Gentleman Jack’s Sophie Rundle addresses Ann Walker’s ‘deeply ingrained homophobia’

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Gentleman Jack season two is approaching its end with just one more episode left to air on BBC One. The period drama focuses on the life of landowner Anne Lister (played by Suranne Jones), her businesses and her new wife Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle). While Lister had known for most of her life that she was a lesbian, Ms Walker had a far more constrained upbringing, dealing with her own demons on a regular basis.

WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Gentleman Jack.

Gentleman Jack may essentially be the story of Anne Lister, it also delves into the life of Ann Walker who she “married” at the end of the first series.

Lister had countless lovers before getting into a relationship with Ms Walker who had no personal experience with either man or woman.

She struggled with mental health issues throughout her life and was prone to bouts of anxiety and depression.

Coming to terms with her own sexuality and her newfound romance with Lister also put an additional strain on her mental wellbeing.

The LGBTQ+ community was virtually non-existent or in hiding during the 19th Century.

Same-sex marriage was only legalised in the UK in 2013 so it was far from considered as “the norm” in the days of Anne Lister and Ann Walker.

So the societal pressure to settle down with a man would have been a tremendous weight on Ms Walker’s shoulders.

This conflict within herself and the problems it has caused for her relationship with Lister have been depicted in both seasons of Gentleman Jack.

Discussing Ms Walker’s mental health issues with press, including, actress Sophie Rundle explained: “I think she had carried that [mental health issues] her whole life really…

“It’s so sad because what she was dealing with and going through are completely manageable things, she just needed help, she just needed a friend.

“I really do think Anne Lister was her friend before anything else, she loved her and took care of her.

“She just needed the modern thinking we have almost taken for granted now, she just needed someone to say ‘you’re not crazy, there is nothing wrong with you.

“‘You’re not damaged or broken, let’s talk about it.'”

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Rundle continued: “It was really hard in the first series, because she went through it and you don’t just want to colour that in.

“It was very challenging and I think Ann Walker is a challenging character to play, because that doesn’t leave her.

“There’s a lot of pain and anguish there. And I guess before she was on this constant bungee cord.

“She really does try but she has this deeply ingrained, internalised homophobia, there’s this fundamental clash in her she’s constantly grappling with.”

Gentleman Jack season two will be airing its grand finale on Sunday, May 29, at 9pm on BBC One.

The synopsis for It’s Not Illegal reads: “Anne and Ann’s marriage is in serious danger when Captain Sutherland arrives from Scotland determined to destroy Anne Lister’s reputation.

“Anne Lister and Ann Walker’s trip to London is blighted by tension.”

It already has been teased that Ms Walker will discover Lister’s one-night fling with Marianna Lawton (Lydia Leonard) as well but how is she going to react to the betrayal?

Gentleman Jack is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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