Tag Archives: Houdini & Doyle

Channel 4 cooks up first Hebrew drama

The Baker and the Beauty will air on Channel 4 in its original form
Israeli drama The Baker and the Beauty will air on Channel 4 in its original form

A few years ago, Israeli producers started to make serious inroads into the US market with local adaptations of their dramas. Exemplified by shows like In Treatment, Traffic Light and Homeland, we looked at this trend in a column in June 2015.

Subsequently, Israel has also started to have notable successes in other parts of the world. A good example is Keshet International (KI)’s The A Word, a comedy drama adapted by the BBC in the UK. Having secured strong ratings in BBC1 primetime, the show has now been recommissioned for a second season and is being adapted for the Greek market. It has also been licensed to broadcasters including Sundance in the US, CBC (Canada), BBC First (Australia) and, ironically perhaps, pay TV broadcaster YES in Israel.

It’s not just Israeli adaptations that are winning over buyers. Original Hebrew-language dramas have also started to generate interest. In October 2015, for example, Fox International Channels acquired KI drama False Flag – the first time it had bought a non-English-language scripted series for use on a global scale.

Federation Entertainment and Armoza Formats, meanwhile, have had a lot of joy selling Hebrew-language series Hostages internationally, and there is also an English-language version of the show. Additionally, Endemol Shine International recently sold Israeli thriller Mossad to Turner Latin America.

The A Word has met global success
The A Word has met global success

This week, there was another positive development for Hebrew-language drama, with the news that Channel 4 in the UK is to air Endemol’s Israel-produced comedy-drama The Baker and the Beauty – the first time C4 has ever aired an Israeli drama in its original form. The show, distributed by KI, was picked up earlier this year for use on the C4-backed foreign-language VOD service Walter Presents. But airing on C4’s main channel means it will get much greater exposure in the UK market.

The show, which has been adapted for Greece, The Netherlands and Russia, is a top performer in Israel and has been greenlit for a second season. It follows the love story between a female celebrity and a baker who still lives with his parents. A chance encounter results in their romance, but the big question is whether their relationship can survive her jet-setting lifestyle, her overbearing agent, his unworldly family, both their exes and media intrusion.

Elsewhere this week, there are reports that Sony PlayStation is cancelling superhero drama Powers after two seasons. The news was broken on Twitter by creator Brian Michael Bendis.

The ‘at least for now’ may mean Bendis is planning to look for another network home for Powers. But the show has not been especially well received by critics, so a season three revival seems unlikely. At least Bendis can console himself with the fact that Powers will continue in comic book form with Marvel.

Powers has been cancelled
Powers has been cancelled

Powers was PlayStation’s first original drama commission, so the fact that it has been cancelled may signal that the Sony-owned gaming platform is pulling back from investment in television. That wouldn’t be too much of a surprise given that Sony is now ploughing money into scripted productions for Crackle.

Another show in trouble this week is Houdini & Doyle, which we have discussed before in this column. The show’s first season aired on ITV Encore in the UK and Fox in the US earlier this year, drawing modest ratings. Fox has now said it won’t recommission it, so it remains to be seen if ITV will go searching for other partners to keep the franchise alive.

This week also saw the conclusion of The Secret Agent on BBC1. The three-part miniseries was an adaptation of one of Joseph Conrad’s finest novels. As far as I can tell, it’s the first Conrad TV adaptation since Nostromo in 1997. The Secret Agent itself was previously adapted as a film in 1996, with Bob Hoskins.

The Secret Agent has not received the reception the BBC would have hoped for
The Secret Agent has not received the reception the BBC would have hoped for

I was very much looking forward to the production – because Conrad is one of my favourite authors and lead actor Toby Jones (Verloc) is one of my favourite actors. But it seems to have missed its mark with the audience. The first episode came in below the slot average, which doesn’t bode well for the next two episodes (the ratings aren’t in yet). It also scored just 5.8 on IMDb, which is low. And entertainment critics weren’t exactly enthusiastic.

There appear to be two key problems with the show. The first is that the story is so bleak, a point well articulated by Gerard O’Donovan in The Telegraph. The second is that Conrad novels are not structured in a way that lends themselves to adaptation. So often in his works, key pieces of action happen early and then become the basis for extended psychological studies. This is very different, for example, from a Thomas Hardy novel – where there is usually a powerful setup, some unexpected twists and turns and a dramatic conclusion.

