Everything about Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, eh?

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco: Rachael Stirling on Millie’s upcoming revelation and filming in Canada

When asked if she’s ever been to Canada before this year, British actress Rachael Stirling is quick to say no. And then she pauses for a moment.

“Oh, yes!” she corrects. “I spent one night, an overnight in Toronto with Jonny Lee Miller.”

It’s not what it sounds like. Stirling and the Elementary star were simply working on different projects with the same production company and had a layover on the way to the U.S.

“We went inside the interior of a pool bar—or many pool bars,” she laughs.

That particular night in The Great White North might be a bit hazy in Stirling’s mind, but she got a proper introduction to the country when she filmed The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco in Vancouver this spring, and it was a much more memorable experience.

“The whole thing was an absolute joy,” she says. “Canada looked after us beautifully when we were there.”

Stirling, who phones us from London, played Millie on the 2012-2014 U.K. series The Bletchley Circle, which focused on a group of former Second World War codebreakers who use their skills to solve crimes in 1950s England. In the new spin-off, Millie and Jean—played by Stirling’s fellow original series castmember Julie Graham—follow a murder mystery to San Francisco and form a new codebreaking circle with Iris (Crystal Balint) and Hailey (Chanelle Peloso). After the initial crime is solved, both Brits decide to stay and build new lives in the Bay Area, and more mysteries come their way. 

Stirling says she had no qualms about flying to Canada to reprise her role—”I’d just had a baby, I had no time to have any reservations,” she laughs—but it was “an odd thing not to be able to see a script before you sign on. They weren’t all finished.”

However, that script delay ended up giving her the opportunity to influence the growth of her character once production began.

“I think by the end of the show, we really enjoyed the kind of communication [that occurred] between execs and us and our beautiful showrunner Michael MacLennan,” Stirling notes. “It became a symbiotic sort of thing, where we collaborated increasingly, and I very much enjoyed that process.”

Stirling says that Canadian television shoots at a much quicker pace than it does in the UK. This led to a nightly “kick bollocks scramble” known as the “Bletchley Blitz,” where the cast and crew attempted to film the last scene of the day in a short amount of time—often through fits of fatigue-induced giggles. But that breakneck speed exposed the professionalism and “Canadian can-do” that was present on the set.

“It was so different from filming in England,” Stirling marvels. “There feels, to me, like there’s less of a hierarchy on set. Because a script editor can turn into a director. And indeed one of our best directors, Alexandra La Roche, started off as a script editor, and another director had been a [director of photography], David Frazee. I really enjoyed that work ethic. Everyone seems to understand a little bit more about what the other person is trying to do.”

If shooting in Canada was an enjoyable change of pace for Stirling, she believes moving the show’s setting from London to San Francisco was also invigorating for the series.

“I think it’s less dark by virtue that we’re in the California sunshine, and we replicated that pretty beautifully,” she explains. “And there’s something hopeful in the palate of this show. Something a bit more sparkly. It takes itself just as seriously, but I think it’s more fun. There are more hijinks involved. It’s just joyous and a bit more waggily-tailed and a bit less spectacled.”

Another change between the original series and the spin-off is the amount of time dedicated to character growth.

“What I loved about the San Francisco version is that the characters are slightly more interrogated as the show goes along,” Stirling says. “Whereas, the first two [seasons], you had a bit less room to find out who the women were and see how they relate to each other outside of the crime scenes.”

Viewers will particularly get to know more about Millie and Hailey in upcoming Episodes 5 and 6, “Not Cricket” and “Iron in War (written by MacLennan and Daegan Fryklind, respectively, and directed by La Roche),” when the codebreakers try to crack the patterns behind a series of vicious assaults in the city.

“You learn a lot about [Millie’s] history, and there were always certain things in the previous show that were supposed by viewers, and we address that in terms of where she’s been and who she’s been with and where she sees herself in society,” she hints. “It’s a real revelation.”

