Rachel Shenton interview: ‘All Creatures’ star on new drama ‘For Her Sins’

All Creatures Great and Small star Rachel Shenton is back on telly this week!

Best known for playing Helen Alderson in Channel 5’s hit period drama, the English actress can next be seen in For Her Sins.

She’s joined in the four-part mini-series by Jo Joyner from Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators.

Watch the trailer here:

Channel 5’s brand new psychological thriller is about a woman who, on the surface, has it all – but with the pressures of modern life and a new friend secretly determined to create chaos, her world is set spiralling!

For Her Sins premieres in the UK tonight on Channel 5 at 9pm, with the four episodes streaming on My5.

A broadcaster in the US hasn’t been confirmed yet, but we expect this will end up on BritBox or Acorn TV later in the year.

Ahead of the show’s launch, Rachel Shenton chats here about her dark new role as Emily in For Her Sins, doing stunts, meeting Meryl Streep at the Oscars, and trying to not just play “the baddy.”


Have you met any Emilys in your life?

“Well, the answer to that is I don’t know! Maybe.

“What I liked about Emily – and I did like her when I first read it – is I understood her even if I didn’t agree with her. That’s a really good place to work from.

“There is sort of a traumatised five-year-old running her life. Something damaging happened to her when she was little. She’s potentially been blamed for it and always felt this massive sense of responsibility and in a way needed justice and explanations.

“She takes it to the extreme to get it but that is her justification and that was mine in approaching the role. There are extremely shady things that she is doing.

“When I read some of the scripts I was like, ‘Oh, don’t do that!’ But it always came from a place of there is a bigger objective and I get it.”


What were your early discussions with the production about Emily?

“My early chats with director Adrian McDowall were, ‘I don’t want her to be a villain. I don’t want Emily to be the bad guy.’ It’s written richer than that.

“My question was, is that how we see this? Jess Connell (producer) and Adrian were so great to work with and so open. It was a lovely collaborative process from the off.

“If you look at something and go, ‘This is the baddy and this is the goody. I’m on her team and I don’t like her’ to me that’s not that interesting. It’s not what I personally like to watch or read because the truth is infinitely more complex than that.”


Jo Joyner says you had some interesting discussions about how women can be experts at passive aggressive behaviour in friendships where there is insecurity.

“Yeah, that’s a really good observation from Jo and a good way of putting it. Emily has really looked up to Laura and kind of idolised her.

“Laura has got it together. She has managed to recover from this past situation. She’s got a really good job, a husband, a family. There’s an element of how have you managed to do this? There’s admiration to a certain degree.

“There is also tremendous pain and anger. It’s this heady cocktail which made it an interesting dynamic between the two of them.

“Sometimes Emily just says things that cut, and you go ‘oof’ and then it is massaged by something very nice afterwards. There’s the complexity. Laura doesn’t know how to take that.”


Do your closest friendships go way back?

“Yeah, most of my closest friends I’ve had for at least a decade. You meet lots of interesting people in this industry, but I find sometimes it’s just the job.

“You do the job and then you move on. It’s rare that you take people with you. I would say most of my friends have stood the test of time.”


As an actor and a writer do you find yourself wearing both hats when you read scripts?

“Not consciously. If it is going on it’s not something I’m aware of. I’m lucky that I get to read loads of green lit scripts, which is great.

“You do get to sort of know a rhythm subliminally of what works and what doesn’t. Those scripts that get you on the edge of your seat and make you go, ‘Oh God, I didn’t see that coming.’

“That was very much this script. It’s really nice to have two strong female characters who like going toe-to-toe at times. It’s interesting.”


Are you still running screen acting classes?

“It’s once a month. I get there as often as I can. It’s run by a woman called Amanda Andrews who does the teaching.

“I don’t teach, but I get guests in that I’ve worked with who I think will be really inspirational. There is nothing in Stoke where I grew up that creates that sort of community.

“When I was growing up there, I would have to travel to London or Manchester to be around likeminded people. I think it’s really important and I care very much about that.

“Most months I try and make it but if not I send a good guest as a replacement, which is probably far better than having me anyway.”


What was it like working with the stunt team for your dramatic scene with Duncan Pow?

“I loved the stunt team. Matthew Camilleri the stunt coordinator is really cool. That’s the part of the job that as a teenager you would go, ‘Oh my god I get to do stunts and it’s in another country!’

“I loved the physical fight, which on paper wasn’t supposed to be what it became. It grew arms and legs as we started to rehearse it.

“I think Matthew the stunt coordinator and Adrian the director saw that Duncan and I were like, ‘Yeah let’s just try that.’ It ended up escalating and it was so much fun.

“I don’t think I’ve ever done anything as full-on. I had to do some bits in The Strangers but not as choreographed as this.”


Following your Oscar win for Live Action Short Film, The Silent Child, in 2018 have you any more writing/directing projects lined up?

“I have. I’m doing it right now on a day off from filming All Creatures.

“There are two things that hopefully you will know about within a few months. That’s exciting.

“With the creative stuff you can get to development and then sometimes you wait for ages and don’t hear anything, and you don’t know what’s happening next. But it looks like at least one of these two projects is going to go.”


You said Meryl Streep was the star in your eyeline when you did your Oscar acceptance speech. Did you speak to her afterwards?

“I had already met her the week before the Oscars when you attend something called the Oscar Nominees Lunch, which is where they do that class photo.

“She’s so beautiful. The conversation was around what we were going to wear. She said, ‘I’ve not decided yet. There are a few options.’

“I can’t remember whether we talked about what colour it was. Something like that.

“I think she said, ‘I don’t hold myself to a colour. I’ll see what I feel like on the day.’ I was thinking, ‘you don’t even plan it!

“You just see what you feel like on the day! That’s really cool.’ She’s lovely. It was a very surreal time.”


All Creatures Great and Small is available to watch on PBS Masterpiece via Amazon Prime with a free 7-day trial.