Gripping British thriller The Ex-Wife brings to life the bestselling novel by Jess Ryder

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Sunday: The Ex-Wife (Channel 5, 9pm)

She was born in Belgium but raised in England, she’s been described as the next big thing in the acting world, and yet she’s been performing professionally for 12 years – and now she’s taking a leading role in Channel 5’s latest tense drama.

Who is ‘she’? Celine Buckens, of course. The 27-year-old was chosen as a teenager by Steven Spielberg to play Emilie in War Horse. She then spent seven years out of work, so went off to study history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. However, while there, she landed a role in the Netflix series Free Rein and has rarely been out of work since.

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She also featured in an episode of Endeavour and two short films before popping up in the film The Good Liar (alongside Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren), the second series of Warrior and an episode of Bridgerton before the role that really made people sit up and take notice came along – that of Talitha Campbell in Showtrial, for which she received Bafta and Emmy nominations.

The Ex-Wife stars Jordan Stephens, Céline Buckens, Tom Mison and Janet MontgomeryThe Ex-Wife stars Jordan Stephens, Céline Buckens, Tom Mison and Janet Montgomery
The Ex-Wife stars Jordan Stephens, Céline Buckens, Tom Mison and Janet Montgomery

Dubbed a ‘toxic toff’ after being arrested on suspicion of murdering her university classmate, Talitha was a character viewers loved to hate.

Buckens didn’t mind one bit, commenting to the Sunday Times that, “I like the fact that she’s flawed. I like the fact that we’ve got to a stage where the female characters that we have on screen don’t just have to be these strong, really likeable characters.

“They can be complex and real, and that means warts and all.”

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There’s another woman who’s set to drive viewers round the bend in Buckens’ latest series, The Ex-Wife, but she isn’t playing her. Instead, she tackles the role of Tasha, who on paper appears to have the perfect life – she’s happily married to an older man, Jack (Tom Mison), with whom she has a young daughter, Emily.

They have an affluent lifestyle, but the one fly in the ointment is Jack’s first wife, Jen (Janet Montgomery). He met Tasha while they were on a break, and it seems that Jen isn’t ready to give up on their relationship, despite the fact he appears to have moved on. But is Jen really the villain she appears to be, or is someone else determined to wreck Tasha and Jack’s family unit?

If the plot sounds familiar, maybe you’ve read Jess Ryder’s book of the same name, or saw the programme when it was made available to stream via Paramount+ last year. It was also reviewed by the Goggleboxers at the time.

The makers of the four-part series snapped up Buckens after Showtrial, offering her the role without an audition.

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She told Tatler: “It was the first time that’s ever happened, which is a very, very nice feeling. It’s a similar genre to Showtrial, but the character is so different.

“She’s a very young mother by today’s standards – quite unconventionally young. I was very attracted to playing a character who is emancipated and strong, but who chooses quite a conventional lifestyle. That’s unusual.”

Buckens enjoyed working for Paramount+ because her next project is for them too – a thriller entitled The Castaways. Will she be a villain or a victim this time? We’ll have to wait and see…