Tag Archives: The Deceived

Deception point

Chloë Thomas, the director of psychological thriller The Deceived, tells DQ about filming the four-part drama, channelling Alfred Hitchcock and burning down the set.

While many dramas would spend more time focusing on the blossoming but illicit relationship between an English student and her charming-but-married lecturer, four-part miniseries The Deceived is barely out of first gear before its central characters have finished flirting and started a full-blown love affair.

Viewers shouldn’t feel deceived, however, as the psychological drama – which aired last week on Channel 5 in the UK and Virgin Media Television in Ireland – quickly reveals its true intentions. When Dr Michael Callaghan (Emmett J Scanlan) suddenly disappears, the now-pregnant Ophelia (Emily Reid) tracks him down to his marital home. But a sudden death leads her to become trapped in a haunting world where she can no longer trust her own mind.

Chloë Thomas

Set between Cambridge and Northern Ireland, the series comes from husband-and-wife writing team Lisa McGee (Derry Girls) and Tobias Beer, who wanted to create a contemporary yet otherworldly drama that takes inspiration from traditional Irish ghost stories and adds a layer of manipulation.

“When they sent me the first script, my first question was, ‘Can I read the next episode?’” director Chloë Thomas tells DQ. “I just wanted to know what would happen because I loved the line it takes between whether it is supernatural or is it not. I love that ambiguity in it and I love the crazy-intricate plotting.

“There was a real desire to get to Ireland because that’s where the main story begins,” she says of the fast-paced opening. “I like the fact you think it’s going to be about an affair, and we have had a few dramas like that recently, but suddenly he disappears and then she’s in Ireland and she’s pregnant. There were multiple rugs being pulled [out from under the audience].

“It is crazy fast and you have to go with it. But nothing is what you think it is. It puts you in the position of Ophelia, who’s fallen [in love] very hard and fast and then she rocks up in a place where everyone knows each other and it’s really foreign to her.”

Thomas came to the project inspired by movies such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940), mystery thrillers Stoker (2013) and Personal Shopper (2016), and haunting Nicole Kidman drama The Others (2001).

“Me and the DP, Donna Wade, were thinking of Hitchcock and this sense of, ‘Is this real? What is going on?’ It’s not necessarily dark all the time. Modern gothic doesn’t have to be dark,” the director says. “Sometimes it’s quite bright, but it’s very uneasy. It’s on the edge of melodrama, which I really liked. Things were heightened but just about believable. You have to think you would go with Michael. You know it’s not a good idea, but sometimes people do things that are a bad idea, like having an affair with a married man.

Thomas on set with The Deceived star Emmett J Scanlan

“I was also thinking about modern ghosts. I’m not a horror genre nut, but I like things that are presented as totally real and you just have to go with it. In the look book, there were lots of creepy stairs and creepy doors, so locations are very important. I was interested in being still in the house and thinking, ‘What can I hear? Who’s that person?’ and us feeling the space, like you’re too small in a big room.”

An 18th century house on the outskirts of Belfast was used for the Callaghan home. It came complete with the desired wide corridors and large staircase. “It was just as I imagined it,” Thomas says. “We changed the outside of it in terms of the greenery. We took the leaves off [the trees], which made it 10 times spookier. The designer, David Craig ,understood those little things that added the spookiness to it.”

Establishing shots of Cambridge were also filmed around the English city to capture sights such as the Bridge of Sighs, though Queen’s University in Belfast doubled for Cambridge University on screen.

The director describes the ensemble cast as “really amazing,” with Scanlan (Gangs of London) and Reid (Belgravia) joined by Catherine Walker (Shetland) as Michael’s wife Roisin, Eleanor Methven (Little Women) as Roisin’s mother Mary, Ian McElhinney (Game of Thrones) as Michael’s father Hugh, Shelley Conn (Liar) as Rosin’s friend Ruth and Paul Mescal as Sean, a local builder who becomes Ophelia’s confidant.

The Deceived marks Mescal’s second ever screen role, after making his debut earlier this year in acclaimed BBC3 series Normal People, which is based on Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel. He joined the show two days after filming on Normal People wrapped.

The series stars Emily Reid as Ophelia, who has an affair with her university lecturer

“As soon as I saw his audition tape, I thought he was brilliant. I knew he had to do the part,” Thomas says. “He’s so good at being ‘normal’ but epic. He’s such a good actor. He was really attracted by the Irish story and Lisa and Toby. We were really lucky. He’s such a lovely and talented person. It was a great ensemble feeling and he fitted right in. But nobody knew how big Normal People would be.”

Thomas looks back on the final day of shooting as one of the most difficult, as it involved staging a devastating fire at the Callaghan house. “I couldn’t believe we got to do it,” she says. “It was unbelievable.” The stunt came at the end of a packed day of filming, which included shooting on the house set, some green-screen work, filming on another set and then returning to the house to capture it going up in flames.

