IT HAS been a tough watch – and the actor playing River City’s terrorised stalking victim says it almost reduced her to tears.
“The last couple of days of filming those scenes were horrible and intense,” says Lindsey Campbell, who plays lawyer Poppy Patterson on the BBC Scotland drama series. “I found myself feeling tearful and irritable, it was really unsettling. I felt, even when I left the set, that I was on high alert. It was very draining.”
Poppy’s stalker is finally revealed tonight at 10pm, after a storyline which has gripped the nation for months.
River City’s handling of the subject, in which Poppy is subjected to a string of intrusive and increasingly frightening and disturbing attacks, has been praised by Action Against Stalking, the charity set up by former Glasgow Times Scotswoman of the Year Ann Moulds.
She says: “I am delighted the producers of River City have decided to place the spotlight on this very serious crime that prevails within our society.
“The story line, based upon the experience of real victims, highlights quite succinctly it is a crime that is still poorly understood and often dismissed as being ‘no big deal.’”
Ann adds: “Stalking is a psychological crime – it is the slow brutalization of a victim’s world, which leaves them feeling helpless and frightened. Many victims spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince others that what is happening to them is real and they are scared.
“We cannot appreciate more the choice of producers and editors to create a storyline which will bring this serious crime to the public’s attention and encourage others to report.”
Viewers have watched Poppy’s life start to crumble, as Lindsey explains.
“Poppy is normally a very assured character, she is always in control,” says Lindsey. “She prides herself on being a good judge of character. When she finds herself in such an unnerving, creepy situation, it throws her totally off balance.
“She starts to do things that are entirely out of character and turns to people she wouldn’t normally rely on.
“Her relationships, her work, her mental health – everything has been affected It’s important these stories are told, that people realise how serious a crime this is.”
To research for the role, Lindsey read case studies of stalking victims, including Emily Maitliss, the Newsnight presenter who has been stalked for 25 years.
“It’s shocking,” says Lindsey. “It’s sad it happens to so many people. It was tough to play at times, but the fact it was TV, rather than theatre where you would be performing those intense scenes night after night, really helped.”
She smiles: “And it’s such a cheery, friendly set on River City, that helped too.”
Lindsey joined River City in August 2018, and like the rest of the cast and crew, was delighted to resume filming recently after coronavirus restrictions halted production in March.
“This year has been devastating for so many industries and entertainment is no exception,” she says. “I was just very grateful I had a job to come back to. Being back on set was amazing, just all being together again.”
Lindsey’s acting career began at the age of 15 in youth theatre and it quickly took off when she landed a CBBC role while still at school.
“That was fantastic because I got out of class to do the filming,” she laughs. “I loved it. It was called Intergalactic Kitchen, and it was about a family that gets shot into space and meets an alien family and they have some mad adventures – it was a lot of fun.
“I played the ‘serious’ child, who liked Shakespeare and Stanislavski. I had to be a bit dowdy, and I was quite envious of the other kids who got to dress up and wear make up.”
She jokes: “I remember thinking – not fair, I want to wear the lip gloss.”
Originally from Edinburgh, Lindsey moved to London to train at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. After a string of theatre and TV roles, she says she jumped at the chance to join River City.
“I was really hoping for a regular part and so when Poppy came up, it was perfect,” she says. “I love all kinds of roles, the really serious ones are great to get your teeth into as an actor, but I love doing comedy too. I did an Alan Ayckbourn play in England and it was such an amazing experience, to say one line and have 1000 people in the audience shouting with laughter back at you.”
She laughs: “I remember thinking – so this is why stand-up comedians do what they do.”
Lindsey says she has no idea where the acting bug came from.
“There are no theatrical people in my family whatsoever,” she says, with a smile. “Although my mum is a social worker and has always instilled in me the importance of caring for people and for considering human issues, engaging with society – which I think acting is all about too.”
She grins: “But I think I probably just watched too much television when I was a child…”