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TV Quickfire: Maxine Peake on new BBC thriller Rules of The Game

New TV thriller Rules Of The Game explores sexual politics in the modern workplace. We found out more from star Maxine Peake...

Rules of the Game: Maxine Peake as Sam

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE PLOT OF RULES OF THE GAME?

THE show is set in a family-run sportswear company, run by the Jenkins family. There is a strong air of toxic masculinity that runs through the workforce and the work practices. Maya [Sex Education star Rakhee Thakrar] comes in to investigate and things start to unravel, secrets from the past are exposed.

It encompasses a lot about acceptable behaviour over the decades, what was seen as acceptable then and what is now. My character, Sam, is at the centre of this and, for me, it's about whether she is implicit, or a victim of this whole dynamic.

Obviously, it's not just about this company, it's about something that is systemic in all forms at workplaces and institutions.

WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH THIS ROLE?

I think just all the female journeys within it – that devastating moment when you read a script and go, 'I know these people, and I know everyone who's experienced something like this'. And, actually, a lot of the time it was watching other performers, like Rakhee and Callie [Cooke, who plays Tess Jones], and the stuff they were performing and going through.

WHAT DREW YOU TO THE PROJECT?

I just thought, "I really like Sam". She's very straight. She's quite unsentimental. She's funny, she's witty, she doesn't give a lot away.

When I started going deeper into the script, all the female characters were so well-drawn and I felt real-life experience within each character. Ruth [Fowler, writer] did that brilliantly – everybody's complex and not just one note – and there's so much going on. There's dark humour that went through that really appealed to me. It was just the strength of the female ensemble that I warmed to.

WHAT DO YOU THINK VIEWERS WILL THINK OF SAM?

A lot of the crew said, "She's not very nice, is she?". And I was like, "What?!". She's just surviving. But as I get older, I don't care if people like my characters, as long as you're telling a story in the best way.

And actually, maybe we need more unlikable women on TV. Men can go around killing people on TV, and people still like them, but a woman can be a bit of a cow and people don't like her. So, we've got a long a lot of work to do with the representation of women and our attitudes towards women.

DO YOU FEEL EXTRA RESPONSIBILITY WHEN APPROACHING A PROJECT WITH SUCH SIGNIFICANT THEMES?

The sad thing is that every female – and every male I'm sure – has come into contact with somebody who's been through one of these situations; it's so commonplace, obviously, in our industry. But what is fantastic is they've taken it out of the acting industry, because I think the Me Too generation got very focused on one industry when actually it was happening to so many people in all sorts of walks of life. It's an epidemic, isn't it? So yeah, you've got to be very careful with it, and very respectful.

But it is a piece of entertainment as well. It's always that fine line, because there will be people watching this that have been through similar situations, and you just hope pieces like this give people a bit of hope.

:: Rules Of The Game airs on BBC One from Tuesday January 11, with episode two airing on Wednesday January 12. All four episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from January 11

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