.