The first episode of the BBC’s new psychological thriller Apple Tree Yard included romps
The first episode of the BBC’s new psychological thriller Apple Tree Yard included romps in a House of Commons broom cupboard and an alleyway, before culminating in a shocking rape scene.
Yet no one should be surprised to see Emily Watson, who plays a scientist embarking on a reckless affair, pushing boundaries.
Throughout her career the actress, who turned 50 earlier this month, has always sought challenging roles.
She is renowned for a string of raw and often sexually graphic performances, starting with her breakthrough in Breaking The Waves two decades ago.
Watson was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the naive wife of an oil rig worker, who asks her to have sex with other men after he’s paralysed in an accident.
Like her latest role, the film includes a rape depiction.
In her own words Watson, the daughter of an architect and a teacher, had a “nice middle-class upbringing” in Islington, north London, before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Emily Watson plays a scientist embarking on a reckless affair
My career is controlled by the impact it has on my family
Most of her early work was on stage and she was virtually unknown when cast as Bess McNeill in Breaking The Waves, after Helena Bonham Carter dropped out.
“It was a shatteringly life-changing experience,” Watson has said.
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Since then she has had a prolific film career, including picking up a second Oscar nomination as the cellist Hilary du Pre in the 1998 film Hilary And Jackie.
She also appeared in Gosford Park and had the title role in another gritty drama, Angela’s Ashes.
Yet for someone who has been acclaimed as one of the nation’s most talented actresses she is hardly a household name for a variety of reasons.
It is partly down to her choice of film characters.
She has never sought to play frothy romantic leads.
She has been content to bide her time, waiting for strong parts.
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However one that slipped through the net was Amelie, which made Audrey Tautou a star.
Watson apparently turned down the part, written especially for her, because she didn’t trust her French accent.
Additionally, she took the decision not to base herself in LA.
In real life Watson has been happily married to actor Jack Waters for 20 years and is settled in London with their children, Juliet, 11, and Dylan, seven.
She is renowned for a string of raw and often sexually graphic performances
“When I’m at home I’m content to be the cooker and the washer,” she says.
“My career is controlled by the impact it has on my family. I don’t think I could have lived with all the scrutiny in Hollywood.”
Watson has made only rare forays on to our TV screens.
One exception was the 2013 BBC drama The Politician’s Husband, in which she played the devoted spouse of a cheating MP whose own political ambitions gradually come to the fore.
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Of her latest highly sexualised role, playing Yvonne Carmichael in the adaptation of Louise Doughty’s best-selling novel Apple Tree Yard, she says: “We wanted the sex to be realistic. It felt empowering.”
Watson has praised the show for dealing with the sexuality of older women and adds: “How great to be playing a woman who is my age and sexual, complicated, grown-up, aware that female sexuality is a very powerful thing.”
The actress says she has never set out to monopolise sexy roles but happily admits picking up more than her fair share down the years.
She laughs: “Someone once said to me that I’m a character actress who gets laid.”