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Interview with John Simm for ITV’s Trauma

ITV Press Centre
3 Feb 2018

John Simm and Adrian Lester star in Mike Bartlett’s psychological thriller Trauma for ITV

John Simm stars as devoted family man Dan Bowker in Trauma

Trauma starts Monday 12 February, 9pm on ITV

Can you describe your character?

Dan Bowker is a blue-collar factory worker, an honest, loyal hard-working man who loves his wife and children. He is also a very proud man, sharp and intuitive. At the beginning of the drama, a tragic event happens in his life when his teenage son gets stabbed. During the treatment of his son in hospital, there is a moment when he enters the operating theatre, he gets upset with what he sees and ends up blaming the surgeon (Jon, played by Adrian Lester). Dan has the capacity to tell when people are lying and he questions his own actions and his own mortality when he is going about investigating Allerton. He will not let go and that says a lot about him, he’s tenacious. We see how the two characters react to this one event, how it cuts between their home lives and work lives. Of course their lives are very different – Dan’s life in that moment is full of grief, his marriage is falling apart whereas for Jon, what happened is an occupational hazard.

What was it about the character of Dan that made you want to play this role?

Dramatically, he is a great character to play. I was drawn first of all to Mike’s wonderful writing; it was a challenge to bring this tortured man to life. It is a heavy role to play, but for me they are the most attractive parts, even though it meant often going to a dark place to convey these emotions truthfully. Mike is a brilliant writer and I’m a huge fan of his work. There was no way I could say no to it. It was a wonderful job and extremely fulfilling for me as an artist. The kindness and the fun trickled down from Marc (Evans) our director throughout the cast and crew making it a lovely place to go to work despite the subject matter.

It’s clear that this is not a medical drama per se; how would you describe it?

Essentially it’s an intricate psychological thriller, it’s complicated, with many strands to the story. Although it’s set in a hospital it is by no means a medical drama. It’s a story of two men from very different backgrounds whose lives collide through one traumatic event.

John Simm (as Dan Bowker) and Adrian Lester (as Jon Allerton) star in ITV’s Trauma

How does Dan’s story counter balance Jon’s to create and maintain that tension?

The viewer is never really sure whose side they are on, initially it looks like Dan is in the wrong, it seems to the viewer that this utterly grief stricken man has seemingly lost the plot…nobody believes him. His life is dissolving in front of him yet he keeps on doggedly pursuing this belief that he’s right. The balance of tension constantly shifts between Dan and Jon, which hopefully will keep the audience guessing right to the end. It is very cleverly laid out by Mike, and as is typical with his dramas, nothing is as it seems and the tension is constantly shifting.

What is it about Mike’s writing that digs into the truth of a character?

I am a great admirer of Mike’s writing and it may be that – having his background in theatre – he comes at it from a very character driven perspective. It is all very beautifully written, cleverly done and well thought out. It was the perfect script; our job was to do justice to it, to keep going back to the true line of the story, as that is the most important thing. Dan believes Jon is responsible for Alex’s death.

Do you think deep down he believes this or is he projecting his own anger at his lot in life and guilt at his inability to protect his family; his failings as a father, a provider, a husband?

I think that deep down Dan absolutely believes that Jon is responsible for Alex’s death and that he’s lying – from a position of privilege – to protect himself and his reputation, which is reprehensible to Dan.

Does Dan ever doubt himself?

Dan absolutely believes he is right but by the final episode is questioning that belief. He begins to wonders if he’s losing his mind; he questions his own sanity, as he can’t believe the things he is driven to do. He is living a nightmare, but everything he does he believes he is doing for the memory of his son because that’s all he has left.

How does the drama highlight the disparity between the different worlds these two men inhabit?

It is a symptom of the different lifestyles these two have that only the viewer will see until towards the end of the drama. As Dan’s life unravels we begin to see more of Jon’s home life and the lives of his wife and daughter. The disparity between his life and Jon’s isn’t what drives him on though, despite his anger about it. It begins in some way to disgust him, so there is an element of pure jealousy, but Dan is driven by a profound sense of injustice, all the while being consumed by grief.

Describe what Dan goes through when he loses his son?

Dan obviously goes through unimaginable grief when he loses his son. Every parents worst nightmare. He would never in a million years imagine himself going to the extreme lengths he does throughout the story, but these are exceptional circumstances.

What are the big trigger points for Dan’s downward spiral?

As soon as Dan begins to believe that it may be possible a mistake was made he is dogged in his pursuit of the truth, this is the beginning of his downward spiral… he just can’t let go of his unshakable belief that there has been an injustice, to the detriment of everything else in his life, including his marriage. He genuinely feels and believes that this is the last thing he can possibly do for his son.

Trauma starts Monday 12 February, 9pm on ITV

Trailer: ​Trauma | This February | ITV

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