Monica Dolan opens up about ‘isolating’ and ‘intense’ Mr Bates vs the Post Office’s role

Virgin Radio

13 Dec 2023, 12:29

(L-R) Monica Dolan at hte RTS Awards, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Toby Jones and Monica in Mr Bates Vs The Post Office

Credit: ITV / Getty

Mr Bates vs The Post Office star Monica Dolan has revealed how it felt to take on the real life story of the Post Office scandal from the side of those affected. 

The ITV drama, which star’s Toby Jones, Monica and Will Mellor and many more, is inspired by the real-life miscarriage of justice in which dozens of innocent sub-postmasters and postmistresses were wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting due to a defective IT system.

Many of the workers affected were prosecuted, some were sent to prison for crimes they did not commit, and all had their lives ruined by the effects of the scandal. 

The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe star Monica plays sub-postmistress Jo Hamilton, and while chatting exclusively to at the show’s launch event, the actress described how her storyline begins, and how it made the experience of filming “very isolating and very intense.”

She told us: “My stuff was fairly well shot in order. So at the beginning, it was Jo in the post office with the computer and the helpline.

“Working on your own all day with the crews is quite an intense thing and going through those sorts of things as Jo did on her own. Then coming together with the other subpostmasters was actually a great feeling of relief. I imagine it was a tiny, tiny shadow of perhaps what the subpostmasters felt when they came together at the village hall.”

Many of the real life sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses who remain affected by the Post Office scandal were closely involved in the development of the drama, including the man at the centre of the drama, Alan Bates, played by Toby Jones. 

“I think that Alan didn't even really know if anyone would turn up,” Monica continued. “When they all start trickling in and coming together, it's actually very moving and very important because, with people we can do something when we're together.”

Monica also got to spend time with Jo, who she portrayed on the series, which was invaluable to understanding the role.

“I was lucky enough to meet Jo and to work with Jo,” she added.  “I think I was very lucky to play Jo because she's extremely approachable, and very kind and gregarious and gave me lots of information.”

Meanwhile, Strictly Come Dancing alum Will Mellor revealed how he and other cast members struggled to come to terms with the story they were depicting. 

“You can’t believe it’s true,” he said earnestly. “Even when we were filming it, I just kept saying ‘I can’t believe they’ve actually done this to these people.’”

ITV’s new drama was created in close collaboration with many of the Post Office workers who were prosecuted. On the topic of wanting to get the story of the sub-postmaster who he plays right, Will said: “I just wanted to make sure we got the emotion right… If everything comes from the right place, hopefully, it’ll sit right.

Mr Bates vs the Post Office will air on ITV1 and ITVX on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th of January, at 9pm.