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Emily Watson reveals emotional toll of playing traumatic roles

Published 15/09/2015

Emily Watson is renowned for gritty, sometimes traumatic roles
Emily Watson is renowned for gritty, sometimes traumatic roles

Actress Emily Watson has spoken about the personal toll of the "trauma process" she goes through for her famously grief-stricken roles.

Waston admitted she went through therapy to recover from her acclaimed role in the 7/7 drama A Song For Jenny, in which she plays Julie Nicholson, a Church of England vicar who lost her daughter in the London terrorist attacks in July 2005 and subsequently lost her faith.

"With A Song For Jenny, I knew that in order to do it properly I was going to have to go to a certain place and that this was going to cost me," she told Radio Times.

"I don't want to sound grand, but in order to do it properly you have to put yourself through some process of trauma. The more committed you are, the more real it feels," she said.

Watson admitted that she sought professional help to recover from immersing herself in the family's grief while filming the drama. "I needed to get my lines uncrossed," she added.

Watson also said that her roles have taken their toll on her emotionally. "I used to think that I could park it, but actually I know that the door of being emotionally overwhelmed is always open. It can become hard to differentiate between them and me."

The 48-year-old Hilary and Jackie star, who lives with her husband and two children, aged nine and six, also said that she has had to limit the number of draining roles for the sake of her family.

"It's a colossal challenge, and there are times when it can feel thrilling, like some sort of workout. And of course, if you can do that, you get asked to do it again.

"As I get older, I feel I have to be a little careful, to make sure I have some downtime. Not just for me, but for my family, particularly if I have been away a lot for work," she said.

Her latest role is in Everest, the real-life story of two groups of climbers as they enter the mountain's "death zone" above 25,000 feet. The events take place in 1996, when a total of 12 climbers lost their life during the season, including eight who died in one day.

Watson plays Helen Wilton, the base camp manager, who has the grim task of informing the climbers' families that the expeditions are caught in the blizzard.

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