Jill Halfpenny knows her character’s actions will alienate viewers of hard-hitting new BBC1 drama Dark Money.
And the former EastEnders and Waterloo Road star says she wouldn’t have it any other way in a tale that, although fictional, has a shocking ring of truth to it.
She plays Sam Mensah, mum of young Isaac, who lands a role in a Hollywood film but comes back to reveal that he was abused by the producer.
The shattered family – her husband Manny is played by Babou Ceesay – decide to take a pay-off to help build a new life but find the damage runs deep and the price of staying silent may be too high.
“I relate to how Sam feels, like she’s going slightly mad, because everyone around her seems to be reacting in a way that doesn’t make sense to her,” says Jill.
“I also relate to her in the fact that she makes some very questionable decisions.
“I think that I’ve made questionable decisions in my life because I’m human, we all do.
“I like it when characters are messy and I don’t like the idea of two people being in a relationship where one person is really sensible and the other isn’t.
“Hopefully, with Sam and Manny, there’s richness as there are some things Sam does that viewers will be shocked about, and rightly so. I’ve never been in that position and I never want to be, but she’s very human. So I relate to people that mess up and are full of shame and guilt and remorse, but are also full of fight.”
Detailing the agonies the family suffer was another of the things that appealed to Jill about the four-part drama.
“What attracted me was letting the audience see, moment by moment, what those people go through,” she says.
“Not just those things that we see on TV when someone walks out of a law court and is really happy or really sad.
“Let’s go all the way back to the very beginning and show the devastation that happens.”
Jill has a wealth of TV experience, including Corrie, In The Club and Liar, but she says she loved the sheer fun and enthusiasm of the youthful cast.
“Because the script is heavy and intense, they need that sense of fun,” adds Jill. “They’d giggle and get told off and then we’d giggle with them – and then blame it on them.
“It’s just the usual things you get up to but I always liked having them around, they’re just really, really good.
“It’s not about babying someone because they’re under 16, it’s about respecting the material and what we have to do.”
Dark Money, BBC1, Monday, 9pm