Interview: Priyanga Burford on ‘Press’, Writing & Fake News

PRIYANGA BURFORD is currently starring as a newspaper editor in BBC One Drama ‘Press’ – a six-part series focusing on the people working for two fictional newspapers in a London square. This is the second time Priyanga has collaborated with writer Mike Bartlett – having recently performed in television film ‘King Charles III’.

AC: This is now the second time you’ve worked with writer Mike Bartlett on a production. What made you want to collaborate with him again?

PRIYANGA: Mike creates stories which are pacey but don’t feel shallow. He writes for men and women with equal depth and complexity. I think any writer worth their salt realises that the days of getting a decent actress to play the bolt-on appendix to the male lead are over. He’s not afraid of contradiction in his characters- people do weird, out of character things sometimes: that’s just humans! That’s a joy for an actor.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about newsrooms?
They’re so quiet!

Do you have an opinion on the rise of fake news? Is it a theme on the show

We’ve got such a massive choice about where we get our news from now. I think it’s just up to the individual to resist the click bait, try and get a variety of perspectives and then make up their own minds. Ideally you don’t want journalists telling you what to think it robs us of our freedom. Realistically though, I don’t know if people feel they’ve got time to think deeply about stuff.

How does your character fit into the story?

Amina is the editor of a broadsheet called The Herald. She’s highly principled, passionate and deeply flawed. Her paper’s struggling financially; she’s lonely; she’s fiercely loyal to her staff and she likes opera but hates the elitism of it.
She makes some bad decisions for the good reasons.

You’ve also recently been appearing in ‘A Winter’s Tale’ at The Globe Theatre – does the iconic nature of that stage ever feel overwhelming?

That stage is fast becoming one of my favourites to play. It’s really exposing so yeah- you could be overwhelmed, but it’s thrilling to have such an immediate connection with your audiences. The energy of that place is wild. I love it!

As a writer yourself, have you been working on any scripts between acting?

Yes, I’ve written a drama pilot and I’ve got something else I’m trying to produce.

Do you have a writing process?

Either write or don’t. Don’t sit thinking about writing.

Is there one particular thing that you’re excited about for the future?

I’m just really happy to be able to do the variety of work I’ve been given over the past couple of years. I don’t know what’s coming next…that’s half the fun!

PHOTOGRAPHY: PaulBlackImages

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