Downton Abbey star shares how they brought “tiny moments of humanity” to new hospital drama

joanne froggatt as abbey, breathtaking
Breathtaking star on medical training for dramanick wall - ITV

Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt has opened up about bringing "tiny moments of humanity" to her role in new hospital drama Breathtaking.

Froggatt is best known for playing Anna Bates in the early 20th Century historical drama (and earning three Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe along the way) – but she's swapping gowns for scrubs in the new ITV programme based on the memoir of palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke detailing the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to Digital Spy and other press, Froggatt has emphasised how important medical advisors Tom Petty (who also stars as Dr Neil Westland) and Andrew Cinnamond were to making Breathtaking.

joanne froggatt, breathtaking trailer

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"Honestly, Tom and Andrew, from the acting side of things, they were absolutely imperative to the performance," Froggatt said, adding that the cast were given a "medical boot camp" that consisted of "medical school in about 16 hours."

That, she went on to explain, was integral to her performance in Breathtaking, which is from Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio: "To have that little bit of background knowledge, whenever you’re acting anything, you have to know what you’re saying.

"It has to make sense to you because you can’t make it make sense to somebody else if you don’t fully understand it and believe it and feel it yourself."

Continuing, Froggatt emphasised the extent to which the cast researched what it was like actually being a doctor in those conditions.

"We had a rehearsal week which actually, rightly so, turned into us drilling resus scenes all week and the physicality of that and not only the physicality and the medical expertise Tom and Andrew bestowed on us but also their personal experiences because they both worked on the frontline during COVID, so they were so incredibly candid with us and we all got very close and we were able to ask them: ‘What does it feel like when you have to do this?’"

joanne froggatt in itv's breathtaking

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"‘I know you’re not supposed to but would you hold a person's hand?’" Froggatt asked the pair.

"It was the little moments of humanity that Tom and Andrew weaved into the story.

"I remember in the scene where I have to pronounce the patient deceased in the back of the ambulance Andrew said, 'You might, as you say the time, touch the arm as a mark of respect' and it's the tiny moments of humanity as well as the logistics of everything that really made it feel real."

Breathtaking begins on Monday, February 19 on ITV1 at 9pm and airs until Wednesday, February 21. It will also be available to stream on ITVX.

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