All posts by DQ

Virtual insanity

Six-part drama Kiss Me First is an innovative thriller that combines live action with computer-generated virtual reality sequences.

The series moves between the real and animated worlds as it tells the story of Leila (Tallulah Haddon), who stumbles across Red Pill, a secret paradise hidden on the edges of her favourite computer game.

There she meets hedonistic, impulsive and insatiable Tess (Simona Brown). But when a member of the group mysteriously disappears, Leila begins to suspect this digital Eden isn’t the paradise its creator claimed it to be.

In this DQTV interview, executive producers Bryan Elsley (Skins) and Melanie Stokes talk about how they adapted Lottie Moggach’s debut novel for television, including updating the book’s chatroom settings for modern-day VR technology.

They also discuss the challenges of making television drama, such as a lack of risk-taking by broadcasters and the prohibitive cost of making high-end series.

Kiss Me First is produced by Kindle Entertainment and Balloon Entertainment for Channel 4 and Netflix.

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Worlds apart

Based on a true story, Israeli drama Miguel centres on 23-year-old Tom, who travels around the world to Guatemala to fulfil his dream of adopting a child.

But when he meets stubborn five-year-old Miguel, his fantasy crashes into reality and he must confront not just the boy he has adopted but also his own inner child.

Sixteen years later, Miguel returns to Guatemala to discover his roots – but Tom will do everything he can to prevent Miguel learning the secret he has spent years keeping from him.

In this DQTV interview, creator and writer Tom Salama talks about adapting the story from his own real-life experience and the decision to shoot the series in Guatemala, where his son is from.

Ran Danker, who stars as Tom, also talks about the challenge of playing the character and why the story is so timely.

Miguel, created and written by Salama and Daphna Levin, is produced and distributed by Movie Plus Productions for Israel’s Hot.

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City life

The City & The City sees David Morrissey play Inspector Tyador Borlú, who is tasked with investigating the murder of a foreign student whose body is discovered in the streets of the down-at-heel city of Besźel.

He soon uncovers evidence that the murdered girl came from Ul Qoma, a city that shares a dangerous and volatile relationship with Besźel, with the case set to challenge everything Borlú holds dear.

The four-part miniseries is written by Tony Grisoni (Electric Dreams, Red Riding Trilogy), based on China Miéville’s mind-bending novel, and directed by Tom Shankland (House of Cards).

In this DQTV interview, Morrissey, Grisoni, Shankland and executive producer Preethi Mavahalli discuss making the show and the challenges of translating Miéville’s novel to the screen.

The City & The City is produced by Mammoth Screen for BBC2 and distributed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

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Take note

Freya Becker works as a typist in the homicide division of the Berlin police. Since the disappearance of her daughter 11 years ago, she lives in the hope of finding out what happened to her.

When the only man who might give her information about Marie’s fate is released from prison and Freya’s work confronts her with an abuse case similar to her daughter’s, she begins a painful journey to finally get to the bottom of the truth – whatever the cost.

The five-part series stars Iris Berben as Freya alongside Moritz Bleibtreu, Peter Kurth, Mišel Maticevic, Katharina Schlothauer, Laura de Boer and Bettina Hoppe.

In this DQTV interview, star Berben and writer/director Nina Grosse reveal the origins of the series and how they worked together to bring the story to the screen.

They also talk about wider issues surrounding the television industry, such as the #MeToo movement.

The Typist is produced by Moovie for Germany’s ZDF and distributed by Beta Film.

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Six of the Best: Nigel Marchant

The joint MD of Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films selects the series that inspired his career in film and television, including a superbly crafted period drama perfect for binge-watching and a second appearance this issue for Friday Night Lights.

The Life and Loves of a She-Devil
The show that first made me want to work in film and television. This heightened fable of a woman spurned was ground-breaking, surreal and disturbing. Adapted from the novel by Fay Weldon, it charts one woman’s revenge on her philandering husband as she ruins both his life and that of the woman he deserted her for. I loved how inventive both the script and direction were; it never feared to be both dark and surprisingly funny. Made at a time when television was experimental and different, this show (alongside Denis Potter’s work) opened my eyes to varied ways to approach storytelling.

ER
ER seemed to reinvent the procedural drama by cleverly weaving together a story of the week with the more complex serial strands involving the main characters. The fast-paced, raw choreography of the camera, alongside interlacing storylines, gave the show a realism and credibility still unsurpassed by other medical dramas. When it first hit the screens, it felt urgent, authentic and emotionally charged. But besides the blood, gore and realism, it gave us characters who we fell in love with, and I’m not just talking about Dr Doug Ross (played by George Clooney)… OK, yes I am.

The West Wing
Snappy, smart dialogue, wonderful production values and the president we all wanted and deserved. Created by Aaron Sorkin, this multi-award-winning series introduced us to brilliantly rounded and complex characters in the most urgent and absorbing situations. Funny, heart-breaking and utterly addictive, the show always felt intelligent and sophisticated, yet never alienating. The perfect mix of great writing and brilliant casting made this essential viewing and US television at its best.

