June 21, 2024

Andrea Riseborough takes on the pleasure and pain of love in Channel 4 series “Alice & Jack,” created by Victor Levin.

“This frustration of really appreciating someone and also not being able to understand them or be understood, that’s such a common connection we have in life,” she tells Variety ahead of the show’s MipCom premiere. She also serves as an executive producer.

“Also, it’s not just frustration – there is excitement as well. It can take you to your highest highs, it’s the most elated feeling in the world and it’s also brutally hard. There is nothing harder than true love.”

That’s what Alice and Jack (Domhnall Gleeson) are about to find out, as following a supposed one-night stand they realize they can’t be together. They also can’t be apart.

“When Vic sent me that first episode, it felt so… Awkwardly, heartbreakingly, hysterically funny.” 

“The ridiculousness and the awkwardness of it all can be so hysterical when you look back on a relationship. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some of the most ginormous giggles with my friends about daft, stupid things you do when you are in love.” 

Reuniting with Gleeson helped her flesh out the complexity of the relationship. 

“It’s the third thing we have made together with Domhnall. We played a couple in ‘Never Let Me Go,’ then I made ‘Shadow Dancer,’ where he played my brother. We have this history of very natural friendship and respect for each other. It was a wonderful thing we could bring to the characters.” 

“Alice & Jack” is produced by Fremantle – also handling sales – in partnership with Me + You Productions, Groundswell Productions, De Maio Entertainment and Masterpiece. 

Oscar nominee and BAFTA winner Riseborough, also known for “Birdman,” “Mandy” or “To Leslie,” is still “more familiar with film,” she admits. 

“Everything except for their first meeting was shot out of sequence, which is always so confusing to me. Coming from theatre and having worked with Mike Leigh, I go: ‘We are doing it backwards?!’” she laughs. 

“The strange thing about television is that you just have the beginning of the project. Not knowing where the characters are going to end up, it’s a very strange experience. You are walking blind into the great unknown.” 

Which is why working with the right people is crucial, like directors Hong Khaou – “wonderful at leading actors,” she states – and Juho Kuosmanen. 

“I have been a long-time believer in Juho Kuosmanen. ‘Compartment No. 6’ was so, so beautiful. I was really determined we should at least hope for someone with a strong cinematic voice, because establishing the language of that first stretch was so important.” 

She contacted him when shooting “What Remains” in Finland. 

“I WhatsApped him. Which felt like a huge triumph, because everyone kept saying he is so elusive. After a very relaxed Finnish moment, I realized he was going to do it. He has this balance of real bleakness and total levity.” 

“There was no point in making [the show] unless it was going to be with really wonderful people. So often we are trying to get things made just for the sake of making them. I never want to do that.”

Backed by “brilliant” co-stars Aisling Bea, Sunil Patel or Aimee Lou Wood – “They are so fucking funny” – Riseborough embraced her “uncrackable code” of a character, a successful professional dealing with terrible trauma. 

“She is such an enigma. That’s probably the most exciting thing about Alice. I felt she was a full-rounded, beautiful human being who is deeply flawed and really interesting,” she says.   

“Humanity can be so strangely and narrowly represented, but there are so many people who are full of extremity. You often find yourself having a strange reaction and it might not be predictable, it might not be in keeping with cinematic language, but it’s true to life.” 

As their love affair spans many years, there is a sense of “eternity and longevity” to the story of Alice and Jack. 

“It doesn’t look conventional and it certainly doesn’t feel perfect on the outside. But it’s a huge love story. Perhaps it’s something all of us go through and don’t talk about?,” wonders Riseborough.   

“Love is incredibly scary. It’s the hardest thing to put your heart on the line. I know it is for me but fortunately, touch wood, I still manage to do it.”

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