Jill Halfpenny tells Graham Norton about her gripping new thriller The Drowning

Virgin Radio

30 Jan 2021, 13:24


Jill Halfpenny was a guest on The Graham Norton Radio Show this morning, giving us a taste of what to expect from her new Channel 5 thriller, The Drowning.

On her character and the premise of the show, Jill said: “I play Jodie and her son Tom went missing nine years ago. Jodie’s on her way to work and she sees her son. She’s absolutely sure it’s him and she jumps on the bus he’s on, follows him to school, gets close enough to see the scar under his eye that he’s had since he was a little boy, and she’s so sure it’s him she becomes absolutely obsessed about finding out the truth about where he’s been, who he’s been with, and why everyone around her insists that he’s dead and she never has believed that he is.”

Jill finds the idea of the show to be quite plausible, explaining: “We’ve all seen those horrific things on the news where they mock up what a child might look like now. So it’s not like you can’t imagine, and because of the scar, because he has this thick dark curly hair… they look right at each other and she thinks “That’s my son”.”

Her character Jodie goes to great lengths to get closer to the boy she suspects is her son, and finding out the truth.

“She gets a job in the school, because she’s a musician, as peripatetic teacher and infiltrates her way into the school and befriends him, then gets to know the truth about who has taken him, where he’s been, where he’s living, and then she does her best to get him back.”

“What bigger motivation have you got to do something - which may to other people seem a little crazy - than finding out where your son is? If it was me, I would do everything that she did.” 


Graham asked Jill if she had any musical experience to lean on for her scenes as a teacher, but as she explained, that actually came from her young co-star.

“The boy that is playing Tom/Daniel, because he’s now called Daniel, he actually is a really great musician. So I’d say to him “What would a music teacher say right now?”. So Cody (Molko) would basically give me my lines.”

As with many shows we’re watching now, was production on The Drowning halted due to the coronavirus pandemic?

“Yes it was, six months. We did the first half before Lockdown 1, and then we came back six months later just before Lockdown 2 got called.”


“It was fine we just picked up where we left off. Everyone had the same goal which was we really wanted to get it finished. We were really proud of what we’d done already. There’s always the worry that if you don’t pick it up as soon as possible it might never get finished.”

And were they worried about Cody Molko (who is the son of Placebo’s Brian Molko) growing up too much in the break and looking too different?

“Kids, especially around that age, they’re on the cusp of kind of being still a bit quite cute but then they go into that sort of weird young man phase don’t they? So you could see everybody staring at Cody when he came back going “Yep, he’s still fine”.


Jill was the winner of the second series of Strictly Come Dancing back in 2004, and Graham wanted to know: can she still watch it now?

“I can totally watch it. There was a time when (the music) used to honestly make me feel slightly sick, because I just felt so nervous even at the sound of it, but now I’m just a fan. I just watch like everybody else does, I just love it.

“I was back in the day where all your VTs were literally just you in the rehearsal room, there was none of like… where they go out and they go on, like, rides at the funfair and they go and meet parents and things, it was just in the rehearsal room, so you saw a lot of the niggles and the relationships with the dancers, and I kind of miss that because I want to see what really happened when they’re learning that dance.”

Will we cry when we watch The Drowning?


“I think with thrillers they’re forever moving the plot on, so even if something is a bit sad, within a second there’s a knock on the door. There’s a phone call. Even though Jodie is sad, she’s so driven by what she needs to find out, it’s not like a sob-fest, it’s just really exciting. 

“Especially at this moment in time where people need to have their minds taken off things, I think thrillers are the thing to watch. They’re exciting. You do forget about anything that’s going on, you’re there for an hour and it’s fun.”

And has she been binge-watching anything herself lately?

“The most recent binge-watch is It’s A Sin, which obviously is marvellous. Apart from the fact that Russell T Davies is an amazing writer, I really want to thank him because I feel like he’s made Jill a cool name! You know when they say “be more Jill” and they actually mean the girl out of It’s A Sin? No, no it’s “be more Jill” - me!”


The Drowning starts Monday 1st February at 9pm on Channel 5.

For more great interviews listen to The Graham Norton Radio Show, Saturdays AND Sundays from 09:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.







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