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Vicky McClure’s experience of coercive control helped her prepare for new TV drama

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Hollie Richardson
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Vicky McClure

Vicky McClure has discussed her experiences of being in a coercive relationship, and explained how they helped her to prepare for her next role in I Am Nicola

Ever since Line of Duty finished earlier this year, there’s been a Vicky McClure-shaped hole in our TV schedules. So, we’re relieved that her new TV drama starts tonight (Tuesday 23 July) at 10 pm. 

I Am is Channel 4’s new three-part drama anthology series, directed by Bafta-winning writer and director Dominic Savage.

Bafta-winning McClure takes the lead role in the opening episode, I Am Nicola. Oscar-nominated Samantha Morton (The Walking Dead) stars in the second installment, I Am Kirsty. And Gemma Chan (Humans) stars in the series finale, I Am Hannah.

The stories for each film have been developed in partnership with the leading actors, with themes including relationships, identity and empowerment. The trilogy explores the experience of three women in moments that are emotionally raw, thought-provoking and very personal.

The debut film, I Am Nicola, tells the story of a woman searching for a romantic ideal: Nicola (McClure) wants the perfect relationship, but finds herself stuck in a dysfunctional and coercive relationship.

Ahead of the show, McClure has now revealed how her own experiences affected her performance. 

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“What I love about what we’ve created here, and what Dominic has allowed us to create is, somewhat, the mundane,” she told Channel 4 News anchor Cathy Newman.

“There’s no murder, there’s no great big drama - it’s just two people living in a house trying to make a relationship work with issues. And we have all faced them in our lives, or will face them.”

Asked if would say that she’d been controlled in a past relationship, McClure added: “Yeah, I would. And I think sometimes you allow it because you don’t really see it happening. That’s half the battle.

“And then you get to a point where you think ‘oh actually I’m not really doing what I really want to do’. I’m very lucky to have a loving fiancé now, who lets me fly, and I let him fly.”

She then continued to explain why she thinks the number of coercive control cases has dropped since it became illegal in 2015, saying: “If anybody’s in that situation, it’s not something they’ve researched before they’ve got into it.

“And nine times out of ten you don’t really want to discuss it with anybody because you’re embarrassed or ashamed. And it’s very isolating. So, you have to report it.”

Watch the trailer for I Am 

Here’s a breakdown of the three epsiodes:

I Am Nicola 

Nicola is a hairdresser who begins to tire of her daily routine of listening to her clients gush about special occasions, engagements and exciting holiday plans. Her life feels lacklustre in comparison and when she expresses this to her partner, Adam (Perry Fitzpatrick), he takes her dissatisfaction personally. Nicola is so caught up in seeking her dream that she fails to notice her dark and complicated reality. Nicola and Adam become trapped in an endless cycle of arguments, guilt and reconciliation. Condensing the lifespan of a couple down to its most pivotal moments, I Am Nicola is a powerful and intimate look at relationships.

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I Am Kirsty 

Kirsty is a single mother of two who is fighting to keep her family stable in a precarious world – and the sacrifices she has to make to survive. When Kirsty (Morton) is left with spiralling debts by her ex-partner who has vanished, she meets a neighbour, Ryan (Paul Kaye), who offers to help her out of the hole she is in. All is not as it seems, forcing Kirsty into some dark and desperate decisions; an abyss with seemingly no way out. I Am Kirsty is a raw and unflinching look at a dark world - a world that many women have been pulled into without realising, and have fought tirelessly to escape.

“Kirsty’s story is deeply influenced by my own experiences and is autobiographical at its heart,” said Morton. Sadly, the issues explored in this show – poverty, austerity, desperation - are all too real for so many people and I feel strongly that it’s so important that we can speak openly about that.” 

Gemma Chan
Channel 4’s I Am: Crazy Rich Asians star Gemma Chan also leads an episode

I Am Hannah

Starring Gemma Chan, I Am Hannah tells the story of a woman in her mid-thirties who struggles to satisfy the societal expectations that surround her. Hannah (Chan) has reached a crossroads in her life. She is single and has a successful career. Yet she’s hungry for freedom to make her own choices and is hesitant of getting tied-down. She must endure her mother’s appeal to start a family before it’s too late, while watching her friends settle down and have children. Searching for meaning Hannah goes on a series of dates which ultimately push her into a deeper sense of insecurity and anguish. After a disastrous blind date, she hopes to find love and trust in James (Arinze Kene) but has to decide if they have a future together. Hannah faces impediments both within and out of her control, and is confronted by a crisis of aspiration and identity.

“Like many women I know, Hannah is struggling with the anxiety that comes with living in a society that constantly reminds women about their ‘biological clock’,” said Chan. “At its core, her story is about someone trying to free themselves from expectation, both internal and external.”

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