Michelle Dockery, a four-time lead actress Emmy nominee for her performance as Lady Mary Crawley on PBS’ “Downton Abbey” and for the Netflix Western miniseries “Godless,” takes on a role that might be called a mother’s worst nightmare on the crime miniseries “Defending Jacob.” The Apple TV+ program is based on the best-selling book by William Landay about a married couple whose 14-year-old son is charged with a stabbing death of a classmate who was bullying him.
The British actress says, “For some reason for the last few years I’ve been playing Americans much more. I enjoy it. I enjoy doing the accent.” As she started to read the first three or four episode “Defending Jacob” scripts, she was hooked. She says, “I thought this is going to be a tough challenge. And I do like a challenge. I was so enthralled by the journey of the family and what they’re all going through as a result of this tragedy.”
In a scene where her wife and mother Laurie, who is wed to Andy Barber (Chris Evans), an assistant district attorney in Newton, Massachusetts, starts to doubt her son’s innocence at a meeting with a psychiatrist while her husband becomes more convinced Jacob didn’t do it, “I thought all of this is getting really juicy now.”
She believes that “the show really touches on universal emotions of family and parents and children. I think that all parents out there will relate on some level. They’ll see traces of their hopes and anxieties in Andy and Laurie. I thought that was really interesting. I think we’re fascinated by human behavior, aren’t we? How well do you know your family? And how far would you go to protect them?”
By the end of the series, Laurie is truly put through the wringer emotionally and physically as she suddenly learns that Andy’s father (J.K. Simmons) is serving a long prison sentence after killing and raping a woman when her husband was just a boy. The notion of a murder gene comes into play as it might exist in Jacob (Jaeden Martell). Dockery also had to jog in 100-degree heat as her character thinks she is being chased down by a strange man in a car and endures an devastating encounter in a grocery store.
There are few light moments in “Defending Jacob,” but there were some pleasures to be had for Dockery, especially the beautiful interior of the Barber family home with a spacious kitchen, a massive island, two sinks and tasteful decor. “Laurie is an art major and obviously has great taste and there was great artwork around the house.” When filming wrapped, “I asked for a few of the prints, which I have in my home now.”
Dockery goes on to speak about how well the citizens of Newton treated the cast and crew, how she enjoyed spending time in the Boston area since her father is Irish and if there will be a second big-screen “Downton Abbey” movie after the first gathered almost $200 million worldwide at the box office.
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