Stirling says she’d be willing to jet back to Vancouver for another season of Bletchley, so long as her husband, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey (who makes a late-season cameo), and their young son, Jack, can come along like they did this spring. “We were all able to just go together as a family, and I really relished that,” she says.

She also believes that it’s important for the stories to continue to be top-notch because she’s protective of Bletchley‘s characters.

“You just want something to be as good as it can possibly be and not take your eye off the ball,” Stirling says. “That’s how I feel about these women. I want to look after them as best we can.”

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Omnifilm Entertainment

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Comments and queries for the week of October 5

I didn’t think I would like [The Bletchley Circle: San Franscisco] as much as I do. I thought it would be watered down version of the original. But I’m glad to say I’m wrong. It is a great new show. Thanks, A.R.! —John

When and where will we be able to see this in the USA? Thanks. —Debbie

Hi Debbie. The Bletchley Circle is available in the U.S. via BritBox.


I have just finished the second episode of The Great Canadian Baking Show. I am a fan of the British Show which I have been watching for a couple of years now. Could you tell me what the requirements are for getting on this show and how does one go about applying to get on the show? —Barb

Thanks for contacting us. When Season 3 casting is open for Baking Show we’ll let you know.


I enjoy many of the characters on Murdoch Mysteries but the character of William Murdoch attracted me and Yannick Bisson drew me into the show. The episodes featuring others can be interesting but generally are for one-time viewing. Episodes featuring William Murdoch are more powerful, interesting and worth repeat views. —Santa

Julia’s constant changing of specialities, always having to be right and stubbornness is getting old. William is who she fell in love with, but she is constantly berating him for being who he is. Control, not love. Sick of her attitude. —Diana

Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg.david@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.

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The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco: writer Rachel Langer on the challenges of transplanting the show to North America

Imagine that you’re a huge fan of cancelled UK series The Bletchley Circle, and then you find out that, not only is the show being resurrected as The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, but production is being moved from London all the way to Vancouver, where you happen to live. What would you do?

If you’re writer Rachel Langer, you start dropping enthusiastic hints to friends like Daegan Fryklind, who served as consulting executive producer for the new series and wrote the pilot.

“I was in touch with Daegan in the early stages, basically fangirling at every possible moment about the show,” she laughs. “And I made it very clear to Omnifilm Entertainment that I was a huge fan and would love any chance to be a part of it.”

It didn’t require a codebreaker to decipher Langer’s hints, so showrunner Michael MacLennan—who had worked with her on CBC’s This Life and was her mentor at the Canadian Film Centre—quickly brought her on board as a co-producer. But then came the “intense” pressures of bringing the beloved British mystery series to life in North America.

“I was like, ‘Is that gonna work?'” she says.

We phoned Langer to learn more about the challenges involved in moving the show across the pond and what we can look forward to in Friday’s new episode, “Madhouse,” which she wrote.

You said you were a big fan of the original UK series. Did the idea of transplanting it to North America make you at all nervous?
Rachel Langer: I have this compounded fear every time I start working on a show that has an existing property—which at this point, is almost every show. I had worked on a reboot of another series that I had loved when I was younger, so I’m not unfamiliar with the worry that we aren’t going to do it justice, but I felt that really intensely because of how much I love the original Bletchley.

I don’t really know anything about how they make shows in the UK, other than talking to a few writers and producers that I know. But it seems like they don’t do a writers’ room; they just have one person with a very amazing vision. But we don’t do that here, we have a writers’ room. I was like, ‘Is that gonna work?’ And then there was always a concern that we were shooting in Vancouver, but it’s not set in Vancouver. That often works, but this was also done on a low budget, and it’s a period piece, which is hard to make look great on a low budget. But I’m really happy with the way that came together. Everybody involved just brought it to the max to make it look like the best possible version that it could for what we were doing.

