TOO CLOSE: INTERVIEW WITH CLARA SALAMAN
Phycological thriller starring Emily Watson as dedicated forensic psychiatrist, Emma Robertson, who is assigned to work with Connie Mortensen, a wife and mother accused of a despicable crime. Her assessment of the ‘yummy mummy monster’s’ sanity will determine whether Connie faces life in jail, life in a secure psychiatric hospital, or the chance of rehabilitation and release.
Too Close begins Monday 12th April at 9pm on ITV.
Press Interview with Clara Salaman
Q: How did Too Close come to the screen?
“Too Close is based on the novel of the same name for which I used the pseudonym Natalie Daniels. Initially, I always wanted to be a screenwriter, but no-one was very interested. So, I thought, ‘Well, I’ll have to tell my stories another way.’ So I started writing novels. Which I would never have imagined I would have done. But I did.
“In 2008 I wrote a book called Shame On You about a girl brought up in a cult, which I am now adapting for the screen. Then I wrote The Boat, published in 2014, which I have just adapted for an American film company.
“When I then wrote Too Close no one in the UK was interested. Too dark. Unsavoury. And yet it was being picked up by publishers all over Europe before I’d even finished it. With a few bidding wars which was very encouraging. But here in the UK. No-one was interested. Until in stepped the lovely Darcy Nicholson from Transworld. They wanted it on the condition that I changed my name.
“I’m not sure why, but I’ve presumed the name change was because when they try to sell the book, the booksellers look up the figures of the author’s previous books and if it’s just been pretty average, well…there’s less hullaballoo. Whereas if they bring it in as a debut book, the booksellers can’t look you up. If that was the plan, it worked.
“It’s difficult choosing a name. You want some connection with it. My dad had just died. I felt very close to my family. My sister is called Natalie and my brother is called Daniel. So, with their permission, I went with Natalie Daniels.
“The production company Snowed-In optioned the book before I’d even found Transworld. Their Chief Creative Director and Head of Drama Ruth Kenley-Letts is a fantastic woman. The paperback was published here in the UK in March 2019 and the TV drama should have been on screen in late 2020 had lockdown not delayed filming. It was an incredibly quick turnaround.
‘‘I’ve loved every minute of working with Snowed-In and ITV.”
Q: What story did you want to tell?
“I’d always been fascinated reading about women who try to kill their children. Medea. I’ve thought, ‘Where the hell do you have to be in your head to think the best option is to kill your children? How have you got to seeing the world like that?’
“I’ve had dark times in my own life and so I’m interested in the journey of the mind. To actually carry out such a thing - with your children? I’ve always wanted to investigate that. Despair. Hope. The angle from which we see the world. What sequence of events, what triggers could take us to that point?
“I didn’t want it to be anything spectacular. None of the events that happen to Connie (Denise Gough) are particularly unusual. They are things that happen to most of us in some way or another. It’s just timing. And medication, of course. As Emma (Emily Watson) the psychiatrist says, ‘Who knows what any one of us is capable of given the right triggers and the wrong medication?’
“Too Close is the journey of a breakdown. Small incremental steps. Then one more little thing comes along and breaks you. I am interested in what unites us all. What happens to Connie could happen to anyone of us. There are themes of isolation and resourcefulness. Plus, forgiveness.
“I did a lot of research and I did consult people. But I wrote it first. Because I didn’t want to stop my flow of the story I wanted to tell. And then I did all of the research. Surprisingly, aside from some specifics, I didn’t have to change too much.”
Q: Can you tell us about Connie (Denise Gough) and Emma (Emily Watson)?
“When we first meet Connie, she is a patient in a secure psychiatric unit. Where we also meet the psychiatrist Emma. Connie is very feisty. She says she doesn’t remember driving a car with two children inside off a bridge. Although we wonder if she is telling the truth. Is she faking? Is she a bad woman? We don’t know what she is up to.
“It’s Emma’s job to find out if Connie has genuine ‘dissociative amnesia’ or whether she’s malingering. As Emma later describes it, it’s a way of coping with trauma. Putting the events of trauma into a little box and then burying the box in the earth as a means of avoiding pain. It’s not uncommon.
“Emma has her own demons. When people are in quite an acute psychiatric state, as Connie is, they have a real perception. It’s almost as if they can read your mind. There’s a clarity of vision. Connie can read Emma. She can find her Achilles Heel. So, it’s a two-way relationship with an echoing of each other. And it continues to be so until things are unearthed.”
Q: Did you have any say in the casting?
“To a degree. Ruth and I were always in agreement. I brought Emily Watson with me. We’ve known each other since we were five years old. Now we’ve finally got to work together. She’s such a good actress. Just so powerful. There is a containment about Emma. She is so controlled. The opposite of Connie. Emily does that so exquisitely.
“This is such a good cast. Denise is an incredible actress who may be new to the ITV audience. I couldn’t have asked for a better performance.”