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Goran Visnjic: Filming underwater drama The Deep with James Nesbitt

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Fiona Wickham Fiona Wickham | 13:45 UK time, Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Croatian actor Goran Visnjic (who played Dr Luka Kovac in ER) spoke to the BBC TV blog about his role in the new drama, The Deep, which is set on a submarine.

How would you describe Samson, your character in The Deep?

He's a marine biologist and he's part of this team that is going to do research. And also their mission is to find out what happened with their identical twin vessel - a submarine that went down a year ago and they don't know what happened to it.

So he's the guy who is highly committed to this job. These trips in submarines are extremely expensive. He's part of a team which is highly praised. Everyone on this vessel is a one-of-a-kind person.

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He's one of the experienced part of the crew, along with the characters Jimmy [Nesbitt] and Minnie [Driver] played. Samson is one of the organisers of the whole task and he was a very good friend of Jimmy's character's wife, who died in the previous crash.

There's a lot of emotion involved, especially for Jimmy's character because we find out his later his agenda is that he wants to go down because he believes his wife is still alive.

Everybody thinks it's impossible because it's been all these months since those guys disappeared but he has this strong, almost mad feeling in him that she's still alive and we'll see how we're going to prove him right or wrong.

So there's a lot going on, it's not just pure sci-fi, there's a beautiful love story and a family strength and honour story going on at the same time. That's what attracted me to it - it wasn't a flat science fiction action kind of thing, there were a lot of layers under that that were very human. Everyone is going down for a different reason.

Is it the first time you've worked with computer-generated imagery (CGI)?

Well we did use some on ER and on a couple of movies, tricks and stuff like that. But this was the first time that the creatures that you see in front of you, like the giant squid, whales you know, all kind of different animals were CGI. And mostly exterior shots of the big submarines.

The small yellow sub - the Lurch - was a real submarine that was built on the stage.

Goran Visnjic as Samson

So when Samson goes off alone in the Lurch - you were physically sat inside it?

Yes. We had to build the small one because there are scenes that pull it up on chains and push it on a rail. It was really cool, they were driving it on a crane. And then we do actually submerge the submarine all the way down in the moon pool. So it was the real deal and it was able to go into the water.

And did you actually go into the water inside the Lurch?

Yes but not underwater, that would be dangerous because, of course, it wasn't built as a real pressurised thing.

So when you were inside the Lurch, you were having to use your imagination as to what you were seeing in the ocean around you, because it was all CGI?

Well, we were laughing about it. Jim O'Hanlon, the director, would sit in front of the monitor and he would describe what I would see and sometimes it would turn into a funny thing. People would start saying "Imagine you're seeing a big... " God knows what! I don't want to go into details! (laughing). Dear oh dear, it was fun.

So he was there all the time, talking you though it and helping you visualise what you had to be reacting to?

You know, it was actually quite a helpful tool. We would do all these scenes in one long, big shot, so we just rolled the camera. It was high definition and it looks as film. This new technology is quite awesome, but it was digital so it means you don't have to change the hard drive like you do with a film every couple of minutes.

So we'd be running seven, eight, God knows how many scenes in one big piece and he would just guide us through and you would have to imagine what was going on. It helped speed up the filming a bit.

That's interesting.

Yes it's interesting but it's a pain in the neck too (laughing)! We had to go through five different days in five minutes!

The cast of The Deep. James Nesbitt as Clem, Tom Wlaschiha as Arkady, Goran Visnjic as Samson and Minnie Driver as Frances

How did you like filming in Glasgow?

I loved it. I was there for about two and a half months and I love Scotland so much. I was so excited because Scotland was one of the places I always wanted to visit.

When this came by, my agent was like [downbeat voice] "Oh, you're not going to be at home, you'll have to be away filming in Scotland..." and I was like, "Scotland! Oh my God! I want to go!"

So every weekend when I had time, I would take my rental and go all over Scotland. I was up in the Isle Of Skye, I was at Eilean Donan castle - I think it was the one in the old Highlander, the first film. A really beautiful castle and when it's low tide, it becomes an island and you can walk to it. Really beautiful. I went to Edinburgh and saw a great show in the Lyceum Theatre. A really good friend of mine lives in Scarborough so I went to see him too.