And for the story, we had Jake Lushington, who is the producer from the UK [series].  He actually came and sat with us for a few days, and he is one of the most character-devoted producers that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. It was cool to see him say, ‘Yes, here you are nailing the characters. Here’s one thing I can add that you might not have known,’ and really come and work with us that way. But he was really happy with where we had the characters, so I felt like, OK, we’re on the right track if they guy who knows the show inside and out is happy.

What was your approach to blending a lead cast that had two loved and established characters from the original series, Jean (Julie Graham) and Millie (Rachael Stirling) and two characters who were brand new to the audience, Iris (Crystal Balint) and Hailey (Chanelle Peloso)?
RL: We worked really hard to make sure we gave Jean and Millie the voices that they had before but in a new situation. The fact that we were putting them in a situation that was somewhat uncomfortable helped because you can understand that they may say or do things that are a little different from the norm back home because they’re in completely new surroundings. So we had a little bit of leeway there, but we did our best to have them stick to these amazing characters that had been built and presented to us. And then to kind of create foils to that with the other characters was fun because we felt that we had grounding and yet we had room to explore and expand at the same time.

As far as the audience goes, it’s sort of that thing where you can’t worry too much about it in the early stages in the same way that you can’t worry too much about the budget when you’re breaking stories. You do eventually worry about it and pare it back and change locations and make it work, but in the early stages, you really just kind of have to go full bore and not really think about it too much. Otherwise, you just get way too much in your head about how people are going to perceive it. You’ll never please everybody. They’ll always be somebody who hates what you did, who doesn’t think it works or it doesn’t make sense to them. And you hear about it on Twitter and then you just move on.

The last time we spoke with you, you were working on This Life, which was deeply character driven. What’s the difference between writing for a show like that and writing for a plot-driven mystery series like Bletchley?
RL: When I was on This Life, I was like, ‘This is the hardest show I’m ever gonna write!’ And then when I was on Bletchley, I was like, ‘No, this show is the hardest I’m ever gonna write.’ So I think I just feel that way no matter what show I’m on. But in terms of working on a mystery show, which I’ve never done, there’s a special part of the brain that needs to be accessed for red herrings and, for this show, codebreaking. I mean we’re writing for expert codebreakers, and we’re not expert codebreakers, we’re writers. So we did a ton of research, and there’s a unique challenge in making a codebreaking story accessible to an audience who doesn’t break code and needs to understand the story but to also make it seem like these women are experts at what they do. Because they were. We wanted to make sure that everybody knows how brilliant these women are, but we still have to make sure the audience understands at the end of the day how they cracked the code, or at least enough to be happy and satisfied with the story. So that was a huge challenge, and I remember some days just staring out the window down at Seymour Street [in Vancouver], thinking, ‘How are we going to solve this? I just don’t see a way out of this.’

The character stuff I find easier because it’s more intrinsic for me. I come from a place of character first. So I really worked hard to be plot-focused and mystery-focused on this one. And we had a very small room. We only had Daegan for a little bit of time. and then there was just four of us. So when one brain gets tired, there were only three more brains to pick up the slack. So we all worked incredibly hard to make sure we got what we needed.

You wrote Episode 4, “Madhouse,” which continues the mystery that began in Episode 3 involving the strange deaths of two women who were at a party hosted by Iris’ former Presidio colleague, Lydia (Jessica Harmon). Plus, Jean and Millie are on the outs because Jean plans to go back to her life in the UK. What can you preview about the episode?
RL: Episode 4 takes us further into the journey of the way that women in the suburbs—who were so often placed in a tidy package—needed to live their lives. We really get further into Lydia’s psyche around everything that is going on and how she’s been trying to conform to this status, and it doesn’t work and she kind of falls apart, as any of us would. So it takes us through the paces of sorting through who could have done this, why would they do it, and how can we keep Lydia afloat through this whole thing? And, of course, Jean’s decision to leave is challenged by Millie, and she’ll examine the pros and cons of going back versus staying.

