Zoë Tapper: "I hope we don't cause any massive rows"
The One star on dating, technology, and her new Netflix thriller sparking divorces
The one thing people enjoy more than leaving their home is having everything delivered to their home. Time is money, we're told, so everything and anything we could possibly want can be left on your doorstep or cheerily lobbed over your hedge by an equally time-pressured delivery person.
But we're also told it's the journey, not the destination, which matters in life. As we all become increasingly used to having whatever we want, whenever we want, with the minmum of fuss, that mindset begins to bleed into the rest of our expectations. Dating has been revolutionised by apps, which allows users to cut to the chase by removing the thrill of the chase. New Netflix thriller The One - adapted from the novel by John Marrs - takes the next just-about-still-science-fiction step; what if a quick DNA test could match you with your soulmate, hard science grasping hold of a romantic intangible?
"People would take the test in their droves but it would be so problematic," laughs Zoë Tapper, who plays DI Kate Saunders, a London police officer investigating a death linked to the charismatic CEO of the company providing this service. "Imagine if someone said you're absolutely guaranteed to be matched with the perfect person and all you have to do is give this little strand of hair. It would be incredibly tempting, wouldn't it? Even if you're in a very happy relationship." Tapper, by the way, is in a very happy relationship.
Prepare yourselves, couples new and old, for the inevitable question to arise while watching a series where such a test has caused a massive spike in divorces. Tapper laughs at the prospect of sparking sofa-based enquiries. "I hope we don't cause any massive rows in the last few few months of lockdown. I think if you survived this far in lockdown together as a couple, you're probably okay. But you never know what might be that final little catalyst that tips you over the edge, so I really hope The One isn't going to do that."
The damage wreaked by such a test isn't limited to wrecking marriages, civil partnerships, or long-term relationships; the test matches you with your soulmate and it doesn't acknowledge your sexuality. As a consequence, your match may not tally with what you were expecting, a slight twist Tapper's character experiences. "I really loved she's unfazed by the fact that she was expecting to be matched to a man, but is matched to a woman. It doesn't faze her at all, because she's very comfortable with her sexuality" says Tapper, who recognises such a match would not be so comfortably accepted by everyone. "But what would happen if somebody wasn't that comfortable with their sexuality or hasn't worked it all out yet? It would be a shock to the system. There are so many potential pitfalls in this whole system."
When we drop into this not so distant future, this test has caused society to churn as relationships have collapsed, families have splintered, and an obsession with the test has taken hold. This fictional impact mirrors the real world impact of social media platforms; Rebecca (Hannah Ware), the CEO of MatchDNA, takes no responsibility for the damage wrought by the test. Doesn't this feel familiar, I ask - companies produce these emotional grenades, profit from them, but never admit culpability for the reprecussions. "As much as people want to have that grenade thrown in their direction, who is the person holding the grenade, and how much power does that person have?," asks Tapper.
"We've seen this with the power of social media - how much control that has in our lives and in terms of voting. It is a worry and, in regard to The One, the woman at the helm of MatchDNA is a complicated woman and we are suspicious of her motives. She starts out as a scientist who's made this incredible discovery, but what does that level of power do to somebody?" This is Tapper's first role as a police officer and she relishes the dynamic between Kate and the "Machiavellian" Rebecca. "She's fascinated by the experiment. Our two characters are nicely pitted against each other, because Rebecca has this coldness and is power hungry in a hard-hearted way, while my character is much more driven by the truth."
One big question The One asks without explicity asking - which ties into today's lifestyle - is why convenience is so seductive. "It's all about control. This goes back to our discussion about who's holding the grenade in regard to social media - how much are we making choices for ourselves or how much are we being conditioned to make choices? I'm a total sucker for convenience, but is it making us lazy or taking away our choice? We all lead busy lives and it's good there are things which make our lives easier, but sometimes we have to leave things to chance and live our lives a little."
Is there a hope, then, The One might make people a little more wary of convenience or, at least, some of the terms and conditions they agree to? "By the end of it, I think it might," laughs Tapper. "Perhaps if everybody had their soulmate it would mean that we would be in our bubbles forever. We would become so insular. That's dangerous, because you can't rely on one person for all your needs. This brings in the question of a soulmate; there are so many people out there and all of those people are contributing to you as a human being. You get different things from different friends and different loved ones. To get everything from one person is too much pressure for everybody."
The One is streaming now on Netflix