The trial of a criminal is not often explored, but new C4 docu-drama THE TRIAL: A MURDER IN THE FAMILY does this, and also adds a fascinating twist! The crime is fictional but the judge, barristers and twelve-person jury are totally genuine. In fact, the only actors are the accused and some of the witnesses.
Performing as the accused is actor MICHAEL GOULD. He says the show interested him, “It has the reality of a documentary and the twists of a drama. I found it thrilling to make. A lot of people have done jury service and I can imagine them comparing this to their own experiences.”
The Trial follows Simon Davis, accused of strangling his wife Carla to death. “Simon is a family man, an academic. Maybe he lives in his head, but that’s not to say he isn’t loving, kind, compassionate or capable of strong emotions.” In a press interview with Channel 4, he added the character was "Obsessive. Quick to anger. Methodical. Cerebral. Kind. A good father. A caring person… He’s a good teacher who cares about young people in trouble and will go the extra mile for them."
So why is he a suspect? “Simon was the first person on the scene and he called the emergency services.”
Meanwhile the series aims to make the jury think about the crime, "I think it would have been incredibly hard to be on this jury. As part of the programme, the jurors are seen deliberating – a process usually shrouded in secrecy - but also interviewed about their personal thoughts and feelings. They were brilliant – rigorous, candid and honest."
Once the jury have delivered their verdict in the series' finale, we and the jury themselves will find out what really happened. "The fascinating thing is that they will find out if the verdict was right. Has a guilty man walked free? Has an innocent man gone to prison? That is something you can never be sure of in real life."
Expect our justice system to be put into full scrutiny, “Ordinary men and women are listening to arguments and counter arguments and have to make a major decision. I don’t think anyone can be completely confident that the legal system will always get it right, that is why there are so many dramas set in and around courts.”
For Gould, writer Sarah Quintrell did a great job, “She wrote the story of the case and drafted biographies for all the characters. It was our job to make living human beings capable of withstanding the forensic curiosity of the court.”
He continued, “The rehearsal process with Sarah, Kath Mattock, Nick Holt (the directors) and Roxanna Silbert (rehearsal director) was to ensure every actor could stand with confidence on the witness stand. Crucial moments were improvised and developed.”
The English actor has appeared in top shows including Ashes to Ashes, Silent Witness and The Bill. With that experience, how much research was needed? “I wanted to be spontaneous as possible; I sought to know as much as Simon would have. I did Google the barristers, once I knew who was doing it. Simon preferred to make his judgement on people and institutions when in direct contact with them.”
As for the future, Gould is busy on another Channel 4 show. “I am currently filming Man Down with Greg Davies. I will also be filming a BBC TV drama.”
Michael Gould spoke to Telly Binge in May 2017. The Trial: A Murder In The Family debuts on Channel 4, Sunday 21 May at 9PM. Get updates on Michael by following him on Twitter.