Who was the easiest character for you to write?
RL: Hailey was the easiest for me. Probably because there’s a lot of similarities there of this girl who doesn’t quite fit the typical Instagram standard—whatever that would have been back then. I’m closer in age to her than I probably am to anyone else. But I also just really loved Iris, who is [a type of character] I’ve never had the chance to write for before, who just had some really interesting struggles of her own. The whole music element of Iris speaks to me because before I was a writer, I was a jazz piano player and failed spectacularly at that. So there are some similarities there that I enjoyed writing.

What was the best thing about working on Bletchley?
RL: I found it very rewarding to access a different side of my brain and write for a mystery that was centred around women—and the women were the smartest people in the show, the smartest people in the room at all times. And the idea that I got to contribute to something that I was already a huge fan of and just bring my best and do my absolute utmost to do it justice, whether we succeeded or failed, was hugely rewarding for me.

You are also working on the new supernatural series, The Order, for Netflix. Not only that, you’re a co-executive producer. Congrats!
RL: When my agent told me that that was going to be the case, I was like, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ and she was like, ‘Just take it and run with it.’ So, I was said, ‘OK. I’m getting my ‘straight white man’ on, and I’m going to succeed at this!’

Can you give us any hints about that show?
RL: I can say that it’s going to be super fun and that you’ve never seen such cool stuff come out of a soundstage in Aldergrove, which is an hour outside of [Vancouver]. And our cast is amazing.

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Omnifilm Entertainment

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The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco: Chanelle Peloso on Hailey’s heart and humanity

Chanelle Peloso refused to watch The Bletchley Circle before she auditioned for its spin-off,  The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco.

“I was scared to fall in love with it and not get it,” she says.

But after she landed the part, she binge-watched the UK original and thought there must have been some sort of mistake. “I was just in shock,” she explains. “The first two [seasons] are just so incredible, and I was like, ‘Holy smokes, they want me?'”

Peloso shouldn’t have been so surprised. Her performances have a history of getting people’s attention. One of her first breaks came on the Cartoon Network series Level Up, where she auditioned for a one-line role and made such an impression that she was promoted to a recurring character. Parts on CN’s Incredible Crew, Disney’s Zapped, CW’s Supernatural and Facebook Watch’s Secret Lies soon followed.

Now on Bletchley: SF, Peloso continues to stand out, more than holding her own among a top-notch lead cast that includes Brits Julie Graham and Rachael Stirling and fellow Canadian Crystal Balint. As Hailey—the youngest, most enthusiastic, and most cheerfully blunt member of the codebreaking circle—she brings heart, bravery and, as the series progresses, a touch of heartbreak to the show. It’s impossible not to root for her each time she pops into a scene, whether she’s helping to solve a mystery with her mechanical prowess or introducing the other characters to San Francisco’s thriving Beat culture.

To help us get ready for Friday’s new episode, “Charlotte’s Web,” written by Damon Vignale and directed by Mike Rohl, Peloso phoned us from Vancouver to give us the lowdown on Hailey, tell us what’s coming up in future episodes and explain why she’s a bit like Chunk from The Goonies.

Was this your first period piece?
Chanelle Peloso: Yes, I never really go up for period pieces. It’s rare for me. But I love a good period piece. It’s a dream come true.

Hailey is becoming one of my favourites on the show. What were your first impressions of her?
CP: God, I love her so much! When you first go on an audition, you only get a small sense of who [a character is], but I felt that she was the person that was always kind of inside of me. She was a character I really felt I resonated with that I had yet to play.

I loved how she was kind of blunt, but not in a mean way. It’s just that her brain is going a million miles a minute. She just processes a lot faster, so her brain works faster than her mouth, and she just looks at the world with such awe. I also just loved her relationship with Crystal [Balint]’s character, Iris. Because it’s 1956, and Hailey is a white woman, and to be such good friends with a woman of colour in that day and age probably wasn’t as common. So I think that showed me a lot about who she was, that those things didn’t matter, it was more about the people. And I loved her so much for that.

