A feel-good period drama, BBC One’s The Paradise is set in the very first department store in England in the late 19th century. While ostensibly about the day-to-day operation of the store, the series is in fact a love-story which is very loosely based on the novel The Ladies Paradise by French novelist Émile Zola and was developed for television by Bill Gallagher.
When the first season of The Paradise aired last year, the series drew a lot of comparisons to ITV’s Mr Selfridge, which is another period drama about the first department store. Per the BBC, The Paradise had been in development long before ITV announced they were developing a drama series based on the book Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge and to avoid a clash of schedules, BBC One rushed to get the series, which is produced in-house, on air by the end of 2012. The move, though admittedly a risky one as the series hadn’t completed filming when episode one began airing, proved to be successful; with The Paradise averaging a consolidated audience of 5.7 million viewers and quickly earning a second season renewal.
The Paradise is set to return to BBC One at the end of the month for its 8 episode second season, which is set a year after the events depicted in the show’s first season, and will see the arrival of several new characters. Series star Elaine Cassidy – an accomplished actress whose previous credits include Felicia’s Journey and the CBS drama series Harper’s Island – who plays Katherine Glendenning, the pampered daughter of banker Lord Glendenning and former love interest of James Moray, was kind enough to spare some time from her busy schedule to talk to us about season 2, Katherine’s new husband (played by Ben Daniels), what she has in store for Moray and Denise & more.
TVWise: You play Katherine Glendenning on The Paradise. What can you tell us about the character?
Elaine Cassidy: Katherine is definitely not someone to be messed with. She is not the type of person who turns the other cheek, instead she will seek revenge, 10 times over. She’s smart, manipulative, strong, focused and passionate.
TVWise: What was it that attracted you to the role?
Elaine Cassidy: I think it was because she is SO different to me (thank God). There is never a dull moment with her. There is always drama wherever she goes. I don’t think she would know what to do with herself if things were serene, oh yeah I do, she’d create chaos out of nothing. It’s all she knows.
TVWise: The series is actually based on a novel by Émile Zola, did you feel you needed to read that novel as a way to prepare for the role?
Elaine Cassidy: Yes I read the novel, but our show is very loosely based on Emile Zola’s book. Infact, it doesn’t even share the same name (The LADIES Paradise). Just before we started filming the first series they decided to take out the ‘Ladies’ and call our show ‘The Paradise’. I think the only similarities between the book and the TV show is that it is based around the first ever department store in a city. The book is based in France and most of the characters in the TV programme don’t appear in the book. I think it was just a starting point for Bill Gallagher (writer/creator/executive producer) to create the world he wanted and to tell the story that he wanted to tell.
TVWise: Throughout the first series Moray and Katherine’s relationship was so fraught. He was almost constantly pushing her away but she wouldn’t give up on him. What’s the attraction there?
Elaine Cassidy: Certainly not a healthy one, but Katherine can’t see that because she is too close and too immersed in the relationship. In Moray Katherine sees power, intelligence, creativity, command, defiance, determination, tenacity, charisma and this attracts her to him. She wants him. And what Katherine Glendenning wants (now Weston), she gets.
TVWise: Katherine is a very interesting character. Initially she comes across as this soft, very privileged woman, but towards the end of series one we start to see a darker side to her – with her threatening to destroy Moray by taking away The Paradise if Denise doesn’t stay away, for example. Given how it all ended, will we get to see more of that side of Katherine? Will she follow through on the threat? Presumably she’s far from done with Moray and Denise.
Elaine Cassidy: Series 2 has been a really interesting journey for Katherine and one that I’ve really enjoyed playing. She is still the same person so there is no way that she will forgive and forget for being jilted at the alter so publicly. There is still fight in Katherine, but she’s more of a wounded animal this year. Having said that, she has a goal, and that goal is to make Moray and Denise suffer at all costs.
TVWise: As I understand it, there’s a bit of a time jump between series one and series two and when we come back Katherine’s already found herself a new husband, Tom Weston (Ben Daniels). What can you tell us about that character? Has Katherine found happiness with her new husband or is she still hung up on Moray?
Elaine Cassidy: Yes, there is a time jump. It is more in keeping with real time, as it was a year ago that the show was aired. Tom Weston is a former soldier and he fit the bill to be eligible to marry Katherine. He was of the right social standing with achievements in battle. He is widowed, his wife died about 10 years ago. I’m not sure if Katherine has found happiness (would she ever?) but she’s certainly met her match. They have a turbulent, supportive, passionate, dysfunctional relationship. But it seems to work. Two crazy nuts together!!
TVWise: That character is played by Ben Daniels – who’s just recently been on Netflix’s House of Cards – what was it like working with him?
Elaine Cassidy: An absolute joy! He made this experience so enjoyable. He’s such a giggler. I loved ALL my scenes with him. He’s a brilliant actor and a real treat to be around.
TVWise: So what else can viewers expect from series two of The Paradise?
Elaine Cassidy: More of the same but meatier. If you liked series 1, you’ll LOVE series 2, me thinks!
TVWise: Do you have any other exciting projects on the horizon that you can tell us about?
Elaine Cassidy: I did a film a while ago in New Orleans called The Loft directed by Erik Van Looey which will be coming out at some point. It’s a remake of a Belgium film, with the same title and by the same director, but this time set in America. Also, I’m going to be starting a very exciting project in November which I can’t yet talk about due to confidentiality. I guess after all the secrecy on Harper’s Island you’d think I’d be used to it.
Elaine Cassidy plays Lady Katherine Glendenning in The Paradise. The second season will air this October on BBC One.