Ash vs Evil Dead is heading to Amazon in Germany
Ash vs Evil Dead is heading to Amazon in Germany

The strength of the acting and writing certainly make The Secret Agent worth watching  – it’s only three hours long, after all. But the show should be a warning to anyone thinking of adapting other Conrad novels. Those tempted should probably focus on his sea stories – and should perhaps look for a contemporary setting (echoing the way Francis Ford Coppola created Apocalypse Now from Heart of Darkness). Anyone interested in following up on this subject should see this Guardian article.

Finally this week, Starz Digital, the on-demand licensing arm of US cable network Starz, has licensed comedy-horror series Ash vs Evil Dead to Amazon in Germany. The first season of the show was a big hit for Starz in the US, reaching 8.7 on IMDb. Season two will hit US screens on October 2, while Amazon’s deal will see it air season one next month.

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Houdini & Doyle conjures tepid response

Houdini & Doyle stars Stephen Mangan (left) and Michael Weston
ITV Encore’s Houdini & Doyle stars Stephen Mangan (left) and Michael Weston

UK commercial broadcaster ITV launched pay TV channel ITV Encore in June 2014. Available exclusively on DTH platform Sky, the drama-exclusive channel is part of ITV’s attempt to build a stronger presence in the subscription TV business.

Much of ITV Encore is made up of repeats of shows that have previously aired on the flagship channel (Downton Abbey, Vera, Poirot). But in a bid to woo new viewers, Encore also airs the occasional original series or first-run acquisition.

Recent examples have included The Frankenstein Chronicles, Midwinter of the Spirit, Gracepoint, Jordskott and The Americans (though this one, a US acquisition from Fox, actually started out on ITV).

Another new show currently airing on ITV Encore is Houdini & Doyle, a Canadian-British coproduction that imagines that escapologist Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle teamed up to solve crimes together. Not a bad idea as far as it goes, but one that is not getting much exposure among UK viewers. With just a couple of episodes to go, it is attracting an audience of around 90,000 to 100,000 (based on BARB’s seven-day data).

This isn’t especially the fault of the show – which is actually ITV Encore’s top-rated programme at present. For some reason, the channel is not making much of an inroad with Sky’s subscriber base.

To put it in perspective, in the last week of April, Houdini & Doyle attracted 96,000 viewers compared with 2.2 million for Sky Atlantic’s top-rated drama Game of Thrones. If that comparison seems a little unfair, then it’s also worth noting that Sky1’s top-rated drama was The Flash (917,000), Fox UK’s was NCIS (909,000), Sky Living’s was Elementary (808,000) and 5USA’s was The Mysteries of Laura (574,000). Houdini & Doyle’s audience was actually lower than factual entertainment shows on Discovery and Lifetime.

Indian Summers has been cancelled after its ratings fell sharply in its second run on Channel 4
Indian Summers has been cancelled after its ratings fell sharply in its second run on Channel 4

ITV could argue that the channel is quite new (only two years old) and that competition in the UK pay TV market is intense. But its cross-promotion from its flagship channel (and others in its portfolio) ought to be having more of an impact.

So what conclusions can we draw? Well, it looks like ITV has two choices. Firstly, it could really invest in making ITV Encore a competitor to the channels mentioned above. This would require more investment in original programming and acquisitions, so that viewers would routinely check the channel on the EPG.

At the moment there simply isn’t enough new content flowing through Encore to make it a habit. To illustrate this point, the fact that The Walking Dead airs on Fox at 21.00 means I am now in the habit of looking at Fox for new shows, which is how I discovered 11.22.63. In a similar vein, Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude was the reason I went on to discover The Affair.

I’ve also watched The Frankenstein Chronicles and Midwinter of the Spirit but not found enough additional content on ITV Encore to develop the same kind of brand engagement (there’s actually a kind of profile mismatch, since I have little interest in shows like Vera).

Of course, more heavyweight content is expensive. So an alternative would be to settle for a more modest proposal – in which case ITV would be better airing shows like Houdini & Doyle on the main commercial channel and then passing them on to ITV Encore as repeats. Houdini & Doyle is only getting around 20,000 more viewers than repeats of Vera on ITV Encore, so the broadcaster wouldn’t be losing much through this approach.

