BOLTON-born actor Maxine Peake has spoken about her role in the gripping new thriller Rules of the Game which aired this week.

The BBC four-part series explores sexual politics in the modern workplace.

The former Westhoughton High School and Canon Slade student said: "It encompasses a lot about acceptable behaviour over the decades, what was seen as acceptable then and what is now. "My character is at the centre of this and, for me, it’s about whether she is implicit, or a victim of this whole dynamic."

CONFLICT: Rakhee Thakrar as Maya in Rules of the Game

CONFLICT: Rakhee Thakrar as Maya in Rules of the Game

She added: "Obviously, it’s not just about this company, it’s about something that is systemic in all forms at workplaces and institutions."

Written and created by Ruth Fowler, Rules Of The Game is set at sportswear company Fly and focuses on two conflicting characters.

Maxine, plays Sam, the ruthless chief operation officer who has climbed to the top of the ladder thanks to her willingness to play along with the boys, and newly-hired HR director Maya, played by Sex Education star Rakhee Thakrar.

There is a strong air of toxic masculinity that runs through the workforce and the work practices. Maya comes in to investigate and things start to unravel, secrets from the past are exposed.

Maya begins to unpick the toxic culture at Fly – while Sam is adamant nothing needs to change – and questions are asked about the death of Amy, a young female employee who died at a company party in mysterious circumstances.

Maxine said: "When I started going deeper into the script, all the female characters were so well-drawn and I felt real-life experience within each character.

"Ruth did that brilliantly – everybody’s complex and not just one note – and there’s so much going on.

"There’s dark humour that went through that really appealed to me. It was just the strength of the female ensemble that I warmed to."

Speaking about the challenges of the plot, Maxine said: "I think just all the female journeys within it – that devastating moment when you read a script and go, ‘I know these people, and I know everyone who’s experienced something like this’.

"And, actually, a lot of the time it was watching other performers, like Rakhee and Callie [Cooke, who plays Tess Jones], and the stuff they were performing and going through."

Maxine added: "The sad thing is that every female – and every male I’m sure – has come into contact with somebody who’s been through one of these situations; it’s so commonplace, obviously, in our industry.

"But what is fantastic is they’ve taken it out of the acting industry, because I think the Me Too generation got very focused on one industry when actually it was happening to so many people in all sorts of walks of life. It’s an epidemic, isn’t it?"

"You’ve got to be very careful with it, and very respectful.

"But it is a piece of entertainment as well. It’s always that fine line, because there will be people watching this that have been through similar situations, and you just hope pieces like this give people a bit of hope."

The drama was filmed in the north.

Maxine said: "It’s great being up north because I live in Salford. I’m from Bolton originally, and then I lived in London for about 12 years.

My character’s house was a 10-minute walk from where I live, which has never happened to me.

"Polling day was great because I could walk to my local polling centre, went in my wig, and cast my vote in my scene off. That was a bonus, because a lot of the time you’re away, and after the year we’ve all had, being able to work from home has eased me back into filming after having a bit of a break."

Rules Of The Game aired on BBC One from Tuesday, January 11, with episode two airing on Wednesday, January 12 and continues into next week.

All four episodes are available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer