Eve Myles as Faith in the BBC mystery
A record-breaking 10 million viewers downloaded the series on BBC iPlayer in February – the biggest ever audience for a non-network show – and its availability was extended over the spring bank holiday so that more viewers could watch the gripping dénouement.
Now, to the relief of those who missed the final episode despite this extension – and Keeping Faith newbies – the nail-biting, eight-episode drama hits BBC One tonight.
The eponymous Faith of the title is played by Eve Myles, who is best known to viewers for her role as Gwen Cooper in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, a role for which she won a Welsh Bafta for Best Actress in 2007.
More recently she played Gwen Parry-Jones, the suicidal Welsh lover of Norman Scott, in the series A Very English Scandal about the Jeremy Thorpe affair and over the years there have also been parts in Doctor Who, Victoria and Broadchurch.
Myles’s real-life husband Bradley Freegard plays her on-screen husband, solicitor Evan Howells, and his sudden disappearance one morning after breakfast is the focus of the drama.
Keeping Faith (Un Bore Mercher in Welsh) was first aired in autumn 2017 on the Welsh language channel S4C and became the broadcaster’s most popular local series in 25 years before knocking Scandi noir hits The Bridge and The Killing off the most-watched list on iPlayer.
“I couldn’t believe that it was so popular over the bridge [in England],” said Myles, 39.
“There was no promotion over there, it was word of mouth. Then it started creeping up the chart to number one. You’re always waiting for that life-changing role and this was certainly it.”
Keeping Faith was always designed to be filmed simultaneously in Welsh and English but though she grew up in Powys, Myles hadn’t learned Welsh.
She was convinced she couldn’t master the language so turned down the part of Faith three times.
It was Welsh-speaker Bradley who convinced her to seize the challenge she had been craving – and she took six months of lessons to become bilingual.
“Thank goodness it came along,” she said.
“It gave me a confidence I never had before.”
But she almost missed out on the part altogether.
Shortly before she was offered it by director Pip Broughton (who shot six of the episodes with Andrew Newbery directing the other two), mother-of-two Myles was on the brink of quitting acting altogether.
Over her 17-year career she has enjoyed many peaks but has also experienced some troughs when she struggled to pay the bills.
“People presume that because you’re on the telly you’re George Clooney and Amal,” she said.
“That’s not the case. Always be prepared not to be extravagant because next year could be completely dead. I’d get a great year and then be dead for 18 months.”
Replayed again and again is the scene when Faith, hungover from a night out with her friends, catches a look of anguish on her husband’s face as he sits in the car in the driveway of the family house.
He glances back at his wife through the kitchen window before driving off to work.
It lasts for just a second before Evan is gone but Faith returns to the moment throughout the day as her husband fails to turn up at court with a client or respond to her frantic phone calls and texts.
Faith spends the day juggling work – she is a partner in her husband’s family’s legal firm – and childcare.
Picturesque Laugharne Castle in Carmarthenshire, Wales
His disappearance takes her on a terrifying journey of discovery into the criminal underworld and Evan’s murky personal life, forcing her to confront the possibility that her husband is not the man she thought he was.
The success of the script by screenwriter and former lawyer Matthew Hall (Kavanagh QC and Dalziel And Pascoe) lies less in its plot – which becomes steadily more convoluted and at times somewhat implausible – and more in the detailed and authentic observations of everyday life.
A prime example comes early in the first episode when we see Faith squeezing herself into a tight pencil skirt and vertiginous stilettos after months wearing the babyfood-stained T-shirts and baggy jeans uniform of maternity leave.
Tottering around, the misfit is psychological as well as physical as Faith struggles to re-engage her work brain.
AS MYLES said of her in an interview: “Those suits, they are Faith’s boxing gloves. She is a woman going through hell, doing the best she can for her family.”
And Faith being Faith, she pulls it off, which is why her character has become an icon for working mums whose lives are one long plate- spinning challenge.
Faith has her weaknesses – Myles calls her “beautifully flawed” – which is what makes her so convincing and appealing.
With her gappy-toothed pout and tousled caramel hair Myles is undeniably beautiful but like the Scandi heroines she is no perfect ice maiden.
“She is the kind of woman I want to be: a woman’s woman,” is how Myles describes her.
The Howell family home – a stylish glass and wood affair – is located in the fictional coastal town of Abercorran where net curtains twitch and everyone knows each other’s business.
Laugharne, on the south Carmarthenshire coast – where Dylan Thomas lived for the last four years of his life – stands in for Abercorran and it is where much of the action takes place.
The exterior shots were filmed in Carmarthenshire, the Vale of Glamorgan and Swansea and Keeping Faith is set to do for Wales’ tourism what Poldark did for Cornwall’s.
Alongside the stunning scenery, another star of the show is Faith’s trusty yellow raincoat – what Myles calls her “strength coat” – which is so popular that it now has its own Twitter page.
Its 526 followers tweet photos of themselves wearing yellow coats and one revealed that she loved the series so much she re-watched all eight episodes in Welsh, despite not understanding a word of the language.
“Cymru noir” is a term we are all going to be familiar with by the end of Keeping Faith as it further plants Wales on the dark drama map.
Eve and husband Bradley Freegard – who plays her spouse in the series
Hinterland, a detective series set in mid-Wales, started it all in 2014 when it was sold to European networks before going global on Netflix.
They are fast giving the Scandi box sets a run for their money with many fans admitting to binge watching Keeping Faith in one sitting.
“I think it’s sexy,” Myles says of the success of the drama.
“It’s escapism, a treat for the mind and the soul. Wales has always produced good drama, it has just been hard to get it on a platform. Hinterland put an end to that.”
We see Faith marching doggedly across craggy cliff tops and expansive sand dunes, often in unfeasibly high heels, in search of Evan and it is clear Myles is at one with the rugged Welsh landscape.
She grew up “in the middle of nowhere” with her brother and mum after her parents divorced when she was a child.
Her mother did not drive so she spent her childhood cycling around the neighbourhood with her friends.
Eve Myles with Ben Whishaw in A Very English Scandal
Myles met Freegard at the National Youth Theatre in 1994 and five years ago they eloped to Italy, exchanging suitably bohemian vows to “become one and harness our children’s aspirations”.
THEY have two daughters, Matilda, eight, and Siena, four, and Myles credits her husband (who is not on screen as often as his wife in Keeping Faith) with looking after the family while she slogged through 15-hour days.
“I’m very lucky with my husband,” she said. “He’s a supportive man.”
The family live in a sevenbedroom detached house in a conservation area of suburban Cardiff and Myles has kept up her Welsh and is trying to pass it on to her daughters.
In her spare time she loves to go for 13-mile runs along a leafy trail close to home.
With the success of Keeping Faith seemingly a foregone conclusion and a second series already in development, Myles should grab her spare time while she can.
It won’t, we suspect, last for long.
The first episode of Keeping Faith is on BBC One tonight at 9pm.