Bleak House
I remember being on location in Morocco in the days before SVoDs and iTunes, working my way through a pile of DVDs in my hotel room, and eventually getting to Bleak House, which I had missed when it originally aired. I expected the usual Sunday night, period Dickens adaptation but was thrilled to be wrong. The decision to air the show to replicate the serialised nature of how his novels were originally published was a work of genius – it served to highlight how compulsive and populist his writing was. Like a superbly crafted period soap opera, the interlacing storylines and wonderful hooks meant I kept watching one episode after another, into the small hours when I was meant to be asleep. Stylistically, the camera work felt incredibly modern without being distracting, alongside strong production values and inspired casting, all of which worked together to strengthen the narrative. It was a glorious treat to watch.

Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights was a show I discovered quite late in its run but once I’d seen my first episode, I quickly binge-watched the rest. Intriguing characters and tight, complex storytelling made for compulsive viewing, even when the thought of American football felt so alien and intrinsically off-putting to me. Peter Berg’s story of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a small, neglected community was imbued with so much pathos and heart. I loved that it never relied on huge dramatic events to propel the narrative but had the courage to trust that the audience were invested in the characters. You could practically smell the desires and expectations of the characters, which made the series feel honest, truthful and ultimately rewarding.

Prime Suspect
I still love the original Prime Suspect. It highlighted Lynda La Plante’s screenwriting prowess – the simplicity of giving an audience only one plausible perpetrator and then keeping them guessing until the closing moments whether they were guilty was the work of a writer at the top of her game. With a wonderful economy of dialogue, the taut script gave birth to one of the most iconic and enduring characters on television in DCI Jane Tennison, masterfully played by Helen Mirren. Prime Suspect was a gritty, unforgiving and absorbing story of a female fighting against prejudice, battling for a chance to be heard in a male-dominated workplace – shame that, 30-odd years later, not much has changed.

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Triple play

Mexican political drama Aquí en la Tierra (Here On Earth) opens as Carlos’s life is altered by the death of his influential father.

Adán, the son of the head of security for Carlos’s family, also finds his life disturbed over riots protesting against the construction of a new airport endorsed by Governor Mario Rocha, Carlos’s stepfather.

Friends from childhood despite their different social extractions, Carlos and Adán will be forced to face their changing circumstances, bringing complex moral dilemmas into play.

In this DQTV interview, Gael García Bernal talks his triple role as series co-creator, lead director and a member of the cast, and discusses what the series says about politics, corruption and social status.

He also talks about his own career, which has mixed television with film and stage work, including his Golden Globe-winning performance during four seasons of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle.

Aquí en la Tierra is produced by broadcaster Fox Latin America and distributed by Fox Networks Group Content Distribution.

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All Gone

Chris Noth, Leven Rambin and Danny Pino explain why US crime procedural Gone stands out from the crowd – and recall filming a tough fight sequence between two of the leading trio.

Chris Noth in action in Gone, in which he stars as FBI agent Frank Booth

Gone tells the fictional story of Kit ‘Kick’ Lannigan, the survivor of a famous child abduction case, who is recruited by Frank Booth, the FBI agent who rescued her, to join a special task force dedicated to solving abductions and missing persons cases. Commissioned by Germany’s RTL and TF1 in France, it is produced by NBCUniversal International Studios and distributed by NBCUniversal International Distribution. It has also been acquired by US cable channel WGN America. 

Chris Noth, who plays Booth: Every law enforcement show has its own unique and distinct voice and this one is a bit more disturbing. To be an FBI agent in this unique way takes a certain mindset and it also articulates who Frank is. At the beginning of the series we haven’t gotten into each character’s total history yet but there’s a side of Frank that drives him to this kind of work. As we evolve, I hope we’ll get more into that. I really liked the way all the characters’ pasts are interlaced so that each episode articulates that.

Danny Pino (former Army intelligence officer John Bishop): Gone is really about character. When we’re talking about differentiating procedural cop dramas, Law & Order does a very good job of thrusting the case to the forefront. But what attracted me to Gone was the backstory, certainly with Bishop. That onion is peeled very slowly, and you find it’s then reflected in the case. We’re able to bring some of that baggage so the case isn’t stale or dry. It’s not just something we’re going through rudimentarily to fulfil our occupation. This is something very personal to the characters – certainly it is for Kick from the very beginning. When I read the pilot, I knew Bishop was going to reflect that rawness effectively and I thought this was something I was interested in exploring.

Leven Rambin (Lannigan): I saw this as a 1,000% hardcore black drama because I went crazy in my actor mind. I worked with a real-life survivor – she’s just normal, you wouldn’t know that she’s been tortured and gagged and the things that were done to her. Once I met her, you need to add in that she’s just a normal girl living life. And Kick has a good personality as well. Moments of lightness are really important. Those progress more as the show goes on, which I’m really happy about, because at the start I was like, ‘Let’s make it really dark all the time,’ but that’s not appealing to anyone.

