Dame Harriet Walter has told how it was sometimes “bleak” wearing a prosthetic to play someone who has had a mastectomy in her series The End.
The Sky programme is about a family of three generations “trying to figure out how to die with dignity, live with none and make it count” and Dame Harriet’s character, Edie, has undergone a double mastectomy.
Asked how easy it was to detach herself after filming, the actress, 69, said: “I think there were only a few occasions where that really got to me, and it was usually around the physical deformity thing.”
She continued: “I think all women, I think so much of your upbringing and your sense of your self is how you look, whether we like it or not.
“And in reality I was having to look like that, and so I deliberately used whatever I was feeling about that, to get me inside Edie’s head.
“And I could take it off in the bath – she can’t. But it helped me to get somewhere into where she… the absolute physical facts of her.
“Wherever her head can go, when she’s having fun or a drink, this is the reality she comes home to, in the bathroom mirror.
“And to get that was quite bleak, using your imagination about what that would be like was quite a downer.”
Edie’s scars are seen in the show, and Dame Harriet said while she did not want to frighten anybody, she “wanted to be realistic about how some people of Edie’s age group and Edie’s lack of self-love would have said, ‘Oh just cut them off and stitch it up’.”
She went on: “But then we hope that through the series, we discover that that is one of the least important things about her – it is her, but it’s a battle scar. But she can still love somebody and be loved, so I hope that message won’t be a negative one.”
Dame Harriet said she thinks the series will provoke conversations about death and assisted dying.
“That was one of the reasons to do it – to get people talking about it,” she said.