Leona Deakin: ‘When it comes to characters, there are few as intriguing as the psychopathic personality’
How would you describe your investigator Dr Augusta Bloom?
Dr Augusta Bloom is a criminal psychologist at the top of her game. She is an expert in deviant personalities and the motivations behind criminal behaviour. She is cool-headed, logical and intelligent. In times of crisis you’d want her in your corner but you probably wouldn’t pick her as a friend.
How has your work as a psychologist influenced her as a character?
As a psychologist, I spend my time analysing how people think and behave. I am constantly searching to understand their motivations and their personalities. I wanted an investigator who would look at a crime in this way, and who would take on cases where the evidence is lacking and interrogate the characters to find the clues instead.
Bloom is far more knowledgeable about psychopathy and crime than me, but my professional training means I can keep up with her – just. I started my career with the police in West Yorkshire. As a civilian psychologist, I was rank-anonymous and therefore had access to everyone from the bobby on the beat to the Chief Constable. I learned a lot about how such a hierarchy works and the range of characters that operate within it. Bloom has this same insight and uses it to her advantage. She is respected by senior investigators but not answerable to them. For this reason, she always addresses officers by their first name regardless of their seniority. This is not about disrespect but equality.
When developing characters does it help to be a psychologist?
Absolutely. As a psychologist you are taught that human behaviour is a combination of two factors: who you are (your personality) and where you are (the situation you are in at the time). My approach to character development is to determine each individual’s personality traits and then to work out how that person would behave in a difficult situation.
I tend to use the Big Five personality traits. These are the five key ways that human beings differ. Are we extroverted or introverted, conscientious or free-spirited, open to experience or risk averse, emotionally stable or reactive, agreeable or independent-minded?
I wanted Bloom to be introverted, because introverts tend to be more considered and clearer of mind. Extroverts, like Jameson, are more outgoing, chatty and often charismatic. Whereas introverts have a more active inner life. They think more deeply, reflect more readily and as a result can be highly insightful. I liked the idea of an investigator who quietly sees things that others miss. But she is also emotionally stable and independent-minded and this means that she doesn’t need other people. And that makes her detached and a little cold.
Why did you make Dr Bloom an expert in psychopathy?
When it comes to characters, there are few as intriguing as the psychopathic personality. They are capable of great cruelty but also great bravery. They lack the emotional depth to empathise and yet their logical cool-headedness allows them to persevere and prosper in all manner of professions. We look at them as flawed. They look at us as inferior. I believe I have met a few in my career. They have not always been the impulse-driven criminals of your average horror movie, but rather snakes in suits; highly successful, ruthless egotists who strive for power.
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