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A new drama puts an heiress in the dock for murder – and asks you to be the judge

Privilege on trial: A gripping new drama puts an heiress in the dock for murder — and asks you to be the judge

  • BBC1’s Showtrial Was Made By The Same Producers As Bodyguard And Line Of Duty
  • Celine Buckens plays Talitha, the prime suspect in a woman’s disappearance
  • Six-part series explores the mysterious argument she had with the victim


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A poor little rich girl, a brilliant lawyer and a missing young woman, presumed dead. So cliche so far… but BBC1’s new thriller Showtrial is made by the same producers as Bodyguard and Line Of Duty, and it’s extremely compelling from the start.

Key to the tension is the extraordinary relationship between Talitha (Celine Buckens), the prime suspect in the woman’s disappearance, and her attorney Cleo Roberts (Tracy Ifeachor). Cleo is the lawyer called in to help when Talitha is arrested in connection with the suspected murder of working class student Hannah Ellis. And Talitha is not an easy person to like.

“She’s the daughter of a famous real estate developer – a name that everyone in our fictional world knows,” says Celine. “But she’s estranged from her father and because she doesn’t take money from him, she started doing sex work online. It’s interesting, she is privileged but has to fend for herself and she faces prejudice because of her decisions.

In BBC1's new thriller Showtrial, Celine Buckens stars as Talitha, the prime suspect in a woman's disappearance.  Pictured: Cleo and Talitha

In BBC1’s new thriller Showtrial, Celine Buckens stars as Talitha, the prime suspect in a woman’s disappearance. Pictured: Cleo and Talitha

“She went to the same college as the victim, but they got into an argument, which it takes the whole series to establish. It has a mystery.’

Talitha is rude to everyone, including the lawyer helping her. “I think this consistency and irreverence is because she doesn’t take any situation seriously,” Celine says.

“As it gets more serious, that changes a bit, but she never behaves the way you’d expect. That’s why she’s so seductive as a character.’ Cleo is also a bit mysterious – a former top lawyer, she now serves as a criminal defense attorney at the bottom of the ladder.

“If I met her in person, I’d be intimidated,” Tracy says. “But she just wants the best for her client. I’ve spent time talking to lawyers and they told me they meet these people when they’re having their worst days. That’s something to keep in mind when Cleo and Talitha meet, she shows her a lot of grace.

“But as the series progresses, they test each other. I think Cleo is the only person in Talitha’s life who has ever said, “No, you can’t do that, you can’t act like that.” She wants to help, but it’s hard when someone doesn’t help herself. Cleo lives by the book. She is quite primitive and adds a dark humor to the piece. It’s such a strange couple that it was a lot of fun to play.”

The six-part series also stars James Frain as Talitha’s father Damian Campbell, and Sinead Keenan as Inspector Paula Cassidy, who becomes convinced Talitha is guilty. But as the title suggests, the drama is less about the investigation and more about the trial of a beautiful, rich young woman, who becomes sensational.

Celine Buckens said the series shows us how we are influenced by our own prejudices.  Pictured: Talitha

Celine Buckens said the series shows us how we are influenced by our own prejudices.  Pictured: Talitha

Celine Buckens said the series shows us how we are influenced by our own prejudices. Pictured: Talitha

“While the show isn’t based on a specific case, it takes inspiration from many who’ve been in the news,” Tracy says.

“We’ve all seen cases where someone has been falsely named in connection with a crime. There was no DNA evidence, their alibis piled up, but we thought, “It’s them” and they’ve been convicted in the court of public opinion.

The show lets us see how we are influenced by our own prejudices. How to ignore things like gender or race to get the facts.’ Celine agrees.

“What is emphasized is how strongly people start to feel the trial, how invested they become. And it’s not just people looking inward. The show was so interesting to me because it looks at the criminal justice system in a way that a lot of dramas don’t.

It raises the question of whether the police sometimes have personal prejudices about due diligence and we should all think about that.’

Showtrial starts tomorrow at 9pm on BBC1.

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