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Miranda Gets Tough - Radio Times article Nov 1990 - (Die Kinder) By: Sally Brompton


She's been mad, bad and - as Blackadder's Queenie - dangerous to know. Now, in a new drama series, Miranda Richardson plays a desperate mother whose children are caught in the crossfire of terrorism Miranda Richardson is darting through the Gothic cloisters of a Jesuit priory in north London, hotly pursued by a television camera crew and all the paraphernalia of filming. Her straggling blonde hair and blue anorak have been sprayed with water and more is being sprinkled over the parapet to give the impression of heavy rain. Ancient nuns peer around corners to see the unaccustomed action, while the BBC's own counterfeit Jesuits are hidden tactfully in another part of the priory. 

Suddenly, she gets the giggles and filming stops. 'Somebody laughed' explains the cameraman. 'Was it you, Millie?' enquires director Rob Walker, who has nicknamed his star Millie Mollie Mandy, after the fictional schoolgirl character. 'It was,' admits Richardson, uncontrite, pulling a face reminiscent of her wilful, eccentric Queenie in Blackadder II. 

There is an atmosphere of friendly ribaldry among the actors and crew on the set of Die Kinder, a six-part political thriller beginning this week on BBC2. It is the story of a mother's search for her two small children, who have been snatched by their father, a former member of a German revolutionary group. The group, the Red Liberation Front, was suggested by the notorious Baader-Meinhof Gang of the late 1960s, and in the story is responsible for detonating a bomb in a Hamburg department store in 1970 which killed four innocent customers. 

The idea for the story goes back four years and bears traces of the book, Hitler's Children, with additional background from former revolutionaries Tariq Ah and Daniel Cohn-Bendit. German television companies did not wish to collaborate with the production, possibly suspecting that the BBC was making a camouflaged documentary about Baader-Meinhof. 

Richardson, 32, plays the mother, Sidonie Reiger, who teams up with a maverick American investigator (Frederic Forrest). It's a change from the mentally unbalanced women she has portrayed in the past, ranging from the manic Queen Elizabeth in Blackadder to her award-winning role as tragic killer Ruth Ellis in the film Dance with a Stranger and the murderous wife of a don in the gripping BBC drama After Pilkington. 

Although mentally normal, Sidonie gradually becomes a much less passive character. 'I wouldn't think that was down to me entirely; it's just a matter of massaging the line to make it more true to the way you feel the situation to be.' She sees Sidonie as a sympathetic character. 'You can relate to her. And she cares about her kids, which is nice, and that makes her operate in a different way. I think the situation makes her stronger than she's had to be in the past. She goes through much of it not knowing a lot of things. What she finds out is what matters to her and her kids. I think she has been politically quite naive, but if there is any blame for that it's not her fault. Things have been hidden from her.' 

One of the bonuses of the production, in her view, is the combination of nationalities in the cast - German, British and American. 'It's quite a wild combo,' she says. There has also been some night shooting, which she adores. 'It is terribly exciting. I get quite stupid about it: the atmosphere, the lights, helicopters whizzing about - there are lots of toys in this one. You know you can stay up until four or five in the morning and nobody's going to punish you for it.' 

But it is now lunchtime, and the scene has changed to the car park of a nearby pub, where a BBC catering van is producing hot and cold dishes for the assembled crew. A coach-load of fake nuns arrives, to the confusion of the local drinkers. 'What do you call a group of nuns?' muses Miranda. 'A bevy, perhaps?' 

She hates interviews and conducts them in a mood of restrained twitchiness. When asked what questions she would put to herself, she replies: 'I'd stay away.' She still gets recognised in the street as Queenie, which is 'slightly disconcerting. I do feel odd about it, because people see you on the street as well as on the screen.' She grew up in the Merseyside seaside town of Southport. 'It was a normal childhood; my dad was in marketing. But Southport has never been home. Home is where your friends are, really.' 

Her first ambition was to be a vet, but she was no good at science and decided to act instead. She studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and regards acting purely as a matter of interpretation. 'If you have done a scene you always think how else it might have gone. It's just an organic process. It doesn't mean it would have been any better - just different. I hope I'm learning all the time. I don't get as nervous about filming as I've done in the past and that's a good thing as well as a bad thing, possibly. Sometimes you need to dredge up something from somewhere and you need to frighten yourself in some way, if only by not learning your lines fully,' she says. 

Her current home is a roomy maisonette in south London, where she spends much of her non-working time. 'Everyone should do more than one thing for their sanity. I dabble at things. 'I suppose I must enjoy acting. I enjoy parts of it but some of it is excruciatingly boring and difficult. But everybody can say that about everything they do in this life. I do consider myself very lucky.'