Leven Rambin as Kit ‘Kick’ Lannigan

Bishop and Kick are introduced in episode one when he visits her gym looking for self-defence lessons, leading to a fight sequence between the pair that ends when Frank enters and reveals Bishop’s real intention was to test Kick’s skills before he and Frank recruit her to their new task force.

Pino: We rehearsed that a couple of weeks before we actually started shooting. We started rehearsing in LA and the trainers were teaching us how to fight for the camera. Then we showed up two weeks before production in Pittsburgh. We were doing pure choreography, which Leven picked up in a heartbeat. She was ready to fight. Then I pretended I was ready, but I really wasn’t.
We shot each episode in seven days, which is one day fewer than most procedural cop drama episodes take. And when you add action to it, it’s very challenging so we had a very truncated time to shoot in. The director, John Terlesky, said, ‘Now we need to get this [fight scene] in about two hours,’ and he was looking at his watch. I said, ‘Let’s break it up,’ but he said, ‘No, let’s just run it.’ And we ran the entire fight the first time we filmed it. I think Leven punched me three times, and I managed to graze her as well. We ended up running the entire fight five or six times and our stunt doubles just stood there. They did a throw but, at the end of the day, the editors came up to us and said they only used 2% from the stunt doubles, so most of that fight is just us swinging at each other and kicking at each other. That was really fun. And that’s different for a procedural cop drama to have that much action.

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Flying high

Israeli action drama When Heroes Fly follows four former friends – veterans of a special forces unit – who reunite for one final mission 11 years after falling out: to find Yaeli, a former lover of one and sister of another.

Their journey will take them deep into the Colombian jungle, but to succeed they must first confront the trauma that tore them apart.

Creator Omri Givon tells DQ about the origins of the show, which was named best series at the inaugural Canneseries event earlier this year and is based on Amir Gutfreund’s book.

Writer/director Givon also talks about why When Heroes Fly holds universal appeal, how he pushed his budget to bring the Colombian jungle to the screen and how Israeli creatives are now looking to work outside their home country.

When Heroes Fly is produced by Spiro Films for Keshet and distributed by Keshet International.

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Safe pair of hands

With so much television to choose from, viewers can be incredibly fickle – so how do you keep hold of them? Writing for DQ, screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst talks about the contrasting styles he used in his two most recent commissions, BBC1’s Come Home and Netflix thriller Safe.

Every writer lives in fear of losing their audience. If they don’t come in the first place, that’s not my fault. But if they come and don’t hang around, I have to take responsibility. This year I’ve had two shows launch: Come Home, a three-part miniseries that aired over three consecutive Tuesdays on BBC1; and Safe (pictured above), a Netflix original with all eight episodes currently streaming. Both dramas have found an audience, but these shows couldn’t have been more different in their construction and the relationship we hoped they would have with an audience.

Danny Brocklehurst

Come Home tells the story of a mother who walks out on her family. It interrogates the last taboo of parenting and the impact her leaving has on her husband and children; the way the stigma of the ‘deserted mother’ stuck to her like glue. It is character-driven, emotional and purposely avoids thriller twists and genre conventions.

By contrast, Safe is an unapologetic, twisty-turny thriller about a mysterious death and disappearance in a gated community. It mines hidden secrets and charts the impact upon the people who live there, most notably Tom Delaney, played by Michael C Hall (Dexter). It was designed like a ‘holiday read’ novel, with must-have massive hooks at the end of every episode, luring viewers into bingeing multiple episodes.

People might find it strange that two such different shows could come from the same writer, in such a short space of time, but to me the contrast perfectly represents what I love about the job: variety. I hate the idea of being typecast as a certain type of writer, and the challenge of each new project is to work within a style or genre that feels like it is testing my abilities.

Come Home is social realist, deeply personal, in parts semi-autobiographical. It was extremely hard work to craft because the story couldn’t rely on plot to drive it forward. I needed to find compelling drama in smaller moments, in emotional reveals and, ultimately, in a family law court. I wrote the whole story alone and knew it would succeed or fail by how truthful it felt.

Come Home aired on three consecutive Tuesdays in the UK

Safe, working once again with the formidable story brain of novelist Harlan Coben, was a more collaborative affair. Harlan’s novels sell in their millions because they are the epitome of the engaging page turner. His central conceit is always smart and his hooks addictive. In creating Safe, as we did previously on Sky show The Five, we spent an enormous amount of time together cracking the story. Harlan always likes to know where a story ends. So once we have the beginning and the end, we start – like bridge construction – to piece together the middle.

