Buzz: As J.K Rowling’s crime series, Strike, launches we chat to Holliday Grainger

J.K Rowling’s crime series Strike based around gruff detective Cormoran Strike makes its debut on BBC One this month.

Holliday Grainger, who plays his tough assistant Robin Ellacott, tells Francesca Gosling about the pleasure and pressure of taking on a Rowling character and finally ridding herself of a corset.

WHAT SORT OF PREPARATION DID YOU DO IN ORDER TO PLAY ROBIN ELLACOTT?

As soon as I got to the final audition stage I started to read the novels and, because JK Rowling writes so fantastically vividly, we were all completely entranced by the world of Harry Potter, you already get a strong impression of who her characters are and the tone of the world they embody. I felt like I had such a clear impression of who Robin was and she felt like somebody I knew – like a mate. A lot of people recognize bits of themselves in her and I certainly did.

I felt like I had such a clear impression of who Robin was and she felt like somebody I knew – like a mate. A lot of people recognize bits of themselves in her and I certainly did.

DID YOU CHAT MUCH TO JK ROWLING ABOUT THE PART?

I first met her at the read-throughs and we just talked generally about the series. All of her notes were very positive and it felt when we started like everyone was already on the same page and that there weren’t too many big character questions. It’s all so evident in her writing.

All of her notes were very positive and it felt when we started like everyone was already on the same page and that there weren’t too many big character questions. It’s all so evident in her writing.

DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE FROM FANS TO DO ROBIN JUSTICE?

I hadn’t at first because I felt such a personal connection with Robin, I felt like she was me. It was only when I went to a wedding after we had been filming for a few months and so many women were coming up to me, telling me how much they loved the books and Robin and how much they engaged with her and felt like there was lots of themselves in her, that I realized how loved she is. So then there was pressure to come across as likeable as she comes across in the books.

WERE THERE ASPECTS OF THE CHARACTER THAT WERE DIFFICULT TO PLAY?

Robin has been through some life experiences that are very different from my life experiences and to do justice to that was important, so I wanted to do quite a bit of research to put myself in the mindset about certain issues and areas of life that I haven’t experienced.

DOES SHE HAVE ANY ATTRIBUTES THAT YOU DON’T LIKE?

She deals with certain things in a way that makes me think how I would like to be – she deals with things in a far more active, practical, bolshier way than I do, which I really admire in her. But sometimes in the books I was slightly put off by her self-defensiveness – her bristles can go up if she’s criticized – but I sort of admire the way she fights back.

But sometimes in the books I was slightly put off by her self-defensiveness – her bristles can go up if she’s criticized – but I sort of admire the way she fights back.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE STORYLINE IN THE STRIKE SERIES?

They all embody different worlds of London, the glamorous publishing world with the supermodels, the grittier worlds of Strike and Robin’s pasts, and the side of contemporary London life that is a bit grimmer. It’s not often that you get to do a series that has such different tones to it, even though Strike and Robin are the through-lines. It will be great to see the series now as a whole.

It’s not often that you get to do a series that has such different tones to it, even though Strike and Robin are the through-lines. It will be great to see the series now as a whole.

HOW DID THIS EXPERIENCE COMPARE TO THE MANY PERIOD DRAMAS YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED WITH?

I have done so much period drama and I was always desperate to get out of the corset. If I am choosing a job or reading a story, it doesn’t matter the period, it’s more whether the world speaks to you or if you find the character engaging. But there is something a lot more freeing doing something contemporary – you can ad lib and use “OK” and “It’s fine” and the kind of slang bits that you can’t in period pieces. It definitely feels a lot more true to your life and so there is more a spontaneity there.

DID YOU AND TOM BURKE, WHO PLAYS STRIKE, HAVE FUN DEPICTING THEIR COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP?

I love the relationship between Robin and Strike and how it is such a slow build through the novels. As an audience, you get to know them slowly as they get to know each other, and it’s the little frissons that leave you always questioning whether it is a friendship they are forming or more than that, and how much of this romantic connection is even known to them.

Part of the joy of reading the stories is the “will they, won’t they”, but without it being too overly stated, so it feels very natural.

IF YOU COULD’VE CHOSEN, WHICH HARRY POTTER CHARACTER WOULD YOU HAVE PORTRAYED?

I always really liked Ginny Weasley in the books, but, having said that, if I was going to go back and be cast in a Harry Potter film, I would definitely have to be a baddie. It’s far more fun. To be a JK Rowling baddie in a Harry Potter world would be amazing.

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