BBC Three drama Overshadowed is a little different to most TV shows – it’s made up entirely of the vlogs of its lead character, Imogene. It’s through these videos that her followers begin to notice all is not well in her life.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything on television like this, I think it’s a new kind of concept,” says Michelle Fox, the actress who plays the teenage central character of Overshadowed.
Michelle plays Imogene, a young vlogger who uploads videos every day – recorded in her bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, at school… even while out jogging.
But, over the course of eight 10-minute episodes, viewers gradually see her start to show signs of anorexia.
“Basically, Imogene decides to share her life with the world, and the world sees more of her life than she does, with the outside force of the eating disorder,” Michelle explains.
“It’s an insight to Imogene’s life and how anorexia is affecting it.
“In the first couple of episodes, she seems like a really normal teenager, and she’s lovely, embarrassing, funny, and I think it’s not until the end of episode one that you get a snippet that something is not right.”
The show’s title, Overshadowed, is a reference to Imogene feeling that there’s an outside force literally standing over her, compelling her to skip meals and count calories.
This external force is presented as an on-screen character – Anna (a reference to anorexia) – who constantly pushes Imogene to eat less and exercise more.
“When someone is going through a mental health crisis or eating disorder, often people blame the person, ‘Why can’t you just stop? Why can’t you see what’s going on?'” Michelle says.
“And by showing the eating disorder as a separate entity, you remove the control, you can see the person trying, but there’s this outside control overshadowing them. It’s not this person’s fault, they’re not doing it in a malicious way.”
Tackling such a serious subject would be a tall order for any TV show, let alone one which is doing it via a series of vlogs – a relatively new format.
“I think this is a good way to tell a story,” Michelle says.
“The way I like to watch things as a viewer is I like to be a bit ahead, and be in on the secret, on what’s going on.
“But with a vlog, it’s blunt, it’s instant, people say how they feel, and as an audience member it feels real, like you’re right there with the person, especially because they’re talking to you directly.
“Imogene is speaking to herself but she’s also speaking to a camera, so it puts the viewer in an awkward and horrible position, like the struggle with mental illness is really in your face.”
The slightly unusual format was what helped Michelle get the part.
The Irish actress graduated from Bristol Old Vic drama school last summer and was appearing in the theatre’s production of Medea when she heard about Overshadowed.
“My agent called and she said the casting director wanted to see me, so as well as recording a traditional audition tape, I sent in tapes which I filmed myself on my phone, because I had a feeling the series might all be shot handheld.
“So I sent in two different copies, and the casting director really liked that, and I got cast off the tape [i.e. without meeting the casting director in person], which was really surprising.”
Overshadowed is certainly one of the first TV dramas to be told through vlogging, so producers will be watching closely to see how the audience reacts.
But Michelle says: “I think this could be the first of many.”
Overshadowed is available to watch now on BBC Three.
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