But what of the show itself? While the modest UK performance of Houdini & Doyle is primarily down to ITV Encore’s lack of traction, it has to be said that the series isn’t performing very well by other measures.

BBC has found a hit with The A Word, based on a Keshet format
BBC has found a hit with The A Word, based on a format from Israel’s Keshet

In the US, it has started slowly on Fox. With 2.6 million viewers for its opening episode and a poor response from 18-49s, it is one of the channel’s lowest performers of the year (about the same as Minority Report – and we know how that ended up). Combined with a low score on IMDb and some pretty poor reviews (see this one from The Telegraph), it looks like Houdini & Doyle will go the same way as Beowulf and Jekyll & Hyde.

While we’re on a downer, we may as well deal with the death of Channel 4’s £15m epic Indian Summers. C4 says it is “incredibly proud” of the show but took the decision to cancel it after the audience dropped from around three million in season one to 1.7 million in season two.

There has been a suggestion that the falling ratings are the result of tough competition from shows like The Night Manager. But the critics have, for the most part, responded negatively to the latest run. While they have enjoyed “the sumptuous settings,” the prevailing view is that it lacks substance and suffers from a plodding plot. Hopefully, though, there will be plenty of job offers for Nikesh Patel, who has soldiered on throughout the series as Aafrin Dalal.

For good news stories, we have to return to the BBC, which has been on fire this year. Its latest success story is The A Word, which chalked up a remarkably consistent audience of 5.5 million during its recent run on Tuesday nights at 21.00.

Adapted by Peter Bowker from a format by Israel’s Keshet, the show tells the story of a couple who learn their son is autistic. It has been warmly received by critics and is certain to pick up more format deals after its run in the UK.

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November reign: How did the now ex-ITV drama boss do?

Following Steve November’s exit from ITV, Stephen Arnell assesses his tenure as the commercial broadcaster’s head of drama.

The news of ITV drama director Steve November’s departure brought to a close the first stage of new ITV director of television Kevin Lygo’s shake-up of senior commissioning roles at the network.

For the commercial broadcaster, drama is the most important genre in terms of cost, peaktime value and ratings.

Although Lygo’s background is chiefly in entertainment (his skills will be crucial in reinvigorating that critical part of the schedule), one shouldn’t forget that he was, under pseudonym Ruby Solomon, the writer of the one-off comedy-drama Walter, commissioned and broadcast by BBC1 in 2014.

And when Lygo was Channel 4’s director of television and content, drama successes under his regime included Shameless, The Devil’s Whore, Skins, Elizabeth I, Dead Set and Any Human Heart.

With characteristic speed, Lygo poached BBC drama chief Polly Hill to replace November – no doubt fulfilling a dual purpose in both attracting proven talent and inconveniencing the BBC during a period when drama is its strongest genre.

So how should we assess November’s tenure at the helm of ITV drama?

November oversaw some expensive flops, including Jekyll & Hyde - but the show has been picked up abroad
November oversaw some expensive flops, including Jekyll & Hyde – but the show has been picked up overseas

He was very fortunate in inheriting a department in rude health thanks to the previous team of Laura Mackie (director) and Sally Haynes (controller), who were responsible for a slate of hits including Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, Whitechapel, Appropriate Adult, Mr Selfridge, Scott & Bailey and Vera – all contributing to ITV’s Channel of the Year win at the Edinburgh Television Festival in 2013.

The pair rescued ITV’s reputation for quality drama, which had taken a major hit under then ITV director of television Simon Shaps, when new series such as Rock Rivals, Harley Street, Demons, Brittania High, Moving Wallpaper, Echo Beach, The Royal Today and The Palace proved major disappointments for both viewers and critics.

At the same time, Shaps axed ratings bankers Foyle’s War and Rosemary & Thyme in an attempt to change perceptions of the then-beleaguered network.

Once Shaps left ITV in 2008, his successor Peter Fincham swiftly recommissioned Foyle’s War, which continued to enjoy healthy ratings until the series eventually ended last year.

November’s tenure hasn’t had the same level of critical or ratings success as the Mackie/Haynes era, but neither has it plumbed the depths of the Shaps years; so it’s more of a qualified success.

November (pictured top at last year’s C21 International Drama Summit) was dealt a good hand in inheriting shows that still had a lot of mileage left in them; the reception given to his commissions, however, was mixed.

