Tag Archives: Trigonometry

Three’s no crowd

Pushing the boundaries of traditional relationship dramas, BBC series Trigonometry explores the polyamorous dynamics between a couple and their lodger. As the producers and cast explain, it’s sure to be a conversation starter.

It’s possibly the sexiest thing to happen inside a grimy-looking laundrette since Nick Kamen took off his Levi jeans back in the 1980s. Three people, all in love with each other, are flirting underneath the newly washed bed linen. There are giggles. There is stroking. Lips are licked, glances are cast.

Outside the West London laundrette, it’s pouring with rain; inside, it’s steamy as hell, despite the director, cameraman, lights and sound crew all being there too. This is Trigonometry, set to be one of the most controversial dramas the BBC has ever screened. As the name suggests, it focuses on a threesome – three 30-somethings who fall in love with each other and decide to live together.

“It is a big love story told in a completely different way,” says producer Imogen Cooper of the series, which has been made by House Productions for BBC2. “It is all the things you get in a traditional love story but everything is presented differently.

“It is hopeful, romantic and funny but also messy in the way that life is messy. We don’t shy away from showing what happens when three people fall in love, and in lust, with each other. There is a huge amount of chemistry between our cast and the heat of it all is shown on screen.”

Filming started soon after the same channel hosted a documentary by Louis Theroux about polyamory, the idea that people can have a three-headed or even four-headed relationship. But while Theroux’s doc focused on the sadness of some of those who seemed to have been forced into sharing their partner, this drama, written by real-life couple and playwrights Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods, looks at how it can work – even if it is not without teething problems.

L-R: The three characters in Trigonometry’s unconventional central relationship are played by Thalissa Teixeira, Ariane Labed and Gary Carr

“It has been written in a way that our characters are as equal as we can make them; we didn’t want this to be about one person making a huge compromise, as we feel these three have got something special,” says Cooper. “It is a controversial subject matter but we are portraying it in the least shockable way – it is relatable. We don’t shy away from examining how these things aren’t easy. People have been talking about living this kind of life for many decades – about open relationships and that sort of thing – and it’s still something that hasn’t really caught on.

“There are no role models for this kind of relationship, so they are working out the rules as they go along. We examine how there is some jealousy but also how being in this kind of structure means the relationship is less intense – when someone is at odds with someone else, there is help in smoothing the situation. We show the beauty of this relationship but also the trickiness. Lots of people around them don’t understand it and immediately disapprove.”

The show centres on paramedic Kieran, an ex-soldier played by Gary Carr (The Deuce), and restaurateur Gemma, played by Thalissa Teixeira (The Musketeers), who have been dating for seven years after meeting on holiday. With work commitments meaning they barely see each other, they have long been aware that something needs to change in their relationship and are contemplating marriage. However, the change ends up coming from an unexpected source after the introduction of another person into their lives.

When Gemma’s first restaurant puts a strain on the couple’s finances, they take on a lodger, Ray, played by French actor Ariane Labed (The Lobster). The three quickly become close friends, and the couple gradually find that they are both falling in love with her.

“Ray is an ex-Olympian, a synchronised swimmer, whose life has changed after an accident that forced her to give up her career,” says Labed, who went through several weeks of synchronised swimming training before she started rehearsals. “She is almost starting from zero when she moves in with Kieran and Gemma, as she has only ever lived at home. But she is open to new adventures.

Lead director Athina Tsangari (left) on set with the leading trio

“The first evening she moves in, she kind of invites herself out with them. And from the start, there is this amazing chemistry and something special happens between the three of them. The way she enters their life feels very genuine – she never feels like an interloper. For quite a while, none of them can put into words quite how they are feeling.”

Carr adds: “There is an instant admiration but everything else is quite a slow-burn thing. They both just love being with her; they like her newness and the way she has thrown everything aside to start afresh. Kieran and Gemma are at a point where they need to kickstart their relationship, and they see something amazingly courageous in Ray. In some ways, through her admiration for them, they see their relationship through new eyes and it’s quite beautiful. Gemma and Kieran start to see all the things Ray adores about their partner as a new thing again.”

