Ruth Bradley has said she felt “huge pressure” portraying Agatha Christie in a new period drama and it was difficult to switch off during filming.
Humans star Bradley plays the murder mystery novelist in Channel 5’s lavish new feature-length programme Agatha And The Truth Of Murder, a fictional interpretation of what Christie was doing during the period of time she went missing in the 1920s.
The Poirot and Miss Marple writer famously left her home on December 3 1926 and was discovered 11 days later staying under an assumed name at a hotel in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, but with no recollection of how she got there.
The film, shot in the style of a typical whodunnit of the era, sees Christie lure together suspects for the murder of Florence Nightingale’s god-daughter – who was found brutally killed on a train to Sussex several years earlier – as she attempts to solve the cold case.
Bradley said she did not have much time to prepare for the role, and the weight of portraying one of the most beloved literary stars in history was a lot to take in.
She told the Press Association: “Obviously there was huge pressure.
“What helped was that there wasn’t a lot of time in preparation, obviously that’s a blessing and a curse but I think had I had more, I could have driven myself crazy with all the people you need to… because obviously when you’re playing a real character you have a responsibility to their descendants and their family and people who may have known them.
“But I’m not her, so I can’t be her, I’ve never met her. But I can do the best with the script I have to hand, and obviously do my own research. There’s an incredible autobiography from Laura Thompson which was like a bible as well.
“But yes, I felt I had a responsibility to look into the emotional life of this character I was playing, the same way I would anyone, and essentially what I felt about this after reading it made me think, we can’t know exactly what Agatha Christie thought, or where she was for those 11 days, but it made me think, ‘My god, she was a real living, breathing woman.’”
Bradley, best known for playing synth character Karen Voss in sci-fi series Humans as well as Emily Merchant in Primeval, said she “didn’t relax easily” while filming the drama, and that she could not leave the character behind at the end of the day.
“I think inevitably something of the character spills over, for me.
“I would love to be able to say ‘goodnight’ and let’s leave it on set. I don’t think I’ve mastered that yet.
“This I found very difficult to switch off from, because her mind and everything in her life and this character in this film at this time is so active, and it’s whirring and I really don’t feel like I switched off at all until I shot the last frame.”
The programme also stars Pippa Haywood, Tim McInnerny, Blake Harrison and Samantha Spiro, and it airs on December 23 at 9pm on Channel 5.