The Young Montalbano: Reinterpreting the detective

Friday 4 October 2013, 10:29

Michele Riondino Michele Riondino Actor

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Accepting the offer to play Salvo Montalbano in The Young Montalbano all happened when I was on the set of We Believed.

I played a soldier from Garibaldi’s army and I had a very scruffy look: unkempt beard, matted hair, mud stains on my face.

The film producer was Carlo Degli Esposti, the same producer of Inspector Montalbano, who seeing me in that state had, as he puts it, an intuition.

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A rocky start for Montalbano (Michele Riondino) and his deputy, Mimi Augello (Alessio Vassallo)

No one knew he was looking for a little-known actor up to the challenge to take on the role of the detective at a younger age. 

No one knew that among his projects lay that of shooting the prequel of the iconic character, based on the very first novels by Andrea Camilleri.

A few days later I received a phone call from my agent who told me about a phone conversation with Degli Esposti and how he had been impressed by my look.

He told me that Carlo had in mind having young Montalbano as somewhat of a Che Guevara and that my red shirt soldier had convinced him I could be him.

I was extremely flattered by the proposal but I didn’t accept immediately. It took me several months before I managed to convince myself.

Montalbano was always Luca Zingaretti. Anyone in Italy and abroad thinks of him when picturing the character.

Needless to say he always interpreted Montalbano perfectly, giving back all the complexities of his personality.

Salvo Montalbano isn’t a simple character, many ambiguities distinguish him.

He really loves women but always ends up running from them, they make him uneasy and insecure.

Livia Burlando (SARAH FELDERBAUM), Salvo Montalbano (MICHELE RIONDINO) Livia (Sarah Felderbaum) starts dating Salvo after they meet through one of his investigations

All the while he is a stable and tenacious person, and stubborn, just like the typical Sicilian stereotype. He finds it extremely difficult to respect hierarchies, particularly men having more important roles than him.

Yet he is an impeccable detective, who learned everything from his inspector, who gave him all the necessary tools to be an incredible cop.

He also has a tendency to stand up and take care of the weaker, even if they were to go against a law that in some instances to him, was arguable.

Basically Montalbano isn’t just a policeman, but he also is a citizen, a defender of the polis, of the civil life.

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Montalbano suspects a notice board stolen from the town hall spells trouble for an engaged couple

I feared some sort of media attack, since changing the face of the detective was almost blasphemy to some.

So I raised two requests: the first was to meet and discuss the idea with Andrea Camilleri, the second was to have my own freedom regarding the use of the dialect, meaning I wanted to feel free to not worry about the “understandability” of some terms.

In the novels, the Sicilian used is a very archaic dialect, a mix coming from various places in Sicily. I was keen to keep it as it was, after all the books didn’t provide notes or explanations either.

The production accepted, Andrea was happy to meet and approve me, and he kept me talking about the character for hours. I listened and stole as much information as possible.

It isn’t every day an actor gets to talk about the character with the person that created him. In other words, I accepted the challenge.

The desire to do as well as Zingaretti and his team gave our whole team a particular energy that accompanied us for the whole six months of production.

Michele Riondino plays Salvo Montalbano in The Young Montalbano.

The Young Montalbano continues on Saturday, 5 October at 9pm on BBC Four. For further programme times please see the episode guide.

More on The Young Montalbano
The Independent: The Weekend's Viewing: Subtitles should stop no one warming to this compelling Italian
Metro: The prequel to Inspector Montalbano is a treat for fans of European drama
Mrs Peabody Investigates: The Young Montalbano is on his way...

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC. 

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Great guy! Just right and I thoroughly enjoy the new series

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Loved the original series,was slightly worried about this one !

    But no worries, great cast works really well .

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Fantastic new series. The young Montalbano looks destined to become as successful as the old one. He has an energy, style and appeal that makes for enjoyable viewing. Congratulations to the lead, the cast and the production team.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Okay I love it. But this is the penultimate episode. One more and finito!!

