As Years and Years, the new drama series from Russell T. Davies, prepares to premiere on the BBC, we spoke to one of its stars, T’Nia Miller, about the challenges the show presents and what it’ like to work with Davies.

Anyone who looks around at society these days will know that the way we as people interact with each other is changing at a rapid pace.

Our perceptions of each other and ourselves are being influenced – or some might say warped – by social media and instant communications, as is the way that we express those perceptions.

Russell T. Davies’ new drama, Years and Years, is focused on that very issue. It follows the Lyons family’s journey through the years following 2019 and showing how everything around them is changing and confusing the way they approach raising children.  It even affects their ability to function as a family.

The show casts a sharp light on our relationship with technology as it evolves around us and how those advancements are changing our relationships with people, for both good and bad.

Be it people hiding behind artificial avatars to avoid showing their face or just being able to hold conversations without phones as though someone was in the room with them, one of the characters that feel the sharp end of this confusion is Celeste, a mother of three played by British actress and T. Davies veteran, T’Nia Miller.

Celeste’s struggles to understand the world that her children have grown up in is central to both her character arc and the message of the show in general, and T’Nia says that it is intended to hit close to home.

“It’s a reflection of where we are at now, and also where we’re going. In a way, it holds a mirror up to us.

“Celeste, like so many parents, is really trying just to understand her children. She and Stephen [her husband, played by Rory Kinnear] are parents who want to be accommodating but just need to know how.”

T’Nia says that she had a great relationship with Lydia West, who plays one of her children, Bethany.

Bethany is central to the show’s exploration of communication problems and the ways technology can distance us from each other, but their off-screen connection had no impact on their ability to play slightly estranged roles.

“We had such great chemistry off-screen, but it didn’t affect us in terms of playing that emotional distance. We are from similar heritages so we had a natural point of connection and we used that to create a shared backstory to out on screen.”

Emma Thompson in Years and Years C: BBC

Emma Thompson in Years and Years C: BBC

There’s an argument to be made for Years and Years to be considered as a kind of modern dystopia, with its unflinching portrayal of the potential consequences of the changes we are experiencing. According to T’Nia, though, it’s important to consider the accuracy of it as well.

“It is a dystopia in some ways but at the same time, things are really heading that way. It’s here and happening right now in a lot of ways. I still remember the days when you had to put 10p in a phone box to call someone, but things are changing that fast.”

This generational clash in Celeste’s life goes the other way as well, as she shares an antagonistic relationship with her mother-in-law, Muriel, played by Anne Reid. However, what sets it apart from the typical in-laws strained relationship, according to T’Nia, is their innate similarity.

“I don’t think there’s any kind of culture clash there – I think they’re two peas in a pod but neither of them quite realise that. They’re both matriarchal in their own ways and if anything, it’s just a kind of power struggle.”

The show’s much-vaunted creator, Russell T. Davies has never been afraid of breaking the mould. In any of his projects he has not shied away from tackling topical and difficult issues.

In his trilogy of miniseries’ for Channel 4 (Cucumber, Banana and Tofu) he took on LGBT youth culture and explored the evolving nature of sexuality and gender identities. Here, he is training his eye on different issues.

T’Nia, who worked on Cucumber and Banana with him, says that he has not lost any of his flair for writing.

“Russell writes so well, he just surprises you all the time. It’s just such a bloody honour to work on one of his productions, he just manages to create amazing drama while also bringing comedy and light to it.

“I didn’t feel like there was any pressure to match up to what I’ve done with him before and that was great – it just felt organic, it felt easy. I just wanted to make him proud really!”

T’Nia admits she did slightly have to adjust her style to work with Russell, but only because of his skill as a storyteller.

“I had to repeat the script verbatim. I normally have a tendency to just play with things a little bit but with Russell, you do it as he writes it, because you just know he’s written it very carefully and deliberately.

“It’s definitely been one of my favourite roles to date. It’s bloody funny and so intelligent.”

Years and Years premieres on BBC One tomorrow (Tuesday May 14th) at 9pm.