The actor, who swapped film and TV for politics in 1992 when she became a Labour MP, was persuaded back to screen by Aisling Walsh after the Maudie director signed up to helm the 90-minute drama adaptation of Emma Healey’s dementia mystery.
Walsh told Deadline, “I thought of Glenda immediately when I read the script and knew she was no longer an MP and had seen her in King Lear and wondered if this was something she might fancy doing. We got in touch, I went to New York to meet her and we had a chance to talk about it. If you’re lucky you get the actor you first thought of.”
Jackson plays Maud in the BBC One drama, which launches on Sunday December 8 at 9pm. When her best friend Elizabeth goes missing, Maud is convinced that something terrible has happened, and sets out to solve the mystery. But with her dementia worsening, unfinished business unearthed and the past and present starting to merge, Maud’s search takes on a poignant urgency. Will Maud be able to discover the truth before she loses herself completely?
Walsh said that it was a “huge task” for Jackson, a “challenging role” as she’s in every scene. “I always loved her honesty and ability to be. How amazing is it to see an older character on screen, there are too few. It’s about a woman suffering from dementia, whose family are able to look after her, it’s one of the reasons Glenda did it, to give that illness a voice,” said Walsh.
Jackson herself, speaking at a preview screening of the STV Productions drama, said it was a story close to her heart. “We all know the stories about families who are having to sell the family home to be able to pay for someone to be cared for. And this in itself creates terrible dramas in families,” she said. “It’s a big black hole for all of us, and we just have to be brave and find a candle and start working our way through it.”
Walsh admitted that it was tough to get across the often-hidden disease on screen, but was helped by the “very clear” script from Swallows and Amazons’ Andrea Gibb, who adapted.
Elizabeth Is Missing also stars Sophie Rundle, Helen Behan, Maggie Steed, Liv Hill, Nell Williams, Mark Stanley and Sam Hazeldine. It is exec produced by Sarah Brown and Andrea Gibb for STV Productions and Gaynor Holmes for BBC One with Chrissy Skinns as producer. Sky Studios deficit funded the series and NBC Universal Global Distribution is handling international sales.
Walsh (left) is coming off the back of 2016’s Maudie, starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, a drama about the life of folk artist and painter Maud Lewis, who struggles with arthritis, memory of a lost child and a family that doubts her ability before moving in with a surly fish peddler.
She previously worked with The Shape of Water star Hawkins on BBC adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith and said that the fact that she has crossed between film and television has helped. “I’ve always gone between film and TV… I don’t approach it in any different way, but it’s [Elizabeth Is Missing] is essentially a film, it’s the same approach. It’s not a series so you’re not doing six or eight episodes, where you have to find a way of getting people to tune in every week,” she added.
Next up for Walsh is The Ballroom, a feature she is working on with Ireland’s Parallel Films, who she worked with on Maudie. The drama recently scored funding from Screen Ireland. Set over the heatwave summer of 1911, the end of the Edwardian era, The Ballroom is a tale of unlikely love and dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which. “I came across the novel and hopefully we’ll get to make it in the next year or two. We have the script and we’re developing it and trying to get ourselves to a place where we can get it out to cast and move forward. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen to it over the next few months,” she said.
Walsh, who is repped by Casarotto Ramsay, has one eye on working in the U.S., particularly given the boom in premium episodic television and is in talks with See-Saw Films co-founder Iain Canning, who produced The King’s Speech, as well as Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds producer Lawrence Bender on a couple of projects. “For me, I just want to make things and it’s a way to work with some amazing actors,” she added.