What depths will Michael Kitchen sink to in his role as a judge with a guilty secret?
Drama rarely manages to reflect the up-to-the-minute concerns of society. But the two-part ITV thriller The Guilty arrives on our screens with an unusually topical storyline.
Young, ambitious barrister Stephen Vey (Michael Kitchen) is working his way up to the position of judge, when a monstrous act from his past, the rape of his secretary Tanya (Caroline Catz), returns to haunt him. Viewers will notice some similarities with the real-life Clarence Thomas case, which kept Americans glued to their TVs last autumn.
Clarence Thomas, President Bush's nominee for the US Supreme Court, was accused of sexually harassing his one-time assistant, Anita Hill. She made her charge a few days before Thomas was due to be confirmed as an associate justice of the American Supreme Court, having waited ten years to press her claims.
In The Guilty, Tanya keeps the rape secret for months, before launching her attempt to win justice once Vey is promoted to High Court judge.
Despite any similarities in the storylines, the £2 million thriller was already in production when the Thomas case made the headlines.
Michael Kitchen began his career at the National Youth Theatre while still at school, and spent a year as assistant stage manager at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, before heading off to Rada. Since then, the actor has performed in everything from Romeo and Juliet to The Brontės of Haworth. But he is best known to television audiences for playing bad boys in series that include Inspector Morse and The Advocates. His most applauded performances came in Stephen Poliakoff's award winning play Caught On A Train with Peggy Ashcroft and Dennis Potter's Brimstone and Treacle, in which he played the Devil.
The Guilty was produced by Sarah Wilson and written by Simon Burke. The pair devised the character of Stephen Vey for Michael Kitchen after witnessing his appearance as Roman in two episodes of their last series, Chancer.
"In Roman we saw elements of great evil combined with human traits, like fallibility," says Sarah Wilson. "Michael's very good at the subtleties of villainy. In The Guilty, Vey starts off as a man with everything - inherited money, a great job and a happy family - who puts it all at risk by one drunken act. We wanted to see what depths a man could sink to."