Did you have your family with you?

No, they were in Zagreb in Croatia. Once you have Europeans living in America, they start thinking that all of Europe is a very small place (laughing). So my wife was in Zagreb, I was in Glasgow, and we met once in Paris and then we spent Christmas and New Year's in Zagreb. It was very nice.

How did you get along with the rest of the cast?

Great because Jimmy and I worked together on my first international job, Welcome To Sarajevo. It was really great to see him after all these years. We had a lot of chat, he's just a great guy.

It was a cool shoot. Everyone else too... Minnie, Sacha [Dhawan] and Svetlana... I mean Vera [Filatova]! My God, I keep calling her by her character's name (laughing)!

Everyone worked every day so whenever we got a day off we would go out together.

What were the highlights of filming for you?

The coolest part was playing with those toys, the submarines, that was the highlight. And the whole idea, I've never done this kind of genre before. So I was excited to come and be part of it. And I had an opportunity to see a bit of Scotland, which I never had before, so that was great.

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Are you one of those actors who hates watching themselves on screen?

Well there is a bit of that. You know, if you're not happy with what you've done. A good thing can always turn into a bad thing... but you are excited to see what you've done. It's like 'Oh my God!' (laughing).

I hope I'm going to be happy about The Deep. It's just I'm actually quite curious. I want to see it as soon as possible. They were bringing me a copy here to Los Angeles but the trip was cancelled so I guess they're going to mail it to us or something!

How different is it filming TV dramas like this from films like Welcome To Sarajevo?

You're talking about budgets pretty much. If you do film, you're going to spend more time and it's going to be more detail-oriented. That's the main difference.

If you make three categories - actually, four categories in the States. You can make a soap opera one category, then network television, then cable television and then you've got features. Each step up you go, you see the improvement in the picture quality, production design quality and how much time you spend on certain things.

On soap opera they're going to do 15 to 30 pages of script maybe in one day of filming. In network television you're going to make maybe eight pages, in cable you're going to do four. And in film they'll do one to three maybe. So the major difference would be how much time and effort you put in.

So in features normally you have more time on your hands and the details are going to be done a little bit better.

But for me, my part of the job is the same. If you have enough time to prepare yourself, there is no difference for actors really.

As a child, did you always want to be an actor, or would you have liked to do something like Samson's job in a submarine?

I actually have been crazy about flying, always. I did 13 jumps out of a plane with the Blue Angels, which is a US Navy acrobatic group - from an F/A-18 Hornets airplane, which was probably the highlight of my life (laughing).

So those were my dreams, but I kind of fulfilled them in a cheating way. I didn't finish the school to become a pilot or whatever but I had a taste of it. So it's a little bit similar in that adventure kind of spirit but to go on a submarine - I've never done anything like that.

But I was born by the ocean and have been diving since I was a kid. The ocean was a huge part of my life.

Goran Visnjic plays Samson in The Deep

The Deep starts on Tuesday, 3 August at 9pm on BBC One and BBC HD. To find out times of all episodes, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Fiona Wickham is editor of the BBC TV blog


  • Comment number 1.

    Watching this now.

    This is the sort of thing I loved as a kid.

    Disregard for science, awful exposition, hammy acting, ridiculous casting, familiar cliches.

    I expect it will do well.

  • Comment number 2.

    It was OK, it's just 'Event Horizon' underwater. I shall watch next week and wait for the plot to thicken....

  • Comment number 3.

    I thought the first episode was alright. The CGI was very poor through.
    The story a bit cliche but most opening episodes are.
    Good thing they identified which characters the fans would dead an killed her in the first episode, but she was not killed by Raymond.
    The other submarine looks pretty good hope this is the last episode with the Morpheus as the main submarine/
    But I would rather have Defying Gravity on TV than this through.

  • Comment number 4.

    Having just watch the deep i am in complete shock.
    The BBC for once have spent the money from our TV licenses on something that is good entertainment and new and interesting as well as informative.
    I say thanks and can not wait for the next 3 episodes

    5* effort on this one BBC

  • Comment number 5.