When you are creating eight episodes of elaborately plotted story, this can be a hard process. Luckily, we were assisted by the brilliant Richard Fee, head of development at Red Production Company, who constantly steered the ship forwards. The three of us worked together for weeks at a time in Harlan’s place in New York (I know, tough gig!) and then after we cracked the basic story, the rest of the work was done across the ocean via Skype and email. Ideas were being thrown back and forth until we had a workable story document that outlined the eight episodes in considerable detail. I wrote the start and end of the series, which accounts for four episodes, we then brought on board other writers for the rest.

At every point in the process, we have in our minds the importance of retaining our audience. Constant twists, propulsive plot, humour, characters you want to spend time with. And the fact it’s for Netflix means that one word shines brightly at all times – binge.

All eight episodes of Safe, starring Michael C Hall, are available on Netflix

The success of Safe has been as much about the fact that viewers can watch all episodes immediately as anything else. Countless people have told us they watched the whole thing in a weekend, or one night after the next. A few even managed the whole thing in a day!

This is the reality of modern TV viewing, and we all have to get to grips with it. People want content they can watch when they please. The model of consecutive weeks is becoming a thing of the past. Sure, there is the ‘water cooler’ factor that a show like Line of Duty creates when it airs every Sunday but, more and more frequently, viewers are drifting away or saving the episodes up and then bingeing when they are all available on BBC iPlayer or Sky Go.

When Come Home aired, I would have loved all three episodes to have all gone at once. Instead, we had to attempt to maintain our audience over Easter, with all the distractions of European football, school holidays and The Great Celebrity Bake Off. It’s a tough ask.

Of course, not every show can be a longform ‘binge’ show, nor should it be. The beautifully constructed single film or the perfectly formed three-parter is a vital part of our TV landscape. But in a busy viewing environment, writers have to be increasingly aware that viewer patience is thin and, unless you grab them and hold them, they can soon disappear.

Harlan Coben’s Safe, starring Michael C Hall and Amanda Abbington, written by Danny Brocklehurst and produced by Red Production Company, is now streaming on Netflix.

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Love and marriage

Bafta- and Emmy-winning writer Abi Morgan’s drama The Split is described as an authentic multi-layered exploration of modern marriage and the legacy of divorce.

The story plays out through the lens of the Defoes – a family of female lawyers at the heart of London’s emotionally charged divorce circuit.

Leading divorce lawyer Hannah Stern (Nicola Walker) has walked out on the family firm to join a rival company, and she now faces her sister Nina (Annabel Scholey) and mother Ruth (Deborah Findlay), also successful family lawyers, on the opposing side of high-profile divorce cases.

When their father Oscar (Anthony Head) returns after a 30-year absence, Hannah, Nina and youngest sister Rose (Fiona Button) are thrown further into turmoil.

Speaking to DQTV, executive producer Jane Featherstone and director Jessica Hobbs reveal how the six-part series balances the demands of episodic and serialised storytelling, and discuss the importance of casting.

They also talk about making the series with both BBC1 and US cable channel SundanceTV, and the buoyant TV business in which Featherstone’s recently established production company Sister Pictures is finding its feet.

The Split is produced by Sister Pictures for BBC1 and SundanceTV and distributed by BBC Studios (formerly BBC Worldwide).

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Action on writing inequality

Lisa Holdsworth, TV writer and deputy chairman of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, writes for DQ about the guild’s new campaign for greater gender equality in television and film screenwriting.

Lisa Holdsworth

This week, the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) launched its Equality Writes campaign, which demands better gender equality in film and TV writing.

The campaign is the WGGB’s response to repeated assurances by TV and film decision makers that they had a created a level playing field for writers. However, this did not seem to be reflected in the projects making it to the screen.

Each new season of drama is consistently male-dominated, with only a handful of women (deservedly) winning precious commissions. And yet the commissioners continued to assure writers that things were most certainly getting better. Thankfully, we at the WGGB decided to find out whether that was the case for ourselves.

We secured funding for and then commissioned an independent study into gender equality for screenwriters in the UK. The research utilised more than 30 data sources to analyse over a decade of film and television in the UK. The full report is exhaustive and breaks down the statistics by genre, budget, TV timeslot, programme type and broadcaster.

However, the headline statistics are staggering. Only 16% of working screenwriters in the UK film industry are female, despite films written by women doing better financially and critically than those written by their male colleagues.

Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley, starring Sarah Lancashire, is just one example of a female-led show achieving major critical and ratings success

The small screen is no friend to gender equality either. Only 28% of TV has been written predominantly by women in the last decade. Again, this is despite huge critical and ratings successes for female-led shows such as Call the Midwife (pictured top, written by Heidi Thomas), Victoria (Daisy Goodwin) and Happy Valley (Sally Wainwright).

Far from getting better, the number of women getting commissioned to tell their stories has flatlined.

And so we are campaigning for those in power to do two things. We are demanding that effective and transparent equality monitoring is put in place. The research suggests that those claiming the equality for screenwriters was improving were woefully misinformed.

