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Joanne Froggatt: 'Angela Black' explores serious issue in Hitchcockian-style thriller

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Joanne Froggatt: 'Angela Black' explores serious issue in Hitchcockian-style thriller
Samuel Adewunmi (L) and Joanne Froggatt now can be seen in "Angela Black." Photo by Spectrum Originals

NEW YORK, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Downton Abbey icon Joanne Froggatt says the cast and crew of her psychological thriller, Angela Black, made her feel protected as she explored the dark places necessary to play a wealthy married mother and domestic violence victim.

Written and produced by Jack and Harry Williams, the six-part drama is set to debut on Spectrum on Monday.

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It follows the title character as she plots her escape from Olivier (Michiel Huisman,) her manipulative and violent spouse, with the help of Ed (Samuel Adewunmi,) a mysterious private investigator who claims Olivier hired him to destroy Angela's reputation so she won't get custody of their kids when he divorces her after years of beating her and being unfaithful to her.

The project marks a reunion for Froggatt and the Williams brothers, who previously collaborated on the 2017-20 ITV/Sundance series, Liar.

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"I knew their working environment feels very safe to be in," Froggatt told UPI in a Zoom interview Thursday.

"They are really collaborative and they allowed me an executive producer role on the show," Froggatt added. "So, I had input into any script changes or anything I felt, character-wise, I liked to add or develop."

Froggatt also praised director Craig Viveiros for the sensitivity and support he showed her during some of the show's most harrowing scenes.

"I would have found it, maybe, difficult to shift directors halfway through, which is what often happens, so I was really happy that Craig wanted to direct all six [episodes], and we could form that working relationship and build around that," she said.

"It was the same with all the cast and crew. They were really fantastic. I couldn't have wished for a better work environment."

Froggatt was eager to tell a compelling story that is rooted in reality with Angela Black.

"First and foremost, we are a piece of entertainment," she emphasized. "We are a thriller and that's what we are there to do, but Jack and Harry do a brilliant job of creating this very sort of Hitchcockian-style thriller, which is very entertaining and edge-of-your-seat with a very serious subject matter running underneath it."

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She said she hopes viewers lucky enough to not have any personal experiences with domestic violence will look at the issue with "different eyes," perhaps seeing for the first time why so many victims can't "just walk out."

"A person may have no access to finances, have children, may have been cut off from their emotional support system, may have nowhere to go," Froggatt said.

"If they do have someplace to go or someone to go to, the perpetrator is likely to just follow them and, in some cases, literally drag them back. That's the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence -- when they try to leave."

The Watch alum Adewunmi said he thinks Angela Black shines a light on how such dire circumstances can occur so often under the radar of those in a position to help.

The actor gave the past two years' coronavirus pandemic-induced isolation as an example of how physical and psychological abuse might go undetected because everyone is distracted by something else. He said he wishes the show would encourage people to check in more with their loved ones, and to show them more understanding and compassion.

"On the surface, things may seem really good and appear to be really fine and happy and all is well. That's not always the case," he noted.

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"Sometimes, for people to be able to escape, it takes finding strength within themselves as we see a bit in Angela's story. Sometimes, in the real world, it just takes a friend or family member reaching out."

Froggatt attempted to distance herself from the bruised and vulnerable woman she saw on the screen when she viewed Angela Black.

"It's always a strange experience, watching yourself, anyway, because it is sort of you, but it's not you," she admitted.

"After a few minutes, I don't feel like I'm watching myself and I get involved in the story, which is a good sign," Froggatt added.

"It's nice from my perspective of having been so insular, inside the character, to be able to see the finished result and see the hard work that everyone's put in come to fruition on screen. There is a real sense of achievement."

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