Gemma Chan (‘Secret Diary Of A Call Girl’) interview

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Following roles in Sherlock (‘The Blind Banker’), Doctor Who (‘The Waters Of Mars’) and The IT Crowd, Gemma Chan joins the cast of ITV2’s Secret Diary Of A Call Girl as dominatrix Charlotte for the show’s fourth and final series, which begins this week. CultBox caught up with Gemma to find out more…

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Can you tell us a bit about your character, Charlotte?

“Charlotte is the arch-nemesis of Belle. She’s a very successful high class call girl too, though she specialises in being a dominatrix. She’s very confident, knows exactly what she wants and is also very good at honing in on people’s weaknesses. She likes to cause mischief and is a challenge for Belle to deal with.”

What attracted you to the role and to the show?

“I was already a fan of the show before I was cast. I think it’s great fun, well written and although it’s a little bit of fantasy, it’s got an emotional core that people can relate to. There are so many people who I would never have guessed would be fans of the show but who watch it – I nearly died when Ryan Gosling told me he loved the show!

“The role was attractive to me because it’s so different to any part I’ve played before and particularly contrasting with the last character I played in Sherlock, who was so sweet and demure. It’s great to be given a chance to create such a strong character.”

Did you base your portrayal of Charlotte on anyone you know in real life?

“I actually got to meet the real life dominatrix who the writers partly based the character on. She was lovely and I also met her husband who is her submissive. It was interesting seeing how they have a great relationship, albeit one that the majority of people would consider unconventional.

“Saying that, there are traits that I put into the character which were taken from people that I’ve encountered who weren’t a dominatrix, but they seemed to work for Charlotte.”

Had you watched the show before you got the role and were you nervous about filming the show’s sex scenes?

“Yes, I had seen it and I was a bit apprehensive about the possibility of filming those kinds of scenes. But it wasn’t too terrible in the end and everybody, cast and crew, had a great sense of humour when we had to shoot anything which might be uncomfortable.

“However, I’m still a bit disturbed at the thought of any of my old law professors from Oxford seeing me in the show. It’s such a far cry from the days when I had to read out my essays in tutorials!”

Did you do any research into Charlotte’s line of work?

“I did and it was eye-opening to say the least…”

What was Billie Piper like to work with?

“She was amazing, a lot of fun to work with and she’s such a huge part of what makes the show a success. She’s a brilliant actress and very funny.”

Was there a sad atmosphere at all as filming came to an end, with it being the final series of the show?

“There definitely was. I was only on the show for one series and I was sad, so I can’t imagine how the others must have felt. We all came back to watch the final slate and then had champagne back at the trailers. It was quite emotional.”

Can you give us any hints about what’s coming up for Charlotte as the series progresses?

“She and Belle have an escalating rivalry which culminates in what should be an interesting scene… You also get to see a different side to Charlotte when she encounters Poppy (Stephanie’s daughter), who she slightly takes under her wing.”

Your Doctor Who character in ‘The Water Of Mars’ was one of the few who survived in the story – would you like to return as Mia one day?

“I’d love to come back! I guess you never know. I was so privileged to have got to ride in the TARDIS.”

You appeared in the second episode of Sherlock last year, ‘The Blind Banker’. When you were filming the show, did you have any idea that it would become so popular so quickly?

“We had no idea it would be so popular, but Benedict and Martin were so brilliant and had such a good dynamic that I had a feeling about it. I think Sherlock Holmes will always be a fascinating character and the modern update of the show felt fresh and exciting, which people seemed to like.”

You’ve got two films coming up: Shanghai (with John Cusack and Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Submarine (with Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine). Can you tell us a bit about your roles in these?

“In Shanghai I play Chow Yun Fat’s mistress. My dad was thrilled because he grew up in Hong Kong where Chow Yun Fat is a hero! In Submarine I play Paddy Considine’s girlfriend.”

Last film you saw at the cinema:

The King’s Speech. I worked with the producer, Gareth Unwin, on one of my first films (Exam) and I’m so pleased for him that the movie is doing so well because he is just the loveliest, most humble guy.”

Last TV boxset you watched:

The Wire. I have the boxsets of all five series and have recently started re-watching them from the beginning. I still think it’s one of the best shows ever on television.”

Last album you bought:

‘Early In the Morning’ by James Vincent McMorrow. I had to use my US iTunes account to get it because it’s not out over here yet! I think you can get the single ‘If I Had A Boat’ though, which is one of the best tracks. Also, I can’t wait for Jamie Woon’s new album which is released in April, I’ve been a fan for years.”

Secret Diary Of A Call Girl returns at 10pm on Tuesday 1st February on ITV2.