Effective equality monitoring would help prevent such complacency and ignorance going forward. It would also reveal the truth about the lack of representation for BAME and LGBT+ writers, writers with disabilities and working-class writers in the industry.

Girlfriends writer Kay Benbow is among those lending their support to the campaign

The WGGB is also calling for public film funders to pledge a 50/50 split between male- and female-written films by 2020. Part of the problem in film is that female screenwriters can currently expect to be trusted with smaller budgets and to write fewer films across their careers than their male counterparts. This is unsustainable and needs to change urgently. A fair share of public money would go a long way towards addressing this.

However, those recommendations are just the start of the Equality Writes campaign, which is receiving support from writers such as Kay Mellor (Girlfriends, Love, Lies & Records), Jack Thorne (Kiri) and Gwyneth Hughes (Vanity Fair).

The WGGB is uniquely placed to hold broadcasters and producers accountable and that is what we intend to do. For more information, visit www.writersguild.org.uk/equalitywrites 

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Brothers in arms

Sky1 drama Bulletproof stars Noel Clarke and Ashley Walters as Bishop and Pike, two cops who are best friends and emotionally bonded by their moral code, despite their different backgrounds.

Set in London, the series takes viewers on an action-packed ride across the city as Bishop and Pike chase down the bad guys in their own uncompromising style.

In this DQTV interview, Clarke and Walters reveal the desire to work together that led to them creating Bulletproof with Nick Love (The Football Factory) and why they wanted to change the way the police are perceived in the UK – particularly within the black community.

They also discuss how the television industry has changed for black actors and praise Sky for “putting their money where their mouth is” and backing them to make the series.

Created by Clarke, Walters and Love, Bulletproof is produced by Vertigo Films (Britannia) and distributed by Sky Vision.

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Double trouble

Brazil’s Globo tackles the body-swap format in La Fórmula (The Formula), which sees a scientist transform into a younger version of herself after taking a unique elixir. DQ chats to leading actors Drica Moraes and Luisa Arraes about playing very different versions of the same character.

The road to true love is never easy – but in Brazilian drama La Fórmula (The Formula), the path is particularly treacherous.

The eight-part limited series sees scientist Angelica reunite with her high-school sweetheart after discovering an elixir that can make a person 30 years younger. After she tests the potion on herself, she begins switching back and forth between her real age and her younger self, becoming her own love rival as her boyfriend falls in love with both versions, unaware they are the same person.

The series, distributed internationally by Globo TV International, stars Drica Moraes and Luisa Arraes, who previously appeared together in fellow Globo series Justiça (Above Justice), as the older and younger versions of Angelica respectively.

Speaking to DQ, they discuss the appeal of the roles and how they worked together bring the character to life, in more ways than one.

The Formula stars Luisa Arraes (left) and Drica Moraes as the same character at different ages

How would you describe the story of The Formula?
Drica Moraes: The Formula is a story about the reunion of a couple of scientists, Angelica, played by myself, and Ricardo – Fábio Assunção – 30 years after a confusing break-up when they were young. In the past, both were students and competed for a place at Harvard University. She gets it, he doesn’t. However, Angelica devises a plan to swap the exam results and make Ricardo think the opposite happened. Ricardo leaves for Harvard and becomes a major businessman in the cosmetics industry and Angelica graduates in Brazil and has a prestigious academic career. They meet again 30 years after breaking up, at a conference where Angelica mysteriously ends up developing a formula that can make you 30 years younger. She applies the formula to herself, becoming a test subject for her own invention. A third character is born from this experiment, Aphrodite – played by Luisa Arraes – the rejuvenated version of Angelica, but with a personality of her own. Ricardo slowly learns that there are two women in one. So begins an unusual love triangle in which Angelica is her own rival.
Luisa Arraes: It’s a story about age and its peculiarities. Angelica discovers a formula that makes her 30 years younger and, with her maturity and experience, she sets off to live her life in the body of a 20-year-old. This causes a lot of confusion, because this new body begins to have feelings and even a new identity, named Aphrodite. And these two women begin to fight for their existence.

What was the appeal of playing your character?
Moraes: We had several resources to create a unique, multifaceted character with a double identity. The basis was intense training between Luisa and me. We researched similar gestures, rhythms and dynamics. The directors bet on a language based on long, continuous shots, with heavy use of hand-held cameras – and their relationship with the actors’ ‘ballet’ also helped build the illusion of the characters’ split personality.
Arraes: It was wonderful because I’ve always been a fan of Drica, especially after I started working as an actress. So playing the same character as her and studying her way of acting was amazing. One was a young, still innocent Angelica; the other was a mix of Angelica’s intelligence and maturity with Aphrodite’s expansiveness. Angelica gets crazier when she becomes Aphrodite.

How are they different from each other?
Moraes: Angelica is a focused, serious, thoughtful woman with a stagnant sex and love life. On the other hand, Aphrodite is a pure explosion of hormones. The fun in developing these characters comes from this contrast in their personalities.

