Like many of us, actress Emily Watson can distinctly remember her whereabouts on July 7, 2005, when suicide bombers co-ordinated attacks across London, killing 52 people and injuring more than 700.
“I was at home in London, heavily pregnant with my first child, about to go and get the tube,” recalls the 48-year-old, who’s known for her roles in Angela’s Ashes, Gosford Park and, most recently, A Royal Night Out.
“We turned on the radio and heard there’d been an incident. I remember so much confusion and then the chilling moment when the bus explosion came. A ‘power surge’ became ‘London was under attack’ [at first, the explosions were thought to be down to a power fault, before the full horrifying picture emerged].”
Although Watson, who has two children with her actor husband Jack Waters, wasn’t “directly affected” by the devastating attacks on the capital’s public transport system, she felt a “call of duty” to accept the role of a grieving mother in A Song For Jenny, which retells one of the heart-rending tragedies from the fateful day.
The standalone drama, which marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks, is based on the memoir by Julie Nicholson, whose 24-year-old daughter Jenny was killed in the bomb blast at Edgware Road tube station.
Adapted by the Irish playwright Frank McGuinness, who spent the best part of four years writing and caring for the script, it captures the twist of fate that saw Jenny take the Circle line that day and traces her mother’s response, from the moment she hears about the attacks to the news that her daughter is missing, and then the confirmation that Jenny is among the dead.
“Obviously, there are many stories |from that day. Each unique,” remarks Watson, who was born and raised in the capital.
“Julie is a natural storyteller, and very significantly, a priest who lost her child to what purported to be, however twisted, a religiously motivated act. Her religious faith was very shaken and she’s no longer a priest.
“And though in honouring her daughter she drove herself to the edge, staring into a dark abyss, ultimately she chose humanity, and chose love over hatred.”
Nicholson has watched an early screening of the drama, and notes: “I felt like I had Jenny back again for a while, but then of course, I had to lose her all over again.
“The scenes with Jenny and her sister and brother were funny and joyous. It was very poignant watching my father, uncle and aunt, who are no longer here, and I felt the film captured all the relationships so well.”
“I wept, of course, I think from beginning to end. I feel that something very beautiful has been created, a painfully bittersweet gift, but nonetheless, a gift.”
A Song For Jenny, BBC1, Sunday, July 5, 9pm