An Interview With Red Top Star Maxine Peake

"You don’t get better than Comic Strip Presents. It’s so iconic."

Maxine Peake in Comic Strip Presents

Q: What appealed to you about this film?

A: The fact that it was Comic Strip Presents. I can't remember the last time I got this excited, before even reading the script. I just got an email saying, "Will you read this with a view to meeting the director?" I went, "Oh my God, this is Comic Strip Presents. Oh please let me like it". I knew I would!

I've seen the majority of The Comic Strip Presents films, and the last one I saw was The Hunt For Tony Blair which I thought was absolutely brilliant. Without sounding too corny, it was a little bit of a dream come true when it came in the email. It's a bit like when I did Dinner Ladies - these are my heroes.

Q: Were you also pleased to be coming back to comedy?

A: Yes. I've been stuck in the world of gritty drama for a while, so it was a lovely relief as well to think, "Someone does trust that I can do some comedy". That's to be seen - I might completely ruin it!

Q: Are you enjoying the return to comedy?

A: Yes. But it's been about 10 years, and that does take its toll. I've been thinking, "I'm sure there's a gag in here somewhere!" But it's been great. For a long time I've been desperate to do some comedy, but it's about the right script. You don't want to do comedy for the sake of doing some comedy. But you don't get better than Comic Strip Presents. It's so iconic.

Q: How would you describe the tone of Red Top?

A: It's very tongue in cheek, I'm not playing Rebekah Brooks - I'm on roller skates, for one! It's a very high-octane version. As Brits, we are famous for being able to laugh at ourselves, and I think if people don't have that outlet, it all gets very serious. It's really exciting and brave because these people deserve to have the mickey taken out of them.

Q: How would you describe this Rebekah?

A: I don't like to use the word caricature. But she's canny, and she likes to use her feminine wiles. With the gentlemen, she plays on her vulnerability sometimes and wields her power quite strongly at other times.

Q: Is this Murdoch under her spell?

A: Yes, completely. That relationship is fascinating. When he was asked "What's your number one priority", he said, "This one". I've spoken to people who've met her who said they didn't want to like her, but then they came away and thought, "Wow, she does have that charisma."

Q: Why is she so successful at creating these relationships with powerful men?

A: I listened to one of these profile programmes on Radio 4 and it was interviewing an old school friend of hers. She said Rebekah's emotional intelligence was way ahead of other people's. She had this way of being able to play people and understand them and get under their skin. Those kind of women are always a real mystery to me. There are quite a few of them about. Game players - I'm always fascinated by those sort of women.

Q: Could you tell us about this Rebekah's relationship with Murdoch in this drama?

A: It's a very close father and daughter relationship, and she's very demure and little girl around Murdoch. Then obviously she has this stand-off relationship with Wendi.

Q: So there is a father-daughter thing going on?

A: Yes. It's fascinating. Obviously he has daughters of his own, but maybe he sees something of himself in Rebekah. There's something he responds to in her. It's not a sexual thing. It just feels like two like minds. She's obviously very devoted to him. She probably gives him a lot of attention that maybe he doesn't get so much from his own family.

Q: How have you found the roller skating?

A: It's been fun, although I did fall yesterday. Peter said, "Just get to the end and spin!" I thought I'd give it a go and I went down like a sack of spuds!

Q: Finally, what do you hope people will take away from watching this?

A: There is a serious issue here. But first and foremost, you hope that people will enjoy it and that they'll have a laugh. I think people will laugh along with it, people who work for the Sun or the Guardian. Everyone gets it in the neck, every publication, every political leaning. Peter has done an amazing job. It's very, very funny.