November's tenure ended on a strong note with the launch of Marcella
November’s tenure ended on a strong note with the launch of Marcella

He enjoyed critical success with the likes of Peter Morgan’s The Lost Honour of Christopher Jeffries and Jeff Pope’s Lucan, while new commissions including the single film Cilla and the series Grantchester, Home Fires, Safe House, Prey, Unforgotten and Black Work all attracted strong ratings and broadly favourable notices.

All these achieved audiences high enough to warrant sophomore seasons.

The strong 6.4 million (29% share) debut enjoyed by The Durrells on Sunday, April 3 will give ITV hope for a long-running pre-watershed hit in the vein of the Darling Buds of May and Wild At Heart.

With a very healthy 6.1 million viewers (27.6% share) for it’s opening episode, Nordic Noir-style crime drama Marcella also gave November a high note on which to bid farewell to the network.

But balanced against these achievements were a run of high-profile misfires. The strategy of commissioning early-evening drama for a move into territory previously solely occupied by the BBC (Doctor Who, Atlantis, Merlin and Robin Hood) proved a costly misjudgement.

Both Jekyll & Hyde and Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands returned low ratings accompanied by poor reviews, with many feeling the dramas fell between the two stalls of early-evening and post-watershed drama; too adult in tone for younger viewers and too juvenile for more mature audiences.

One wonders if doubts were expressed during development over whether commissioning apparently family-friendly ‘light’ takes on Penny Dreadful (Jekyll & Hyde) and Game of Thrones (Beowulf) would work for the Sunday early-evening ITV audience, but other considerations no doubt came into play.

With US cable-style orders of 10 and 12 episodes respectively, the underperformance of Jekyll & Hyde and Beowulf left sizeable holes in ITV’s peaktime share.

Both shows found a home in North America, with Jekyll & Hyde on Canada’s CBC and Beowulf on The Esquire Network – both transmitted post-21.00.

Doctor Thorne was well received but struggled to compete against the BBC in the schedules
Doctor Thorne was well received but struggled to compete against the BBC in its slot

It appears unlikely that ITV will venture this far from its comfort zone in the near future, as the last attempt to crack the pre-watershed weekend drama market was also a bust – the aforementioned Britannia High (2008) and Demons (2009).

Some of November’s dramas also failed to connect with audiences over the most recent Christmas holidays, avalanched by the traditional dominance of BBC1 over the period, which appeared to be the case with both Harry Price: Ghost Hunter and Peter & Wendy, which were otherwise critically well received.

Period miniseries The Great Fire, which aired in 2014, was seen as an attempt by ITV to explore an area not usually associated with the channel, but unfortunately for the network, reviews and audiences were largely indifferent.

Scheduling has been a problem for ITV when launching new dramas, with BBC1 able to overwhelm the opposition with an unusually strong slate of shows. Midwinter of the Spirit was crushed by Doctor Foster, Jericho was taken out by established hit Death in Paradise and Doctor Thorne was similarly dealt with by the huge success of The Night Manager.

In some cases, such as Doctor Thorne, ITV introduced shows after BBC1 had already established its new dramas in the slot with a number of episodes, making the task of winning viewers more difficult than if they had simply clashed head-to-head on their debuts.

With pay channel ITV Encore, it’s difficult to quantify what counts as a success in the limited universe of Sky subscribers – 2015’s Sean Bean starrer The Frankenstein Chronicles returned respectable consolidated figures and was picked up by A+E in the US.

Reviews were generally favourable but there’s no word yet on season two.

In recent weeks, Encore’s Edwardian detective mash-up Houdini & Doyle’s opening episode was given a preview on ITV to kickstart the show. It’s probably too early to see if this has paid off in terms of the ratings for the series on Sky, but reviews have been fairly poor, although production values were praised.

The casting of comedian Stephen Mangan as Arthur Conan Doyle in particular came in for criticism; it was also noted that this was the second ITV drama in to feature Doyle as a character in a year (Arthur & George being the first).

Now with Hill in the top drama job at ITV, Lygo will be hoping she can continue her run of hits, which include The Night Manager, Poldark and Doctor Foster.

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The magic touch

A series described as “the Edwardian X-Files” pits Harry Houdini against Arthur Conan Doyle in supernatural crime drama Houdini & Doyle. Michael Pickard reports.

