WHAT drives a mother to walk out on her husband and children? It’s a taboo topic — but one that new drama series Come Home expertly explores, writes
Christopher Eccleston and Paula Malcomson play Greg and Marie Farrell, a Belfast couple who were married for 19 years until, nine months previously, Marie decided to move out and start a new life. It will be shown on RTÉ One from next Tuesday.
Each of the three episodes delves into the mystery of why Marie made such a drastic change — and how she’s now dealing with the stigma of being a “deserting mother”.
And the fact it’s not a male-led drama was part of the appeal for Eccleston. “I’m sick of watching blokes’ stories,” he says. “I know about being a bloke — we all do, as a culture. What we don’t understand, what we don’t examine, is the lives of women.”
Here, we discover more about this deeply emotional family drama.
While episode one is largely from Greg’s point of view, episode two focuses on Marie. And throughout the series, we see the situation through the eyes of their three children — Liam, 17, Laura, 14, and Molly, five —as they try to cope with their new lives.
Eccleston, 54, notes: “It’s very unusual to be involved in a drama where the perspective shifts.”
“He has failed to recognise the distress in Marie until it’s too late,” he says of his character’s position. “Fundamentally, he’s a decent man but very flawed and controlling.”
And even though his character is left struggling to juggle the demands of being a single dad while also running a business and trying to deal with his own pain over what’s happened, Manchester-born Eccleston thinks Marie’s actions are heroic.
“She understands that her deep unhappiness, in the end, is going to prevent her from being a good parent,” he explains.
“The most important thing to Marie, in my take, and I think Paula’s, is the fact she’s a mother. And that, ironically, the mother had to leave to help those children.”
Indeed, Malcomson, 47, says she relished the challenge of playing the desperate Marie.
“It’s pretty unfathomable for a mother to leave her children,” says the Belfast-born star, who has made her mark on Hollywood in films such as The Hunger Games.
“Men do it all the time and somehow they don’t get so harshly stigmatised. I wanted to see if I could dissect this character and this issue and still make Marie human and relatable.”
Then there’s the exciting work of writer Danny Brocklehurst.
“Marie makes a choice and that makes a change in dramas, as often in working-class dramas the character doesn’t have choices,” Malcomson elaborates.
“Danny has written the character of Marie with her own agency. It’s brave and bold.”
Eccleston is also quick to applaud how Come Home represents the working class without being cliched.
And asked why he thinks there are more dramas on TV about middle-class people, the father-of-two says: “Class hatred, it’s very simple. And it’s the present government, Brexit — there’s a lot of desire for separateness and a hatred of difference.”
The actor, who has starred in dramas such as Our Friends in the North, adds matter-of-factly: “Financially, working-class actors and writers can’t get through.
“There’s a desire for an anodyne, bland culture.”
As well as scenes that will tug at your heartstrings, Come Home is also brilliantly funny — think awkward moments and comical sex scenes.
“If you’re going to put a custody battle and divorce and breakdown [in front of viewers], there’s got to be humour,” remarks Eccleston. “People are not going to sit there and absorb misery.”
Plus, there’s the influence of the city in which the show is set.
“Belfast deals with everything with humour — everybody you meet has got a line and is funny,” the actor says. “I have never been made to feel more welcome anywhere in the world, people look you straight in the eye.”
- Come Home starts on RTÉ One on Tuesday, March 27