Interview: John Simm on itv's new drama, Trauma.
Adrian Lester and John Simm to star in Trauma, new three part thriller by Mike Bartlett for ITV
ITV and Tall Story Pictures today announced casting for Trauma, an original drama written by multi award-winning playwright and dramatist, Mike Bartlett (Doctor Foster, The Town) and directed by Marc Evans (Hinterland. Safe House 1 & 2, Aberfan Young Wives’ Club). Adrian Lester (Hustle, Undercover, London Spy) will star as family man Jon Allerton, a well-educated, confident and high achieving trauma surgeon. John Simm (State of Play, Exile, Prey) stars as Dan Bowker, a factory manager struggling to cope as his life unravels around him.
Trauma also stars Rowena King (Of Kings and Profits, Lie To Me, The Bucket List) wh plays Lisa Allerton, a successful psychiatrist, wife of Jon and mother of their 18-year-old daughter Alana, played by Jade Anouka (Chewing Gum, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man). Lyndsey Marshal (Trespass Against Us, From Darkness, Rome) stars as Susie Bowker, Dan’s hard-working wife and mother of his three children, Alex, Catherine and Mark.
The three-part psychological thriller centres on the lives of two fathers, Dan and Jon, whose lives collide when Dan’s 15 year-old son Alex is stabbed and tragically dies in the trauma department attended by high-achieving consultant Allerton.
Devastated, heartbroken and pushed to the edge, Dan believes Jon is responsible for Alex’s death. As he strives for justice, Dan begins to unpick the very fabric of Jon's life as his own unravels in the wake of Alex’s killing.
Trauma is an intricate, fast-paced thriller that questions what makes a man good and explores what happens when the very institutions established to protect us and those who represent them, let us down.
Can you describe your character?
Dan Bowker is a blue-collar factory worker, an honest, loyal hard-working man who loves his wife and children. He is also a very proud man, sharp and intuitive. At the beginning of the drama, a tragic event happens in his life when his teenage son gets stabbed. During the treatment of his son in hospital, there is a moment when he enters the operating theatre, he gets upset with what he sees and ends up blaming the surgeon (Jon, played by Adrian Lester). Dan has the capacity to tell when people are lying and he questions his own actions and his own mortality when he is going about investigating Allerton. He will not let go and that says a lot about him, he’s tenacious. We see how the two characters react to this one event, how it cuts between their home lives and work lives. Of course their lives are very different – Dan’s life in that moment is full of grief, his marriage is falling apart whereas for Jon, what happened is an occupational hazard.
What was it about the character of Dan that made you want to play this role?
Dramatically, he is a great character to play. I was drawn first of all to Mike's wonderful writing; it was a challenge to bring this tortured man to life. It is a heavy role to play, but for me they are the most attractive parts, even though it meant often going to a dark place to convey these emotions truthfully. Mike is a brilliant writer and I’m a huge fan of his work. There was no way I could say no to it. It was a wonderful job and extremely fulfilling for me as an artist. The kindness and the fun trickled down from Marc (Evans) our director throughout the cast and crew making it a lovely place to go to work despite the subject matter.
It’s clear that this is not a medical drama per se; how would you describe it?
Essentially it’s an intricate psychological thriller, it’s complicated, with many strands to the story. Although it’s set in a hospital it is by no means a medical drama. It’s a story of two men from very different backgrounds whose lives collide through one traumatic event.
How does Dan’s story counter balance Jon’s to create and maintain that tension?
The viewer is never really sure whose side they are on, initially it looks like Dan is in the wrong, it seems to the viewer that this utterly grief stricken man has seemingly lost the plot…nobody believes him. His life is dissolving in front of him yet he keeps on doggedly pursuing this belief that he’s right. The balance of tension constantly shifts between Dan and Jon, which hopefully will keep the audience guessing right to the end. It is very cleverly laid out by Mike, and as is typical with his dramas, nothing is as it seems and the tension is constantly shifting.
What is it about Mike’s writing that digs into the truth of a character?
I am a great admirer of Mike’s writing and it may be that – having his background in theatre – he comes at it from a very character driven perspective. It is all very beautifully written, cleverly done and well thought out. It was the perfect script; our job was to do justice to it, to keep going back to the true line of the story, as that is the most important thing.
Dan believes Jon is responsible for Alex’s death. Do you think deep down he believes this or is he projecting his own anger at his lot in life and guilt at his inability to protect his family; his failings as a father, a provider, a husband?
I think that deep down Dan absolutely believes that Jon is responsible for Alex's death and that he's lying - from a position of privilege - to protect himself and his reputation, which is reprehensible to Dan.
Does Dan ever doubt himself?
Dan absolutely believes he is right but by the final episode is questioning that belief. He begins to wonders if he's losing his mind; he questions his own sanity, as he can’t believe the things he is driven to do. He is living a nightmare, but everything he does he believes he is doing for the memory of his son because that's all he has left.
Describe what Dan goes through when he loses his son?
Dan obviously goes through unimaginable grief when he loses his son. Every parents worst nightmare. He would never in a million years imagine himself going to the extreme lengths he does throughout the story, but these are exceptional circumstances.
Trauma begins Monday 12 February, 9pm on itv.