While Houdini & Doyle represents the increasing globalisation of television drama, there’s familiarity for viewers in this new supernatural crime drama.

Commissioned by ITV in the UK, the series has a strong international footprint. It was produced by British indie Big Talk Productions and Canada’s Shaftesbury, while filming took place in Manchester, Liverpool and Toronto. It will also air in Canada on Global and on US network Fox, with Sony Pictures Television distributing.

And audiences tuning in on both sides of the Atlantic can look forward to a show described as “the Edwardian X-Files,” which unites real-life friends and adversaries author Arthur Conan Doyle and illusionist Harry Houdini as a pair of crime solvers in early 20th century England.

But while Sherlock Holmes author Doyle, played by Stephen Mangan (pictured left above), is a passionate believer in the paranormal, Houdini (Six Feet Under’s Michael Weston, alongside Mangan above) refuses to believe in the supernatural, leading them into conflict and competition as they help Scotland Yard solve some bizarre and inexplicable crimes.

The series is executive produced by House creator David Shore and co-creators David Hoselton (Chicago PD) and David Titcher (The Librarians), alongside Kenton Allen, Luke Alkin, Matthew Justice, Christina Jennings, Scott Garvie and Maggie Murphy.

Showrunner Hoselton says: “It was a setup that seemed almost too good to be true: the real-life friendship between Sherlock Holmes’ creator and the great magician, bonded by a mutual interest in the paranormal. And most intriguing of all was the fact they were on unexpected sides of the debate, for one would assume Doyle to be the sceptic and Houdini the believer, but it was quite the opposite.”

Houdini-&-Doyle-s1-ep1-4
Rebecca Liddiard (left) plays constable Adelaide Stratton

The drama does take some “artistic licence” with history, however. The two men were already past middle age when they met in real life, but the series moves their friendship back 20 years to 1901, which Hoselton says is the ideal time for viewers to meet the characters.

“A new century, a new king, a new era chock-a-block with new ideas,” he says of the show’s setting. “In a highly unpopular move, Doyle had killed off Holmes to devote more time to ‘weightier work,’ and Houdini was at the apex of his career as the highest-paid performer in the world.”

The pair are grounded by constable Adelaide Stratton (played by Rebecca Liddiard), the UK’s first female police officer, who is based on a real person and provides a window into an evolving world 17 years before women got the vote.

Hostler adds: “Armed with equal parts scepticism, hope and humour, this trio felt like the perfect group to explore the world of the supernatural – and if they happen to raise a few profound questions in the process, all the better.”

Mangan, best known for his role in comedy Episodes, admits he agreed to take part in Houdini & Doyle after discovering David Shore was involved in the project.

“You can never guarantee anything will be a success,” he explains. “But if the person at the top of the tree knows what they’re doing then it certainly helps. So when I found out that person was David, it was a very simple decision. I read a couple of scripts and agreed to do it.”

The British actor, who describes the series as “the Edwardian X-Files,” continues: “Not every single crime is explained. It would be a little dull if that were the case. As much as I love Scooby Doo, as a crime drama it starts to get a little bit predictable after a while. And you don’t want that. What I love about this show is that every episode is written by a different person and they all have very different feelings.”

Houdini-&-Doyle-s1-ep1-3
Mangan’s Doyle is a believer in the supernatural, while Weston’s Houdini is more sceptical

Weston was also drawn to the project by Shore’s involvement, having previously appeared in House. “It’s such a unique idea, set in this period time of these two epic figures,” he says. “And they’ve done it with such wit, humour and humanity. Yet it’s this great adventure and procedural at the same time.”

Accepting their parts meant Mangan and Weston were jumping into the deep end – literally, as the opening scene finds the pair up to their necks in a cellar as water rises around them. The stunt was filmed using a shipping container filled with water in a Manchester car park, though the container had to be reinforced to stop the sides collapsing due to the weight of the water.

“It was really intense, but fun,” says Weston. “We have incredible wardrobe and set departments that build these extravagant things. They built this set for us and we were in water for hours and hours.

“They were raising the level gradually and let us go right to the point of real danger. We always want to make it look real and feel real. So we will do it as close as we can. We really were gasping for air and happy when it was all over. But it was awesome fun. You get a little adrenaline rush.”

