Interview: Julie Walters – 'The political temperature has gone up a little bit, there’s no doubt about that.'
Veteran actor stars in the second series of Indian Summers
Indian Summers was a vibrant period piece that tackled the UK's relationship with India during the time of the British Raj. An intriguing drama that mixed a murder mystery with complex issues of racism and Britain's colonial past, and series two jumps forward three years to 1935.
Set mainly amongst the ex-pat community, much of the action focussed on the Royal Simla Club, run by Cynthia Coffin (played by Brit favourite Julie Walters), in the foothills of the Himalayas. At first Cynthia seemed like a lovable party girl but she soon revealed her ugly racist core. The last series ended with a regime change as she was forced to allow Indians into her establishment. 'She’s devastated at the thought of Indians being in her club,' explains Walters, 'but she’s turned it to her advantage. Obviously for her it’s got its down sides, but she’s getting princes and wealthy Indians to pay huge amounts of money to come into her members only club, so she’s become quite wealthy, which shows in her costumes.'
Times are changing despite Cynthia's wishes. 'I don’t think, to begin with, there’s a lot of difference in the club,' adds Walters, 'because the Indians that come into the club are clearly pro-British. But they are aware that in other places in the country there’s violence going on, and riots, so there is a slightly different atmosphere. It’s not quite the carefree place that it was in the first series, and the series progresses that feeling is amplified. The political temperature has gone up a little bit, there’s no doubt about that.'
Due to the proliferation of modern buildings in Simla Indian Summers was filmed in Penang, Malaysia. This gorgeous tropical backdrop set it apart from other period dramas. 'The landscape, the architecture, the locations, it all draws you in,' says Walters. 'It’s an escape on one level but it’s also a really hard look at the way both the British and Indian people behaved at that time.'
Rachel Griffiths, Art Malik and James Fleet all join the cast for series two however Cynthia's relationship with Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), The Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India, is still at the heart of the story. 'Without giving anything away, you see more of the reason for her obsession with him. This series was interesting for me because you learn much more about Cynthia as a person. You don’t just see her manipulative ways, you see her fragility too, which was really interesting as an actor.'
Indian Summers series 2 starts on Channel 4, Sun 13 Mar, 9pm.