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'I think being over-emotional is a wonderful quality ... well, ultimately, I make my living out of it'

MyAnna Buring is the lead in new BBC drama In The Dark. She tells Susan Griffin about the complex role and becoming a mum for the first time


Demanding role: Myanna as Helen Weeks

Demanding role: Myanna as Helen Weeks

Demanding role: Myanna as Helen Weeks

There's a scene in In The Dark in which the lead character, Helen Weeks, is accused of being "over-emotional". It's something actress MyAnna Buring has experienced first-hand.

"Oh yes," exclaims the 37-year-old. Her reaction, she says, "depends on the circumstance, but being patronised never tends to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Personally, I think being over-emotional is a wonderful quality - I make my living out of it".

In The Dark is a four-part drama written by Bafta-winning writer Danny Brocklehurst, who's penned Ordinary Lies, The Driver and Exile, and adapted from books by bestselling novelist Mark Billingham.

It sees Weeks (Buring), a strong-willed detective, drawn into the two most testing and personal cases of her career when the husband of an estranged school friend is accused of abduction and a brutal tragedy drags her into Manchester's dark criminal underbelly.

She's also pregnant, something Buring can relate to having recently given birth to her first child.

"Every pregnancy is so different. Mine and Helen's were nothing alike. For one, she could work in her first trimester - I was bedridden with hyperemesis gravidarum," she reveals.

"She loved taking baths - I could think of nothing I'd like to do less. Most of all, I cannot imagine having to go through the trauma Helen does while on the hormonal roller coaster that is growing a baby."

The series is told in two parts. In the first two episodes, Helen's secret resurfaces to haunt her and she must confront and face the demons from her past. Then, in the final two episodes, we join her as she wrangles with her present and her future.

"She is doggedly dedicated to unearthing the truth for a living, yet like all good heroines she has her own dark secret buried deep in her past," explains Buring.

"There's a toughness to her and a maverick quality. I think Danny has brought that sense of maverick-ness out in a lot of the characters - they don't always follow the rules, but they have a strong moral code. Characters are always so much more fun that way."

Two directors were involved - French director Gilles Bannier and Norwegian director Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen.

"The police thriller genre is one that both the French and Scandinavians have done incredibly well and are well-known for across the world, so it's great to have a real celebration of that," highlights the actress, who was born in Sundsvall, Sweden, and grew up in the Middle East before moving to Britain in her late teens.

"We were interested to see if new things would come to the surface by having different directors look at this part of Britain with foreign eyes - if different elements would pop up in the storytelling. You'll have to watch and decide for yourself if you think it does."

She admits there is a "certain pressure" that comes with playing the lead, "ensuring you maintain the through-line of the piece and deliver an engaging character for audiences to relate to".

"However, it is also great fun to get the chance to sink your teeth into a character like Helen," Buring adds.

"She's on such an emotional roller coaster throughout the series. That's what you hope for in a job: the chance to go on a journey with a character."

As is typical, she "got most of my information from the script".

"It was Danny's script that informed the structure that I hung Helen's coat on, so to speak. Then I went to Mark's books to add in more layers.

"There were certain elements that had changed in Danny's interpretation of Mark's books, and in this instance it felt good for me to know that difference and find a truth between the two."

Buring also did some research into abuse and grief, focusing particularly on what that might mean for somebody working in the police force.

"I found a sort of gallows humour that exists within the police force," she says. "It seems characteristic of working in a job that isn't always pleasant, or easy.

"In order to deal with the horror, humour and sarcasm can be useful tools. I think this comes through in the script, too - Helen has a wry sense of humour."

While there has been much discussion over the lack of complex roles for women over 30, Buring believes roles become more arresting as you age.

"Characters, like people, are more interesting the older they get. More life under one's belt directly correlates with having more to give. Funny that," she explains.

On graduation from drama school, Buring appeared in Casualty and Murder Prevention before appearing in her first feature film, The Descent, in 2005. She's since starred in acclaimed dramas such as Any Human Heart, Banished and Ripper Street, and finds it impossible to choose a career highlight.

"All of it has exceeded my hopes and dreams, and all of the jobs I've done have had their own special highlights," she says. "I've been very lucky."

Buring also appeared in the final two movies of the Twilight franchise alongside Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.

"I loved the Twilight experience but it's not those films that gave me a love of film-making - that love was ignited long before," she divulges.

"When a film comes along that I want to do, I will jump at the opportunity. However, I love working in television and on stage too - all forms of storytelling excite me."

  • In The Dark, BBC One, Tuesday, 9pm
  • Belfast Telegraph