Hailey is the youngest member of the group, and you’re the youngest member of the lead cast. Were you nervous at all when you first started filming?
CP: I was so intimidated when I first met Julie [Graham] and Rachael [Stirling]. I mean, how can you not be? They’ve already done this for two seasons, and they know their characters so strongly. The first time I had a scene with Julie, I almost had a panic attack. I was freaking out. But they’re so gracious, and they’re just so incredible. They’ve been doing this for so long, and I was just, ‘Oh, my God, I hope I can do this justice.’ It’s pretty nerve-wracking at first, but then you get to know them and they’re just such loving and incredible people. And the same with Crystal. I felt that we got along right off the bat because we were both really scared. We were coming to this world that has already been established and already has this huge fan base. But that helps our relationship in the show because [our characters] have been friends for so long in the Bletchley world. And Crystal is just so personable and so hardworking and so open-hearted and kind.

So the first couple of weeks were really intimidating, but then you get to know these ladies and they’re just so incredible and you learn so much from them being on set for hours and hours every day for three months. It’s such a great experience, and it’s so fascinating to watch them work and see their process.

Can you preview a bit about what viewers can expect from the rest of the series and from Hailey?
CP: The best thing about these mysteries is that you think you’ve got it figured out and then something else comes along and you’re like, ‘Oh, I was completely wrong this whole time.’ Which I really enjoyed, because I hate when it’s too easy or when the plot is spoon-fed. You can’t expect that. You really need to be paying attention to what’s going on. I can’t tell you how many times I read the script and went, ‘Wait, what?’

And Hailey’s character—and all the characters—not only are they solving these crimes, but they’re also diving into their personal lives and their personal histories. Episodes 5 and 6 are really big for Hailey because, it’s not that she’s doing self-discovery, but she’s coming to terms with a part of her, and so those episodes are quite important to her character and what she stands for and for her coming to terms with a part of herself that she’s ignored for a very long time.

Does that mean Episodes 5 and 6 are your favourites of the season?
CP: Episode 6 is the biggest one for Hailey, but the other episode that I’m really excited for is Episode 7 because Rachael Stirling’s husband, Guy Garvey, from the band Elbow, has a little cameo as a jazz singer in the [Big Bop club]. It’s one of these beautiful choreographed pieces where he’s singing in the background with all of this action that’s going on in the club. Thinking about it right now gives me chills. It’s so beautiful to watch. So that’s definitely something to look out for.

Hailey is known for being a mechanical genius, but if you were part of a group of amateur detectives solving crimes in your town, what would be your special skill?
CP: Oh, geez! I think the big difference between me and Hailey is she’s such a go-getter and she gets right in there, she doesn’t think twice. But I’m such a logical and practical person. So I don’t think it’s a skill, but I like to think of myself as Chunk from The Goonies. I’m like, ‘Are you guys sure we should be doing this?’ So maybe I’d be the voice of reason. Maybe some street smarts and the voice of reason is how I would see myself if I was a detective.

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Omnifilm Entertainment

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Crystal Balint brings music and morality to The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco

As all actors know, auditioning can be a heartbreaking experience. You connect with a character, feel you’re perfect for the part, knock it out of the park in the casting session … and then get told you’re not what the project is looking for.

So, it’s natural to develop coping mechanisms, especially if, like actress Crystal Balint, you’ve been working in Canadian and American television for more than 17 years.

“I tend to keep a little bit of distance from characters—even if I fall in love with them—because you just never know,” she says. “But this was one I couldn’t help but fall in love with right out of the gate.”

Balint is speaking of jazz pianist and former cryptologist Iris, one of four co-lead characters in the new mystery series The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco. “As soon as I saw the script and read the pages I was sent, I immediately felt I had a connection with Iris,” she says. “I felt this was someone I could bring justice to.”

Luckily, showrunner Michael MacLennan and the series’ other producers agreed, showing great “excitement” and “enthusiasm” for her two auditions. She was exactly what this project was looking for.