    'Event Horizon' under water? Yeah, could be but that wasn’t a bad film. This looks quite good so far (CGI a little soft) and James Nesbitt is always tops. Raymond (salvage investigator?) is good as the spook, obviously knows more than is letting on. Looks like Clem’s wife may not be dead after all? Just a guess. Though Scotty would not be too impressed with Clem’s main control room: Bit Captain Nemo-ish,

    Drop the over zealous and loud background music and that constant drumming that’s meant to add to the tension.
    Distracting and not needed. Hitchcock proved that with ‘Rear Window’ 1954. CSI New York copied it so it must be good!

    Defying Gravity? Ah! Yes please.


  • Comment number 6.

    I watched the Deep last night or should I say I watched the BBC's version of Alien. Hope you have an agreement with the original producers of a classic film or we could see some of our license money going in a plagarism court case. Still it was entertaining and I will probably watch the remaining episodes.

  • Comment number 7.

    CGI good, acting good, actors familiar, story ok.

    However, I need to paraphrase Harrison Ford (when talking to George Lucas ref 1st Star Wars film):
    "George, you can write this 'rubbish', but you can't say it"
    Script is VERY POOR in places - I was squirming at the cliches and clumsy dialogue.
    Hope it gets better.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great special effects, pity about the script, and Antonia Thomas and Sacha Dhawan aren't up to the demands of acting their roles. Generally, when I see specialists and so called experts act like love-struck teenagers in life threatening situations, I get a bit worried about the general direction of the plot. I think this is aimed squarely at the Coronation Street/Eastenders brigade.

  • Comment number 9.

    I hope this gets better, slightly too much 'slightly poor CGI/special effects' and not enough acting. Background music overpowering (too loud). Covering up bad script?? perhaps ;-).

    Aliens, or another secret craft. expedition. I don't second guess plot lines now, waiting for the explanations. thinking there could be some sort of re-animation plotline somewhere....

  • Comment number 10.

    Another lesson in how to get it wrong. Who the hell wrote this stuff? The script is awful 'If we stay here we're all going to die.' Oh really?
    These are all good actors but they haven't a snowball in hells chance. The plot is daft and the characters evoke no sympathy whatsoever. The revelation of Samson's infidelity made me wish his air had run out. If this was partly inspired by Alien then take a lesson in how to write a decent script from that movie. If I carry on watching it, it will only be because it makes me laugh so much.

  • Comment number 11.

    watched The Deep last nite in HD but just could,t see the quality this was not filmed in HD
    Can anyone confirm this?

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hire new writers immediately. So much potential in a great premise ruined by poor writing. Seems reminiscent of JJ Abrams' style storytelling. Leaps in logic, the crew not behaving realistically, leaving out common sense questions that normal people would ask, etc... Get Russell T Davies to the writing room. Stat!

  • Comment number 14.

    We get only 3 episodes of the excellent Sherlock but this pile of rotting fish entrails gets 5.The script is laughable with acting to match (hysterical woman in first ep replaced by hysterical man in second) and the pace of the show would come last in a race against snails.
    One great piece of stupidity was on the Russian vessel Maddy tells Samson not to touch the dead body for fear of what he could catch.To late is the reply so Maddy joins in moving the body missing the fact that Samson is wearing gloves and she is not.
    The 'only' good bit was Svetlana's retort "You don't think I have this accent for fun,do you?"

  • Comment number 15.

    To read my review of 'The Deep' Please visit https://www.thesanctumofsanity.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 16.

    In case you can't easily access my blog to read my review of 'The Deep,' here it is in plain text.

    Plumbing New Depths

    A review of ‘The Deep’ BBC 1 Tuesdays 9.00pm.

    As Thomas Gray observed in his famous elegy:

    'Full many a gem of purest ray serene
    The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:'*

    Unfortunately, 'The Deep' BBC 1 on Tuesdays at 9.00 pm is not one of them. The cast of this sub-surface story of skulduggery in the ocean's darkest depths must be wondering how they might escape from a script so dire it makes 'The Woodentops' seem like high art. Shot in what appears to be a disused Victorian swimming pool with marine door access to a long abandoned gasworks, it possess all the tension and excitement of watching an underwater episode of The Teletubbies in Turkish.

