Emily Watson hailed for 'immense courage' filming Apple Tree Yard rape scene

Emily Watson hailed for 'immense courage' filming Apple Tree Yard rape scene

Apple Tree Yard’s Steven Elder has praised the programme’s leading star Emily Watson for showing “immense courage” for her part in a violent rape scene at the end of the debut episode.

The first of the four-part BBC drama series saw Watson’s character, Dr Yvonne Carmichael, become the victim of a sexual assault at the hands of her colleague George, played by Elder.

The psychological thriller, based on Louise Doughty’s novel of the same name, follows married research scientist Yvonne and the mysterious Mark Costley (Ben Chaplin) as they embark upon an illicit sexual affair across London before her encounter with George.

Apple Tree Yard
Steven Elder in Apple Tree Yard (BBC/Kudos/Nick Briggs)

Steven, 46, a supporter of charitable organisation Rape Crisis England and Wales, said filming the “harrowing” scene was not easy, but that it was handled with responsibility by the production company due to its consulting of survivors of sexual assault prior to filming.

He told the Press Association: “It wasn’t easy, and Emily showed – as she has always done throughout her career – immense courage.

“Immense courage to go through that and it was obviously a privilege to work with her.”

Steven said: “I can wholeheartedly say there was a lot of respect shown and care and sensitivity during that day, both between the actors and from the production company towards the actors … That was wonderful, and important.”

Apple Tree Yard
Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin in Apple Tree Yard (BBC/Kudos/Nick Briggs)

The actor, who has previously appeared in Rillington Place and Silent Witness, said he felt comfortable being involved in such a violent scene because of the way it was handled from the start.

He said: “I felt from the beginning of the audition process that the production company was going to deal with this in a responsible way.

“I also knew from the onset that it would be filmed very much in a non-titillating way and that it would be about what it is about, which is about ugliness and about violence and in this case violence perpetrated by a psychologically weak man.”

Emily, 50, said she felt “traumatised” in the aftermath of filming the scene and Steven said he believes this is due to her method as an “extraordinary” actress.

Apple Tree Yard
Apple Tree Yard (BBC/Kudos/Nick Briggs)

He said that, having been part of the story arc, he feels duty-bound to speak out over the issues raised around sexual assault, particularly after learning statistics such as that around 90% of those who are raped or attacked know their attacker prior to the incident, according to Rape Crisis.

He said: “I don’t feel traumatised by it, but I do feel a responsibility to use it as a forum to discuss this issue.

“Emily is one of our greatest actresses, she’s extraordinary, and when you go to the places Emily goes to, I can understand there being a price to pay because of that.”

Steven said the details on Rape Crisis’s website – which he used as research for the role – are “sobering”, and that he was strongly affected by what he learned.

“These guys deal with, on average, 3,000 calls a week. It’s mind-boggling,” he said of the charity’s work.

“The one thing about doing what I do is that it enables you to learn about things and look into areas you weren’t as fully briefed on, so it’s part of the process to learn about these things.”

Apple Tree Yard continues on BBC One on Sunday at 9pm.

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