In late January, just three weeks after her first reading, Balint landed the part. “I was just thrilled,” she says. “I had been a fan of the original series, so I was really eager to see where we were going to go with this one.”

The show is a spin-off of UK series The Bletchley Circle, which ran for two seasons and focused on four former Second World War codebreakers who solved crimes in their spare time. Last Friday’s premiere episode on Citytv saw original series characters Millie (Rachael Stirling) and Jean (Julie Graham) travel to California to investigate a murder that appears similar to one that occurred in London during the war. Once in the Bay Area, the amateur—but brilliantly skilled—detectives meet up with former U.S. military members Iris and Hailey (Chanelle Peloso), who agree to help them with the case, thus, forming a new circle of sleuths.

Balint, who has previously appeared in The L-Word, Supernatural, The Good Doctor and Mech-X4, phoned from Vancouver to tell us what she loves about Iris, what it was like working with Rachael Stirling and Julie Graham, and what viewers can expect from this new iteration of The Bletchley Circle.

This spin-off features two original cast members, but also two new leads and a brand new setting. How did that play out on set? Did it feel like you were joining an established show or kicking off something brand new? 
Crystal Balint: You know, I think both Julie Graham and Rachael Stirling came in with very open minds and open hearts, and they came in with so much excitement and so much enthusiasm for what we were endeavouring to do with this spin-off. I never got the sense from either of them that there were any sort of hang-ups that they were feeling or any sort of reluctance to try any of the new directions that we were heading. They both came in really open-minded and very supportive to the vision that Michael [MacLennan] had for this particular spin-off of the show.

They, of course, in carrying that torch of The Bletchley Circle storyline for their two characters, worked very closely with Michael and made sure that they thought their storylines had been honoured from the original series. But I didn’t feel in any way that they were stifling or that they weren’t willing to also play. In fact, they were the opposite. They were really eager to explore what might happen to Jean and Millie in America, and they were really excited to do that both with Michael and with me and Chanelle Peloso, and just explore where this goes in a completely different setting. We looked to them for some guidance in some areas, but we were all sort on this fresh new ship with this show. It was really wonderful.

Your character, Iris, introduces Jean and Millie—and the audience—to the Fillmore, the neighbourhood of San Francisco where multiple murders are taking place. Did you do a lot of research into the area?
When I was invited onto the project in January, I had approximately seven weeks to prepare before we went to camera, which was late March. And I’m sort of a history nerd, which is why I was a fan of the original show, so I was really excited and really eager to start digging and learning about both the time period and the women that actually did this job and also the area in which the show takes place. Like I do with a lot of projects, if there is some kind of reference for me to glob onto, I will generally go full hog into that. I will just go as deep as I possibly can.

So I went down to San Francisco for a weekend and sort of hit the pavement and met with people in the Fillmore who were knowledgeable about the history of the [area], particularly in that time period. I also visited the area where the Presidio was and spoke with some individuals there, and I just sort of walked the streets to get an idea of the [places] and of the streets that we mention on the show. Even though, of course, they’re completely different now.

I felt it was really important for me to get a sense of just what that city felt like, because if you’ve ever been to San Francisco, it’s a very vibrant city, and that area has so much life and so much history. I spent a fair bit of time sort of rooting Iris and her family and her experience, so it gave me some foundation when I started to build who she was.

Did you do the same with the history of American codebreakers?
CB: I did, yes. There’s an excellent book written by an author named Liza Mundy called Code Girls that was released sort of serendipitously last fall. It covers in great detail the amount of input that the American female workforce put into the Second World War, once the U.S. joined the war after Pearl Harbor. And even before that, she goes into great detail about codebreaking efforts that were in place that led to this mass explosion once the U.S. entered the war. That’s something that not a lot of people knew about. We knew about Bletchley Park, of course, and that’s being featured in lots of movies and also television shows like The Bletchley Circle, but there has not been a ton of information available to us about what happened on our side of the pond, in the U.S. and Canada.

