New ITV Thriller Deep Water more of a look at life's struggles than a female-centric drama
'It's nice to be able to take your foot off the dark pedal'
Anna Friel and Rosalind Eleazar are unpacking the myth of the "perfect mother". "It doesn't exist," insists Eleazar, quick to fire up the debate. "I don't think it exists either," Friel concurs. "But there are mothers that are better than others. I've got a friend who has got four children and is a full-time teacher and she still makes homemade bread. I just don't know how she does it."
"But is perfection anything anybody should ever strive for - and does it exist?" she adds. "If it does, you would have to be quite conceited and self-obsessed."
The discussion isn't without context; the duo - along with Little Boy Blue's Sinead Keenan - have joined forces to lead ITV's latest emotional thriller, Deep Water.
Far from a cosy, domestic drama, the six-part series - adapted from the Windermere series of novels by critically-acclaimed author Paula Daly - follows the lives of three complex and vibrant women, each struggling to keep their heads above water.
Like all of us, the women, whose worlds collide at the school gates, seek to do their best for their families, but face tough choices with difficult, and often messy, repercussions.
It makes for a refreshing, realistic take on real-life, states Friel.
"There's lots of great drama out there, but it's nice to have something where you can take your foot off the dark pedal," reasons the 43-year-old Marcella star.
"It's just looking to life, especially after the whole #MeToo movement, to have an exploration into three very separate women, a look at different classes and how that affects one another."
"It was nice to see all three of them have flaws too," agrees Eleazar. "When I watch something, I relate to someone's flaws, rather than their attributes. And that's when I'm like, 'Okay, they're a human'."
So, how would the trio describe their characters?
"I'd say wholesome," Friel begins, in reference to overstretched, working mother-of-three Lisa. "She's self-conscious, a bit silly and quite shy. She doesn't see her husband, because he works nights as a taxi driver. And when she has time to stop and stare and think, she asks herself the question we all ask ourselves: 'How happy are you?' And, 'Is it too late to change those things?'"
"Well, Kate is odd!" says Eleazar of the show's mysterious, wealthy mother-of-two. "She's all about family. Pretty unnerving. But she's well-presented and she's got a nice house - all the things that, unfortunately, parts of society value a bit more than other things."
As for Lisa's friend, mother-of-one Roz: "She's a woman who is trying to keep afloat and trying to keep her family together," says Keenan (41). "Roz is a physio, who had her own successful private practice, but then she lost the business and has moved to a franchised physio practice.
"A lot of her clients have followed her. That leads to a whole sequence of events that result in her making some very big decisions."
The link between the three is that they are, for the most part, relatable.
"When I watched the first episode I completely related to Lisa and Roz," notes Eleazar. "But with the character that I play, she's not instantly likeable. I think some of her intentions, her actions and the way she goes about it, you would hope you wouldn't do the same thing.
"It's ordinary women on extraordinary journeys. All three women have huge secrets they are trying to keep.
"The mothers in Deep Water want the same things - the way they go about getting it is what becomes problematic. That's much closer to what happens in real life."
However, with an increasing number of dramas steered by women, written by women (Deep Water was written by Bafta-nominated Anna Symon) and telling stories about modern women, have the successful trio noticed a shift in the roles they're being offered?
"100%," states Friel. "The #MeToo movement has just opened a can of worms that will never be shut. It's making people ask questions that they didn't feel they could, or were allowed to."
"Anna and I are at very different stages in our career, but, for me, if the script is good and the character is good, I would go for that," adds Eleazar.
"The fact there are a lot of women involved in this is a bonus, but I don't think that would necessarily steer me into choosing a role."
"It's all about balance, isn't it?" Friel asks. "There's no woman that wouldn't say they're glad that it's changed, that we're not just arm candy, or you get to a certain age and there's no roles for you, because being 42 is not interesting."
Deep Water, ITV, Wednesday, 9pm