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Laura Fraser on 'difficult' new role in The Pact, Traces series two, and why Breaking Bad was the easiest job to land

The actor is starring in a brand new BBC One drama

Francesca Shillcock

Laura Fraser is set to wow audiences in her latest BBC One series. The Pact, a new six-part drama, sees the Breaking Bad star play Anna, a brewery worker who, along with her gang of work friends, finds herself having to live a life of secrecy and lie to those closest to her – including her police detective husband – after a shocking death rattles them to the core.

If the intriguing plot and stellar cast weren't enough (Broadchurch's Julie Hesmondhalgh and Ray Donovan's Eddie Marsan also appear), the upcoming show is made all the more atmospheric by south Wales' hauntingly beautiful forest backdrop - and we can't wait to find out what viewers make of the tense mystery drama. 

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WATCH: The Pact arrives on BBC on Monday 17 May

Although the new show is set to be a huge success with viewers and critics alike, Laura isn't giving herself a moment to bask in the debut thanks to her hectic filming schedule!

The Glasgow-born actor is currently based in Manchester to work on her next big release, the much-anticipated second series of the hit 2019 series, Traces. The forensic drama, which first aired on Alibi, enjoyed a ratings resurgence earlier this year after it was aired on the BBC over the January lockdown. 

Ahead of The Pact on Monday night, we tore Laura away from her busy filming schedule for an exclusive interview for HELLO! Spotlight. The actress reveals how her own life experience was her research for the part of Anna, her love of working on predominantly female productions, and why Breaking Bad was one of the "easiest" gigs to land...

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Laura chatted to HELLO! for an exclusive interview

© Aleksandra Modrzejewska / HOOD Magazine

Tell us about your character Anna in The Pact and what drew you to playing her?

I just loved the story. Before I knew if I was going to do it, which I pretty much did straight away to be honest, I read the script thought 'I would totally watch this'. These women, they're all forced to make this pact but Anna really is the one who fights to tell the truth, she really doesn't want to lie, but then she agrees because she thinks this pact is going to make them safe and protect them. So she accepts this lie and she starts to function within the lie and make up new lies. 

I've never played someone who has had to cope with lying and all the different ways that lying can affect you. Ultimately, lies are toxic. They say 'You're only as sick as your secrets' and she becomes really unwell and unbalanced, and I just found that really interesting. 

How did you prepare for the role, did you do any specific research to immerse yourself in the part?

My own life experience was my research, you just kind of transpose all the times I've been anxious, or afraid, or have lied or had to lie – and how that feels and what it does to you physically, mentally and spiritually. I related to how she responded to certain situations – I wouldn't do what she did – but I related to how she felt.

You've said in the past that you loved working on a predominantly female-led production, is this something that attracted you to The Pact?

I would take a job based on the character and quality of the writing and also where it is, but I have to say I really love working with women. I mean, I love working with men as well, but [working with mostly women] is still a bit of novelty for me.

I started in the 90s and it was usually a predominantly male cast and usually a completely male crew, so it's still a bit of a novelty to have a laugh and bond with a bunch of women. I love acting with women, I love watching the choices they make as actors, I just find it really interesting and I feel really comfortable. 

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The actress spoke about her new show and her career

© Aleksandra Modrzejewska / HOOD Magazine

Do you think there's more that the industry can do to increase the number of women-led projects?

I think, societally, we're having the conversation. There's steps being taken with equality, there's steps starting to be taken with diversity. I think it's moving in the right direction. It's hard to know whether anything can really fundamentally change within the system that we're all working with. But some changes are happening and there are some reasons to be optimistic.

Certainly as an actor, I've noticed a lot of changes in terms of sexual equality at work, there's more women in the crew now than there were even three years ago with female Directors of Production, which was such a rarity ten years ago.

The location of The Pact looked brilliant – how was it filming in Wales?

We were in Wales the whole time and we went to various different places with beautiful names like Merthyr Tydfil. I'd only been to Wales for Doctor Who but that was just Cardiff, so I'd never seen [other parts of] Wales and I was so excited to explore it. Of course, I couldn't because of lockdown, but we got to go to the places for the show and my god, I was really bowled over by the beauty and the people. The Welsh people are so gorgeous, they're just so kind. 

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Laura as Anna in The Pact

How was it shooting around COVID restrictions? 

Initially the schedule had been five-day weeks but because of Covid they had to restructure the schedule to get it done as fast as possible to minimise the time and the contact. We were doing 11-day fortnights so it was quite gruelling in that respect because if it was the week where you work six days and you had your one day off, all the actors would spend that one day learning the dialogue for the next week so you didn’t actually get a day off. I did find it really exhausting and I did fall apart a wee bit, I did cry in the makeup trailer but then again a lot of people were crying in the makeup trailer! 

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The Pact star opened up about her 'difficult' role

© Aleksandra Modrzejewska / HOOD Magazine

As well as the long hours, what was the biggest challenge of the show? 

