Russell T Davies thought there “wouldn’t be a chance in the world” of securing Helena Bonham Carter for Nolly.
The three-part series, set in 1981, tells the true story of Noele Gordon (known as ‘Nolly’ to her friends), the legendary star of Crossroads who was shockingly axed from the long-running BBC soap opera at the height of its success – and at the peak of her fame – without any explanation.
Nolly played the fierce matriarch Meg Mortimer/Richardson for 18 years, before starring in various stage roles in her later career. In 1985, she passed away from stomach cancer.
Written by Davies and directed by Peter Hoar, who memorably helmed It’s A Sin and the latest episode of The Last of Us, Nolly explores the aftermath of her sacking and how the entertainment industry exerts control over powerful women and their success, whilst paying homage to the soap opera genre.
Nolly has received universal critical acclaim, with praise aimed at Carter’s performance, Hoar’s direction and Davies’ script.
Speaking with GAY TIMES and other press ahead of the series’ debut, Davies shared how the Oscar-nominated actress was cast in the titular role.
“It was very straightforward. My lovely producer Nichola Schindler, who’s very clever and wise – this is our 11th show together – said, ‘Let’s try Helena Bonham Carter,’ and I just thought there wouldn’t be a chance in the world,” he explained.
“And it was a miracle – ‘Yes I’m interested’ – which we couldn’t believe. It was so lucky.”
Carter said in response: “I just love great writing and I don’t mean to suck up, but it’s a statement of fact. Anyway, the movie industry is dying unfortunately.
“We can barely be in the cinema and television is the great new medium, that’s where you get the best characters.”
In the same interview, Augustus Prew – who plays Nolly’s close friend Tony Adams and Crossroads’ accountant Adam Chance – described the life of soap opera stars as “flying by the seat of your pants”.
“The rehearsals, they wouldn’t even read the script. I think the reason that you became so close to the people that you were working with is because you had to trust them to the point where they were improvising on the spot on live TV. I mean, that’s major pressure. That is rough,” he said.
“I dated a guy on The Bold & The Beautiful – I won’t name names – and when we first started dating, we met in the park and and I was like, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ and he was like, ‘I’m just learning my lines.’
“I was like, ‘Oh, what are you shooting tomorrow?’ Thirty pages! Thirty pages of lines. So when you’re not at work, you’re still at work. You’re still learning 30 pages of lines. I don’t even know how you’d do that.”
“It was all of their lives. They worked incredibly long hours, five days a week. All our jobs, The Crown was different because it was a series, most of them are short,” added Carter.
“What I found fun was how Meg became a part of her life. And also, that was a big shock for her and she talked about it in one of the interviews, ‘It’s alright being sacked, but the lifestyle, I didn’t have anything to get up for in the morning.’ Her family were her colleagues.”
Nolly also stars Max Brown as Michael Summerton, Antonia Bernath as Jane Rossington, Bethany Antonia as Poppy Ngomo, Mark Gatiss as Larry Grayson, Emily Butcher as Fiona Fullerton, Richard Lintern as Ronnie Allen, Chloe Harris as Susan Hanson, Clare Foster as Sue Lloyd, Lloyd Griffith as Paul Henry, Con O’Neill as Jack Barton and Tim Wallers as Charles Denton.
All three episodes are now available to stream on ITVX.