“Too Close” star Emily Watson has a personal relationship to the source material for the three-part psychological thriller, premiering Thursday (May 20) on AMC+.
It’s based on the titular 2018 novel by Natalie Daniels, the pen name used by Clara Salaman — one of Watson’s oldest friends.
“I’ve known her for pretty much 50 years. We were at school together,” the British-born Watson, 54, told The Post. “Clara is one of my oldest childhood friends. I read the book before it was published — Clara and I set and talked about it over lunch. She said, ‘It hasn’t been published yet. Will you read it? I think it might make for an interesting project and there are some great parts in it.’
“I said yes, of course I would love to read it, but you’re always in that situation where you feel nervous and it’s a friend of yours and what if you don’t like it and it’s awkward? But I found myself really interested.”
In the series, Watson plays Dr. Emma Robertson, a married forensic psychiatrist who’s treating Connie Mortensen (Denise Gough), charged with attempted murder after purposely driving off a bridge into a river during a torrential downpour — taking her young daughter and a neighbor’s daughter with her. All three survive; Connie, emotionally and physically scarred and in a psychotic state, claims to have no memory of the incident and reacts strangely when confronted by Emma, who attempts to connect the whys and hows of what happened that night.
The series plays out as a game of emotional cat-and-mouse between Emma and Connie, who chide, provoke and manipulate each other during their sparring therapy sessions — while unlocking secrets both of them have kept from themselves and from others.
“I think Emma has been like a closed porcelain structure that’s got a crack in it and is just waiting for the right encounter to break it open, and that’s Connie,” Watson said. “Emma has this idea of her self as being a very solidly secure professional person while, in fact, she hasn’t really dealt with something in her past.”
“It’s a common view of psychosis that somebody like Connie who’s in that [emotional] place appears threatening and dangerous, and over the course of the three episodes I hope the audience is lead to a very empathetic understanding of how that happens — and how someone reaches that place.
“In the psychotic state she’s in, she’s terrified of looking into the reality of the situation,” she said. “When I talked to a forensic psychiatrist, she said the hardest moment of all is when someone dealing with this comes down, because that’s the moment they come back to reality and realize what they’ve done. Everything is working incredibly hard in that person to deny they’ve done anything…and a lot of that, unfortunately, involves harming people they love. That’s the sort of mental energy and acuteness that state takes — and, in a way, it renders Connie intensely perceptive.”
Watson said that Connie also forces Emma to confront her demons, particularly one incident in her recent past that continues to haunt her.
“I think [Emma] has undoubtedly gone through all the processes she’s supposed to go through — grief counseling, the stages of grief — but does she know how to process those things? No, and there’s a secret at the center of it she’s never confessed to her husband about exactly how things happened — because the guilt is too terrible.”