Apple Tree Yard's Ben Chaplin shares why it is important the series is 'very female'

Emily Watson plays Dr Yvonne Carmichael in Apple Tree Yard.

Emily Watson plays Dr Yvonne Carmichael in Apple Tree Yard.

Ben Chaplin became involved with TVNZ 1's new British thriller Apple Tree Yard in a rather unconventional way – after a phone call from his co-star Emily Watson.

"She called me and asked if I'd be interested in doing it," Chaplin explains. "We worked together about 10 years ago and got on really well. I hadn't heard of the book, so I read the script and thought it was a really riveting read – a real page-turner."

So Chaplin immediately said yes to playing the part of Mark Costley in Amanda Coe's compelling new British adaptation of the best-selling novel by Louise Doughty. The story demonstrates how one moment of madness can wreak havoc on your entire life.

Ben Chaplin plays Mark, a stranger Yvonne starts an affair with in Apple Tree Yard.

Ben Chaplin plays Mark, a stranger Yvonne starts an affair with in Apple Tree Yard.

It centres on Dr Yvonne Carmichael (Watson, The Theory Of Everything). A high-achieving scientist and loving wife and mother, she seems to have life well and truly sorted. She resides in a lovely home and has a picture-perfect family.

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One night, after appearing successfully in front of a House of Commons Select Committee on her specialist subject of genetics, Yvonne bumps into a stranger, Mark.

Ben Chaplin says sex scenes are the 'oddest part of the job'.

Ben Chaplin says sex scenes are the 'oddest part of the job'.

There is instant chemistry between them and their mutual attraction soon turns passionate in an empty crypt beneath the House of Commons.

For Yvonne, it is a completely uncharacteristic moment of reckless abandon. She believes it will be a one-off, but their meeting sparks an ardent affair.

She carefully conceals her feelings for Mark from the rest of the world. But she jeopardises her entire life when an act of violence sends her into the dock at the Old Bailey.

The drama asks the audience a vital question: what would you do if you were in a similar situation?

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Chaplin, 47, who has also starred in Mad Dogs, The Legend Of Tarzan and Cinderella, says he likes the fact the tale is recounted from Yvonne's point of view.

"The script is really gripping. It's completely Yvonne's story, told from her perspective. We discover events as she does, and I think we are as surprised as she is. It's really cleverly structured as a piece of drama.

"It's a psychological thriller, it's a romance, and it's a courtroom drama, but dark and serious as well. It's very female.

"You've got Emily, Jess Hobbs, our director, and two female writers, the novelist and screenwriter – which is good news."

He adds that, "Jess is a lovely positive director who has a lot of drive and the energy needed to get you through the hard days. She's full of positive affirmation, so you never feel alone. It has been very useful to have a woman director, given that the whole story is from a woman's perspective. It does deal with some sensitive issues and it's been really good to have a woman who's also the same age as Emily."

One of the challenges of making Apple Tree Yard is that it includes intense and intimate sequences between Yvonne and Mark.

Chaplin reflects that, "The sex scenes are interesting. They are something everyone wants to ask about and for actors it's just the oddest part of the job. I now understand one of the reasons Emily wanted me to do this was because we knew each other quite well.

"We were not good friends, but we've known each other a long time and got on very well when we worked together. So I understand she wanted an actor she felt comfortable with.

"We work in a similar way and the sex scenes are definitely helped by being specific – by talking about what it is you want to communicate and do. I know it's a cliched simile about sex scenes, but they really are like a dance."

An aspect of the shoot that Chaplin particularly relished was filming in the centre of the British capital – which requires terrific feats of organisation and patience.

"I've really enjoyed shooting in central London, which you don't do so often these days," says Chaplin.

"I love shooting in real locations where you have real people in the background who don't know you are shooting or are vaguely aware that something is going on. I love the chaos of that."

Apple Tree Yard, TVNZ 1, starts Sunday June 18.

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 - TV Guide

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