The Victim is a thriller told through the eyes of the plaintiff and the accused. Set within Scotland’s unique legal system, the drama asks the question: who really, is the victim? Kelly Macdonald plays Anna Dean, whose son was murdered 15 years ago. She is accused of revealing his killer’s new identity online and conspiring to have them murdered. Has the anger of a grieving mother turned her into a criminal? What is she capable of doing in her son’s name? Hard-working family man Craig Myers (James Harkness) is viciously attacked after being identified online as a notorious child murderer. Should Craig keep his head down or try to prove his innocence? Is he a convicted murderer, or simply the tragic victim of mistaken identity? The Victim follows the progress of a trial in Edinburgh’s High Court, while covering the events leading up to the legal proceedings, and the criminal investigation led by DI Steven Grover (John Hannah) – who has his own reasons for wanting to crack the case. Craig and Anna are pitted against each other, but our sympathies will be divided. New potential suspects will be revealed and long buried secrets unearthed as the story builds to a final, devastating climax. The Victim is an STV Production through BBC Scotland for BBC One – watch it on Showmax.
Who is The Victim and what is the show about?
Kelly: The Victim is a great title. For four episodes you should be wondering who the real victim is.
Rob Williams [creator]: I wanted to tell a story in which all the people through a certain lens could be viewed as victims. I called the show The Victim because I’ve been interested for a long time in the ripple effect of a crime, not just through a family, but through a community; sometimes through a country.
Sarah Brown [executive producer]: The title says many things about the show. Clearly there is one very important victim in this and that is Liam, Anna’s son, who was killed 15 years ago – he’s obviously the character from which the whole story springs. The Victim could be applied to many characters in this drama, and probably each viewer would have a different answer to that question – who is the victim?
Can you tell us more about the characters?
Kelly: I play a woman called Anna Dean who lives in Edinburgh with her family and who had a really horrendous experience in her life 15 years prior to when we meet her, and she’s still trying to get over it. I found her quite abrasive and unlikeable in places, which was part of the appeal, weirdly. I quite often get cast as very-good-upright-in-the-community. Anna has a family, she’s a mother, but she’s grieving and she doesn’t always behave impeccably – so it felt very human to me.
James: Craig is a family man. He’s a hard worker and he’s a bus driver. He grew up in a bit of a rough background, but now he’s just a determined family man who enjoys his work.
Rob: It was so important to cast the central roles of Anna and Craig well. We talked about Kelly early on, and it was useful for me to have her in mind when I was writing the latter episodes, and then to go back to the earlier scripts [knowing we had her]. Kelly was and is Anna. To have an artist who can deliver both the passion and the anger, but also just the incredible humanity she brings to all her her roles – it’s impossible to think about Anna as being played by anybody else. Grover, of the leading characters, was more of an unknown quantity to me, even when I was writing him. That was until we saw and spoke to John, and actually he informed the character of Grover, which was useful. In James’ case, we instantly saw the rawness that he brings to the role. We always talked about the character needing to be somebody who you’d be slightly nervous of, but who you’d want to mother a bit. And that’s an incredibly difficult quality to have.
Sarah: One of the things that I am keen to do is get more production in Scotland and take advantage of the incredible talent both behind the screen and on screen here. On screen we have international world-class talent like Kelly Macdonald and John Hannah, which is completely wonderful. We are also going to be showcasing the talent of some those emerging stars – the stars of tomorrow.
What interested you in The Victim and why is it different to other courtroom dramas?
Kelly: When I read the scripts there was so much drama there, and that was exciting. During an episode your loyalties will be shifting and moving; it’ll keep everyone on their toes. It’s not a courtroom drama, although there is a lot of that in there. It’s about family dynamics, it’s a mystery and it’s a thriller, but it’s grounded and real. It takes one tragic event and shows the domino effect on so many people. It’s basically about two families, good and bad. Nothing is black and white – it’s almost Shakespearean.
John: When I first read the script it came across like one of those dramatised documentaries that are quite prevalent at the moment. As we go through the four hours people’s opinions will change.
James: The story basically is about a hard-working family man accused of killing a child when he was a child. Again, you don’t know if it was him or it wasn’t, but it’s more focused on the fact of the smear campaign, and how hard it is for someone’s life to be completely turned upside down – and also for the accuser. She’s determined to find answers. She’s looking everywhere she can, and trying everything she can to get them. It’s a story of determination, I think.
Rob: When I was thinking about the idea for The Victim, I decided that I would like to set the series in Scotland, because there are subtle but quite large differences in the way the Scottish legal system works compared to the English legal system. Finding a vehicle to explore the difference between the human need for justice and the law’s need for a black and white resolution – alongside a real desire to write something people talk about and disagree about – coalesced. I would describe The Victim as a courtroom drama, but also a crime drama and a relationship drama. It is hopefully universal, in as much as it seeks to explore the effect of a crime not just those directly involved, but also the people who are indirectly affected by it. It’s a thriller with a big question at the heart of it, but it’s also, essentially, a character-driven piece about the lasting effect of crime. Put simply: as a mother who has lost a child in horrific circumstances, what would you do if you simply couldn’t move past that? How far would you go to feel that some justice had been done? And alongside that, how would you feel if you were accused of something so grievous without any evidence, knowing full well how difficult it is to prove you haven’t done something?
What can viewers expect from The Victim?
Kelly: I think it’s a compelling mystery. I’m hoping that viewers will want to find out what the truth is.
John: I think people will have a gut reaction to it and then they’ll find themselves questioning that. It’ll be a game of four halves!
James: It’s about legal proceedings, but this is a completely different story to any that has been told before; it’s unique and it stands on its own. It’s definitely something you can come back to and watch two or three times and see it in different ways. What I believe is, the audience will invest in those characters from the beginning – because they both have powerful stories -and will want to go on a journey with them, because they care about their fates and care about how the things are going to unfold.
Sarah: There’s one fantastically big question running through the whole show, which is whether Craig Myers is really Eddie J Turner. And that’s a question that I hope will drive viewers to the end of the show. It’s a story that works on many levels: it works on the level of genre, in the sense that each episode has a fantastic cliffhanger. It leaves the audience in a different place at the end of each episode from where they started, in unexpected and surprising ways.
Rob: It’s the characters. It’s Kelly Macdonald as Anna. It’s James Harkness as Craig. It’s John Hannah as Grover and the wider cast who are just fantastic, and we will want to know more about their stories. They’ve all got stories that we will come to care about quickly and will want to come back to see what happens to them. By the end of the series, we’ll be able to look at each character and say their life was changed that day by that act, and things were never the same again.