All three actors hope the story will open up conversations about love, and how we live as humans, among the audience. “Gemma, Kieran and Ray are making up the rules as they go along,” says Teixeira. “But the idea of a relationship like this is really ancient. I am surrounded by friends who have tried all sorts of ways of being with each other, and one key point is honesty.

“The interesting thing is how it rubs up against conventionality. There is an episode where they introduce the idea to their families, who are shocked. That perspective might be echoed in what the audience thinks, but the story is written with so much care that I think it will help people open up about their own feelings. Quite often, we hide things – but maybe it is best to be honest. Sometimes it can take courage to speak up about who you love.”

The three points in Trigonometry’s triangle are fairly unknown actors – a risk Cooper admits she was surprised BBC2 took with this new drama. “They have been incredibly supportive of all our cast, who all have loads of experience but aren’t that well known yet,” she says. “The casting process was quite tricky because we had to ensure there was chemistry between the three of them and they all lived in different places.

Trigonometry was written by real-life couple Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods

“If the dynamic was wrong, the whole thing would feel wrong. But we feel so much confidence in the three of them together. There was a spark from the start and that has grown into something special, as they have to really trust each other on a show like this. They have a chemistry you want to watch.”

Taking the lead director role is Greek filmmaker Athina Tsangari – whose 2015 film Chevalier was named best film at the BFI London Film Festival – in her first British television job. “She’s never worked in this country before, but she’s helped make the whole thing just magical,” says Cooper. “Our first day’s filming, which is normally quite a difficult day, was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in this job. On the night they go to the pub, there is a drag night and we had 30-odd drag queens in this pub, which was just fantastic. We are showing a very authentic London in all its glory.”

Tsangari has given the series a cinematic look and has also encouraged the actors to improvise. “We don’t know what it’s going to look like when its finished, but Athina has encouraged loads of ad-libbing,” says Teixeira. “Because we are all comfortable with our characters, she will often leave the cameras rolling after we’ve done a scene to see what else she can get from us. There is so much going on in every line – jealousy, confusion, frustration, lust – and it’s fun to play around with it.”

However, some scenes were planned in great detail, including the first three-way sex scene. “I knew there was going to be a sex scene but I had seen Athina’s work and felt comfortable she would do it well,” adds Teixeira. “It was choreographed like a dance or a moving sculpture.On the day we did it, we ate cheese and drank wine. We all felt fine about it because it is very beautiful but also very funny; there are moments where one of us can’t get our trousers off. It is agonising and awkward, just like it is for everyone.”

The eight-part series, distributed by BBC Studios, will follow the threesome as they navigate everything from getting a mortgage together and finding a big enough bed to being married in a world built only for couples. There are hopes that, if Trigonometry performs well enough, a second season could follow.

“These characters go through an enormous story arc and it does have an ending that doesn’t leave things dangling,” says Cooper. “But this is also a story that could run and run; how they navigate things and this relationship going forward is always going to be interesting.”

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Berlin calling

With television now well and truly matching the star power of the movie business, DQ runs the rule over the TV series getting red-carpet premieres at the Berlin International Film Festival, which kicks off today.  

As the Berlin International Film Festival, aka the Berlinale, begins today, the red carpet will be rolled out for screen stars from all over the world. But it’s not just the movies that will be celebrated over the next 11 days.

For the past few years, television has played an increasingly important and visible part of the annual event, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2020. This year will be no different, with eight series – from Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the UK and the US – enjoying world or international premieres.

The Berlinale Series strand will introduce shows that feature representations of various communities, sexual identities and new perspectives on the world today, while the selection also plays vividly with ideas of television style, structure and tone.

Dispatches from Elsewhere comes from How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segel

First up will be Dispatches from Elsewhere, the AMC series starring Jason Segel, Eve Lindley, Sally Field, André Benjamin and Richard E Grant. Creator Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) also co-directs the series, in which an enigmatic institute promises a chosen few an escape from everyday life into a world full of beauty and magic. But is this a game, an alternative reality or a conspiracy? And what are those taking part risking?