“It was like being at Cape Canaveral and setting fire to a rocket,” she says. “We were outside under a gazebo. Donna was looking the most stressed I’ve seen her – she had three cameras in there. The amazing thing about filming in Northern Ireland is Game of Thrones has created a generation of amazing technicians and filmmakers. They’ve set fire to so much shit on Game of Thrones, so they just know how to do it so well. Then when the special effects guys put the fire out, I had the idea to get them in costume so we might get [footage of] someone that looks like a fireman. It sounds crazy, but it’s a bit of extra value from what they had to do anyway.

“For me it was weird because I couldn’t do anything. I literally just watched and it was like watching a rocket. There was nothing I could do. It was one shot. It was pretty amazing and it delivered real flames. To do that was amazing.”

Without an intimacy coordinator on set, Thomas also led the creative discussions with Wade and producer Imogen O’Sullivan around the show’s sex scenes. “We had a very strong feeling of what we wanted to see and how we wanted to make the crew, actress and actor feel, so we didn’t have an intimacy coordinator. But the actors freed me up,” she says.

Normal People’s Paul Mescal is also among the cast

“I would talk and they would say, ‘Tell me. Let’s be open. Let’s try stuff.’ Catherine Walker was amazing because there’s a sex scene that’s disturbing, because Michael is a coercive character. Something about it doesn’t feel right. We did all the normal protocols: most people were off the floor, monitors were restricted and we had a brilliant first AD [assistant director] who was understanding and sensitive. Emmett is amazing as well. I’m really interested in how you direct sex scenes, who’s pleasure it is and what you’re looking at. I’m actually hoping I get to do a lot more.”

Thomas wants viewers to follow Ophelia through the story, though that doesn’t mean they should trust her. “Ophelia is the heart of it and we should feel like we’re being gaslighted. Are there any good guys? What even is it that’s happened?” she says. “But really, it’s about Michael and his damaged personality, his narcissism and his need to be loved. I love the gaslighting and the psychological aspect, but there’s no plot breakdown, Agatha Christie style. You do find out what’s happening, but it’s complicated.”

Produced by New Pictures and distributed by All3Media International, The Deceived isn’t the only thing Thomas has on TV right now. Having previously worked on ITV’s royal series Victoria, the director also helmed three episodes of costume drama Harlots third run. The BBC recently acquired all three seasons and launched the show on BBC2 earlier this month.

She admits she was “daunted” to join a show full of “female titans” such as Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville, who both play brothel owners in 18th century London. But she says Harlots has a very different tone from other period dramas.

“They are always put in a box and actually they shouldn’t be. They’re about people with the same feelings and same jealousies,” she says. “They all end up sleeping with the wrong people. But Harlots is really interesting because no one sits around the corner stewing. If they’ve got a beef, they just storm up to them, bang on the door and say it to their face. I just love that. It’s really about money and power, and the power the women have is their sex and that’s what they sell. That’s how they manage to buy property.

“I loved the ambition of the show and what the creators and producers were trying to do with it. And it was actually very interesting working on a show with all female directors. I’d never worked on a show like that before, which is weird because it shouldn’t be a thing but it is.”

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Series to Watch: August 2020

DQ checks out the upcoming schedules to pick out 10 new dramas to watch this August, from a psychological thriller written by the creator of comedy Derry Girls to a bold and stylistic drama co-created by and starring Billie Piper.

The Deceived
From: UK
Original broadcaster: Channel 5
Starring: Emily Reid, Emmett J Scanlan, Catherine Walker, Eleanor Methven, Ian McElhinney, Shelley Conn, Dempsey Bovell, Paul Mescal
Air date: August 3
Written by Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee and Tobias Beer, this four-part psychological thriller set between Northern Ireland and Cambridge follows English university student Ophelia (Reid), who falls in love with her married lecturer (Scanlan, pictured). When their affair is interrupted by a shocking death, Ophelia finds herself trapped in a world where she can no longer trust her own mind.

The Fugitive
From: US
Original broadcaster: Quibi
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Boyd Holbrook
Air date: August 3
From the creator of Quibi’s Most Dangerous Game comes The Fugitive, which is described as an edge-of-your-seat crime thriller that sees an innocent man on the run, desperate to clear his name, being pursued through LA by a cop who will not rest until he is captured. Fourteen ‘chapters’ will be released daily until August 18.

Little Birds
From: UK
Original broadcaster: Sky
Starring: Juno Temple, Yumna Marwan, Hugh Skinner, Nina Sosanya, David Costabile, Raphael Acloque, Rossy de Palma, Amy Landecker
Air date: August 4
Based on erotic vignettes by Anaïs Nin, Little Birds takes viewers into the mesmerising and intoxicating world of the Tangier International Zone of the 1950s. New York heiress Lucy Savage (Temple, pictured) arrives ready for love and marriage in exotic climes. But when her husband Hugo (Skinner) does not greet her in the way she expected, she steps out on her own. What she discovers is a world in flux, a country quivering on the cusp of independence, populated by a myriad of characters – including scandalous dominatrix Cherifa Lamor (Marwan), who particularly captures Lucy’s imagination.