I think I got about three-quarters of the way through the book before I had to start shooting, but I tried to absorb as much as I could. Not so much the logistics of codebreaking, because I’ll be totally honest, I don’t have a mathematical mind and those who do, I bow down to. It’s an incredibly complex art form, I would say. But I did want to understand what it was like to be a woman in the 40s when it was not something that came every day, the opportunity to really save lives, in a really abstract sense but in a very important sense. And then what it was like to be snatched up out of what you’re expected to do as a woman, asked to carry this incredible task and then released and sort of forgotten about—which is really what we talk a fair bit about in both series of The Bletchley Circle.

Iris is a jazz pianist, and in real life, you’re a singer. Did that shared love of music help you better understand her character?
CB: Yes, absolutely. When I was asked to read for the project, that was another thing that really stuck out for me. It doesn’t happen often in film and TV, at least for me, that there is a crossover. Music is a big part of my life. I’ve been singing since I was quite young, and I play a couple of instruments. I’m not a pianist, but I’ve dabbled. Music, in general, is a big part of my life, so wherever I find any opportunity, it gets me a little bit jazzed up—no pun intended.

It was really lovely to incorporate those elements into breathing life into Iris because music can be very mathematical. Those who do particularly jazz, from my understanding of it—and again I don’t have formal training in it, but from my understanding of jazz and its complexities—there is a very sort of mathematical, rhythmic thing that occurs there. So just me being a fan of music and being a lover of music, it was really nice to be able to just have that be a part of who Iris was.

And we had an incredible composer working on this show. It was just so lovely to have those pieces be, not just a part of Iris’ life, but part of the world that we find these women in. Jazz is sort of like another character in this San Francisco environment. So it really did help me. I listened to a lot of music. I listened to old jazz, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday. Just every time I was in my car driving anywhere, doing any errands, walking, I was listening to jazz, and I was really trying to get that in my body.

What else really drew you to Iris?
CB: I really love Iris’ fortitude. She has a really strong sense of who she is. I wouldn’t say it was rare in that time period for a woman of her ilk, an African American woman living and working in a city like San Francisco, but there is something really grounded about that and really inspiring about that. I think one of the things I loved most about the way she was written—and the way I perceived her to be and I tried to bring to life—is that she had such a strong moral core because she knows exactly who she is, and she’s not willing to budge on that. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t have moments of doubt, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t sort of struggle with things, but at the end of the day, I think Iris sleeps well. Because she knows in every day, she ‘s done her best.

That’s why when we meet Iris in that first episode, it really throws her off her game, because she knows what she should do, but then there’s this life that she’s put together, and she knows in her heart of hearts what is required of her and what’s necessary and what her instincts are telling her to do. But she struggles, like all of us, like every person.

I love her love of her family. I mean that’s always an appealing quality when you find characters like that. I call her a lioness. She fights for her family, and through the course of the series, you start to find that she incorporates these other women into that, and realizes that that’s also a part of who she is.

What do you think viewers will most enjoy about this version of the show?
CB: I think what people will enjoy most about this show is that it’s a fun kind of romp. I mean, there’s some serious stuff that we tackle, to be sure. We cover a whole range of serious issues that were taking place in the 50s. You know, the civil rights movement hasn’t quite started yet, but things have happened, and women’s rights are beginning, and gay rights are starting to become a thing, and there is stuff going on with the Cold War—but nothing has quite blossomed yet.

So, what’s lovely about that is that we got this opportunity to play in this environment where there are serious things, but there’s also some life to it. There is life, there is colour. It’s different from the first series, where Britain’s a very different time after the war. There were rations. But there’s just a different energy in San Francisco. So, I think what viewers will really love that this is California in the 50s in this hotbed of change, and it’s colourful and it’s fun and amidst all of this, there’s some great humour. And at the core of it, these fantastic relationships with these women that just grab you. It makes you think about the relationships in your own life. Do I stand up for what I believe in? Do I fight for my people? There’s something lovely about that.

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Omnifilm Entertainment

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