Recommended second chance
We're all going to be seeing a lot more of Joanna Vanderham. With TV roles including 2011's The Runaway,Young James Herriot and 2012's Above Suspicion under her belt, she also appears in the forthcoming movie What Maisie Knew, opposite Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. Not to mention taking the lead in the BBC's new period drama The Paradise — set in a 19th-century department store of that name. TV Choice talked to the Scottish actress about the challenges of the role…
The Paradise is a huge show. Was that intimidating?
We were only given the first two episodes before we started filming, so it never actually seemed that intimidating. I kind of went, 'Oh, that will be fun to do,' and then you get two more episodes and you go, 'Right, I'll get my head around that!'
What's your favourite department in The Paradise?
It has to be ladieswear. That's where my character Denise works — but half the garments in there are actually original. The quality is amazing, and you realise how tiny women were in those days!
Denise is quite a modern woman and ahead of her time in lots of ways, isn't she?
I think so. The Paradise is based on a novel by the French writer Emile Zola, and in the book the character is working to support her brothers, but in this version she's doing it for herself, not for anyone else. I think that's really empowering, and I hope modern women will watch and think, 'I can relate to that.'
Right from the start there's an attraction between Denise and the owner of The Paradise, John Moray (Emun Elliott). Can you tell us more about that?
Well, to begin with they're both kind of intrigued by their instant reaction to each other. But because he's the top dog and she's just a little underling you think there's no way anything can happen. But throughout the series you realise that Denise has passion, drive and ambition — she's actually Moray in female form! That enthusiasm for The Paradise, and for success and creativity is what draws them together more than physical passion. They just click.
Sarah Lancashire also stars, as the Head of ladieswear, Miss Audrey. How does Denise relate to that character?
Denise does what she needs to, to keep out of trouble, but at the same time she'll sneak into the department at night and do her own displays, because she knows she's better at the job. It's a struggle for Denise to keep her mouth shut sometimes and not go, 'No, we should be doing this.' It's almost as if Miss Audrey's level is the glass ceiling, and Denise thinks, 'Right, once I've smashed through that what else can I do?'
Graham Kibble-White & Martina Fowler