I'd say two things: not being able to get home or have my family visit me from September to December because of the pandemic; and also the character. She goes through so many emotional… she's in so much emotional turmoil and to keep that going really took a toll.

It's funny because your body doesn't know that it's not real. Your amygdala still fires up and then it's like 'Oh my god something really bad is happening!'. When you're acting shocked or afraid, all your pathways are doing what they would do if you really were, so there's effects of that. I know it's totally privileged! But it was difficult.

Great to hear you're back filming Traces! What can you tell us about series two? 

I'm not allowed to say anything, sorry! Things have to be so shrouded in secrecy, don't they? But yes we're filming in Manchester at the moment until July and we did a big stunt yesterday which was really cool. But I'm not to say anything [more]...

Series one came out in 2019 but re-aired on the BBC and enjoyed a boost in popularity – that must have been nice to see?

That was a really nice surprise. A few people told me that they'd seen it and I actually didn't know how popular it was until I got to the read through for series two and someone told me about the viewing figures. I didn't know because I'm not on social media so I don't really find out about a lot of things! You know, just to protect my mental health, because if I go on social media it becomes a rabbit hole. So yes it was a really nice surprise! 

MORE: Meet the cast of BBC's Traces

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The actress is also known for her role in Traces

© Aleksandra Modrzejewska / HOOD Magazine

Going back to your early career days – was there anyone who really inspired you when you were first starting out? 

When I was a kid I used to love watching Jessica Lange. She was my favourite I used to watch Tootsie with her and Dustin Hoffman just over and over – I don't know why I was obsessed but I was! 

In Glasgow growing up, you didn't meet many famous people but twice I saw some actors from the telly and I ran up to them and got them to sign my hand – you know, when signatures was a thing? You didn't get a photo, you just wanted their writing on you, it seems so quaint now. 

Then doing plays at school, I just really liked the way that you could explore feelings but with a context. As a kid I couldn't really connect to my own feelings at all, I was sort of remote from myself to acting was a way to feel. 

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Laura opened up about who inspired her as a young actor

© Aleksandra Modrzejewska / HOOD Magazine

Did you always know that you wanted to act? 

I always wanted to. I think from about three years old I remember doing a play in the garden and the [other] kids all joined up and I got to be the dog and I honestly thought I was a dog, I just loved being transported and being able to believe it for myself, it was like a break from your daily experience – I loved it. So I always knew but I did have this side-line where I thought I wanted to be an air hostess nurse, because my mum was a nurse, but I thought – oh it'll be even more glamorous, I'll be a nurse but an air hostess nurse. I don't even think that's a job description! 

You've enjoyed success internationally as well thanks to your part in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, what was it like working with people like Bryan Cranston and Bob Odenkirk?

Those men are just divine. Bryan Cranston, I kind of always wanted to be him. He's so talented but yet he's so laid back and kind and funny, and just takes everything in his stride that you're like 'I wish I was like that!' And then Bob Odenkirk is just so brilliant and he blows me away with his acting and he's also so kind. 

Bob's a big reader and he told me about this book that is written by a Scottish writer that I hadn't read, and it was like 'God this American guy telling me about this Scottish writer!' It was really such a treat to get to be on set and work with them. 

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Laura starred alongside Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad

© Aleksandra Modrzejewska / HOOD Magazine

What was the process of landing the role of Lydia Rodarte-Quayle like? 

I was living in New York because my husband is Irish but he got American citizenship in the eighties in the Irish lottery, and he had a little bar in Manhattan and so when I met him I moved to New York.

I was there for about a year and hadn't worked at all as an actor, I was only getting work in the UK so was flying back and thinking I'd never get to work in America because you have to start again, so I was getting quite soul destroyed. And then [came] a tape for this show Breaking Bad which I hadn't seen at the time, but I'd heard of. I did [two] tapes and then they offered me the part! It was actually one of the easiest jobs to get.

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Laura with her co-stars in The Pact

Finally, what's next for you after The Pact and Traces 2? 

Work wise, I don't know! I don't know at all what I'm doing next, maybe we'll get to go on holiday. Probably just domestically… I'm thinking the islands in Scotland!

The Pact starts Monday 17 May, 9pm on BBC One

 

Laura Fraser is a Glasgow-born actress who has appeared in many TV shows and films throughout her 25-year-plus career.

Her first major role came in 1996 when she appeared in BBC's fantasy series Neverwhere, playing the part of Door. She then began landing parts in blockbuster films such as A Knight's Tale alongside Heath Ledger and Vanilla Sky which starred Tom Cruise.

In her later career, she's become a regular face in TV dramas. In 2012, she starred in Breaking Bad opposite Bryan Cranston playing Lydia Rodarte-Quayle – a role which she reprised for spin-off drama, Better Call Saul. Her other notable TV credits include The Missing, One of Us, Doctor Who and Traces. 

 

Photographer: Aleksandra Modrzejewska

MUA & Hair: Gosia Majewska

Stylist: Maxine Eggenberger

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