Joanna Vanderham was fresh out of drama school when she first co-starred with acclaimed actor Iain De Caestecker in the BBC drama Young James Herriot. He was playing the title character, Vanderham had a supporting role.
Fast forward 10 years and they’re back in one another’s orbit, this time starring side-by-side as long lost childhood friends in BBC’s addictive new thriller The Control Room.
Vanderham plays a young woman, Sam, who rings triple-000 to confess to murdering her boyfriend.
While chatting to the operator Gabe (De Caestecker) she has a change of heart, but not before realising she knows the man on the other end of the line from way back. With police listening in, and Vanderham’s character long-gone from the call, Gabe becomes the authorities’ only lead in an incredibly intriguing case — and it only gets messier from there as their lives become entwined once more.
Vanderham says she loved reuniting with De Caestecker for the project.
“We filmed (Young James Herriot) 10 years ago,” she says. “There was something really beautiful about that: these characters (we’re playing in The Control Room) come back after decades apart, and we have come back together after a decade apart, too.
The whole project had a strange synchronicity.
“I had actually only recently seen Iain in an incredible, really political drama called Roadkill, and I thought he was fantastic,” Vanderham explains. “And then this project came up and I heard he was attached and I was like, ‘I feel like I manifested this, because I literally just saw him in this show and was like, ‘I want to work with Iain again!’”
While Vanderham’s character in The Control Room is chaotic, her life spiralling out of control, De Caestecker is the seemingly ‘together’ one. But once his life intersects with Sam’s, all bets are off.
Vanderham says she loved the way he played with his character’s “everyman” sensibilities.
“He is not suddenly a superhero, and not suddenly like, ‘Yeah, I can handle this’. Everything that happens to him he’s like, ‘What?’ What do I do next?’” she says.
“He plays this real person so truthfully, and he is always on the verge of a panic attack.
“I was there going, ‘how are you not exhausted?’ He puts so much into it physically, but he would honestly turn up on set and he was so nice, so lovely and genuine to everyone.
“At one point I asked myself, ‘is he faking this?’ Like, how can he be this nice? But he actually is that nice.”