The One: An interview with Zoë Tapper

The One actress Zoë Tapper tells us all about the Netflix series that makes you question whether you want to find your soul mate…

the one

Based on a book by John Marrs, The One asks the question: What if we could find our perfect partner through DNA matching?

The new Netflix series is set in the near future, in a world where a DNA test can find your perfect partner – the one person you’re genetically predisposed to fall passionately in love with. No matter how good your relationship, which one of us can honestly say we haven’t thought about whether there is someone better out there? What if a hair sample is all it takes to find them? The idea is simple, but the implications are explosive. We will never think of love and relationships in the same way again.

We speak to Zoë Tapper who plays Kate in the series – a detective looking into the shady past of the technology’s founder Rebecca Webb (played by Hannah Ware) but she has a personal stake in the investigation too, after being recently matched with Sophia (Jana Pérez).

We speak to Zoë on the day the series launched about dystopian technology, dating apps and that pesky countdown on Netflix that just makes you want to watch one episode more…

Congratulations on the release of The One! Do you have any celebration plans for today?

I’m always quite nervous so I always try and slightly block it out of my mind and then I get lovely people messaging me and sending me Instagram things, telling me that they’re enjoying it or they’re watching it, so I can’t really block it! I just want people to enjoy it.

How did you first get involved with The One?

It all started the usual way. I was actually on holiday when the audition came through, it was back when we could go on holiday. So it must have been summer 2019 and I was away in Croatia and yeah I just got an audition through. It’s a funny one when you’re on holiday because you sort of go: “Oh, goodness I’m going to go put myself on tape and actually what I really want to be doing is holidaying!”

So I sort of just got on with it really quickly and then forgot about it, but luckily when I got home they rang me and said that they wanted me to do a chemistry test with another actor in the show. I did that and then I got the part! It happened all sort of seamlessly really!

What did you think of the show when you first read the script?

I think I got the first three episodes sent to me straight away and at the start, the actual premise, this idea that you could find love through science, it kind of blew my mind really because I thought, ‘love is such a subjective thing isn’t it?’ and to put something scientific and rational on top of it is extraordinary. So I loved that idea. I thought it was so interesting and I thought it would be thrilling to explore what that does not only to the psyche of the person taking the test but actually to society as a whole.

If you start to say to people, ‘you can find your soul mate like this’, then that shifts how people interact with each other. So yeah I loved it from the off, I thought it was a fantastic idea and I straightaway ordered the book that it was based on – The One by John Marrs –  and read through that in one sitting pretty much and loved it.

Zoë loved the idea of taking something subjective like love and putting something scientific on top.

The series feels a little bit like Black Mirror

Yeah it is a little Black Mirror-esque and what I think is interesting is, obviously, it is fiction but it doesn’t feel completely implausible. It feels like it is a step that we could all take.

We’re all so used to this new form of people meeting now going online and dating apps but 10-15 years ago that’s not how people met. So shifts in patterns and dating change all the time and so maybe this is the next step. Although I think that would be quite terrifying in real life!

We guess if dating apps were unheard of a few years ago then DNA matching doesn’t seem overly far-fetched!

It is really strange and I think that’s evolving all the time. I’m married. I haven’t used those dating apps recently – or ever really – but I’ve seen friends do it. I suppose from an old-fashioned perspective, it feels like it slightly takes away some of that lovely human interaction. I think at the moment we’re all so stuck inside in our own bubbles it’s that physicality of other people that we’re craving. So, yes, maybe. Maybe this will change again, or maybe when we come out of lockdown there’ll be a whole explosion of people just not wanting to have dating apps anymore and just wanting to kind of see each other and meet in bars and clubs again!

What are your thoughts on your character Kate?

I instantly liked her actually. I’ve read lots of scripts and I’ve read lots of crime dramas and stories surrounding tech detectives and I’m quite used to reading and seeing on our screens the kind of detective who has a brilliant mind but is kind of flawed or has some sort of problem that they have to overcome. What I liked about Kate, what I found refreshing about her, was that actually she’s a very sturdy, sorted character. She knows her own mind, she likes who she is, she’s kind of exactly where she needs to be in life.

She works hard, she enjoys her career but the one missing link is somebody to share it all with. At the very beginning of the series, we see her having just taken the test, and been matched with somebody and it seems like a perfect solution to her busy lifestyle. She doesn’t have to worry about endless dates where she might be meeting people she doesn’t particularly like, and instead she’s got her ready-made match there in front of her so I quite like her. She’s really practical and no-nonsense, and has a really good sense of right and wrong.

I think what is lovely about the series is that you do see her from a personal perspective, and a professional perspective, but they’re starting to collide, Those two worlds that she tries to keep separate. She tries to keep her work life completely separate from everything that’s going on at home, but of course because of the way she’s met her match and because of the investigation that she’s leading, they start to intertwine and it starts to get messy.

I think that is what unsettles Kate, because actually, she’s fine when she knows what she’s doing with her job, and she’s sorted out her personal life – she thinks she has – but it’s when they start encroaching on each other that’s when things will start going awry…

What was your biggest challenge when shooting the series?