    The story so far involves the bemused crew of 'The Orpehus,' (a supposedly sophisticated submersible which seems to be constructed from obsolete car parts) bobbing up in the swimming pool from where the crew enter into the gasworks part of the set to discover some sweaty. balding, hirsute Russian oafs, one of whom is found hitting a gas pipe with a very large spanner. Fortunately, most of these Russians are dead from what appears to be 'bleeding eyeball syndrome,' a mysterious disease, which has also thankfully, already killed a member of the crew of 'The Orpehus.' Regrettably, although deadly, I suspect that the disease will not prove deadly enough to protect us all from more episodes of this dreadful deep-sea drivel.

    One of the surviving Russians is a scruffily suited, chain smoking KGB agent who's obviously based his ridiculous accent upon Alexander Orloff, the lovable mendacious meerkat who's regularly berating us all for confusing his ancestral website. I was totally distracted from what passed for the plot waiting for this nicotine addicted thug to exclaim 'simples!'

    The rest of the cast, who are all supposed to be portraying well educated, intelligent scientists and engineers, are certainly 'simples,' and all behaving like dysfunctional teenagers with ADHD. In fact, one of the females, who looks about fourteen, is probably going to be permanently scarred by her encounter with this lamentable nonsense. From their behaviour I'd be very reluctant to place any of them in charge of an empty bird cage.

    Even the advertised love interest between Goren Visnjic and the delectable Minnie Driver was a major disappointment. Their encounter, when it finally came, was conducted in what appeared to be a large goldfish bowl sprouting yellow claws. They were both dressed in concealing orange jump suits. They looked about as attractive as members of a motorway repair gang after a long shift in the rain. It was extremely uninspiring. Fifty fathoms down and cramped together in the cold depths of an inhospitable environment, Miss Driver was given no opportunity to even partially disrobe, which just may have added some mild interest to their supposed in-depth relationship.

    As the writers and producers of this extremely wet and puerile drama no doubt bask in the deepening gloom of their own mediocrity, it is to be earnestly hoped, for the sanity of us poor licence fee payers, that whatever dreadful affliction is killing the cast develops sufficient virulence to wipe them all out long before the final watery episode. But don't hold your breath, not unless you too are struggling to keep your head above water.

    *Thomas Gray 1716-1771. Lines taken from: Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

  • Comment number 17.

    Ill be honest, I wasn't expecting much from this series. The first I heard about The Deep was the dig they had at it on The Now Show (Radio 4, last friday) and Ive never been a big fan of James Nesbit (possibly due to those terrible directory enquiries adverts), but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

    The plot is intriguing and both episodes broadcast so far have left me hungry for the next part in a way which reminded me of how I felt during the first series of Lost. In places the script is admittedly a little ropey (most lines from the characters Vincent and Svetlana are horribly cringe-worthy) but on the whole its not a bad effort.

    The only thing which really lets the series down so far is the CGI. In places it looks alright but in others its really terrible and you can always tell its been done on a computer.

    Obviously Ive only seen 2 episodes so far, but based on that Ill give it a cautious 4 out of 5

  • Comment number 18.

    There's not much that can be said of this dire waste of the TV license revenue except that it in no way justifies its existence and only adds to the many calls for its abolition.

    It could have been very good, had decent writers been employed - alas they weren't and hence the series failed in the first episode. Characters are unconvincing and fail to engender any sympathy whatsoever for their predicament. The only possible response to: "If we stay here we're all going to die", would seem to be: "Well hurry up and get on with it then!"

    When will the BBC realise that some reasonably big names (Goran Visnjic and Minnie Driver) plus basic CGI - do not a blockbuster make? Start with the writing e.g. 'Sherlock' or 'Luther' and work from there. Yet again the intelligence of the average viewer has been underestimated.

    Soliloquy Sam wrote: "I think this is aimed squarely at the Coronation Street/Eastenders brigade." Unfortunately I think it falls short of half-way reasonable soap operas, where even the acting is far superior.

  • Comment number 19.

    "Disregard for science" - very specifically the 'moon pool'. If they are at 2000ft below [609m+] the pressure will be 62 atmospheres - and the air pressure in the dock will have to match that to keep the water out! Can't walk about in jump suits!

    Will resrve judgement on storyline!

  • Comment number 20.

