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Fool Me Once: Lessons on working with your heroes, and neighbours for Michelle Keegan in hit Netflix drama

The North West-shot Netflix thriller Fool Me Once has caused quite a stir since it launched on New Year’s Day and promptly shot to the top of the streamer’s UK charts.

The show’s star Michelle Keegan is no stranger to the limelight, though unlike her last high-profile role, which saw her sailing off for Australia in the BBC’s Ten Pound Poms, this time around the Stockport-born actress didn’t have too much of a commute to work to worry about.

We’ve barely been able to log on with our location services engaged in the last week without a guide to the show’s sets popping up on social media, with Oldham’s Alexandra Park, Stockport’s air raid shelters, Manchester’s Corn Exchange and my personal favourite purportedly haunted local The Peveril of The Peak just a few of the Greater Manchester spots jostling for screen time.

For Keegan, however, there was one Cheshire location in particular that stood out during the shoot, which lasted for around six months from February 2023:

“I live half an hour from Arley Hall, and I take my dogs walking there but I had never been in the house itself,” the former Corrie star revealed during the press rounds ahead of the show’s launch. “For me to go in the house and look around and learn about the Arley estate, I found that fascinating. It was one of those pinch-me moments.”

It wasn’t just the Fool Me Once locations that were familiar to Keegan. The series screenwriter was fellow South Mancunian Danny Brocklehurst.

Keegan has previously worked with the former MEN and City Life journalist on the aforementioned Ten Pound Poms, the Nicola Shindler-produced drama Ordinary Lies and the BAFTA-nominated loveable-rogues-comedy Brassic.

Having spent so much time in shows written and/or created by the Hyde-born scribe, Keegan admitted that, on learning he’d been handed the task of adapting Harlan Coben’s 2016 novel for Netflix, she was confident of at least one thing: “That it’ll be amazing. I’m not just saying that because he’s given me work the past few years but it’s true – his work is always amazing,” she said.

“Danny writes very strong female roles. He knows how to do it. There is a sort of grit to them, and I can relate to them as well. You know when you get the scripts, they will be top class. I think when I read the scripts for this job, the first couple of scenes, I was in. That’s down to Danny. And Harlan of course.”

The respect is clearly mutual. Brocklehurst previously said of the pair’s collaboration on Ten Pound Poms: “I don’t tend to write any script with a particular actor in mind as I’m writing the very first draft. But as it goes on, you obviously start to think who would be brilliant for certain parts and very quickly, I thought Michelle would be fantastic for Kate.”

Looking ahead, he added: “We’ve done four shows – Fool Me Once, the thing that’s shooting at the minute will be our fourth show together. So yeah, we know each other pretty well now and we enjoy working together.”

Keegan’s character Maya, a PTSD-riddled former soldier caught in a web of murder and intrigue, is no exception to Brocklehurst’s strong female character template, and nor is her feisty mother-in-law Judith, played by Joanna Lumley.

Lumley may not have technically been as familiar to Keegan as her screenwriter, but she was certainly no stranger from afar: “She’s such a legend. Me and my cousin grew up watching Ab Fab, so I was such a huge fan,” the actress confessed.

As Keegan already suggested on last weekend’s Graham Norton Show, however, there was at least one element of working with the bona fide national treasure that brought to mind the tenet you should never meet your heroes: “It’s not every day that you tell Joanna Lumley to f-off! That was quite nerve racking. In the rehearsals, I wouldn’t swear. I would just say, ‘The F word.’ On a take I’d swear but in rehearsals I wouldn’t swear in her face. I couldn’t do it.”

Thankfully, Lumley was apparently as much a fan of the overawed Keegan’s work as the show’s writer: “This one came into work every single day, some of us just cruised in and did the odd job but this one did February to August. Flat out. Babe. Literally a babe,” Lumley said of her co-star at the show’s UK press screening.

Fool Me Once is streaming on Netflix now, and although the streaming charts suggest a lot of viewers have already watched it from beginning to end barely a week after launch, it’s safe to assume plenty still haven’t.

For those in that camp, Keegan has a simple wish: “I hope they enjoy all the twists and turns. Nothing is how it seems in this story,” she teased. “People will come to their own conclusions, but your conclusion will probably be wrong. That’s what I loved about the show and about the book. I was always second guessing why Maya did that or what happened, and my guesses were always wrong. It was always something bigger and better than that. Never second guess anything. You are definitely going to be shocked!”

Vishal Sharma/Netflix

Pix: Vishal Sharma/Netflix © 2023

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