MyAnna Buring returned to BBC One this summer as Long Susan in the latest season of period crime drama Ripper Street.
Season 3 and the complete Season 1-3 boxset are released on DVD and Blu-ray this week by BBC Worldwide.
CultBox caught up with MyAnna recently for a chat about the show…
How do you feel Long Susan has changed and developed since the first season?
“I think she’s got a lot stronger. I think we’ve found her believing that she has a certain strength and a certain, although precarious, stronghold on her life. As the series has developed we’ve watched that be ripped from her completely and utterly.
“We’ve seen her be challenged in every possible way and yet what I love about it is that she always comes out fighting. She never allows herself to completely break. That is something that seems, for her character anyway, to be inconceivable to allow a situation to completely and utterly destroy her. She might live with it a while and then she will come out fighting the other end.”
Did you have much input into the development of Long Susan?
“On the whole I’d say no, I think the creators had quite a strong general idea about where the character would go and who she was, however, I think the mere fact that, and I think this is the case for all the actors who played all the characters, I think without a doubt the writers have very much looked at what is naturally brought to those characters and they’ve incorporated elements of how we are as actors into how they develop the characters.
“You can tell in the language – all the characters were written with an understanding of how we as actors or as individuals spoke. It started in Season 2, I could hear Rose, for example, and Jackson very, very clearly in the writing. It started to feel like it was them speaking and not necessarily the characters, I mean obviously the characters but it felt like they had influenced the way the character spoke a great deal.
“In Season 3 I felt that very much with myself as well. It’s a testament to the incredible writers we have on the show, I think that’s quite a skill but absolutely I think all the actors without a doubt have influenced the characters in a way and I think also audience reaction and how the stories have played out have influenced where the writers felt the characters needed to go.
“They might not necessarily have thought that was an area that a character could go initially but, once the show had started and once we were all in it and it was gaining its own momentum, I think they took inspiration from what they saw on screen. In that way I think the show has grown organically with all of us involved to a certain extent.”
Is there a specific episode where you think Susan has changed?
“Yes, I think it’s Episode 4 in this third season. I think in the second season it was the scene when she has to go to Duggan’s room and essentially give her body in order to save her business. That changed her fundamentally.
“That deed, that act changed her forever. In Season 3, in Episode 4 there’s quite a dramatic scene that again changes her forever.”
What can you tell us about Season 3?
“So, in Season 3 our world has kinda moved on four years from Season 2. A lot has changed for everyone really. But in a way I’d say no more so than for Long Susan. When we left her last she had been forced to watch her business crumble under the hands of the manipulative Dangerous Duggan, she’d been forced to essentially sell her body to him, she’d watched her husband gamble away all their money and essentially she felt abandoned by everyone in her life that she could have cared about and in particular the men around her, incredibly let down by them.
“In Season 2 we left her making a promise as she watched Duggan die that she would change her fortune. She would take all of his fortunes and make them hers and turn it into something much more powerful and much more good. That’s very much where we find her in Season 3. She’s made good on that promise. She’s amassed all of his wealth, she’s taken essentially an underworld operation and turned it into an upstanding organisation within the community.
“She built a clinic where she takes in women and people of Whitechapel and she caters in particular for women, making sure that they have a place that’s safe and clean for them to be looked after. She’s in talks with councillor Cobden about building affordable housing for the people of Whitechapel. She’s essentially establishing herself as a force for good. But as we know in order to do great good, we sometimes require huge pots of money and sometimes in order to acquire that kind of money we have to compromise the means by which we get it.
“Those are the changes – they’re huge and exciting we’ve always sort of talked about, from the moment I signed up for Ripper Street, I spoke up with Will Gould and Rich Warlow who created the story and then later Toby Finlay who joined us as the main writing team we spoke very much about the overriding arc of Long Susan. This idea that Long Susan would start as somebody running this little brothel but who essentially would become almost like a Godfather figure of Whitechapel.”
Does Long Susan have a particular character arc?
“Yes, I suppose what we really see her do is grapple with the idea that with great power comes great responsibility and great power also might not necessarily manifest itself but definitely people around you will be the claws of greed and far away from anyone.
“She’s in a position of power financially.”
What was it that drew you to the role initially?
“Initially it was the idea of this quite complicated character; she seemed to have a lot going on underneath the surface but she covered it up. This character felt that in order to survive, she had to be incredibly strong, forceful and determined yet underneath there are layers and layers of vulnerability, a big, big beating heart that you know you meet some people in life who are incredibly effusive and who are able to wear their heart on their sleeve and Long Susan is somebody who grew up never being able to do that, never being able to trust that and yet she is somebody who has more often than any other character I’ve come across really followed her heart.
“She’s taken huge risks in her life, she’s thrown away the status that she born into, she’s become a fugitive for the man that she loves and then she’s had to watch that all fall apart in a way and find a way to live with that. That was exciting, that felt like it wasn’t just a caricature, it didn’t feel like pretty girl on arm of hero, that felt like a character you could get your teeth into, that felt like someone I could believe in.
“So that’s what drew me to her really and also the writing! I thought the writing was extraordinary, there was a kind of poetry to the language of Ripper Street – that’s very rare and it’s brilliantly executed by Rich Warlow and Toby Finlay who guided that kind of language. It’s incredible to speak as an actor, it’s not necessarily easy but once you get into it it’s very different from anything else that I’ve come across.”
Season 4 and Season 5 have both been announced. What are your hopes for the new seasons?
“My hopes, and I’m sure I will not be disappointed, are stronger and braver storylines – they’re already strong and brave – but just that the world of Ripper Street carries on and that I think once the show has been going for a while it does get a certain confidence and you use that confidence to build storylines.
“It can get very exciting, it can feel very brave and like the writers can have a lot of fun with it. That’s the sense I’m getting.”
What do you think is the enduring appeal of Ripper Street?
“I think there’s always been an appeal of that kind of post-Ripper, Victorian era. We have endless stories told all set in that time period and I think that’s our own fascination with history, that’s our own fascination with myths and legends and not necessarily just the legend of Ripper but also the legend of Whitechapel, the legend of the creation of quite a vital part of London and I think we’re drawn to that kind of element.
“But I think beyond that Ripper Street has created a world that’s very much ripper street, it is in many ways quite a fantastical world, it dips in and out and draws from historical fact and it’s kind of created its own language, its own feel in the way that it’s shot and the costumes, the sets and the characters – the language the way everyone speaks in it and I think because it’s got its own identity, and such a strong identity, that’s probably what’s drawn people to it and got them excited and also beyond that that, despite being in very many ways the procedural cop drama up until now, it also has really strong central characters whose journeys, not only us as actors we’ve wanted to go on those journeys, but I feel our audiences have wanted to join our characters too.”
What did you think of Season 3? Let us know below…