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24 September 2014
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Christopher Day and Andrew Byrne in Jekyll


Production interviews

Executive producer Beryl Vertue and producers Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor


Executive producer Beryl Vertue of Hartswood Films explains how the project came about: "Producer Elaine Cameron was looking for a supernatural thriller and talking to different agents about possibilities.


"One of them mentioned a producer called Jeffrey Taylor who had the idea of making a modern Jekyll and Hyde. There wasn't a script, but the idea caught Elaine's fancy and she thought it would be something Steven Moffat might like to do.


"The BBC were immediately interested as they liked the idea and they rate Steven very highly. And now he's turned it into rather a huge project.


"The scripts are wonderful, which means they have attracted a really good cast. They're unexpected, scary, funny – Steven has written some iconic episodes of Doctor Who, but he also has a very successful background in comedy writing, including several series of Coupling which he made with us at Hartswood, and he gives the characters the most wonderful lines.


"His version of Jekyll is very modern and contemporary, no werewolves or potions. We call our lead character Jackman rather than Jekyll, and Hyde is like his evil twin, but he's a lot of fun, rather attractive but dangerous."


Beryl adds: "It's a big project for Hartswood; we've done a lot of drama, but this is the most ambitious that we have done to date."


Jeffrey Taylor explains that he has been keen for a long time to make a modern version of Jekyll and Hyde through his company Stagescreen Productions: "Not a re-make, but a continuation. It was very appealing to me as an idea because there's no-one who hasn't heard of Jekyll and Hyde."


Elaine takes up the story: "We started with a very simple idea. Steven has taken that idea and turned it into a hugely engrossing, complex, highly entertaining web of ideas. It's actually quite a mad series and I don't think people will be expecting that.


"Brilliantly mad, of course! I think there is a real appetite for challenging adventurous pieces and even though this is very much 'authored' drama, it should also appeal to an incredibly broad audience."


On producing the series she comments: "With scripts as good as these, and such perfect casting – my job should have been a breeze...


"The reality of course is that shooting such an ambitious series with never enough money or time always stretches you. Sometimes that challenge is liberating however, and with some seriously clever ideas from our designer and both directors – we never felt we compromised Steven's vision."


She concludes: "Steven Moffat's continuation of the Jekyll and Hyde story is a real cross-genre piece; it's very, very black and really rather sexy. It's a supernatural drama, a conspiracy thriller, a dark comedy, a love story – it's all of those things but unlike anything you've seen before."


Directors Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey


Douglas Mackinnon was delighted to be offered the opportunity to direct the first three episodes of Jekyll: "The drama is universal in its themes – prejudice, exploitation of people, and it's a good horror story.


"Jimmy's performance is crucial. In many respects Jackman is a much harder character to pull off than Mr Hyde. Tom is a very real man in his forties having the worst possible mid-life crisis. Jimmy has made him very human and vulnerable.


"Our Mr Hyde is someone who is brand new and the next stage in human evolution; the sort of person who, if he came into your railway carriage, would make you move immediately. He can be charming and a monster and he's a chameleon."


He adds: "The series deals with the ethics of exploiting human beings, the developments in cloning and what would happen if there was a leap in human evolution. Most of all it's just a really good story."


One of the real challenges for Douglas was directing the scene in which James Nesbitt has to rescue his young son from a lions' enclosure:


"Jackman discovers the bad guys have put his son in the lions' den and he turns into Hyde, kills the lions and then calls the leader of the bad guys, Benjamin, into the den for a cosy chat. The zoo we used is private and specialises in training animals for cinema and television. The animals there are vibrant and wonderful because they are so well looked after and well trained.


"Nonetheless we had to be careful with a seven-year-old child, real lions, and Jimmy Nesbitt scaling the perimeter fence. I know that Elaine, our producer, didn't seem particularly relaxed that week! They all had to be in same place at the same time, so there are quite a few special effects.


"We shot the lions first but it was also important that they related to what was happening in the scene. Basically the lions are food-led, not pets – they could really kill. Jim, the owner of the zoo, said that lions like children as they are snack-sized humans, so you have to ensure the child looks frightened, as though he really is in there with the lions."


"But our biggest challenge was the schedule. We had 12 days to shoot each one hour episode, and that's a tough call with material as complex as this. And of course you can't rush lions or kids – and you can't rush make-up. One of the challenges has been when Jimmy turns from Jekyll to Hyde and takes one hour in make-up."


Matt Lipsey directed the second block of three episodes: "This is the most fabulous piece of writing. The story itself is timeless, but the way Steven has picked up on the whole idea of the continuation of the story and his style is what keeps it fresh and modern. This is not a comedy drama but a drama with comedy, and that makes it very special.


"Tom Jackman is haunted and hunted as a character. As an individual he's fighting for his existence and the key was making him sympathetic. It was important that he was neither wet nor powerless; since he's so put-upon he needs to be as proactive as possible, but we also need to care about him. Making him interesting and empathetic has been key.


"James Nesbitt is known as a lovable guy, although he's played difficult and dark characters, but the villainous side plays really well here. To see him turn into a psycho killer is intriguing, and James has brought his own twist to it, so he manages to make him likeable and that's very clever."


Matt concludes: "In some respects I see Jekyll as a love story, of one's man's struggle against his inner self, but the theme of love permeates throughout. It was love that created the monster in the first place – love as a psychopath."


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