My biggest challenge and probably the biggest thrill was working with Gregg Chillin who plays my sidekick Nick in the show. Because he’s got a wicked sense of humour and we’re obviously meant to be incredibly serious Metropolitan Police officers, but he would just have an ability to make me completely burst into hysterics to the point where I’d get into trouble for giggling. Very very unprofessional of me! So that was a challenge in a good way because sometimes when you’re filming very intense scenes, you do need a little bit of light relief.

Also some of those early scenes where I matched with the character Sophia, she wasn’t actually even there. You see me interacting on Zoom but she wasn’t there, there wasn’t another face on the screen. So I did actually have to just fall madly in love with somebody who wasn’t there, I couldn’t even see their face! But other than that, I think the challenge was just to make it real, to absolutely believe the relationships.

Gregg Chillin (left) who plays Nick in The One would get Zoë into trouble with his wicked sense of humour!

Would you recommend audiences binge-watch The One or take their time with it?

It’s funny because culture again has changed and perhaps it’s changed even more since lockdown, but I do actually think this is a binge one. I do sit on the fence a little bit, I do quite like a drama sometimes where you watch a little bit and wait for a while before the next episode.

I knew what was going to happen – I’d read all the scripts, I’ve performed in the part, but still when I got the screeners through from Netflix I sat down and watched four episodes in one sitting! So I think people will binge it. I hope they do because I think the way it’s edited and the way the story is told it does kind of hook you in and you want to find out what happens next.

It’s the format as well, it’s how they do it on these streaming sites. That slightly stressful countdown: five, four, three, it’s going turn on in one second, you’re like, ‘okay, I’ll watch it even though it’s three in the morning’!

The One feels like an anthology. Did you actually get to meet your castmates?

No, this was the extraordinary thing about filming this series. It was extraordinary for two reasons: Firstly we had two film crews running at all times. So, it meant that everything was quite intensive, you’re always on, doing your stuff. Sometimes when you’re working on a film set you’ll do a scene in the morning and then somebody else will do a scene and you’ve got a bit of a break and then you’ll come back in later on in the day. But this was just scene after scene after scene. Sometimes you’d be filming in the morning in Newport and then in the afternoon in Bristol or in London, so you’d have to travel between these two film crews.

But also there are just some storylines in there where I saw [my castmates] in the makeup bus, I’ve waved at them, we had little snippets of conversation, but then they go off and I had absolutely no idea what they were doing. So in that respect, it was really lovely to sit down and watch the show as a whole and piece it all together because half of it I hadn’t actually seen.

Hannah Ware who plays Rebecca Webb in the show… we barely saw each other until right at the end of the shoot. So obviously, when we got a little chance to catch up and chat to each other we were so excited;  it was only at the end when we finally got to work together that we realised our characters were completely pitted against each other! All that sort of giddiness and excitement had to be channelled into a much darker way so yeah it was strange.

Zoë and Hannah Ware who plays Rebecca Webb (left) didn’t realise they’d be pitted against each other until the later stages of filming…

We’ve seen The One being described as a ‘dystopian sci-fi’ would you agree with that or is the technology in The One not actually all that bad?

It’s tricky. I think if you’ve watched the whole series, it slightly leaves a sour taste in your mouth, I think because of the way this particular story is told, it highlights the flaws in the system. I think if it was a completely flawless system, and you could absolutely be guaranteed of happiness forever with your match, that would be one thing, but there are so many ramifications to this system, and it’s not only the people who are single who are wanting to find love. People who are already in relationships are also intrigued to take the test, and of course that starts to break up relationships, break up families, it starts to change, and sort of fracture society really.

So there is a dystopian element to it for sure and of course it is sci-fi because it’s not real but I think again it seems like it’s close enough to touch. Then again, there’s also a kind of thriller aspect to it and there’s the romance side of it as well so it has got a lot going on, but yeah I do feel that there is probably a slightly dystopian element to it and I do worry that if this were ever to be reality that there would be more downsides to it really then benefits!

What have you got coming up next?

I did a lovely film during lockdown actually which was so fortunate because it has been quiet over last year but I did a film called Ire which is a very different feel to The One. It’s all set in a high security prison. It was actually quite a good film to work on during the Covid crisis because it was very contained. We pretty much only filmed in one prison cell I think so all the Covid safety precautions could be put into place.

It’s a dark gritty drama about a man who’s in life for murder. He’s actually murdered his wife, and I play a social worker who comes in to tell him that his daughter (who he only saw as a baby) is now in her 20s, and she wants to meet her father, pretty much for the first time, and she wants to confront him about what he did. This is a man who’s got seemingly very little empathy, or care for anybody else. So it’s my role to persuade him that actually, even though he’s in prison for life, this could be something that he could do for someone else that would be positive in their life. So, yeah, really quite full-on dark stuff but I’m really looking forward to seeing it!

The One is currently available on Netflix.