Mangan continues: “That’s one of the few stunts I do. Michael does most of them – he was suspended upside down in a straightjacket and lowered into a tube of water. He’s always leaping around while I’m typing at a typewriter.”

The series debuts on ITV and pay TV channel ITV Encore on March 13, before rolling out on Global and Fox on May 2.

But despite Houdini & Doyle’s supernatural flavour, Mangan says the appeal for viewers will be the familiarity of its case-of-the-week procedural structure.

“There’s a reason why there are so many crime dramas around, and it’s because they hook you in,” he adds. “You just want to know whodunnit. But at the same time there is a variety in each show. Each episode is like a self-contained film all on its own plus a double act. Again, a classic formula – two very different blokes. I think they have fallen upon two fascinating characters in Houdini and Doyle. It’s exciting, compelling and funny – and a real bonanza for anyone turned on by moustaches.”

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Breaking the mould

After starring in one of the most acclaimed TV shows of all time, Breaking Bad actor Laura Fraser’s new role couldn’t be more different. She tells Michael Pickard why she’s heading to Neverland this Christmas.

This Christmas, one of the centrepieces of UK broadcaster ITV’s drama line-up is a spellbinding new take on JM Barrie’s classic children’s story Peter Pan.

Peter & Wendy, which airs on December 26, opens in London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, where a young girl called Lucy is awaiting treatment for a serious heart condition.

The day before her operation, she reads Peter Pan to a group of sick children in the hospital – and when she falls asleep that night, the story is brought to life in her dreams as the doctors and nurses who look after her become characters from Neverland.

Fraser as Lydia in Breaking Bad
Fraser as Lydia in Breaking Bad

Stanley Tucci’s kind-hearted surgeon becomes the wicked Captain Hook and Laura Fraser doubles up as both Lucy’s mother Julie Rose and Mrs Darling. Hazel Doupe plays Lucy and takes the part of Wendy in her dream, while a group of junior doctors become pirates and other children at the hospital appear as the Lost Boys.

Other cast members include Zak Cutliffe as the eponymous Peter Pan, while singer Paloma Faith earns her wings as Tinker Bell.

The one-off family film, which sees the action split between the hospital and Neverland, is produced by Headline Pictures’ Christian Baute and Stewart Mackinnon in partnership with Catalyst Global Media. It is written by Adrian Hodges (The Musketeers), directed by Diarmuid Lawrence and distributed worldwide by Red Arrow International.

Peter Pan is indelibly linked to Great Ormond Street after Barrie gave the hospital the rights to the story in 1929 along with all royalties from any performance or publication of his work. The story itself stems from the death of Barrie’s elder brother David who was killed at 14 years old in a skating accident. His mother would say that David would forever be a child, sowing the seed for the tale of Peter Pan.

It was the connection between Barrie and Great Ormond Street that Hodges focused on when asked to adapt the story for television, allowing him to tell it in a fresh way while ensuring the original themes of childhood, adventure, innocence, motherhood and death were preserved.

And it was the theme of motherhood that struck a chord with Fraser, who has a daughter of her own. She was filming forthcoming movie I Am Not a Serial Killer in Minnesota last winter when she was offered a role in Peter & Wendy and flew straight to London for filming.

“It’s an interesting way of telling a story everybody knows,” she says of Hodges’ take on Peter Pan. “I was also drawn to the fact that this mother’s struggling to deal with her daughter’s illness and trying to be brave and strong and not quite managing, and the fact she’s a single mother made it a wee bit more interesting. Stanley Tucci being attached was also appealing to me. It just looked like a fun thing to do.”

Peter & Wendy is split between Great Ormond Street (pictured) and Neverland
Peter & Wendy is split between Great Ormond Street (pictured) and Neverland

The hospital is so engrained in the story that the cast and crew actually spent several days there earlier this summer filming external shots and scenes in and around the reception area, which proved difficult and emotionally stirring for many.

“It was quite hard to film there, it was quite moving,” Fraser admits. “We did have to stop for a few minutes four or five times during the day because even though it was a quiet day in the hospital – it was chosen specifically for a day when there weren’t too many operations in the ward we were in – you’d see parents coming in with their sick children, some in wheelchairs, some couldn’t walk, some were lying down. It was just gut-wrenching. Some of the crew were crying. It just makes you really grateful for your kids being healthy.

