Wales

Hinterland: Nia Roberts - from Patagonia to Borth

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Nia Roberts plays the part of Gwen Thomas in the final episode of Hinterland.

I was thrilled to be offered the part of Gwen in the fourth episode of Hinterland. My husband Marc had already directed the first one and from the few bits I had read and caught a glimpse of, it was clear that this was a very exciting production.

Nia Roberts as Gwen Thomas in Hinterland.

As a Welsh speaker I've always hankered to be part of Welsh language/back-to-back productions that reach out to a wider European audience. That was our ambition when we made the film ‘Patagonia’ in 2009 - to make a film that was able to be part of a European art-house market presenting Welsh alongside Spanish.

While watching The Killing and The Bridge two years ago I often wondered if we in Wales could pull off something of that quality in our own language and in the same genre. Thanks to those involved in Hinterland, I honestly think they have. It's fantastic to have friends in London calling to say they are catching up with episodes on iPlayer and are loving it. They say it reminds them of all the Scandi-noir TV they've been watching, so job done, really!

It's always a bit strange going into a series to do a single episode. One, because you are entering a tight-knit group of people who have been working day-in, day-out together for many weeks. And two, with so many characters being presented in 90 minutes, your character has quite a limited journey in the screen time given to you.

I needn't have worried on the first count as I was working with old friends, Ed Thomas, Richard Harrington and Mali Harries and many of the crew. Most of my scenes were with Richard who seemed to have morphed into Mathias completely by the time I came on board. This made my job super easy.

There's something wonderful about working with directors and actors you have worked with many times over the years as there is a short-hand between you. When time is tight on set (as it often is) or when technical problems arise, the familiarity helps to block out the flurry of panic going on around you. Richard is also always good value during takes as his endless story and joke telling help keep up morale even in the most compromised situations.

In terms of playing the part of Gwen I can't say too much about that without giving away the story. The challenge in a crime drama like Hinterland is always to portray a well-rounded person whose reactions and motives are justifiable within the timeframe you have to work with. I had sat down with Ed (Thomas) several weeks before filming to discuss who exactly Gwen was, but also to pinpoint her 'energy'. He had a very specific idea about what emanated from her which was a great place for me to start and refer back to during some of the more emotionally challenging scenes.

Whilst episodes one to three were shot during weather conditions of biblical severity I was fortunate enough to be filming after the long, hard winter had come to an end and the sun was out in all its glory. The scenery in Hinterland is the star of the show and seeing it go through the seasons from episode to episode really adds to it, I think.

Borth is a new part of the world for me and it was a pleasure to be there during that beautiful spring. The house used for my character was on stilts and looks over the estuary. What a fantastic location that was. There was no escaping the sun here, however, and we were slathered in factor 50 on a daily basis. This was the only product that came near my face as this must be the first time I have never worn a scrap of make-up on screen. Very exposing, but incredibly liberating at the same time.

Same goes for costume - I only had one costume for the whole production. The rawness and simplicity of this design really help the characters seem part of this hinterland and give the programme its edge. I suffer from vanity at times, like many in my profession, but as an audience member there's nothing worse than seeing actors on screen who look like they have been sat in a make-up chair for two hours.

Having worked on a back-to-back production before (in both cases where every scene is shot once in English and once in Welsh) the first question on people's lips is what was that like? How confusing is it? Strangely enough, it's the aspect you remember least about the whole experience. It can catch you out at times because Welsh is never a direct translation of English, or vice versa. You have to know both scripts really well to avoid doing your own ropey translations in your head after shooting the first version. But in bilingual Wales people are always jumping from English to Welsh.

Living in Wales, I never get through a day where I haven't used both languages so it's such a rare treat to see this being represented on screen. Maybe all the Scandi-noir series on prime time TV have made us more confident about using subtitles. Nothing evokes the spirit of a place more than its language and way of speaking, and the appropriately named Hinterland does just that.

