It’s Keeley’s (Katherine Rose Morley) birthday and she could really do with some luck today - she’s defaulted on a payday loan, and the debt collectors are already knocking on her door demanding she pays off the £425 she owes. With nothing in her bank account Keeley needs to think of a way to get the cash and fast - and winning the lottery would certainly solve all Keeley’s problems!
The Syndicate begins Tuesday 30th March at 9pm on BBC One.
Interview: BBC Press
Tell us about your character.
We first meet Keeley on her 23rd birthday. She’s just going about her normal daily life, which is getting up and going to work. You see early on that Keeley is regularly using gambling apps and selling things on eBay to make money. You wouldn’t necessarily think she’s got a gambling problem, because she doesn’t think she does. She thinks it’s fine.
In episode one you see the group of kennel workers winning a little bit of money that they think is brilliant. You see what money means to them - these young people don’t have any money between them. And you see the friendship within the syndicate, they are a really good bunch of people, really good friends and to see that before the lottery win is actually really nice.
I’d say Keeley is the leader of the group. She rallies the troops. She is someone who is presented with a problem and sees a solution. Keeley has a glass-half-full attitude and a lot of energy. Even though she’s extremely loyal and has an amazing relationship with her little brother, she is also really flawed, with her own issues going on, that she’s not even aware of. She’s in denial about how bad her situation actually is because she’s one of those people who can cope and just get by.
Do you think you share any character traits with Keeley?
I do. I like to think I’m a really positive person. I’ll always try and see the brighter side to something where it’s possible and I love that attitude in other people. You attract what you give out, don’t you? It’s difficult to be positive sometimes but when you surround yourself with people who are, it becomes infectious. There’s nothing really that will hold Keeley back, even if she sees something in her way and there’s definitely a bit of get up and go about us both. Mind you, having said that, I definitely wasn’t get up and go during lockdown… but I think I’m forgiven for that. The whole country was in their pyjamas.
There are also large parts of her character that I can’t relate to. I did go to Vegas once and gambled. It’s not for me. We had a laugh, but I don’t see the attraction in it and there’s nothing really in my life that I have an unhealthy relationship with - well, maybe chocolate.
But Keeley is a product of her own environment. You later learn that her mum gambles on the bingo. Her dad hasn’t been in the picture for a very long time but we do hear later on in the series that her dad was a big gambler as well. So Keeley has always been exposed to it and because nothing terribly bad has happened as a result of it she doesn’t see the issue. That is the scary part of gambling - when you don’t realise the risks.
What has it been like working with Kay this last few months?
Let’s be honest, Kay is an absolute boss, isn’t she? She’s writer, producer, director and friend. She’s everything on that set and the amount of focus that she needs when she’s working on something like The Syndicate was amazing to watch. She’s very supportive and also just exceptionally lovely. It was amazing to work with her.
In terms of Kay’s other work, I went to see Band Of Gold last year because my friend, Sacha [Parkinson] was in it, which was brilliant; and I had seen The Syndicate before because my best friend was in the last series, Cara [Theobold]. My mum and me also watched and loved In The Club. I’ve always been aware of Kay. I met her in my chemistry read last year. There are certain auditions that you go in to wanting the job and this was one of those. Kay just knows what to do, she’s an actor’s director for sure and I adore her.
How did you find filming during Covid?
What a crazy time. Rollem were really good. We did a pre-shoot day that was invaluable for the whole crew - to see how it all worked in the ‘new world’. I can’t lie, I was so nervous about doing my own makeup at the beginning. It’s such a weird thing because you do your own makeup every day but I’ve never ever done it for television or a role. But very, very quickly you adapt and it got to the point where I was doing my own checks and almost not realising I was doing it. It just becomes a habit. Our makeup team and Marcus Whitney, our make-up designer, were incredible at being so supportive.
All the restrictions that are in place are to keep everyone safe and it was testament to the crew, cast and producers that they kept everybody safe. It does very quickly become the norm. Yes, it was tricky at times, but you adapt and I think we all did that. I think we were all so excited to get back to doing what we love. I do remember the first day there was this joy because for most people it was their first job in months. People realised that even with the masks and all the restrictions it was just great to get back working.
How did you prepare for the role?
I had chats with Kay and did quite a bit of research on gambling. I think online gambling is particularly scary, because it’s so accessible. You don’t need to go in to a bingo hall or the bookies. You can literally do it from your bed, on your phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the rise in online gambling is crazy because of its accessibility. And when it’s there - your phone is there - it’s constant. It’s tricky not to get sucked in if you haven’t got someone looking out for you.
How would you describe The Syndicate?
It’s just such good fun. What Kay does so brilliantly is write these really ordinary people and put them in extraordinary circumstances, which is amazing to watch. But also you can’t ever underestimate The Syndicate, because on the surface it’s a heartwarming drama, but is actually also really complex. The characters all have their own stuff going on. There are lots of flashbacks and you really get to delve into each character’s past and what brings them to this point in their life.
I know my mum and aunties are really excited about watching the series. There’s a certain generation who don’t necessarily want to watch murder and gore. They want something they can watch and enjoy as a family. It’s heartwarming and funny and it will keep you wanting to see what the next episode brings.
People who’ve seen the show before and are fans of the show will absolutely love it because it’s what Kay does best - but there is a twist this time. It’s not like every other series. I hope the audience will get behind the syndicate, want to see justice done and enjoy the cat and mouse chase. And we get to go to Monaco.
Watch it for Monaco… and the dogs! It’s perfect escapism.
Do you have any favourite scenes?
I think my favourite scene was actually filming in Monte Carlo casino. It was about 4.30am and I had a real pinch-me moment. We’re in a global pandemic but I’m in Monaco and they’ve opened the casino just for us. It’s so grand and opulent and we’re just little old us. I really did have a moment of feeling really lucky and grateful.
Tell us about working with the other cast members.
The syndicate - us five together [Katherine, Kieran, Liberty, Taj and Emily]: it was a unique experience. We spent three months in Leeds and a month in Monaco and we rarely saw our families so we were each other’s family really. We ended up being together 24/7 for four months and it was a really strange time because that’s not normal. It’s not normal to spend that amount of time together no matter how well you know someone, and then we’d work together all day long.
But they’re brilliant and I think that actually helped the show. We almost became these characters and the bond these characters have was really special because of the amount of time we were spending together. We’re the youngest syndicate that there’s ever been, and I love that.