The Rain (S3)
From: Denmark
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: Alba August, Lucas Lyngaard Tønnesen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Lukas Løkken, Sonny Lindberg, Clara Rosager, Natalie Madueño, Evin Ahmad, Rex Leonard, Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Jessica Dinnage, Angela Bundalovic, Lars Simonsen
Air date: August 6
The third and final season of the Danish post-apocalyptic series picks up where season two left off, years after the rain decimated the population of Scandinavia. With Simone (August, pictured) and Rasmus (Lyngaard) finding themselves at odds on how to save humanity, can they put their differences aside to do the right thing?

El robo del siglo (The Great Heist)
From: Colombia
Original broadcaster: Netflix
Starring: Andrés Parra, Christian Tappan, Marcela Benjumea, Juan Sebastián Calero, Waldo Urrego, Rodrigo Jerez, Katherine Vélez, Paula Castaño, Pedro Suárez, Édgar Vittorino, Ramsés Ramos, Juan Pablo Barragán
Air date: August 14
El robo del siglo (also pictured top) follows the real-life assault on Colombia’s Bank of the Republic in 1994, which became known as the ‘robbery of the century’ after a band of thieves stole US$33m and turned the whole country upside down.

Lovecraft Country
From: US
Original broadcaster: HBO
Starring: Jonathan Majors, June Smollett, Courtney B Vance, Michael Kenneth Williams, Aunjanue Ellis, Abbey Lee, Jada Harris, Wunmi Mosaku
Air date: August 16
Based on the novel by Matt Ruff, the 10-episode series follows Atticus Freeman (Majors) as he journeys with his childhood friend Letitia (Smollett) and his uncle George (Vance) on a road trip from Chicago across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father Montrose (Williams). Their search turns into a struggle to survive when they are forced to overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the emergence of monstrous creatures that could be ripped straight from an HP Lovecraft paperback.

From: Sweden
Original broadcaster: Viaplay
Starring: Fares Fares, Johan Rheborg, Anna Björk, Sofia Karemyr, Emelie Garbers
Air date: August 16
Set in the idyllic Jordnära, a gated farming community that is seemingly perfect, Partisan centres on Johnny (Fares), who discovers not everything is as it should be and sets out to make things right.

I Hate Suzie
From: UK
Original broadcaster: Sky
Starring: Billie Piper, Daniel Ings, Leila Farzad, Nathaniel Martello-White
Air date: August 27
I Hate Suzie is pitched as a bold, bracing drama about the moment in life when the mask slips, asking if anyone can survive being well and truly ‘known.’ The series introduces Suzie Pickles (Piper, pictured), a star on the wane who has her whole life upended when she is hacked and pictures of her emerge in an extremely compromising position. The eight-part series shows her unravelling as the event ricochets around every area of her life. Suzie’s trauma is detailed through the stages – and episode titles – of Shock, Denial, Fear, Shame, Bargaining, Guilt, Anger and Acceptance as she and her best friend and manager Naomi (Farzad) try to hold her life, career and marriage to Cob (Ings) together.

Unsaid Stories
From: UK
Original broadcaster: ITV
Starring: Adelayo Adedayo, Joe Cole, Nicholas Pinnock, Yasmin Monet Prince, Nicole Lecky,
Air date: TBC
Inspired by the Black Lives Matters movement, this is a collection of four powerful and impactful short dramas illustrating the importance of black perspectives.
I Don’t Want to Talk About This tells the story of Thea, a middle-class black woman who is doing well for herself, who bumps into her former boyfriend, Tom, at a party. They end up reassessing their relationship and the challenges they faced being a middle-class black woman and a working-class white bloke and the insidious and undeniable impact of racism on their love and friendship.
Generational opens when Oliver catches his teenage daughter, Justina, sneaking out of the house to attend a Black Lives Matter march. He fears for his daughter’s safety and is concerned she’s putting herself at risk.
Lavender is about a new mother, Jordan, who has recently had a baby with a black man. The drama centres around an uncomfortable conversation had between Lyndsey, Jordan’s white mother, and her mixed-race daughter.
Look at Me tells the story of a young professional couple, Kay and Michael, who are both looking forward to their date. However, en route to the restaurant, they are stopped by the police. Back at Kay’s home, armed with a recording of what happened, we see the change in them from before the incident and the impact it has on them individually and as a couple.

Strike: Lethal White
From: UK
Original broadcaster: BBC/Cinemax
Starring: Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger, Robert Glenister, Natasha O’Keeffe, Kerr Logan
Air date: TBC
Burke and Grainger reunite for the fourth story in the Strike series, based on JK Rowling’s crime novels written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. In the grip of psychosis, a young man named Billy Knight arrives at private detective Cormoran Strike’s (Burke) office to tell the story of a child he saw strangled many years ago. Strike is simultaneously hired by government minister Jasper Chiswell (Glenister) to investigate Billy’s brother, Jimmy Knight, who is blackmailing him. As Strike and his partner Robin (Grainger) work to determine how the cases might be connected, Robin goes undercover in the House of Commons.

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