Dark Austrian drama Freud, meanwhile, transports viewers to 1886 Vienna, where a young Sigmund Freud (Robert Finster) – restless, high on cocaine and striving for recognition – embarks on a nerve-wracking, hypnotic trip into the depths of the human soul with a mysterious medium and a traumatised policeman. Directed by Marvin Kren (4 Blocks) for Austria’s ORF and Netflix, the show’s cast also includes Ella Rumpf, Georg Friedrich, Christoph Krutzler, Brigitte Kren, Anja Kling, Philipp Hochmair and Noah Saavedra.

Canada’s C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married) is set in 1970s Quebec

From Canada is C’est comme ça que je t’aime (Happily Married), which is set in Quebec in 1974. The drama tells the story of two couples who send their kids off to camp for three weeks. With their children away, things quickly turn uncomfortable for the couples and cracks start to appear in the facades of their relationships. The series was created by François Létourneau, who also stars alongside Patrice Robitaille, Marilyn Castonguay, Karine Gonthier-Hyndman and Sophie Desmarais. Joanne Forgues is the showrunner on the programme, which  was commissioned by Radio-Canada Télé and Tou.Tv Extra.

British entry Trigonometry focuses on a couple who take in a lodger. The trio fall in love together and start up a three-way relationship – but can it possibly work out? The BBC and HBO Max series was created by Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods, with Thalissa Teixeira, Gary Carr and Ariane Labed playing the central trio. Athina Rachel Tsangari and Stella Corradi are the directors.

Also due to premiere at Berlinale is the second season of Australian drama Mystery Road, which has added The Bridge star Sofia Helin to its cast. The ABC series, created by Ivan Sen, opens when a headless corpse is found floating by the shore of a remote outback town. As if this weren’t mysterious enough, Detective Swan and his colleague Fran have to contend with protests against the excavation of an Indigenous site. And then another body turns up. Aaron Pedersen returns as Detective Swan, alongside actors Jada Alberts and Callan Mulvey. The directors are Warwick Thornton and Wayne Blair.

British drama Trigonometry centres on a three-way relationship

Shortform drama Sex, from Denmark’s TV2, comprises six episodes with a total running time of 77 minutes and will be screened in its entirety at the festival. Created by Clara Mendes and directed by Amalie Næesby Fick, the show follows Catherine, a call-centre worker giving advice on sex and love but at a loss herself. After a kiss, she wants more from her colleague Selma. Her boyfriend Simon feels that what’s little is actually plenty. But what if that’s not enough? The cast includes Asta Kamma August, Jonathan Bergholdt Jørgensen, Nina Terese Rask and Sara Fanta Traore.

Stateless, another drama from ABC Australia, boasts an all-star cast led by Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale), Jai Courtney, Asher Keddie, Fayssal Bazzi, Dominic West and Cate Blanchett, who co-creates and executive produces the six-part series. Directed by Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse, it tells the story of four strangers whose lives collide at an immigration detention centre in the middle of the Australian desert. Elise McCredie and Tony Ayres co-created the series alongside Blanchett.

Yvonne Strahovski in Stateless

The final premiere will be Netflix’s upcoming musical drama The Eddy (pictured top), created by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials) and Damien Chazelle, the Oscar-winning director of La La Land, who is also the lead director on the series. Bandleader Elliot is improvising his way through a complex score of problems: his Parisian jazz club The Eddy isn’t doing too well, while ruthless debt collectors are breathing down his neck – and then his teenage daughter Julie arrives from New York. The cast features André Holland, Joanna Kulig, Amandla Stenberg, Tahar Rahim, Leila Bekhti, Adil Dehbi and Benjamin Biolay.

Themes of macabre humour, female sexuality and an interconnected world will be on display through the eight shows, while the increasing trend for actors to be more deeply involved in series creation and development – notably Blanchett (Stateless) and Segel (Dispatches from Elsewhere) – is also apparent.

At a time when the distinction between movies and television is increasingly blurred, the focus Berlinale places on series marks it out from other film festivals around the world, though other events are now also pushing the small screen into the spotlight.

Meanwhile, numerous other screenings will also take place at the city’s Zoo Palast, with shows including Ukraine’s Hide & Seek,  Czech drama The Sleepers, Brazilian series Where My Heart Is, UK/New Zealand coproduction The Luminaries and Australia’s Total Control among them.

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