Interview with Rachael New: Romance, Rivals, and Revelations
Miss Scarlet and The Duke creator, writer, and executive producer Rachael New chatted with MASTERPIECE about all things Season 3, from romance, to rivals, and digging deeper with some surprising characters. Read on to find out what New thinks of the Arabella, Duke, and Eliza triangle, the ever budding friendship between Eliza and Nash, and one of her all-time favorite shows that just happens to have a certain Scarlet star or two in it!
What was it like writing and filming Seasons 2 and 3 back to back?
It was very exciting! I mean, obviously that’s everyone’s dream to have not just one season, but two seasons commissioned. Especially as a writer, it doesn’t get much better than that. From that point of view, it was great. It also meant that I knew that we would be spending time in the Scarlet world for longer, which was amazing.
It took an awful lot of organization, particularly when we were moving from Ireland to Belgrade [for filming], as well. So it was sort of the double whammy of writing the 12 episodes [Seasons 2 and 3 combined], but also moving location, finding all of the production staff…
I had my writing partner, Ben Edwards and Ben and I wrote all of Season 2 and Season 3. It was full on. It felt like quite a mountain to climb, but it was a fun, exciting mountain.
This season we met someone from Eliza’s past who she’s not so thrilled to see, again. Can you tell us a little bit about Arabella?
Arabella came from Season 1, Episode 1, when we saw flashbacks to young Eliza. [Eliza’s] been kind of bullied at school and Arabella Herbert is mentioned then to her father. So it was really nice when Ben and I were story-lining and just thinking about, you know, if we brought a love [rival] in for Eliza, who could that be? And it was just perfect to go, “What about the girl from school? You know, the popular girl from school that comes back.” The show always works best, I think, when we are thinking in character terms. So rather than just have a random woman turn up, to actually have [someone] as a personal insult to Eliza…that double whammy was really nice to have.
In terms of how her character impacts the story, it’s interesting, because I think to the audience, she’s not dislikable. Some of the audience will think she’s not particularly likable, but some will find her quite fun. She’s a woman who is trying to — like Eliza — make her business work. So we do have that sympathy and empathy for her.
And to be fair on her, she doesn’t know Eliza has feelings for Duke. What I like about that storyline is part of me wanted the audience to feel sorry for Eliza or resonate with Eliza, but I also wanted them to think, well, you are not making a move, you are not doing anything about this relationship. So I think Arabella coming on the scene really… shows what a dilemma [Eliza’s] in, internally.
Can you tell us more about that Episode 3 moment between Eliza and Nash at the Hotel St Marc, and what made him decide to trust her with the truth about his past?
That episode’s very special to me because that’s the episode I directed, which I really, really love doing. And it was really nice for me because Felix Scott is such a brilliant actor, and having him and Kate together, it was so much fun. We filmed the scene with him talking about his brother, and they’re handcuffed to the pipes in the hotel basement. We really were in the basement! It was a great location.
It’s a beautifully written episode written by Ben Edwards. It really peels back the onion of Nash, and it is slightly left ambiguous. I think most people will kind of go, “He’s telling the truth,” but there’s still that moment [where you wonder] can she trust him? You never really know with him. He is a player and he’s an opportunist. But it was very moving, that scene, because Felix did play it beautifully. And even Eliza at the end of that scene is thinking, “Well, have I been too harsh with him? You know, maybe I need to kind of trust him a bit more.” And so from that moment, this friendship does start to develop and we see that moving into Season 4 as well. They’ve got quite a complex relationship. He is a really interesting character to write for, he’s one of my favorites.
With Eliza and William, there’s obviously still some feelings there, and their will they, won’t they dance keeps turning. Can you talk about their Season 3 journey?
It’s complicated, as usual. And we want to keep it complicated because we want to keep the freshness there and we want to give them obstacles and to give that kind of lovely drama bubbling between them.
They are getting to a place where they are used to working together more. They’re more equal, I think. He is accepting that she’s not going to give up her her business. He’s having to almost flick a switch in his brain to go, you know, whatever he thought that they could be in Season 2, it’s either not going to happen right now or it’s going to take some time. But in the meantime, we still have this lovely, bubbling, will they, won’t they between them. I feel like there’s more tenderness between them in this season. We’ve still got that lovely bicker and banter, but it just feels like an even deeper connection with them. They’ve both got their problems to deal with.
He desperately wants this to work with Arabella. She would make him probably quite happy. She would give him the home that he would want. She would cook, she’s a great cook. If you put on paper what Arabella would be like as a wife, and what Eliza would be as a wife, [Arabella] would probably be the one to give him that traditional life that a 19th century man would want.
But nevertheless, he still has this burning passion for Eliza and he’s still in love with Eliza, and that’s not going to go anywhere. It’s kind of bittersweet journey for them in Season 3.
Who do you think is more reluctant to show their feelings between the two of them?
Oh, that’s such a good question. I think possibly [Eliza]. I feel like they’re both as reluctant as each other, but maybe in slightly different ways, because I think for him, it’s about showing that vulnerability. He would struggle. He’s a very proud kind of alpha male of his time with her. For her, I think it’s more fear because she knows that once she commits to that, she has to give an awful lot up. It would be very, very unlikely that [they’d continue working], as married women at that time, they would give up their jobs. They just wouldn’t work unless they were very poor. It would be so frowned upon socially for a professional man to be married to a working woman. It just would be very strange for anyone to get their head round.
I’m not saying that wouldn’t happen, should they get together, but it would be really complicated for them and it particularly for her. So I think there’s a fear there of what the expectations of her life would be, how they would shift if she were to sort of admit her feelings and for things to progress with them.
What do you get asked most about by fans of the show?
I think the, the biggest thing with fans is when are they going to kiss. No one really seems to talks about the crimes! You know, we spend a lot of time on the crime of the week, and it’s just about the love affair [for the audience]. The fans are more engaged in the dynamics of all the relationships. So Eliza and Ivy, Eliza and Moses, people love Duke and Fitzroy, people love Fitzroy and Phelps.
I think mostly people are wanting to know what’s going to happen with the will they, won’t they. I generally end up saying, watch this space. It it is one of those things…it is a slow burn and it is one of those very complicated relationships. And I want to make the most of that. I want to really explore it in all its difficult glory.
Do you have a favorite mystery author or mystery film, television show, etc., that inspired you?
It’s really strange. I love writing mystery. I love writing like the detective strands, and I sort of found a little niche with my writing career. I seemed to stumble into those kinds of shows, and and I really do enjoy them, which is where Miss Scarlet and The Duke ended up coming from. I’ve just seen there’s another Happy Valley on, which I thought was absolutely brilliant. But I don’t really have any particular favorite crime authors which sounds a very, very boring reply.
I do love costume dramas and I love anything Austen, I’m a mad Austen fan. In terms of like crime, I love all those the big American shows. I loved The Wire, and I loved Breaking Bad. That, to me, was astonishing. I love that show.
I don’t have much time to read at the moment, but when I wrap after February, I intend to do catch up with a lot reading. The last book I read was the Wolf Hall trilogy by Hillary Mantel. I just thought that she was a genius. They are a whole new level. When I was reading them, there were so many lines in there which I kept rereading. It was like poetry. It was just beautiful. Wolf Hall was one of my favorite of the last decade. Wolf Hall was my favorite show. I must have watched it six or seven times. Kate was in Wolf Hall, actually, and Felix was, as well.