A good thriller keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. A great thriller keeps viewers on the edge of their seats even when they know what’s coming. Just ask Defending Jacob star Michelle Dockery, who watched all eight episodes of the limited series — based on the 2012 William Landay bestseller — after filming. “I kept holding my breath!” she says. “Watching a thriller like that is what we [as viewers] love. That [intense] feeling you have as the story unravels.”
For the Barber family, unimaginable problems pile up quickly. Happy suburban couple Laurie (Dockery) and Andy (The Avengers’ Chris Evans) are blindsided when their mild-mannered teen son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell, Masters of Sex), is accused of stabbing a classmate to death. Immediately, the Barbers’ close-knit community turns on them. “The way it’s portrayed, it’s very real,” Dockery promises. She lets us in on more neighborhood secrets.
How faithful is the series to the book?
Michelle Dockery: What’s great about this story is there are so many twists and turns, and the TV version is very similar. And there are some added twists and turns, certainly. So you never know quite which way it’s going to go. The book is a real page-turner, and each episode has a cliffhanger.
There’s a scene where Laurie insists, “A mother knows her child.” Do you think she’s blinded by her love for Jacob?
I want the audience to see it as it plays out. But the show brings up questions of how far you would go to protect your family. Can you believe your child? Do you believe your child?
After the news of his arrest breaks, Laurie’s best friend shuns her, and the Barbers’ house is vandalized. Many in the community assume Jacob is guilty from the outset.
It’s out there immediately, and social media plays a huge part in that. Certainly Jacob’s face is everywhere. They can’t go anywhere as a family. On top of having their lives completely changed, everything is pulled from under them and they have nothing to hold on to.
Shifting gears a bit, last year’s Downton Abbey movie was such a hit. Would you be up for playing Lady Mary again in a sequel?
I would love to. We had such a good time doing the film, so if there is an opportunity to do another one, I hope that we would all hold hands and jump in again.
We’re all stuck inside these days. What are you watching?
Reruns of The Sopranos. It’s one of the great shows of all time. And I’m loving [cheerleading docuseries] Cheer on Netflix. I’m on Episode 2 and already crying and rooting for them all!