Game Of Thrones star ‘moved’ by crew’s response to her breastfeeding on The Tower set

The Tower star Gemma Whelan has opened up about returning to the ITV drama for series two - and how she found nursing her young baby in between takes during filming

The Tower was a ratings and critical success in 2021, leaving fans hungry for a second instalment. With the crime drama based on a trilogy of hit novels by Kate London, there was even a future all mapped out.

But as star Gemma Whelan, who plays DS Sarah Collins, approached the second series, she admits she was very much in the dark about what would happen next. “I haven’t read the books!” the Game Of Thrones star confesses with a laugh.

“I started reading and got very confused as to what was in the script, and what was in the book, as there are differences. So, I decided that as I’ve got two children, including a very young baby, my priority had to be to learn my lines!”

Gemma Whelan is back as DS Sarah Collins in The Tower series 2
Gemma Whelan is back as DS Sarah Collins in The Tower series 2

Indeed, filming the second series – in which Sarah works with PC Lizzie Adama (Tahirah Sharif), the young officer she was pursuing in the last series – was a very different experience for Gemma for that very reason. Having filmed series one pregnant (her bump hidden under the orange duffle coat, which quickly became iconic among fans) this year she was breastfeeding young son Freddy on set, with producers going all out to make things go as smoothly as possible.

“I was a bit moved by how kind they were to me as a working mother – it is an extra thing to deal with having a breastfeeding mother on set,” she says. “Obviously, you should be as welcome as you are in every other workplace, but it requires more thought.

Gemma reunites with her co-star Jimmy Akingbola as DS Sarah and DC Steve find themselves working together again
Gemma reunites with her co-star Jimmy Akingbola as DS Sarah and DC Steve find themselves working together again (Image: ITV)

“Also, the travelling band is big now, because my husband and daughter are also up here for filming,” adds Gemma, who lives in the South-East, while The Tower was mostly filmed in Manchester. “So, we’ve made it into a summer holiday experience. It’s actually nice to be at work knowing that everyone’s safe and I’m not far from them. It’s been a really positive experience.”

The new series opens with Sarah having headed to Homicide Command and hoping for a juicy case. But she’s in for a shock – and not just that her former partner DC Steve Bradshaw (Jimmy Akingbola) has also joined the team.

“There’s a case that she’s heard about, and she’s ready to start working on it,” says Gemma. “But she’s then given what is essentially a cold case, with a very loose new lead. But she rises to the challenge. She thinks outside the box and fairly quickly develops a vital new lead.”

Tahirah Sharif returns as PC Lizzie Adama in series 2
Tahirah Sharif returns as PC Lizzie Adama in series 2 (Image: ITV)

And when this case overlaps with the first call Lizzie (Tahirah Sharif) attends since being cleared of misconduct over the events of series one, Sarah and Lizzie find themselves thrown together. “Sarah knows a crime was covered up and Lizzie was a part of that,” says Gemma.

“But at the same time, she understands why Lizzie acted as she did. Despite herself, Sarah’s impressed that Lizzie stayed with the police. Sarah gives her a chance, but she doesn’t give her an easy ride.”

Gemma reveals that we’ll learn more about Sarah’s personal life over the course of the series, including the death of her sister when they were both teens and a new love interest. The actress also admits that playing the role for another year has given her more insight into the complicated and challenging cases that officers face.

“I’ve learnt a lot of respect for officers,” she adds. “They get a lot of criticism, but I think most of them are trying their best and working really hard.”

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