    Can someone at the Bbc give me the new Montalbano schedule because I'm already getting withdrawal symptoms and I can't be doing with it please give me the schedule and make it happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I loved the original series' featuring Luca Zingaretti and the latest ones were viewed with hesitation... but I'm a convert and now just wish the BBC will keep repeating ALL of them, they make compulsive viewing - and my italian's improved as well!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I absolutely adored the previous series, actually what I adored was Zingaretti but this prequal series is growing on me. This hour and 50 minutes is the hi light of my weekend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I have loved this series from the beginning and now there is only one left to see.Saturday evening will never be the same.The cast , scenery, music,and the plots are fantastic.Michele Riondino is superb as the Young Montalbano.Congratulations! Please can we have more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Watched the first show. Very disappointed. Very poor plots and even worse acting.

    Anything new from Scandinavia coming?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I was very excited when I heard that the BBC would be broadcasting 'The Young Montalbano' having become addicted to the original series. Michele Riondino has done a remarkable job of portraying the detective's early career in Vigata, and is utterly believable in the role because he plays it with such care and attention. Montalbano is, as he has commented, a complex character, but what shines out in both the books and the dramatisation, is his genuine belief in justice; and as with many famous fictional detectives, a capacity to tweak procedure to 'get one's man'. Many congratulations to the director, Michele Riondino, the lead actors, and the rest of the company, for pulling off this ambitious production. Let's have more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I too viewed Young Montalbano with a degree of trepidation when the series started. By the end of the first episode I was as hooked as I have been by the original Montalbano. The fact that I know the character through the iconic performance of Luca Zingaretti, and all the other characters featured in both shows just adds an added dimension to this foray into his earlier life.

    Both series stand alone as thoughtful, elegant and polished. Together they work in symbiosis to create something unforgettable.

    Thank you BBC4 for buying in these gems. I hope you will continue to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I have to agree with most of the previous comments. The Montalbano series were compulsive and I always fear prequels as they are usually made for cynical reasons and are disappointing. However, this is the exception and it is brilliant and the characterisation is utterly consistent with the older characters (probably because Camilleri has been involved). Only slight criticism is that the young Augello seems slightly big on sleaze and slightly low on charm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Like many other viewers I have enjoyed every minute of these beautifuly crafted plots and the setting is divine. It is just so natural and will miss the young montalbeno when it finishes. Hope there is to be more? (I even like the cheesy Mimi!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    I agree with Russ, when are you going to show the next series, and could you tell the producers that six episodes per series is too short.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I too was afraid the new series could not do justice to the Montalbano we had come to know but it has! Well done but the oroginal still has a special place as all originals do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Best programme on TV - Saturday night is a joy watching this! The BBC really know their onions when it comes to Foreign Series: Spiral, The Killing, Borgen, Wallender, Montalbano and now The Young Montalbano - shame the home grown stuff is nowhere near as good or entertaining. Is there more Young M next year? Keep BBC2 & 4 soap free PLEASE?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I loved every episode of Inspector Montalbano and the Young Montalbano. Please can we see more. 6 episodes is far too short. Saturday evening is never the same with Salvo!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I'm completely hooked on this series, so sad it's nearly over! Well written and well acted. Best thing on TV at present.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Thoroughly enjoying cast and locations, he has a villa to die for! Hope we will be seeing some more of the young Montalbano in the future

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I was worried about the new Montalbano, but having seen two episodes I'm hooked, however I hope when the series ends they will bring back Luka Zingaretti to do more epeisodes he is so good as Montalbano, I would like to see more of this man acting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Only one more week - Saturday nights are about to be denied the growls, shrugs, shouts, smiles that is Young Montelbano. And where can you join the Caterella Fan Club? A classic clown who suddenly grabs at your heart. Terrific as the original is, this seems to have just that ounce more heart and even a moment or two of joy. Please tell me that more are being made...


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