Making a Killing
As production wraps on upcoming Paramount+ UK drama The Killing Kind, executive producers Paula Cuddy and Eve Gutierrez discuss adapting the Jane Casey novel, changing endings and telling stories for a global audience.
Just six months have passed since streamer Paramount+ announced it had greenlit its latest UK commission, an adaptation of Jane Casey’s novel The Killing Kind. With filming then starting in Bristol in January and switching to London before wrapping little more than a fortnight ago, it’s little wonder executive producer Eve Gutierrez describes the whirlwind production as “quite an intensive shoot.”
“Emma Appleton, our lead member of cast, literally appears in every scene, so for her it was incredibly tiring,” she tells DQ. “But performance-wise, she’s delivered something really special and we are now in post-production. We just locked the cut of episode two and we’re getting some great feedback so far.”
Produced by Eleventh Hour Films and distributed internationally by Sony Pictures television, the six-part series is described as a gripping thriller tinged with paranoia. Appleton (Everything I Know About Love) stars as Ingrid Lewis, a successful barrister whose life is turned upside down when her relationship with former client John Webster (Merlin’s Colin Morgan) begins to consume her life.
After Ingrid successfully defended John at a trial in which he was accused of harassment and stalking by an ex-girlfriend, the pair became close – too close. And when Ingrid broke off their relationship, he turned on her and her world imploded.
The series picks up just as Ingrid is rebuilding her life, but the sudden death of mentor and friend Belinda Grey collides with the unexpected reappearance of John and a sensational claim, and Ingrid becomes obsessed with finding out the truth.
Eleventh Hour is known for series such as Foyle’s War, Alex Rider and Magpie Murders, and when it comes to developing new projects, the company’s creative director, Paula Cuddy, says it always starts with falling in love with a story.
Discussing why she wanted to option the rights to Casey’s novel, Cuddy says: “What’s brilliant about the book is you’ve got a fantastic female protagonist who’s a defence barrister, and she defends a man who is up on a stalking harassment charge. She wins the case, gets him acquitted and gets too close to him, and her world implodes. Just as a jumping-off point, you can feel that’s tantalising and exciting.”
Cuddy was immediately drawn to the characters and premise of the book, and shared her excitement with the rest of the team at Eleventh Hour – a company that actively looks for “elevated thrillers” to develop for television, whether that’s for the local UK market or shows that also have the potential to attract international audiences.
“In the story that Jane Casey’s brilliantly written in the book, there is a character, a story and a premise that is universal and, by very definition, that makes it a global story,” she says.
“The Ingrid character is a successful upcoming defence barrister, which could feel like something that is quite specifically British,” says Gutierrez, Eleventh Hour’s head of talent. “But actually this isn’t a courtroom drama; this is very much a personal story for this character, looking at this tricky relationship she’s had with a former client. What happens when one of her colleagues is killed in a road traffic accident? He comes back into her life to try to give her a warning, but can she believe him or not? Actually, as women, as humans, these are elements we can all tune in to in our own way, in our own personal lives.”
The project was brought up during a conversation between Eleventh Hour and Paramount+ UK, and the streamer’s commissioning team quickly signed up. Gutierrez describes the speed of progression as a “very untypical development process.” Cuddy picked out the book early on, Casey responded positively to their ideas for adapting the novel and Paramount indicated their interest even before writer-director Zara Hayes (Showtrial) began outlining the series with co-writer Jonathan AH Stewart.
“It’s gone on a huge journey, and it’s treatment could have been more domestic and UK-focused but that’s not what Zara and Jonathan wanted,” Gutierrez says. “The elements in Jane’s book were always there to do something that had scale and could sit up there against other great international shows. That’s very much what we’re looking to deliver.”
While Casey has responded positively to how her book has been adapted for the screen, Cuddy acknowledges it has been taken “to a new place” in the hope that it will sit alongside other propulsive thrillers such as The Undoing, Big Little Lies or Anatomy of a Scandal.
“Zara and Jonathan, like us, are very excited about Ingrid and this idea of a messed-up love story and transgression and the themes that were in the book that they could make into a compelling drama they felt could sit in that canon and feel inspired.”
The ending has also been changed for TV, “but it remains true and faithful and is in the universe. Jane is really delighted with it,” Cuddy adds.
“What can work brilliantly when you’re on a long-haul flight or a sun lounger doesn’t translate well to drama, necessarily, and it’s just how you take those elements as inspiration to deliver the best drama and dramatic experience you can,” Gutierrez says. “That’s really been the ambition, and Zara and Jonathan together have done that brilliantly.”
Impressed by Hayes’ ability to deliver storytelling in an “incredibly cinematic, intelligible, accessible way,” Gutierrez says Showtrial stood out as a “distinctive, confident piece of work” and that Eleventh Hour wanted to bring that same standard to The Killing Kind.
“But I really feel what she’s delivered here again raises the bar for the genre and really sets out what she’s able to do as a talent. It’s incredibly special,” she says. “Inevitably, when you write as well as direct, you have a different relationship with the material. She can bring so much to the table, and so much understanding of character, to then be able to really explain to the cast what the intention was.”
Filming involved those production staples of late nights and freezing weather during the British winter earlier this year, as Bristol was used to double for London. Some scenes and establishing shots were then collected for in the real capital city, where The Killing Kind opens up the world of barristers and the four Inns of Court to which all those practicing in England and Wales must belong – Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Middle Temple and Inner Temple. Filming also took place on London’s Southbank.
“The Southbank has been very photographed and it’s been done in a brilliant and different way in this show,” Cuddy says. “Zara comes from documentary, and when we had a splinter unit that came to London, what they were able to achieve – which really is anchored in the bread and butter of documentary making – is so very agile and enterprising.”
“Zara has a strong partnership with director of photography Matt Gray, who really seems to find the fun and creativity in working with that process and also bringing to the table an enormous amount of experience with lighting, operating and framing beautifully dramatic work,” Gutierrez adds.
Eleventh Hour’s busy schedule also includes completing post-production on the third season of Freevee’s spy series Alex Rider, while shooting is continuing on Rebus, its reimagining of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels, marking the first English-language commission for Nordic streamer Viaplay. The company is also in pre-production on Moonflower Murders, the sequel to murder-mystery series Magpie Murders.
But it’s The Killing Kind that stands out as a high-concept thriller that will put viewers next to Ingrid as they try to work out whether Webster is back in her life for good or for bad.
“That question hangs over every episode,” Cuddy says. “You have to go on that journey with the character.”
Gutierrez adds: “Inevitably, the project lives or dies on that central relationship. And what Emma and Colin have brought to the table is incredible.”