The show puts Fábio Assunção’s Ricardo at the centre of a unique love triangle

How does their story progress through the series?
Arraes: In each episode, Aphrodite becomes increasingly independent of Angelica, developing another personality and becoming almost a villain in the love affair between Angelica and Ricardo. She wants to exist, but when she does, Angelica doesn’t. Therein lies the conflict.

How does the series balance drama and comedy? Are there many funny moments?
Moraes: The plot is half drama, half comedy. A love triangle in which the female protagonist becomes a rival to herself is so absurd that it creates unexpected moments of drama and comedy. An example is when Aphrodite decides to get pregnant with Ricardo’s child, but Angelica can no longer bear children. This creates significant dramatic tension. On the other hand, the mix-ups in which the young woman places her counterpart at risk are very fun.
Arraes: There are many funny moments. The series sometimes uses humour and drama in the same scene. It’s sort of like laughing at misfortune.

How did you work together to ensure you were both playing forms of the same character?
Arraes: Drica and I were joined at the hip from the start and we studied each other a lot. I watched all her scenes and she watched mine. We gave each other tips. Sometimes I didn’t know how to play a scene and I asked her to do it, and vice versa. We worked together.

What did your preparation for the series involve?
Moraes: We did a one-month immersion involving readings, improvisation, several types of contact with the text and many exercises – including body, voice and mirror exercises – plus work in scene adaptation. This was all very useful on the set.
Arraes: A lot of interaction among the cast, studying with the directors and preparation with casting associate Eduardo Milewicz. Every day before filming, we all sat down to discuss the scenes.

Tell us about filming the scenes where Angelica would transform into Aphrodite. How was this achieved?
Arraes: Most of the scenes were resolved with sequence shots and stage tricks, not computers. This was director Flavia Lacerda’s brilliant idea. The actors make the transformations believable, not the effects. Sometimes we made very lengthy sequence shots and Drica hid on the set to pick up where I left off, and then I jumped behind the curtains so they could continue the scenes.

The Formula relied on trickery on set rather than computer effects

We’ve seen many ‘body swap’ films and series made – why do you think it’s a popular format for a story?
Moraes: I think plots that involve body swapping and transmutations ask a direct question: what would my life be like if I were someone else? How would I feel? Would it make me happier?

What does the series say about vanity and the struggle for eternal youth – and do you agree?
Moraes: The series paints a picture of how women historically have been forced – often by themselves, but also by society – to meet certain beauty and youth standards to be accepted. These values are changing quickly but are very ingrained. It’s a fight that will go on for many years. I believe the benefits of aesthetic medicine can bring pleasure and happiness when in the right measure. Otherwise, it becomes a disease, an obsession, in which women are always fighting a losing battle. Time goes by and this is normal. It would be very nice to be able to make peace with this fact.
Arraes: I think it denounces without moralising. There’s a study that says people have a harder time with ageing than dying. We need to talk about getting older; being young can’t be the only option.

Why do you think this series would appeal to international viewers?
Moraes: The Formula has long sequence shots, which brings some freshness to the acting. It has a ‘live’ feel, a sense of ‘filmed theatre,’ which can be quite entertaining for the audience in general.
Arraes: It’s a very high-quality series made in Brazil with engaged actors. Ageing is a universal issue.

Do you prefer acting in short-run series or longer telenovelas, and why?
Moraes: I prefer series. We start with a better notion of the whole and greater care with the product’s final outcome.
Arraes: I prefer series too, because we normally have more time to prepare for scenes. But the telenovelas usually have amazing plots as well.

How would you describe the current state of Brazilian drama?
Moraes: The market is always booming because we have some of the best TV shows in the world. Globo’s telenovelas and series are very high quality. The content and themes are generally very current. It’s an economy that never stops. The variety of audiovisual formats extends the market to everyone – artists and technicians.

How will the business change over the next few years?
Moraes: I believe telenovelas and series will always exist and that there will be new developments in shorter formats for broadcast and cable TV, as well as programming that already exists for the digital universe.
Arraes: I think we have no way of avoiding the strong influence of the internet on dramaturgy. And with respect to the scenario, the plus side is that world is getting closer with every new device.

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Myles keeps Faith

Filmed back-to-back in Welsh and English, eight-part drama Keeping Faith (Un Bore Mercher) tells the story of lawyer, wife and mother Faith (Eve Myles) as she fights to find the truth behind the sudden disappearance of her husband.

She comes to discover that her idyllic hometown, set on the estuary, harbours many dark secrets that threaten her and her family’s lives. Faith’s ordeal transforms her from a stay-at-home, fun-loving and carefree mother to detective, action hero and lover. She takes risks and gambles and finds a new inner strength.

The series debuted on Welsh-language channel S4C before launching on BBC1 Wales. Work is now underway on a second season, with BBC Wales putting a script into development.

In this DQTV video, Myles reveals the appeal of playing a flawed character such as Faith and talks about how she prepared for the energetic role and built relationships with her on-screen family.

