LOS ANGELES, Sept. 23 (UPI) — On Aug. 8, 1985, five members of the Bamber family were killed in Nevill and June Bambers’ home in Essex, England. The new HBO Max series, The Murders at White House Farm, explores how son Jeremy Bamber kept the community debating his guilt, even after his conviction for the murders.
Freddie Fox plays Jeremy, who is serving a life sentence for the murders. When the series begins, Jeremy calls police to the scene at White House Farm, claiming his sister Sheila (Cressida Bonas) sounded erratic on the phone.
“Director Paul Whittington and I decided that we wanted to create as plausible an appearance of somebody suffering in grief for as long as possible,” Fox said on a recent Television Critics Association panel. “There’s a certain elliptical quality, an enigmatic nature to the character, which I really wanted to play up.”
Series creator and executive producer Kris Mrksa said Jeremy’s behavior in the aftermath of the murders led to a lot of the disagreements about the case. It was important to Mrksa that Fox’s performance capture how much Jeremy fluctuated.
“[Jeremy goes] from enormously demonstrative grief to almost a flippancy,” Mrksa said. “He is so unpredictable and mercurial, moving from charming to cold and disengaged.”
Controversy still surrounds the case. A Jeremy Bamber Innocence Campaign is fighting for his release.
“Jeremy Bamber recently had his third appeal and has a huge support group suggesting that he didn’t do it,” Fox said.
The series bases its depiction of events on two sources. Carol Ann Lee researched the case and wrote the book, The Murders At White House Farm. Colin Caffell, Sheila’s husband, wrote the book, In Search of Rainbow’s End, which the series also credits.
“I was then very fortunate to spend quite a lot of time with Colin,” Fox said. “He was incredibly open and giving with his memories.”
Fox also visited locations relating to the Bamber family. He said he went to the church graveyard where the Bambers are buried, Jeremy’s house and even pubs that Jeremy frequented.
“I would meet people,” Fox said. “They would all be giving me their different views on what the case or the outcome of the case.”
In addition to the Bamber family and people in the Essex community, Fox said he also spoke with criminologists, criminal psychologists and officers who worked the case. One person Fox did not consult was Jeremy. Fox says he avoided Jeremy for the actor’s own well-being.
“Were I to have met the real Jeremy Bamber, there would have been a certain amount of baggage that I wouldn’t have been able to escape,” Fox said.
Fox said no video of Jeremy speaking exists, but he had a wealth of audio recordings to which he listened. Tapes of Jeremy guided Fox’s performance, though the actor said he did not mimic Jeremy’s voice.
“I created my own Bamber as opposed to a facsimile of the Bamber,” Fox said.
As much attention as Mrksa paid to historically accurate details, the series still begins with a disclaimer that The Murders at White House Farm changed some names and combined some characters. Mrksa clarified that he had to reduce the number of police officers on the case to make the cast manageable.
“Otherwise, we would have had a mystifyingly large cast of police characters running around the place,” Mrksa said.
With so many differing views about Jeremy, Fox hopes he succeeded in portraying the enigmatic nature of his character. Fox wanted the audience, whether anyone knew the story or not, to wonder how the series would portray Jeremy’s guilt.
The Murders at White House Farm aired on the BBC in January. Fox said the series reopened the debate that began in 1985.
“It was extraordinary, really, to see the kind of breadth of opinion that was out there still,” he said.
All six episodes of The Murders at White House Farm premiere Thursday on HBO Max.