Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Honourable Woman.
Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Honourable Woman. Des Willie

Maggie Gyllenhaal leads strong female cast in new BBC drama

FILM star Maggie Gyllenhaal chose a one-off BBC drama as her first foray into television.

The Dark Knight star plays Nessa Stein, a woman who inherits her father's arms business and finds herself in an international maelstrom as she continues to promote Israeli and Palestinian reconciliation.

Broadchurch's Andrew Buchan stars opposite Gyllenhaal as her brother Ephra.

"Maggie adapted brilliantly coming from the dizzy heights of Hollywood and film to little old BBC Two," Buchan told The Guide.

"She was just an absolute consummate professional. She was beautifully focused and driven and generous. She just gave her soul to the project right from the word go. She was just a joy to act with."

The eight-part political thriller, premiering tomorrow on Foxtel's BBC First channel, was created by acclaimed British TV writer Hugo Blick, best known for The Shadow Line.

"(An email from) Hugo doesn't drop into your inbox every day of the week, so when he does it sends quite a shockwave," Buchan said.

"It's an incredible script. I hadn't read anything quite like it before. It was something approaching a masterpiece I felt when I read it.

"There are 95 different characters within it, and what was also quite beautiful and rare was it's a very strong female piece. The female characters in it are wonderful, and there are so many of them. They really do drive it."

Ephra and Nessa were forced to take over the family business at a young age after witnessing their father's assassination.

"They have to take on this huge weight, this huge burden, at quite a young age," he said.

"They have to adapt so quickly. There's a lot of growing up to do in a short space of time and that shows at times, particularly with Ephra.

"He's a very broken, fractured, tormented soul. The only person he can turn to is his sister, who is often in the public eye. It's very hard for them to find a minute together, and in that minute confide in each other.

"There are so many walls to break down before they can get to that one single bit of earnestness or truth. It's a huge journey that they have to go on as siblings."

The Honourable Woman debuts tomorrow at 8.30pm on BBC First.

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