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TV Quickfire: Emma Appleton on her role in new postwar spy six-parter Traitors

Emma Appleton shines in the lead role of post-wartime spy thriller Traitors. We quizzed the 27-year-old about her character, who having joined the civil service in 1945, agrees to spy on her own government on behalf of the Americans

Emma Appleton as Feef Symonds in Traitors

HOW WOULD YOU SUMMARISE TRAITORS – AND YOUR ROLE?

It's a political spy thriller, it's post-Second World War, and my character Feef is desperate for adventure. She's very ambitious and she suddenly gets drawn into this world of politics, Whitehall and secrets. She's desperate to get out of living with her family who aren't proud of her and who don't see any aspirations (for her), other than to get married and settle down. That's not on her agenda whatsoever; she's willing to push the boundaries.

DID HER FREE-SPIRIT APPEAL TO YOU?

I hadn't ever read a character like Feef. I instantly fell in love with her and I think I saw quite a few comparisons with myself, which always helps. Small things, her attitude towards certain things, being quite ambitious, again looking for adventure... there were just little things here and there that really endeared me to her.

DID YOUR PERIOD DRESS ADD TO THE CHARACTER?

A lot of it, for me, is a package deal. So when you've got the hair and you've got the outfit and a girdle – which is not comfortable – with the stockings and everything, it really makes you feel of that time. It's just all the little details that make the difference.

DID YOU DO MUCH RESEARCH?

We were lucky in the fact the script was so detailed – [creator] Bash [Doran] got it as historically accurate as she could, while also using dramatic licence. And we were given a research package, which was fantastic, but at the same time you're also doing a lot of character development and learning your lines, so you're trying to do a bit of everything all at once.

WERE YOU NERVOUS AHEAD OF YOUR FIRST DAY?

Absolutely. But I also really did want to get in there and embrace it and get going because I was very lucky in the fact I had two months to prepare, which was quite a luxury. Thinking about it was more nerve-racking than actually getting in there and doing it, but a few days in, I found my feet.

HOW WAS WORKING WITH ACTORS SUCH AS MICHAEL STUHLBARG AND KEELEY HAWES?

[Michael] is incredible. I wasn't sure what to expect, but he's so warm, so hardworking, very methodical and cares so much about his craft and his work. [Keeley] is just an absolute joy as a person, so warm, very funny, but incredibly hard working. She's so skilled in her experience, technically, and when you're working with her you're in the zone.

WILL A MODERN AUDIENCE RELATE TO THE SIX-PART DRAMA?

It's a time of uncertainty and [Britian] being in a state of flux and people having different ideas and opinions, which really relates to our current landscape. Hopefully it will connect to the millennial audience that will be watching and I hope it's something that, as well as being an enjoyable show, can be a talking point. Which is always a big bonus.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEXT?

I'm reading a lot of scripts at the moment, which is really exciting, because I want to be careful about what I do next. It's just seeing what's out there and seeing what happens. It will be nice if the phone rings, but I think it's good not to think too much about that.

WOULD YOU MAKE A GOOD SPY?

I'd be awful. Really awful. I'm too clumsy. But I can make it look believable, I hope. Fingers crossed. But no, I don't have the nerve for it at all. Feef does.

:: Traitors is on Channel 4, Sundays. Catch up on All 4 (channel4.com)

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