Keeley Hawes says her expectations “weren’t particularly high” concerning viewer curiosity in her two-part TV film “Honour,” which premiered the final fall on ITV within the UK.
“It wasn’t a mainstream subject and not something many people knew about,” Hawes, 44, says of “Honour,” which chronicles the 2006 murder of a younger British-Iraqi Kurdish girl, Banaz Mahmod, by members of her family, primarily based in southwest London. The 95-minute film, written by Gwyneth Hughes, makes its US premiere on Feb. 16 on streaming service BritBox.
“We thought maybe we’d get 1 million viewers in the best-case scenario,” Hawes says. “We ended up with 7.5 million viewers. People realized a lot extra in regards to the case. At the top of this journey, individuals knew in regards to the story and had a higher understanding of those so-called ‘honor-based’ violence and abuse instances.
“You hear of ‘honor killings’; it’s reported on the periphery, however, you assume it’s a type of issue that occurs to different individuals in different communities,” Hawes says. “It’s not something you know very much about — certainly I didn’t.”
Banaz, 20, had left a pre-arranged marriage, which was violent and abusive and was a relationship with Rahmat Sulemani, who was deemed unsuitable by her household. Sulemani reported Banaz lacking in January 2006 and, three months later, her physique was discovered stuffed in a suitcase and buried in a yard in Birmingham, 120 miles away. She had been raped and strangled.
Sulemani was the prime suspect, however as DCI Caroline Goode (performed by Hawes) doggedly labored the case, she found the hushed existence of “honor killings” –somebody murdered for “dishonoring” their household — and that Banaz had gone to the police a number of occasions, fearing for her life, however, was ignored.
Goode finally introduced the killers to justice — even extraditing two of them again to England from Iraq after they fled the country.
“The first thing I did after reading the script was to watch a brilliant documentary [about the case] by Deeyah Khan called ‘Banaz: A Love Story,” which received an Emmy [in 2013],” Hawes says. “I met Caroline Goode and we had a cup of tea and I asked a lot of questions. We are not similar, physically, in any way — she’s petite and I’m very tall — but it wasn’t like I was playing Margaret Thatcher or the Queen since no one here knows what Caroline looks like. So there wasn’t much pressure in that sense.”
Hawes additionally executive-produced “Honour,” which is a finish of the enterprise she actually enjoys.
“I had been working on a series called ‘The Durrells in Corfu’ and I executive-produced the fourth and final season [of that shows] and really enjoyed the experience,” says Hawes, who’s married to actor Matthew Macfadyen (“Quiz,” “Succession”). “I’ve been acting for a long time since I was a child, and I really felt like I was using a different muscle and thinking about things in a different way. I’ve spent so much time in this business and was thinking about expanding and exploring the idea of producing — and then I received this script…it ticked a lot of boxes in terms of producing and in playing this amazing woman.”
Writer Hughes interviewed Banaz’s sisters, and Sulemani, for “Honour” — “she really dived very deep into this project,” Hawes says — and takes viewers on a journey that has far-reaching implications, not just for Bonaz’s relations and Sulemani, however for the London police.
“After this case and because of this case, the police are now educated in honor-based crime and violence,” Hawes says. “Caroline is retired now but has dedicated her life to educating people and working with police and various charities…up and down the country.”