The actor also talks about how she had been disillusioned with acting until the chance to star in Keeping Faith came along, and how director Pip Broughton kept her out of her comfort zone during the production.

With an eye on the future, Myles outlines what she looks for when she accepts a role and explains why she enjoys being challenged when she goes on set.

Keeping Faith is produced by Vox Pictures for S4C and BBC Wales and is distributed by About Premium Content. APC’s financial partner UK-based Nevision gap-financed the show.

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Unlocking Safe

From creator Harlan Coben comes Safe, a British-set thriller starring Dexter’s Michael C Hall.

After his teenage daughter goes missing, widowed surgeon Tom Delaney (Hall) begins unearthing dark secrets about the people closest to him.

The cast also includes Amanda Abbington, Marc Warren, Audrey Fleurot and Hannah Arterton.

In this DQTV interview, Coben and Hall are joined by executive producer Nicola Shindler and writer Danny Brocklehurst to discuss making the thrilling eight-part drama.

Hall reveals how he was approached to star in the series and discusses the appeal of playing an Englishman on screen for the first time.

Brocklehurst and Schindler also reflect on their partnership with Coben, which first came together with Sky drama The Five, while Coben reveals why he wants to keep viewers hooked until the end.

Safe is produced by Red Production Company for Netflix and Canal+.

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Six of the best: Kathryn Busby

Kathryn Busby, senior VP of development at Sony Pictures Television Networks, chooses her six favourite television dramas, picking a selection of game-changing series that challenge, thrill and set new markers for inclusion and diversity.

The Wire
The Wire is the first show on my list and the most challenging to watch. I actually tried to get into this series on three separate occasions. Each time I had to stop watching – I just found it too upsetting. Eventually, I immersed myself and it became the most rewarding television experience of my life. David Simon created and executed a tragic story of Baltimore that, to me, stands alongside the greatest works of William Shakespeare. There are so many new shows to watch but I’d love to watch this one all over again, from start to finish. When they mention peak television, this is the
absolute summit.

Friday Night Lights
My experience growing up was far from the wide plains of Texas, but, season after season, Friday Night Lights drew me into the beautiful complexity of small-town America. This show brilliantly explored a plethora of themes: tradition, idol worship, family, trust, love, commitment, race, community and coming of age. The show was so real that, at times, it felt like a documentary. Side note: I always recommend the episode I Think We Should Have Sex (season one, episode 17) to anyone who has never seen the series.

Absentia
Yes, I may have a bias towards Sony Pictures Television Networks shows, but how could I not put Absentia on this list? It’s a visually stunning, character-led drama that unfolds with pace and intensity over 10 episodes. With Stana Katic turning in a brilliant performance, director Oded Ruskin grabs your attention from the opening frames and doesn’t let go. The alchemy of our international cast and crew resulted in a moody, stylish, suspenseful thriller, made distinctive by the tragic family drama
at its centre.

Fargo
I was as cynical as anybody else when I heard they had taken the beloved movie Fargo and made it into a television show. But once I saw it, I was pulled right in. From the pilot episode, directed by Adam Bernstein, it was clear that Noah Hawley had taken the right amount of inspiration and framework from the Coen Brothers masterpiece, and managed to create a show that, while familiar, had its own modern magic and artistry to feel new and vital. And while season one was a triumph of Fargo, season two was a
triumph of television.

Scandal
When Shonda Rhimes created Scandal, she helped usher in a new, inclusive world of writing and casting possibilities. The protagonist of the series, Olivia Pope [played by Kerry Washington], is a brilliant, passionate, three-dimensional character who breaks free of the stereotypical roles previously reserved for black women. Once that dam burst, a flood of trailblazing entertainment followed: Blackish, How to Get Away with Murder and Black Panther, to name a few. But it was Scandal that started the revolution. This show was the game changer.

The Handmaid’s Tale
Wow. A beautifully rendered series that truly took my breath away. Bruce Miller conjured up a stunning adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel that resonates in this ominous political climate. The complexity of Elisabeth Moss’s sublime performance as Offred elevates this essential drama to even greater heights. The Handmaid’s Tale exemplifies the power of television to both tell a story and provide a cautionary tale on the state of humanity. How can a world that bleak be so captivating?

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Fact file: Kiss Me First

Melanie Stokes, from Kindle Entertainment, and Balloon Entertainment’s Bryan Elsley offer six points of interest about Kiss Me First, a drama series set in both the real and virtual-reality worlds coming to Channel 4 in the UK and Netflix.

1. Kiss Me First tells the story of Leila, a lonely 17-year-old girl who is addicted to a fictional online gaming site. While playing the game, Leila meets Tess, a cool and confident party girl who harbours a dark secret. The pair become friends in the real world, but after Tess disappears, Leila decides to assume her friend’s identity and is quickly drawn into the mystery behind her disappearance.

