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!
The Miniaturist Interviews: Romola Garai
Romola Garai plays Marin Brandt in The Miniaturist, premiering soon on BBC-1, here she talks about what drew her to the drama and being in a costume drama where she pretty much only gets to wear one costume.
What attracted you to the role of Marin?
I’d read the book shortly after it came out and I thought it was a really surprising novel, really interesting and with very strong feminist themes in it, so I was very excited about it. Time passed and then an email popped into my inbox with the subject, The Miniaturist. I thought it was fantastic they were making it and I was really excited to read the script.
It’s a very genre-bending novel; it appears to be like a costume drama we have seen before, but very quickly we realise that it’s not that. It’s about a woman coming into her own in a society that’s very patriarchal, it’s about a love affair, it’s about discrimination, and it’s about people trying to survive in an incredibly controlled state. It’s a thriller and it’s also a story about political and emotional awakening.
Marin is a particularly interesting character, I think she has one of the best arcs. When I first read the book, she was the character that stayed with me, and when I read the scripts I immediately remembered everything about her. She’s told in beautiful detail in the novel, which John has retained in the script. Marin is just a great character to play, it was a real treat.
Tell us about Marin.
When you first meet her, because the story is told through Nella’s perspective, you meet a woman who seems very cold and intimidating. Then gradually you get this drip-feed of information about her; you see she’s been helping Johannes run the business and you learn that they were orphaned at a young age. She’s very intellectual, she’s very well read, and she’s not married, which is very unusual at the time.
One of the reasons I found her such a fascinating character is that she’s full of secrets and she’s layered; very conflicted and has great faith, but also passions. The house they live in is essentially a tinder box of secrets that Marin has been sitting on to try and stop the secrets exploding out. However although it seems she is trying to keep a lid on it I think she believes that they could subtly break all the rules and be free within the house at least, if only her brother stopped acting so recklessly.
Hopefully audiences will question what is driving her hostility towards Nella. Marin needs Nella a lot to maintain the appearance of being a normal household but it’s also very important that Nella is afraid of her so that she doesn’t try digging and discovering the secrets that they are all trying to keep – because if anyone finds out then their futures are ruined.
What was it like doing the scenes between Marin and Nella?
I loved working with Anya, she’s an incredibly accomplished actress. She’s got a difficult job in this, because Nella has to be very innocent at the beginning of the story, which is always difficult for an actor to play, and also more innocent that a woman of that age would be now. She’s constantly making discoveries, she doesn’t have the information that the rest of us do so she’s always learning new things, and she’s done that with real beauty and subtlety. I really enjoyed doing all our scenes together.
Tell us about Marin’s costume.
Marin only had one costume until a very late stage of the story. Her costume is typical of the puritan values of the period which rejected anything that smacked of luxury or louche values. They also didn’t wear make-up in this period at all, certainly not women of this class and station, and the hair was very simple and scraped back. Her head would have been covered at all times, so I had a black cap that I wore, but to be honest when I wore it I couldn’t really hear what anyone was saying and also talked incredibly loudly because I couldn’t hear myself, so essentially I was shouting at the other actors!
What makes The Miniaturist stand out from other period dramas?
I’ve done lots of historical pieces but there’s something very unusual about this. When you do contemporary novels set in the past the writers are able to do a lot more, and tackle complex themes which writers writing at the time weren’t able to do. More than that, it’s interesting in that it explores a number of different genres. It has elements of a thriller and then it becomes a family drama and then it becomes a polemic about what happens in societies that are so controlling.
I hope people will sit down to watch the show because it’s a pretty costume drama and will be surprised that it is actually rebellious and constantly bringing up important issues – and that they’ll be so engaged they won’t be able to look away.
Trust Me Interviews: Sharon Small
Interview with Sharon Small, who plays Dr. Brigitte McAdams in new three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs this August on BBC One.
What attracted you to this project?
I liked the character and the premise of the piece – I don’t think we’ve seen this before. And everyone is like an armchair detective, everyone is an armchair actor or doctor, so I thought that people would get off on that and think, gosh what would I do in that circumstance? The audience are the people who are privy to the truth and not us. With my character, Brigitte, I like her neediness, her sassiness – she’s fun and quick-fire talking – and quite honestly I rather fancied myself as a doctor [laughs].
How would you describe your character?
Brigitte is a good person; she’s sassy and is a really good doctor. She has got some issues, but she is trying her best to run this ward and with great intentions, which I think a lot of NHS doctors are.
How did you prepare for the role?
I grew my hair so that I could tie it up – normally I have short hair. We had a fantastic medical training day with Dan and got to do airways and cannulas and stitching and things like that, I loved that. The most important thing for me was to go around the actual A&E department (or ED department as I now know it’s called) in Edinburgh. We met this fantastic doctor – just watching him and really getting to observe what goes on in a ward, the dynamic, what people do and noticing that people are always looking at folders, everyone’s always collaborating and talking to each other. Everyone is always moving around, a lot more than you think and not that quickly. It’s less dramatic than you think.
Is your character challenging to play?
