The Version Interview... Toby Jones on BBC One's Capital.
Set on a single street in South London, Capital is a portrait of a road transformed by soaring property prices: what was once the home of modest lower-middle class families, Pepys Road has been continuously gentrified into a street of multimillion pound houses.
Toby Jones (Marvellous, The Girl), Lesley Sharp (Scott And Bailey, The Shadow Line) Wunmi Mosaku (Dancing On The Edge, In The Flesh) and Adeel Akhtar (Utopia, Four Lions) star in Bafta-winning Peter Bowker’s adaptation of John Lanchester’s critically acclaimed and bestselling novel Capital, produced by Kudos for BBC One.
Joined by Rachael Stirling (Detectorists, The Bletchley Circle), Gemma Jones (Marvellous, The Lady Vanishes), Robert Emms (Atlantis, War Horse), Bryan Dick (Wolf Hall, Eric And Ernie) and Radoslaw Kaim (Spies Of Warsaw, Wallander), the line-up also includes multi-award-winning Indian actress Shabana Azmi and, fresh from her Olivier award-winning role in West End musical Once, Zrinka Cvitešić.
The denizens of Pepys Road include investment banker Roger (Toby Jones), rubbing his hands in anticipation of his £1m bonus; his spendthrift wife Arabella (Rachael Stirling); Polish builder Bogdan (Radoslaw Kaim), who has come from Warsaw to indulge the rich in their interior decoration whims; Quentina, the Zimbabwean refugee with a PhD, working as a traffic warden (Wunmi Mosaku); local newsagent Ahmed (Adeel Akhtar); and OAP Petunia (Gemma Jones), who has lived her entire life on Pepys Road and who is now contemplating death in the house in which she was born.
One day, the street’s residents all receive an anonymous postcard through their front doors bearing a simple message: 'We Want What You Have'. Who is behind the anonymous hate campaign? And what do they want?
As the mystery of the postcards deepens, we learn more about this vivid and unforgettable ensemble of characters. Interweaving stories reveal lives filled with love and loss, fear and greed, fortune and envy and most recognisable of all, family and home - stories bursting with piercing and funny observations on modern life and urban existence, of ordinary people who find themselves caught and changed by a city at a time of extraordinary flux.
What was it like working with Peter Bowker again?
I was a bit worried I was putting a curse on things by working with Peter again, as we’d just finished working on Marvellous and it had been such a success. But this was such different material and Roger is such a different character. I adore Pete. He’s fantastic at writing emotions and Roger is on an emotional path. Pete and I discussed that a lot and he was always very receptive to my questions. Adapting the book for television is a huge achievement of Pete’s and I really enjoy the way in which he’s done it.
What was it like working with Euros Lyn?
He is one of the most passionate directors I’ve worked with on television and I really enjoyed working with him. It’s extraordinary to be a part of an ambitious show like this as there is never much time, but he was so focused in the midst of rapidly shifting scenes and locations. Although all the characters are connected they are also very disconnected, and yet Euros found a way to bind it all together.
What was it like being part of this ensemble cast?
It was a bit like actually living on Pepys Road. You know what some people are doing and you don’t know what other people are doing, some people you know very well and some people you get to know better over time. So in that way the form matched the content.
Tell us about Pepys Road…
I chatted to John Lanchester about the location where the book was set and I actually live nearby, so we walked down the street together and talked about how the area has changed. John told me that he would see people wandering up and down it and try to work out who they were and why they were there. At that point it felt very specific, like John has looked down out of his window and seized upon what he could see. However streets like that exist all over now. One of the great strengths of the book is that it doesn’t see things, and people, as good or bad, it just observes and presents the facts.
Tell us about Roger…
Roger isn’t an evil banker, he’s a slightly complacent banker. He’s become used to a certain way of life and has a self-imposed pressure to live that way. He spends a lot of money on things that other people don’t spend money on - for example fixtures and fittings - but that is normal to him and his wife. He is not totally in charge of his life or his work.
What really attracted me to the part was that he’s a very well-educated, functioning human being on one level, who has obeyed the rules and earned a lot of money; but on another level something is happening to him internally that he doesn’t have the language to articulate. Something is shifting and changing within him, and what happens to him in the story makes him realise that his life is not all it might be. It’s a creeping dissatisfaction, a creeping sense of loss and directionlessness. He has no way of expressing that or even understanding it himself. He’s not self-reflective in that way and lives with someone who seems to be totally un-self-reflective too.
Which character in Pepys Road do you entirely most identify with?
Roger. He has two kids and his work takes him away from home a lot, as mine does. I can identify with the challenge in life of the transition of going from the work space to the domestic space.
Did you do any research in to the role?
Derek Wax (Executive Producer) arranged for me to go and have a meeting with a banker in the city and that was invaluable. He was in charge of handing out the bonuses so had seen some of the more wayward reactions of bankers - who live and die by the numbers they make - when they have been told the bonus that has been settled on. He was also highly articulate about the context in which banking takes place.
I thought it was interesting that for all of the opulence and brilliant design in these offices, they are really sterile environments. There’s a monastic and slightly sinister silence, with this huge traffic of vasts sums of money surrounding everything.
Capital starts Tuesday 24 November, 9pm, BBC One.