Churchills Secret

Actors Sir Michael Gambon and Romola Garai—who play Winston Churchill and Millie Appleyard in the film Churchill’s Secret—have a relationship as lighthearted on-screen as they do off.

Here, the two come together in this exclusive interview to talk about the film, Albus Dumbledore, and the necessity of secret keeping. Also hear from the film’s director, Charles Sturridge, on bringing this remarkable and true story to life.


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Jace: I’m Jace Lacob and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.

Though it reads more like the plot of an episode of The West Wing, the true story of Churchill’s 1953 stroke is the subject of the biopic “Churchill’s Secret.”

The film explores Churchill’s relationships to his work and ambition, to his family, and to his fictional nurse, Millie Appleyard.

Millie: If you rely on your right side to walk and to pick things up, then your left side will never recover. You’ll walk like a listing ship.
Churchill: A lisping s**t?
Millie: A listing ship. Wash your ears out and your mouth too.

Jace: While Millie is a fictional character, actor Romola Garai, who plays Mille Appleyard, and Sir Michael Gambon, who plays Winston Churchill, share a relationship as lighthearted on-screen as it is off.

Michael: She talks more than I do. She talks a lot.
Romola: Yeah, near constant.
Michael: Yeah, constantly talking. I just say very little. Romola: Yeah.
Michael: But I’ll say a lot today I think.

Jace: Today, Sir Michael Gambon and Romola Garai take us behind the scenes of Churchill’s Secret.

And later, we’ll hear from the film’s director, Charles Sturridge, on bringing this incredible story to the screen.

Jace: This week we are joined by Romola Garai and Sir Michael Gambon, welcome.

Michael Gambon (Michael): Pleasure.

Romola Garai (Romola): Hi, nice to meet you.

Jace: This isn’t the first time that you two have appeared onscreen together. MASTERPIECE fans will recall that you played Emma and Mr. Woodhouse in Emma a few years back. What is it like working together again?

Michael: It’s very nice.

Romola: It was awful.

Michael: It’s not awful. It’s very nice. It’s very nice.

Jace: There’s a sense by some in the household that feel that Millie is in love with Winston Churchill, but their dynamic is not that simplistic. How would you describe the relationship between Millie Appleyard and Winston Churchill?

Romola: Well it changes a lot over the course of the film. I think she comes into meeting this monolithic character with the appropriate level of awe that I think an audience member can really connect to. But I think as she begins to nurse him, she’s able to relate to him much more as a patient, and I think she connects to him on a more human level through nursing him.

Jace: Now Churchill’s 1953 stroke remained a secret for a very long time. And this film offers a look at how a plain-spoken nurse could push this great leader back to health. What initially attracted both of you to the film?

Michael: Well I was terrified at the beginning when I read it, and I met the director because, it’s a, you know, it’s a famous role, isn’t it? But I just jumped in the water and relied on the director to tell me what to do, and felt the man and try to imagine what it was like — his shape, his body, the way he spoke, his accent slightly.

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