Due to start soon on BBC Three is intriguing new thriller Tatau. Written by Richard Zajdlic the series follows two English holidaying in the Cook Islands who get caught up in a bizarre murder mystery. Here series star Joe Layton tells us all about the show.
Tell us about Kyle…
He’s a charismatic guy who is excited to be travelling with his best friend. Budgie and his relationship is the same as any other best mates. But their ordinary friendship is challenged by the pressures and stresses of the extraordinary circumstances that they get thrown into. Kyle ends up in a situation so far removed from where he was before that he is forced to step up to the plate and make some big decisions.
Why does Kyle go to the Cook Islands?
Kyle has reached a dead-end in his career and also with his relationship. He sees it as the best time to quit his job and go travelling and see the world that he’s always wanted to see. He’s always had a draw towards the Cook Islands – he doesn’t know why. But he decides he’s going to go there. Budgie, his best friend since childhood, is on board as well, so they go off on a world trip together.
Why does he get his tattoo?
He gets the tattoo when he decides that he’s going to the Cook Islands. It’s something that he’s sketched when he’s been bored in the office and it’s become a full-blown design. He doesn’t have any understanding of any meaning of it; it’s more the aesthetic, and some subconscious pull towards it.
How does he feel when he discovers the body under water?
He’s in shock but he’s also fuelled by it and wired by it and feels that action needs to be taken. He’s seen her before, after drinking the hallucinogenic drink, and feels that he could have maybe done something to stop what has happened and save her. He’s on a mission as soon as he sees her down there.
And then how does he feel when they return and it’s not there?
Complete disbelief but also a degree of relief. He’s also a bit disappointed, that Budgie was right; it was probably a hallucination due to the effect of the drink, which can last for days.
Can you tell us anything about Kyle’s mystical ability?
He is an ordinary guy thrown into an extraordinary set of circumstances. What was really exciting and challenging to play was him coming to terms with his ability. How it progresses and gets deeper as well as the responsibility that comes with it. Plus how it affects his mental state and the relationships he has with other people.
How does it affect his relationship with Budgie?
Pretty badly. Kyle can be incredibly selfish and Budgie puts up with a lot of his negative traits. It drives them apart because Kyle is faced with a difficult situation that he gets completely obsessed with, for various reasons that go very deep and link in with his past. Budgie has got his own stuff going on which Kyle knows about but doesn’t know the depth of how bad things are. As both of the characters’ problems get worse, rather than working together as friends to help each other out, they are driven apart.
Is there romance on the cards for Kyle?
He’s been travelling around the world and having a great time, but he’s still getting over his previous girlfriend and what happened there. He’s met a stunning American barmaid called Tyler on the Cook Islands and she’s a lot of fun. His relationship with her is picture perfect on the surface, but as soon as things start to go downhill, another beautiful lady pops up that Kyle develops feeling for. And those feelings are a lot deeper and the stakes are higher. As a result, his relationship with Tyler is put in to jeopardy.
Do you have anything in common with Kyle?
The fact that there aren’t any half-measures with him, he’s a man of extremes, is something that I can relate to. This can both be very positive and detrimental!
Are you a fan of this sort of drama?
Yes it was great fun to do and I come from a generation that grew up on those shows like Misfits and Being Human. To be a part of something with that element was really a privilege, especially after graduating so recently, but it was also a challenge because I had to make Joe relatable.
Did you do any research into Maori culture before you started filming?
I did a bit but it almost would have been to the detriment of the character, because Kyle and Budgie don’t know what they’re walking into. Any understanding or connection to the culture comes through the teachings of other characters. I didn’t do a massive amount of research but as soon as Theo and I got out there we were welcomed into the culture. The pride and joy they take in sharing that with people is amazing and I feel really lucky to have been a part of that and fortunate that they were so open to us. So I learnt a lot more as we went on and the stories that people had to tell were incredible.
What was it like filming on the Cook Islands?
We worked with a great crew that I got along like a house on fire with and they made my job really easy. We had an incredible time and the people I worked with and met out there are people I will always stay in contact with. Some of it was hard, working in the heat for example, but waking up in the morning and opening your curtains and looking out to the beach and the sea made things easier!
What was it like working with Theo?
Theo is great. As soon as he walked in to read for the role I knew from the get go he had to play Theo. We immediately established a bond, which is so important when you’re playing best friends. When we were filming together we were never scared of buzzing ideas off each other, or suggesting alternative options. It was a really exciting way to work: we pushed ourselves and pushed each other and had a ball. I couldn’t have wished for a better guy to fly out there and film with for so long; we will continue to see each other and be friends.
Are there any funny stories from filming?
On the island there are hundreds of dogs. We’d start shooting scenes and a dog would run into shot and we’d have to cut. There were points when we’d be filming and I’d look around and all of the crew would be trying to hold dogs back. There’s also a huge number of cockerels on the island, and as soon as one starts crowing, they all do. It’s almost a constant underscoring. I was filming a really intense scene and there was a dramatic pause, at which point a cockerel chimed in ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’. We had to do at least 10 takes and then abandoned it! I think we’re going to have to add in cockerels and dogs to the stuff we shot in New Zealand to keep it consistent!
Has it inspired you to get a tattoo?
I’m reluctant to get a Maori tattoo because they hold such meaning. Every marking means something about your life, which is really interesting, but I can’t think of what mine would be quite yet. If we do another series I’ll come back covered. The first thing my mum said when I got the job was “don’t come back with a tattoo,” but I think she’s more open to it now! Especially if I get ‘I love Mum’.
What can viewers expect from Tatau? Why should they tune in?
Viewers can expect the unexpected. There is excitement around every corner. It’s fast-moving, entertaining, and also provides a look into a culture that few people have ever been exposed to. Watch it!