She was. Similarly in something that Jodie mentioned, I had quite a lot of medical jargon to say quite quickly, but I had less of the procedural stuff to do in terms of operational things. As the character is more and more revealed I had to make sure that I took care of how that happened, and that it was subtly done.
What makes a hospital a good arena for a drama?
It’s an ever-changing landscape, a hospital. Every new sort of event that you’re presented with means that you’re having to make life-saving decisions. People’s lives really are at stake, and honestly, my little taste of pretending that I was an ED doctor made me feel quite powerful. If I could fix people so that they survived, that would be an amazing ability.
What are the biggest challenges that you have faced so far during filming?
Saying the medical words Metronidazole – Met-ron-ida-zole, Metron-i-dazole – and trying to make scrubs look even remotely interesting, I don’t rock scrubs like Jodie does, I’m way too curvy for that!
What do you hope audiences will take away from this drama?
I hope that they’ll find themselves in that dilemma of wanting Cath/Ally to succeed, because she’s a good person and she ironically is brilliant at the job. I’m hoping that they’ll see the dilemma that she has, and as you want her to keep succeeding, it means she’s going to keep compromising people as she goes, as well as herself.
Trust Me Interviews: Jodie Whittaker
Jodie Whittaker plays Cath in three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs on BBC One this August.
What appealed to you about this project?
I was sent the script for the first episode and it fascinated me because it went in a completely different direction to how I thought it was going to. Particularly at the beginning when she’s suspended for whistleblowing and loses her job. It could have gone so many ways, and the fact that she takes on this new identity isn’t the way that I thought it would go. I love the fact that her choices are quite morally dubious – they certainly aren’t black and white. She makes decisions that are quite challenging to justify, even though we know her reasons. I’ve never acted in anything medical before, so it felt completely new.
How does Cath’s lie come about?
Cath starts off by having a conversation with her best friend, Ally, who is a middle grade doctor in A&E and is giving it all up to emigrate to New Zealand. Ally is packing up the life that Cath would have loved to have had, leaving it all behind to go and do something completely different. Suddenly there is an opportunity for her to take on the identity of her friend and in that panic, not necessarily the clearest thinking moment in her life, she does it. Once you set off on a path of lies it’s very difficult to undo it without bringing everything crashing down.
Did you receive any training on medical procedures?
Yes! The writer, Dan, who is also medical consultant and a doctor outside of TV production, showed us a load of stuff that he used when he was training people. He brought in the CPR dummy and showed us how to do a cannula and he, very bravely, let me put a cannula in his vein. I did it right, thank God! Also, YouTube is amazing. The genius of the internet is that you can basically sit at home and Google medical procedures, and TV shows such as 24 hours in A&E, which I watched hours of.
How else did you prepare for the role?
With regards to the technical stuff, we had an on-set consultant so that there was always someone to help when we had to do the procedures. The best thing for me was that my character was also out of her depth and didn’t always know what she was doing, so it kind of covered my own personal fumbles. I’m not someone who likes to over prepare for dialogue scenes, because I think that makes me not listen to what the other person is saying as I’ve already decided how I’m going to do it. It immediately makes it interesting and new and you can’t plan for that, which is great. You can’t ‘wing’ the medical stuff so I had to do my research for that. One of my friends is a Sister in A&E and I sent her a lot of messages asking ‘how do you pronounce this?’ and ‘what does that mean?’, so basically she was my personal medical coach even though she works full time!
Is it challenging playing someone who leads a double life?
Yes, but no more challenging that playing someone who has had something happen to them that I haven’t personally experienced. What’s hard is trying to gauge how good a liar she is, or how in a panic she is. You’ve got to be careful, because you can’t make the other actors seem stupid. These are intelligent, fully formed characters that you’re working with, so it was a fine line of being able to deceive and it not being something that comes easily to her. However, it can’t be that it makes everyone around her feel a bit like an idiot for not working it out. That was tricky, but the director is there to help guide you through it.
Did the uniform help to get you into character?
Yes. It feels odd when you put it on. I did five weeks of studio filming, back to back – all the medical stuff was contained so everything started to become a bit like second nature. The first few times I had to put on an apron, the ‘take’ ended up being about 15 minutes long. Then I worked out that you shouldn’t put the gloves on before the apron! There was lots of daft stuff like that, but you then get into a rhythm. It’s good because it makes you immediately feel like you look the part and then all I had to do was make sure that I knew the lines!
What were some of the challenges that you faced during filming?
I’m not very good with learning dialogue when there are lots of medical terms! I enjoy the adrenaline of being on set because I’m quite good at choreography, I respond well to being taught something physically. That’s why I was terrible at school, because they talk you through things rather than physically show you. I enjoyed doing the different types of surgery as it was fascinating, it’s nerve-wracking but you realise that you can do it. Also, the team who created the props put in so much hard work to make sure we didn’t mess up our bits. I struggled with having massive speeches that involved these medical words. I don’t have a brain for that!
Did you enjoy working in Scotland?
I absolutely loved Glasgow! The crew were phenomenal and the city is wonderful. I could move my family up there and we had a great time as there were loads of brilliant restaurants and everyone was lovely. It was brilliant and I would snap up another job there very quickly, although it does get very dark and cold over winter!
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