The Nest has Martin Compston unleashed in riveting new thriller

The Nest on Acorn TV. Sophie Rundle as Emily, Mirren Mack as Kaya and Martin Compston © Studio Lambert and all3media international
The Nest on Acorn TV. Sophie Rundle as Emily, Mirren Mack as Kaya and Martin Compston © Studio Lambert and all3media international /
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Compston pulls off an incredible balancing act in The Nest. The way that Dan Docherty truly resonates is that the actor hits dead center among several different threads: he has to be on top of the world without being boring, has to be driven enough to take this desperate gamble with his wife but not look stupid, and has to have a dark side without turning into the stereotypical evil spouse out of a Lifetime TV-movie.

He really sort of unravels over the five episodes, thanks to Taylor’s willingness to create a character that deep, but it’s Compston who genuinely hits all of those notes. The audience’s perception of Dan changes completely over the course of The Nest, but thanks to how honest Compston’s performance is—it’s obvious he’s throwing himself completely in—you never stop caring about him. Which is critical given that if the audience doesn’t love Dan and Emily, and the two of them together, there’s no story to be had.

“It’s really, really easy to build a rapport with Sophie. She’s an absolute doll, just a wonderful human being. But you are absolutely right in that, because you basically have this wealthy couple taking advantage of this young kid. So it would be very easy for the audience to hate them, and if you hate them, then you’re not on board with the show,” Compston said.

“The moments that we did have that were sort of light and sort of loving, we really tried to make the most of, and just show that they were a couple. That’s one of the things that I love about Nicole’s writing,” he explained. “The fact that Dan is so committed to his wife, the fact they’re so committed to each other, is something that really attracted me to the part. Just that they would go and do anything for each other, to the point where they go too far.

“What they want actually is really noble. I mean, on the surface, they have everything. They’re a young, wealthy, in love couple, but she wants a baby. And Dan’s heartbroken that he can’t give her one, and trying to sort of create the perfect family, they cross the line.”

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The moral dilemma isn’t glossed over in The Nest, similar to how Taylor didn’t pull any punches with her incredible depiction of sex crimes in Three Girls. What could easily have descended into melodrama becomes not only a moral tightrope, but an exploration of a number of poignant themes, particularly with Dan and within Dan and Emily’s marriage.

Dan is a character who has a certain degree of control. He has carefully built everything in his life, and it’s like a chess game—he knows everything that’s on the board and makes his moves with a deliberate consideration. Taking Kaya on as a surrogate is not only an unknown, but it pushes him wholly out of his comfort zone, and the only thing that can make him take that risk is how much he loves his wife.

Watching Martin Compston in scenes with Sophie Rundle, who was marvelous over her arc as Richard Madden’s conflicted wife in Bodyguard and goes to similar depths here, is both painful and amazing. We feel all of the emotions that inform each of Emily and Dan’s decisions, thus understanding why they make this audacious choice, but at the same time it’s a thrill to see these two actors willing to go out on that emotional limb together. The commitment, and the amount of trust between them, is quite beautiful.

“Sophie’s one of the most in demand actors in the UK, because she’s phenomenal at her job. But the good thing with Sophie is, there’s a lot of intense scenes in the show. Really emotional. So you need someone you can have a laugh with,” Compston said. “We have very similar work ethics, that we know our stuff, we’re on it, and we’re committed, but we also know when to have a joke and a carry on. And you need that. You really do need that.”