“As a mother I’ve had these worries and fears constantly niggling at me, like most parents. I just indulged them and exaggerated them and allowed myself to feel them. I would also listen to really morbid audiobooks to keep me in that state of mind where you think death is so close. I was relieved when it was over, in some ways.

“I did have fun and there was a lot of laughing as well. When the pirates are on set, they’re just hilarious people, I loved them. I was supposed to be upset in one of the scenes I have with them when they’re playing the junior doctors, and I was just corpsing all over the place. I couldn’t hold it together at all.”

Scotland-born Fraser, who has recently moved back to Glasgow, also enjoyed the opportunity to play dual roles – a technique that keeps the cast list down despite the vast array of colourful characters in both the real world and Neverland.

“It’s a very old tradition of actors playing dual roles,” she explains. “I’ve met a few people who have been in the Royal Shakespeare Company and they’ve played several different parts at the same time and I just couldn’t understand how they do it. But then your brain is capable of much more than you think. It wasn’t particularly taxing for me – I only had a few lines as Mrs Darling. It would have been a wee bit worrying if I couldn’t handle that. It was fun – it was a nice introduction to playing dual roles, although I don’t think I’ll be doing two Shakespeare plays simultaneously any time soon!”

Acclaimed actor Stanley Tucci plays Captain Hook
Acclaimed actor Stanley Tucci plays Captain Hook

Having starred in the final two seasons of US hit drama Breaking Bad, Fraser notes the growing trend for darker, edgier television drama, which is why family friendly Peter & Wendy appealed to the actor, who also appeared in ABC drama Black Box.

“My husband and I are really inappropriate about what we let our kid watch! She’s seen The Hunger Games – she’s nine,” the actress admits. “That aside, I don’t think it’s good to show violent images to children, so it is nice to have something you can all watch together. My daughter is interested in seeing stuff that I’m in but there hasn’t been much that I can show her, legally. So it will be nice to watch it together.”

Having worked across TV and film – her movie credits include Vanilla Sky, A Knight’s Tale and Kevin & Perry Go Large – Fraser is now taking advantage of the increasing quality of television drama, most notably as Breaking Bad’s Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, who supplied drug ingredients to both Gustavo Fring and Walter White.

“I love doing both TV and film and I find them very similar,” she says. “The quality of TV is going through a really good patch. I’ve been really enjoying the TV scripts for the last couple of years. They’ve been so much better. It must be nice as a writer to take your time to tell a story and not feel rushed. And also to be working for a length of time – that security is nice. To have character like Lydia, which was so well written, it would have been a shame to only have that in a one-off feature-length drama.”

Joining Breaking Bad in season five, Fraser looks back fondly on her time on the AMC hit but remembers being incredibly nervous at the prospect of joining Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul et al.

“I was living in upstate New York at the time so what I remember most is getting to Albuquerque (in New Mexico, where Breaking Bad was shot) and back, because I would commute during filming,” she recalls. “I also remember seeing Albuquerque in winter and summer. Even though it was only one season, it was shot over two years. Albuquerque was just so foreign, with huge skies. Every day the sunset would blow your mind.

“There was a surreal aspect to being part of something so well known. I still go, ‘What was I doing there?’ I feel really lucky that I got to be part of something like that. During filming, I was quite intimidated and a wee bit scared. I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly a lot of the time. It was almost like a very mild, sustained panic-attack shoot. But in retrospect I loved it.”

Fraser will soon be appearing in fellow ITV drama Houdini & Doyle, executive produced by David Shore (House) and airing on ITV Encore, Global in Canada and Fox in the US in 2016. It stars Stephen Mangan as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Michael Weston as Harry Houdini, who together solve crimes in this supernatural series.

She will also be on screen in BBC1’s One of Us, in which she plays a detective solving a horrific double murder involving two close-knit families. It is written by Harry and Jack Williams, who previously penned The Missing, and will air sometime in 2016.

“I was worried I was only going to be able to play total bitches after Breaking Bad but it’s actually been really varied,” Fraser adds. “In Houdini & Doyle I play a prominent suffragette who gets embroiled in a murky murder case, and in One of Us I play a detective solving a grisly double murder. So lots of murder! I actually enjoyed playing a detective, it was fun.”

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