Drama captures events that changed the world

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The Promise (Channel 4, Sunday, 9pm)

Acclaimed writer Peter Kosminsky has been behind some of the most intelligent and thought-provoking TV work to come out of Britain for years; among his projects are Warriors, The Government Inspector and Britz.

So don’t expect The Promise (Channel 4, 9pm) to be dumbed-down in any way. Set in two timeframes, it tells the parallel stories of 18-year-old Londoner Erin and her grandfather Len.

Erin is about to visit Israel for the first time, and we get to see Len in his prime as part of the British peace-keeping force in Palestine during the 1940s.

The cast includes Claire Foy, an actress who has appeared in Little Dorrit, Upstairs Downstairs and new Nicolas Cage drama Season of the Witch.

She remembers her first audition clearly.

“I got sent 25 scenes, and was asked to prepare all of them, which is what Peter [Kosminsky] does, God love him. It was so much work,” she explains.

“I remember reading a scene, and I had no idea what it was about. But then when I got the finished script, I couldn’t stop reading it. It was just the most amazing story.”

Claire adds: “Peter is just so talented, it’s unbelievable. He somehow makes a political piece that’s so emotionally driven by the characters. There’s no agenda in it. It’s just amazing, it’s my favourite job ever, and I think it always will be.”

Claire admits that Erin isn’t a very sympathetic character.

“No, she’s not very nice at all,” laughs the Oxford School of Drama graduate. “She’s quite unforgiving and a bit bolshy, a bit sarky, and a bit of a cow, really. But I think it works because she’s a real person. She’s a difficult character to love, but she’s real.”

It was also a challenge playing an epileptic, as Claire explains.

“I had to have a few fits on film, so I had to be quite technically specific about them, because some of the people watching will be epileptic, and there’s a duty to get it right.”

She adds: “We had some people from the Epilepsy Foundation come in and talk to us and give us some information about it.

“And there are things you can watch on YouTube about it as well. I watched some fits, but it felt a bit weird to be watching them. It seems like such a personal thing.”

Though Erin had no knowledge of the situation in Israel, Claire decided to research that as well.

“Once I’d read the script I had to keep reading, because it opened a completely new world to me. I got the job months and months before we started shooting, and I actually became a member of the British Library - which is very nice - and I went and found a book about a man who had written a diary of when he was in Palestine at the same time that the character of Len was there. So it helped me no end.”

With a supporting cast including Christian Cooke and Itay Tiran, there’s a good bet The Promise will be a shoo-in for Baftas at next year’s awards.