Anatomy of a Scandal follows the trial of James Waterhouse, a prominent Tory MP, and the lives of those involved in the case.
Based on a Sarah Vaughan novel, the series tells a story of consent, class, and privilege through the experiences of three different women — Sophie (Sienna Miller), the wife of the accused MP; Olivia (Naomi Scott), the parliamentary researcher who has accused James of rape; and Kate (Michelle Dockery), the legal counsel tasked with James’ case.
The miniseries has been trending since its release on Friday, so we sat down for a quick chat with Michelle Dockery and Naomi Scott to find out more about their involvement in the drama.
What drew you to Anatomy of a Scandal in the first place?
Michelle: I was really drawn to the subject matter. I absolutely loved Kate and the scripts were incredible — it was such a binge-able read on the page. I think it's a really powerful, timely story.
Naomi: Oh, similarly, I binge read the scripts, and the character was such a challenge for me. I think she's so complex, what she's having to deal with and what she's having to face, still being in love with someone who’s causing you so much pain, I found that really fascinating. And everyone who's involved in the cast – of course I wanted to be a part of it.
Did you get a chance to read the Sarah Vaughan novel beforehand?
Michelle: Yeah, I read the novel just before, I mean, it's always really useful to read the root of the screenplay, you know, where the idea came from. And I found that really useful for Kate's character, because, in the book, her chapters are all told in first person, so that was really useful for me to read.
A lot of the most powerful moments take place in court — did you do anything to prepare for such heavy scenes?
Naomi: For me, it was a lot of documentaries and reading. I wish I could have seen a court case — that would have been interesting, but because of COVID I couldn’t, so YouTube was great for that.
I did a lot of discussing and listening to people's experiences and using all of that to kind of understand and figure out how Olivia was going to uniquely respond to her situation. It was a really, really eye-opening process actually.
Michelle: I worked really closely with a prosecutor, so from the get-go, I had someone on hand to work through those courtroom scenes, particularly. There was a lot to talk about in the show. And we had a lot of people to help us through those really tricky scenes.
The series was Melissa James Gibson, alongside Big Little Lies creator David E. Kelley, and directed by S. J. Clarkson — how important do you think it was for Anatomy of a Scandal to have so many women at the helm?
Michelle: The story is told through the eyes of three women. So to have so many women behind the camera, I think it was vital for this show. I feel like it'll eventually change, but it's still noticeable when there are that many women behind the camera. It still feels rare.
And how did that influence your time on set?
Michelle: You can only bring what you can to the performance, like as authentically as you possibly can, and the rest of it sort of takes place around you. But working with someone like SJ was just amazing, I mean, she's incredible – she had such a vision for how she wanted the story to be told from the beginning and I felt really safe on this job. I could just be in character and not have to sort of worry about the parts that are sort of extended beyond that as an actor. I just trusted all of them so much. It was brilliant.
All six episodes of Anatomy of A Scandal are available to stream on Netflix now.
Some responses have been edited for length/clarity.