Privilege on trial: A gripping new drama puts a property heiress in the dock for murder – and asks you to be the judge
- BBC1’s Showtrial is made by the same producers as Bodyguard and Line Of Duty
- Celine Buckens stars as Talitha, the key suspect in a woman’s disappearance
- Six-part series explores the mysterious falling out she had with the victim
A poor little rich girl, a brilliant lawyer and a young woman missing, presumed dead. So far, so clichéd… but BBC1’s new thriller Showtrial is made by the same producers as Bodyguard and Line Of Duty, and from the off it’s utterly compelling.
Key to the suspense is the extraordinary relationship between Talitha (Celine Buckens), the key suspect in the woman’s disappearance, and her lawyer Cleo Roberts (Tracy Ifeachor). Cleo is the solicitor called in to help when Talitha is arrested in connection with the suspected murder of working class student Hannah Ellis. And Talitha is not an easy person to like.
‘She’s the daughter of a famous property developer – a name everyone in our fictional world knows,’ says Celine. ‘But she’s estranged from her father and, because she isn’t taking any money from him, she’s gone into online sex work. It’s interesting, she’s privileged yet having to fend for herself and she faces prejudice because of her decisions.
BBC1’s new thriller Showtrial stars Celine Buckens as Talitha, the key suspect in a woman’s disappearance. Pictured: Cleo and Talitha
‘She went to the same university as the victim but they had a falling out, the extent of which takes the whole series to establish. There’s a mystery to it.’
Talitha is rude to everyone, including the solicitor who’s helping her. ‘I think this stroppiness and irreverence comes because she doesn’t take any situation seriously,’ says Celine.
‘As it gets more serious, that changes a bit, but she never behaves as you’d expect. That’s kind of why she’s so seductive as a character.’ Cleo is also a bit mysterious – a former hotshot lawyer, she’s now at the bottom of the ladder as a duty criminal solicitor.
‘If I met her in real life I would be intimidated,’ says Tracy. ‘But she just wants the best for her client. I spent time speaking to solicitors and they told me that they meet these people when they’re having their worst days. That’s something to bear in mind when Cleo and Talitha meet, she gives her a lot of grace.
‘But as the series continues, they test each other. I think Cleo may be the only person in Talitha’s life who has ever said, “No, you can’t do that, you can’t behave like that.” She wants to help but it’s hard when someone won’t help themselves. Cleo lives life by the book. She’s quite prim, adding a dark humour to the piece. They’re such an odd couple that it was a lot of fun to play.’
The six-part series also stars James Frain as Talitha’s father Damian Campbell, and Sinead Keenan as DI Paula Cassidy who becomes convinced that Talitha is guilty. But as the title suggests, the drama is less about the investigation and more about the trial of a beautiful, wealthy young woman, which becomes sensationalised.
Celine Buckens said the series gets us to look at how we’re influenced by our own prejudices. Pictured: Talitha
‘While the show isn’t based on any particular case, it draws inspiration from many that have been in the news,’ says Tracy.
‘We’ve all seen cases where someone has been falsely named in connection with a crime. There wasn’t any DNA evidence, their alibi stacked up, but we’d been thinking, “It’s them” and they’re convicted in the court of public opinion.
‘The show gets us to look at how we’re influenced by our own prejudices. How we need to disregard things like gender or race to try and find the facts.’ Celine agrees.
‘What becomes emphasised is how strongly people start to feel about the trial, how invested they become. And that isn’t just people looking in. The show was so interesting to me because it looks at the criminal justice system in a way that many dramas don’t.
It asks the question of whether the police sometimes place personal prejudice over due diligence and that is something we should all be thinking about.’
Showtrial starts tomorrow at 9pm on BBC1.