Jess Commons | Deputy Editor | Sunday, 15 February 2015

Julie Walters, 100% Humidity And Gandhi. Actress Olivia Grant Gives Us The Lowdown On Indian Summers

The Debrief: Get ready for the most glorious show to hit our screens in a long time

Made sure you find yourself a good spot on the sofa this evening, there’s a bumper telly night ahead with BBC’s A Casual Vacancy and Channel 4’s Indian Summers. I mean, they’re on at the same time, but using the magic of iPlayer and +1 channels, we’re sure you can figure out a way for you to watch both.

If you’ve clocked the plentiful adverts everywhere for Indian Summers then let us assure you it’s every bit a glorious as it looks.  Set in 1932 in Shimla (the Indian city that was declared the country’s ‘summer capital’ by the Colonial British), the drama’s about the dying days of the British Empire in India; with the Indian independence revolutionaries in full swing while the upper class British try desperately to cling to the heady days of the Empire.

The story follows Alice Whelan who returns to India after many years away to live with her dishy brother Ralph who’s serving as the Private Secretary of British India. As well as the Whelans there’s a whole host of other characters including Sooni, an Indian revolutionary, Dougie and Northerner running a school for abandoned children and Julie Walters as the no-nonsense owner of the local club (that’s posh country club, not disco club).

‘She’s great isn’t she?!’ Says Olivia Grant who plays Madeline, an American socialite staying in Ralph Whelan’s house. ‘She’s just so charming and quite sprite-like, full of humour and energy every day on set. It’s such a great part for her.’

The show is brilliant. Sharp, thrilling, occasionally funny and full of hidden secrets. ‘I think what the writer has done so beautifully is capture the two different strands of it so well. It’s got the British clinging onto this idea of the colonial era and then Indian independence really coming to the fore. I’ve been pitching it as Downtown meets Gandhi, although whether Channel 4 appreciate that I don’t know…’

Olivia’s character Madeline, along with her brother Eugene are the sole Americans in the cast. ‘It’s funny, I think as Americans they’ve got a lot more worldliness and finesse than the British,’ she say, recalling a scene in which the two Americans make fun of the British for dancing with out-dated moves. ‘They’re still doing the ‘grizzly bear’ which is a 1920’s ragtime dance that wasn’t the cool thing to be doing. Madeline is much more sexually liberated that a lot of the more uptight English people in Shimla.’

While it obviously helps that the show is great, the girly side of us was also more than a little obsessed with the costumes. I mean, we’re talking Keira Knightley-green-dress-in-Atonement level of gloriousness. ‘They’re so lovely,’ agrees Olivia. ‘They were made in Malaysia because back then the British would have been tearing pages out of Vogue and taking them to the local tailors and asking to replicate them so that’s exactly what we did. And they were really light as well, which was fabulous.’ Was the weather unbearable? ‘So boiling I can’t even describe. Someone described it like being wrapped in a wet blanket, just humidity beyond. They were hairdrying down our costumes!’

Indian Summers is on Channel 4, Sundays, 9PM

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Tags: TV That Matters