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“People can make a change” Actress Maxine Peake on the new ITV drama about Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams

2 years ago

By The Guide Liverpool

“People can make a change” Actress Maxine Peake on the new ITV drama about Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams

Actress Maxine Peake says a new drama about Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams shows how ordinary people can make a difference when they stand up against authority.

Maxine, who plays the inspirational Liverpool mum in the ITV four-parter which will air in January, says she wants it to reveal the story and message of Anne and all the other survivors and families.

But, more than that, she adds: “It is about that the little person can, people can, make a change.

“(With) solidarity and strength in unity we can take on the establishment and we can do it.” 

Her feelings were echoed by executive producer, Simon Heath, who says: “I think we live in a world where there’s a political fatalism and people are resigned to stuff happening that should be unacceptable.

“And I think what Anne’s story does, and it’s the story of the Hillsborough campaign, is that it shows the establishment can be taken on by the people, and there can be a victory, and it is possible to stand up for the truth.”

‘Anne’ is written by Kevin Sampson, who was at the game, and is author of the book Hillsborough Voices, which depicts the tragic events of the day and what unfolded days, and years, after the disaster.

And it is produced by the makers of Line of Duty, The Pembrokeshire Murders and Vigil.

The drama tells the incredible story of Anne, who dedicated her life to fighting for justice after the death of her 15-year-old son, Kevin, at the Liverpool and Nottingham Forest FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989.

It was a fight that took its toll on Anne, and on her marriage, as she refused to accept the coroner’s original verdict of accidental death.

Ahead of the drama and a new factual documentary, The Real Anne: Unfinished Business, Simon says that he couldn’t think of anyone better to play the determined and tenacious Anne than award-winning actress, Maxine: “It was the first and only thought in my head,” he says.

For her, it was a role she couldn’t refuse.

“There are just certain things you know you have got to do,” she says.

Maxine says she was attracted to the role ‘because of Anne’s fight for justice’, but adds: “Also because I don’t believe anybody’s ordinary. What does that word mean?

“At the end of the day she was a mother, she was a friend, a wife, who then became this passionate campaigner.

“For me it was about that fact that she was seen as an ordinary woman, and what is that button that turns people into a ferocious seeker of truth and justice?

“It’s really nerve-racking when you’re playing somebody who’s a real-life character and especially someone who is so loved, and has family that’s still alive. We were so lucky to have Sara – Anne’s daughter – and family who were so supportive.”

Maxine spoke to Sara to find out more about her mum, but admits: “I always think it’s quite difficult asking someone about their own mother. I think if someone asked me to describe my own mum that would be quite difficult, and I think sometimes just speaking to Sara about Sara gave me a sense of how her mum was, and it’s about what her relationship was with her mum.

“I did lots of reading, I reached out to reporters, people who were there at the time, people who had footage, to Kevin obviously and the wealth of knowledge. It’s surprising once you start talking to people and telling people what you’re up to that they go ‘I’ve got a story’ or ‘I know someone’, so you glean as much as you can.”

She says she didn’t want to do an impression: “I thought all I could do was get a sense of Anne and her fight for justice, and her warmth and her humanity, and layer that and bring parts of myself to it to create a full, rounded figure.”

Sara Williams says she succeeded: “When we went to see the final version I thought how can someone play my mum, and it feel like my mum watching it? And at first I thought, well she looks a bit like her, but by the end of it I felt like I was watching my mum.

“And the same with Steve (Stephen Walters) playing my dad, I felt like that was my mum and dad, they just did an amazing job.”

Sara, whose parents’ marriage was shattered by the tragedy, says it was emotional to watch, but adds that the drama will show the true effect the disaster had on families like hers, because it wasn’t just about losing Kevin and her mum’s fight for justice, but what they had all suffered as a family.

“That’s a testimony to Max and to Stephen and their performances which were absolutely spot on,” says Simon Heath. “It’s only had a limited audience so far but we’ve had such incredibly positive feedback, but the most important feedback is Sara’s.”

Maxine adds: “We are storytellers in this, we are just part of a story that’s being told and, of course your ego as an actor goes ‘oh was that good, thank you very much’, but as long as I feel I have been a part of telling Anne’s story to the best of my ability…

“I loved working with Stephen, we had a great chemistry, and I loved Anne and Steve’s relationship. There’s something so beautiful about it and what was heartbreaking was the fact that there’s a love there that wasn’t completely broken, it just couldn’t withstand this pressure.

“And one thing I came away with was what Sara was saying, and that’s the legacy of Hillsborough. I have heard people saying it was so long ago, why are people still going on about it? And it’s because the legacy of it goes through generations and generations, and the echoes of it will get passed down through families.”

Anne will air on ITV at 9pm on 2 January 2022

Follow The Guide Liverpool on Twitter here.


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