Written by Hervé Hadmar and Marc Herpoux, and starring Thierry Lhermitte (Le Diner de Cons, Doc Martin) and Lauren Lucas (Calvaire, Lemming), Witnesses is a 6-part French police thriller that explores the dark corners of the human psyche and the lengths to which some people will go to exact a perfect revenge.
In the north of France, a grim discovery is made – the bodies of a man, a woman and a teenager have been removed from their graves. Things get even more disturbing when these missing bodies, which have no connection to each other, are discovered in a show home – posed as if they were a family. The police soon make the connection with a similar scene which happened a month earlier. Near one of the bodies, Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier), a young detective leading the case, discovers a photo of Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte), a retired policemen and a legend among the Northern France Crime Squad. His connection with the case forces him to come out of retirement and join the hunt for whoever is behind these macabre stagings.
Sandra is convinced that the key to the case lies somewhere in Paul’s past. Resolved to get to the truth, and convinced that Paul is hiding something; she sets off on a journey into the shadows of a dark mystery that threatens to harm all it touches.
Marie Dompnie tells us more about what’s in store…
Marie Dompnier is the star of Channel 4’s new French thriller Witnesses, a tense and atmospheric drama that bears a striking resemblance to the Nordic noir genre. Here. Dompnier explains a little more about the project, and why it made her move from her normal metier in the theatre to primetime TV.
Explain a little bit about the show Witnesses. What is it about?
At the beginning of the series, there are strange goings-on in coastal Le Tréport in northwest France. Someone is digging up recently buried bodies and posing them in show houses, ghoulishly recreating a family scene. Sandra is a detective who works with her sidekick Justin (played by Jan Hammenecker) but she’s given a new partner Paul (played by Thierry Lhermitte) to investigate the case. He is a renowned cop who returned after the death of his wife. The series is a thriller which begins in a classic way and then develops into something a little more unusual, thanks to [writer and director] Hervé Hadmar.
You play Sandra. What is she like?
Sandra is a character that’s frightened to death by the fact that things end and people die. To counter her fear she wants to control everything, which is obviously impossible. It was very interesting for me to play someone with different sides to her character. Moreover what is interesting about Sandra is that her two lives keep colliding into each other, this creates a struggle within her, which was interesting to play.
Before this, you had mainly done theatre work. What was it that attracted you to doing something on TV?
I was attracted by the story and the character written by Hervé Hadmar and Marc Herpoux, and with the opportunity to work with Hervé as a director.
Does it feel like a different skill, acting for TV as opposed to on the stage?
It is true that before Witnesses I had little experience with cameras but on the set I found myself in the right place. After that, being on stage or on a set is the same job even though the dispositive is different.
What does it mean to you, to have the show going out in other countries all over the world?
I’m very happy for the show and its success! It’s wonderful to share Witnesses with so many people.
Now you have been in a TV drama, do you want to do more, or do you want to return to the stage?
This summer I’m shooting a TV movie for [the French TV channel] Arte. It is an adaptation of Le Passe Murailles, the famous novel from Marcel Aymé. And I’ll be in a new theatre play this autumn in Paris. For me, the project is the most important. The story that someone wants to tell and with whom I’m going to work; if the project is interesting it could be on stage or in cinema or in TV.
Witnesses is on Channel 4 from Wednesday 22nd July 2015 at 10pm.