The long-awaited prequel to ‘Prime Suspect’ debuts tonight on ITV, and its star Stefanie Martini warns us we’ll be seeing lots of casual everyday sexism that viewers will no doubt bristle at, just as her character, young Jane Tennison, does visibly.
Stefanie tells HuffPostUK:
“She doesn’t like it, but she has to put up with a lot of it. It’s there but no one comments on it, it’s just normal, it’s not outrageous to be expected to make a cup of tea just because you’re a woman.
“In 1973, when women got accepted into different academies, they’d be branded on their bare bums the stamp of the station – could you get away with that now? Not at all. I wasn’t surprised at the level of sexism, but I was taken aback by how the women dealt with it and got what they wanted without coming across as too aggressive.
“Jane has to just work extra hard and has to be much smarter than everyone else. What we see is her concentrating on the case, not how people are treating her. In that era, if you’d come up against that with aggression, it wouldn’t have got you anywhere. A female police advisor told me how you had to laugh through it, and be really clever. “
Stefanie admits she’s anxious about the response to her portrayal of the much-loved Jane Tennison.
She tells HuffPostUK:
“Of course I am (nervous). It’s a well-loved character and Helen Mirren’s portrayal is amazing, and that’s scary, but it’s got to be my own thing.
“I’ve just done my best, I’ve brought myself to it, my own interpretation.
“I wouldn’t have this opportunity if it wasn’t for the original show, so I feel honoured, but I’ve got to see it as a separate thing I’m working on, because otherwise I’d go mad.”
The prequel is set in 1973, the very first year women were trusted to do the same job as their menfolk in the police force. Young Jane is fresh out of police training, and a very different character from the confident, status-assured woman we met with Helen Mirren in 1991, and followed through seven major cases.
“She has all the book knowledge, but none of the real knowledge,” is Stefanie’s take on the younger version. “She’s fresh-faced, naïve, doesn’t really know what she’s doing, just full of good intentions. So they’re in very different positions when it comes to status, Jane is right at the bottom, starting out, finding her feet. Very different people.”
However, it seems those character traits so admired in Helen Mirren’s portrayal will see their acorns sown in Stefanie’s.
“There are definite hints of what’s to come. She starts to realise that’s not how everything works and she has to be tougher. And there is already an inner resilience about her, which will be familiar.”
No word from Dame Helen, but she’s not involved in the project. She released a statement that she supports it and she likes that young women get to see what it’s like back then.
‘Prime Suspect 1973’ begins tonight on ITV at 9pm.