Kiss Me First is based on a book by Lottie Moggach

2. Melanie Stokes: The show is a thriller, a coming-of-age story. It’s full of intrigue but essentially it’s about female friendship, set in the real world and the virtual reality (VR) world. It’s based on a book by Lottie Moggach, which I read at manuscript stage about four years ago.
I wanted to do something that looked at the impact of the digital world on young people, how it’s changed the way they identify and communicate, and how they can hide in the internet in a way we just don’t understand. So when I read the book, it felt absolutely ripe for adaptation. Bryan wrote Skins so I sent him the book and, luckily, he liked it. The biggest challenge was that, in the book, it’s set in chat rooms and it didn’t particularly lend itself to dramatisation so we were really struggling to represent that on screen. Then Bryan had the idea we should make it a VR world so when she comes into the internet, she becomes an avatar. That was the breakthrough idea.

3Bryan Elsley: Combining live action and animation wasn’t easy to start with because we didn’t know anything about animation. Four years later, we know a little bit more. We were lucky that we found a fantastic studio, Axis Animation in Glasgow, and just sat with them for a year working out how to put live action and CGI animation together. It was a long process. It’s a very new kind of project, so there was skepticism from all sides – could we actually do it? We just had to pretend we did know how to do it for quite a long time.

The show blends real life and virtual reality

4. Elsley: Our main concern was working out how to tell a coherent story set in two different worlds. My main inspiration for the way we’ve approached the show is Mary Poppins, which made a huge impression on me when I saw it at the age of six. I just wanted to go through that pavement like the kids in Mary Poppins.
The idea of escaping to another place where you can be different is at the heart of the story. The jury’s out on what will happen with VR and how it will be utilised in future. I’m sure many exciting things are going to happen, but our main priority was to tell an arresting story about young characters. There is already a prototype VR experience that goes with this show.

5. Elsley: The principal element of the animation is motion capture, so the actors’ performances were captured and then we proceeded to animation. I thought that would be quite easy, but it was the beginning of a very long road of experimentation. We placed a lot of focus on getting nuance and believability into the animated characters’ faces, which is a difficult task. If you do it in too much detail, they cease to become believable or relatable, so you have to tactically limit the facial expressions.
Stokes: If you map the face and do an absolute replica, the likeness becomes uncanny so the animator wanted to create a more idealised avatar to give a sense of it being painted, which gives them more soul and brings them closer to the emotion of the original actor.

6. Stokes: The show was originally put into development by Channel 4, which was very supportive from the get go. Then Bryan spoke to Netflix, which already plays Skins in the US, and they were keen on the combination of C4 and Bryan, so it was that alchemy that came together.
Elsley: We’re in conversations about season two. We’re hopeful. We like the show and we think it’s come out quite well.

Kiss Me First debuts on Channel 4 on April 2 and Netflix later this year.

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So Farr so good

From his background in theatre, David Farr wrote episodes of BBC spy thriller Spooks before big-screen feature Hanna became his calling card.

However, he got his big break on TV by adapting John le Carré’s novel The Night Manager.

In this DQTV interview, he talks about updating le Carré’s novel, the shifting power between film and television and his fascination with themes of identity, which informs his writing.

Farr also recalls how he fell in love with Philip K Dick’s The Impossible Planet, which he adapted as part of the Channel 4/Amazon anthology series Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams, and how he put Helen and Paris’s love story at the centre of epic BBC and Netflix drama Troy: Fall of a City.

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Brothers in arms

Brothers Jack and Harry Williams started writing out sitcoms, separately, before they decided to join forces and then give scripted drama a try. The result was The Missing, a gripping thriller that propelled them to the top tier of British writing talent.

They have since followed up that series with One of Us, a second season of The Missing, reverse-narrative crime drama Rellik and emotional thriller Liar.

In this DQTV interview, the brothers discuss getting their big break and look at the challenges of breaking traditional story structures with both Rellik and Liar.

They also talk about the phenomenon of water-cooler television and how they balance writing and producing through their company, Two Brothers Pictures, which is owned by All3Media and was responsible for smash hit BBC comedy Fleabag.

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Original voice

Lennie James, an actor best known for roles in Line of Duty and The Walking Dead, is also the creator of the latest show in which he stars, Sky Atlantic original drama Save Me. In the six-part thriller, he plays Nelly Rowe, a charmer and a chancer living on a south London council estate.

When Nelly is accused of kidnapping the estranged daughter he hasn’t seen for 10 years, he sets out to find her, saving lives, making enemies and risking his life along the way.

In this DQTV interview, series director Nick Murphy and executive producers Jessica Sykes and Simon Heath reveal how James was wooed by Sky to write the series and how the production was slowly built around his atmospheric scripts.

Murphy also talks about how the key to the show was that everyone involved knew exactly what they were making – something he says is both rare and important.

Save Me is produced by World Productions for Sky Atlantic and distributed by Sky Vision.

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