Hinterland is next on Monday 27 January at 21:00, BBC One Wales. You can catch up with the series so far on iPlayer.

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by Nerys

    on 20 May 2014 08:40

    As a Welsh learner I watched the first series Y Gwyll in Welsh on S4C and loved it. Watched it again in English, loved it but have to say that in Welsh it is even darker - must be all those crisp, hard consonants in the language. Language and landscape in tandem. Great ending with that last scene of the creepo chief inspector in the cells. Can't wait for the next series which may show what he has been doing in the past. Probably something at that children's home from programme 1. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Bydd a wobr yn dod siwr o fod.

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  • Comment number 15. Posted by Peter Flower

    on 14 May 2014 23:09

    I'm English and I love the series. Maybe it's the scandi-noire style, but it is really absorbing and gripping and the characters seem real. This series is the best new series this year and much better than the British Wallander. I hope that there is a series 2 3 & 4.

    I can hear what the actors are saying! How good is that?
    Thanks for the series - it was worth the licence fee on its own. I hope that it gets a Bafta or something.

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  • Comment number 14. Posted by Hurmansparey

    on 5 Feb 2014 18:13

    This was a gripping series of the highest calibre. Friends and family in Canada and the USA would love this...this should be run on BBC 1 and all should be immensely proud-not just those involved in production-I mean Wales, UK, all. I WANT MORE!

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  • Comment number 13. Posted by Sierra Charlie

    on 3 Feb 2014 18:16

    Superb acting, scenery, story line and good quality drama. Great to hear Welsh being spoken and with the subtitles it wasn't hard to follow the story.

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  • Comment number 12. Posted by dawnling

    on 2 Feb 2014 14:00

    Excellent - looking for something to watch last night and came across this. It is brooding and beautiful. As good as any of the Nordic Noir series. Can't wait for next series.

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by TCM

    on 1 Feb 2014 10:56

    I love the series. Is there going to be another one? Thx

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by Hywel

    on 30 Jan 2014 11:44

    What a fantastic, gripping series. I hope it returns very soon. Well done to all concerned.

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by sangharaja

    on 29 Jan 2014 20:59

    Hi Just finished watching Hinterland on IPlayer. Wonderful crime drama up there with the best,
    Love to see it on the wider BBC, I have been watching The Bridge and enjoy hearing other languages and seeing different cultures in action. For me the backdrop of mid wales is fabulous and I think has mythical qualities.I have holidayed in the region many a time, may the series keep going....thank you BBC Wales

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  • Comment number 8. Posted by Malcolm

    on 29 Jan 2014 16:37

    I found the first episode by chance on iplayer. Brilliant series great acting,story lines and the beautiful Welsh countryside. Can't wait for the next series. It's a pity this isn't on BBC1 as so many people will have missed it. I'm not a Welsh speaker but have no problem with subtitles as I've watched The Bridge and the original Swedish TV series based on the Stig Larrsonn books. Hope to see more productions from S4C/BBc Wales.

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  • Comment number 7. Posted by Los4Words

    on 29 Jan 2014 15:21

    I have only just discovered Hinterland after watching the final episode. I so agree with you about the scenery, indeed the camerawork and soundtrack were altogether superb. I am resolved to catch up with the earlier episodes to see the outcome of the winter filming they had to shiver through.

    For anyone reading this who hasn’t seen the last episode, please don’t read on (spoiler alert!). I thought the killer’s obsession with modelling his local environment was cleverly conceived and executed, how it led to the discovery of Gwen’s body and linked to the pose of Alys’ body in the marshes. More though could have been explored and revealed about the motive for the girl’s killing. Dyfan was her natural father after all. I might have missed something but it was unclear why he had given her up for adoption as a child if he loved her so much. Was he pressurised to, being a ‘wierdo’ as she had called him?

    For the next series, will the location be the same do you think, or perhaps another part of the Welsh hinterland - Snowdonia?

    Gyda phob dymuniad da

    Pedr

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