Actress Yrsa Daley- Ward. Picture: BBC
Actress Yrsa Daley- Ward. Picture: BBC

Yrsa Daley-Ward chats about her role on M-Net's 'World on Fire'

By Entertainment Reporter Time of article published Sep 20, 2020

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In a story that follows the lives of a few young people in the eye of the storm, comes M-Net’s newest international offering.

“World on Fire” is a series of interwoven stories from World War 2 that stretch across Europe.

Set during the first year of the war, the stories range from the impact of the war on ordinary life in Manchester, England, to the beaches of Dunkirk in France, getting right under the skin and into the hearts and minds of those living their lives during this extraordinary time as they grapple with a world in flames.

Written by multi-award winning writer Peter Bowker, the show stars Jonah Hauer-King, Zofia Wichłacz, Julia Brown and Yrsa Daley-Ward.

English writer, model and actress Yrsa Daley- Ward chatted about the show and her character, Connie Knight.

Tell us about your character Connie?

Connie is a really interesting, spirited and passionate piano player.

She just wants to get out of Manchester and see the world with Lois (Julia Brown) who is her best friend, whom she really loves and who is like her little sister.

They want adventures and to experience something they haven’t experienced before.

What did you love about Peter Bowker’s script that made you want to get involved?

He didn’t shy away from the real grit. Whatever is happening, there’s so much humanity. There is love, romance, sex, music, family disputes.

I love the scale of it but also how it’s so visible and focuses on love and family. Connie is just so full of spirit.

I love that the script shows people of all walks of life involved with all races.

Did Peter help you form the character during conversations?

One of the main things that helped me understand Connie’s nature was learning about the relationship between Peter’s grandmother and her best friend, who was essentially Connie. Knowing that existed in reality gave strength to it.

I felt like I could tap into the dynamics of that relationship.

Did you do any other research?

I researched a lot, especially for the music aspect of the drama. I watched YouTube videos to see how people hold themselves, particularly performing, as there are different genres of performance.

I watched a lot of 1930s and 1940s piano jazz players to see how static or non-static they were. It varies over countries.

Sometimes they can be stiffer than how I performed. I did think about my character’s origin to mix into it because culturally everybody moves a certain way.

It’s a mish mash of the two together. We had to be a little bit restrained and a little bit crazy at the same time.

How important was the music in the show?

Music is such a huge part of the drama and for my character, especially jazz and soul music.

Being able to get up on stage, as part of this production, was an added fantastic bonus.

When you see us really enjoying ourselves on the stage, it is real, we really are loving it because how can that not move you in some way?

Do you think these women are being liberated to a degree by war?

Any time anything monumental happens in life to shake things up, even if the connotations might be negative, it can always be positive as well because you get to experience something that you wouldn’t have normally.

Perhaps you get to go places you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to before. In a sense, Connie and Lois are liberated to leave Manchester; to go to another part of the world and to perform.

It’s really exciting for them as it would be exciting for any woman at that time in this position.

How do you think audiences will relate to Connie?

A modern audience will relate to the feeling of wanting to break away from your normal everyday life.

The feeling of being trapped, of knowing that you’re bigger than this place and you just need the opportunity to grow.

"World on Fire" starts September 24 on M-Net (DStv channel 101) or M-Net City (DStv channel 115) at 10.30pm.

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