Helen McCrory said she “gate-crashed” the auditions in order to land a plum role in new TV drama MotherFatherSon.
The Peaky Blinders and Harry Potter actress stars opposite Richard Gere, Billy Howle and Sarah Lancashire in the BBC Two programme, in which she plays Kathryn, the embattled estranged wife of Gere’s powerful media mogul character Max.
The eight-part series is set against a political backdrop, but is largely based on the struggles between Kathryn and Max, who are reunited when their son Caden (Howle) suffers a stroke.
McCrory said she turned down a lead role in another programme in her bid to be cast in MotherFatherSon, penned by Tom Rob Smith.
She said: “My agent Nick Forgacs called me up to say there was a fantastic project floating about, but the only names that were reading it were big film stars.
“He couldn’t tell me anything about it, nor were they sending it to me, but Nick’s excitement was palpable: ‘If I can get you into the room I think you’ve got a chance… but I’ve got to get you into the room first’.
“So we gate-crashed the auditions basically. I was being offered various things during this process – I even declined a lead role in another series purely on the chance of getting this, because Tom Rob Smith’s writing is brilliant and it is one of the most original scripts I’ve ever read.”
She added: “And you always want to be part of the good stuff.”
McCrory, who is also known for playing Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship, said that she admired writer Smith’s ambition with the series.
She said: “He writes in a way that a lot of Americans write because their budgets are more for one episode than we sometimes get for an entire series! ‘Max wakes up, he’s in Mexico. Kathryn wakes up, she’s in London. Caden wakes up, he’s in a brothel…’
“And I could imagine the BBC going ‘Christ, there’s our budget gone in page one!’”
She added that the show is “cinematic and it means you see a really broad spectrum of life.
She said: “Tom spins many different threads into one extraordinary story. MotherFatherSon is about family, about belonging and not belonging, about power and what kind of people are attracted to power.”
McCrory’s character is a wealthy, educated English woman and heir to a newspaper that her family had owned for generations, but she gave it away with her marriage to American steel magnate Max, with whom she had a son before a bitter divorce that saw her stripped of the right to raise her child.
McCrory said of Kathryn: “The trauma of not raising her own child still haunts her, and whilst she can’t fulfil her need to be a mother her life has stultified.
“The fact that Kathryn’s unable to be part of the family she was born into – or the one she started herself – gives her an adrift quality, a detachment. She is the outsider.”
The programme also features Happy Valley star Lancashire as Angela Howard, a businesswoman turned MP and leader of the opposition who relies on Max for his support in her political campaign.
MotherFatherSon begins at 9pm on March 6 on BBC Two.