    Ok, so the script picked up a little bit tonight in ep 3, but then the CGI gets very ropey.

    Put it this way - I cannot foresee a "The Deep - The Return"

  • Comment number 21.

    For those of a slightly older age the best thing I can compare this to is Blake's Seven......

  • Comment number 22.

    Who wrote this ham scented, sub aquatic, mind numbing melodrama? I had hoped that the BBC had learned its lesson after the unintentionally hilarious drivel that was 'Bone Kickers' and entrusted the licence fee payer's cash to a skilled and creative script writer, fat chance! What a waste... of money, of acting talent and of viewer's time.

  • Comment number 23.

    The main story line is excellent and James Nesbitt is first class, as always. Sadly, the script is too often unrealistic and occasionally verging on puerile, and Minnie Driver's character is dire. One would hope that the captain of such a vessel, leading a dangerous and pioneering mission would be an altogether stronger individual with decisive leadership qualities. And for God’s sake what was the wardrobe manager thinking when he/she dressed Driver in something you might expect her to slop about in on a Sunday morning? This is a technologically advanced diving vessel not a coffee shop. If the series had been an American production, the captain would have been wearing a para-military set of coveralls and at least would have looked the part. I do like the cgi of the Russian vessel, though.

  • Comment number 24.

    Now that they are going down into the deep trench can they leave the script down there. It's so bad you just have to keep watching. Like "Crossroads" must have been.

  • Comment number 25.

    Someone once said that swearing or blaspheming is a sign that an author or a speaker is to lazy or incompetent to use an appropriate adverb or adjective .... Are all the " Jesus" or "Jesus Christ" necessary in the poor dialogue of The Deep? Can you imagine what will happen if they substitute it with "Mohamed"? Surely that will be seen as an offence to an ethnic minority but they don't seem to care to offend Christians or any other person who will enjoy a proper dialogue in stead senseless blasphemous interjections

  • Comment number 26.

    What a complete waste of the licence fee. A show aimed squarely at the sub intellect X Factor generation. I don't think I have ever watched a TV show where I actually wanted characters to die. Thank God James Nesbitt's character revival was only temporary! Shame too that the Orpehus survived a point blank nuclear detonation when the Russian vessel exploded.

    We want quality shows along the lines of The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad etc not this tripe.

  • Comment number 27.

    So long as you suspended all scientific and physical facts, dropped any concern for the characters, ignored the script and the dodgy CGI in places, then the Deep was great.

    But then, the testcard was as about good a way to spend 5 hours.

    How on earth did they talk Goran Visnjic & Minnie Driver into appearing in such drivel?

    Bring back El Dorado, all is forgiven!

  • Comment number 28.

    you lot with all your negative comments - if you didn't like, why keep watching it !!!!! the deep was an excellent production, and i can't wait for the deep returns

  • Comment number 29.

    Dear Boochapman

    It was not necessary to watch more than half of one episode to work out that it was rubbish ... so don't just assume that we have all watched all the episodes ... the only reason why I went on this site in the first place was no make sure that I have not lost my marbles and that I was not the only one who thought it was junk ... I felt better when I realised that unlike you, who are in the minority, all seem to agree that The Deep was completely substandard for any intelligent person who has not had her or his senses dulled by watching and enjoying other junk all the time and use that as their standard of judging other a programme.

  • Comment number 30.

    Appalling, reasonable special effects do not make up for a poor story. It reminded me of the Mitchell and Webb sketches about the script writers who produce stories about subjects they have no knowledge of, and end up producing ridiculously simplified/inaccurate script in a couple of hours. How this was commissioned is a total mystery to me.

    Please don't waste your time watching this, I cannot believe I carried on watching all the episodes (it doesn't get any better or resolve in any satisfactory way by Ep. 5)

  • Comment number 31.

    Having recorded all five episodes I've only just watched them. Overall the storyline wasn't bad but could and should have been condensed into about 3 hours. I pressed fast-forward during the melodrama bits when no one seemed to have any real sense of urgency to resolve the situations they found themselves in - much more productive it seems to get "emotional". The "Moon Pool" was fitted to Howard Hughes' "Glomar Explorer" - perfectly feasible for a surface ship - utter balderdash for any submersible unless pressurised to the same as the outside...........


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