Bookmark and Share In The Flesh nominated for BAFTAs as series 2 details announced

4/07/2014 11:05:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

The BBC Three zombie drama In The Flesh was nominated for two TV BAFTAs today, including Leading Actor for first-time nominee Luke Newberry as Partially Deceased Syndrome sufferer Kieren Walker.

He faces opposition from Dominic West (Burton and Taylor), Sean Harris (Southcliffe) and Jamie Dornan (The Fall).

The show has also been nominated in the Mini-Series category, with Southcliffe, The Great Train Robbery and The Fall also vying for the gong, and follows creator Dominic Mitchell's nomination for a BAFTA Television Craft Award for Best Writer, which he will be hoping to win against Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch), Sally Wainwright (Last Tango In Halifax) and Dennis Kelly (Utopia).

The BAFTA Television Crafts awards ceremony takes place on Sunday 27th April and the TV BAFTAs will be held on Sunday 18th May.

Series two of In The Flesh, comprising six episodes, is to be shown on BBC Three in the first week of May, the BBC said today. The first series will be repeated on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer on Sunday 12th April.

Critically-acclaimed creator Dominic Mitchell reignites the world of teenager Kieren Walker, a PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome) sufferer who continues in his struggle to find acceptance in the second series of the award-nominated BBC Three drama In The Flesh.

Over six episodes, In The Flesh propels us back to the hotbed of Roarton nine months on, where the living and the undead have reached a fragile peace. Partially Deceased Syndrome sufferer, Kieren (Luke Newberry) is still struggling to find self-acceptance, and is keeping his head down, squirrelling money into his "escape fund" for Paris. Only problem is, he can't escape himself.

In the wider world, fear is in the air, provoked by radical Pro-Living Party Victus and extremism linked to the Undead Liberation Army. Scarier still, there are whispers about a Second Rising.

When explosive characters from both Victus and the ULA descend on Roarton, Kieren's dreams of escape are thrown into disarray. Victus MP Maxine Martin (Wunmi Mosaku) is stirring up anti-PDS sentiment in the village, while charismatic ULA disciple Simon (Emmett J Scanlan) wants Kieren to stay for different reasons altogether.

As Kieren increasingly finds himself in Maxine and Simon's crossfire, tensions reignite within the Walker family, where schoolgirl Jem (Harriet Cains) is facing her own demons, struggling to come to terms with vivid flashbacks from her time in the HVF (Human Volunteer Force). Kieren's only saving grace is the return of his old hunting partner Amy Dyer (Emily Bevan), but has his happy-go-lucky BDFF (Best Dead Friend Forever) been radicalised by the ULA?

As the series progresses, we follow Kieren, his friends and family, as he wrestles with his identity and his own and other people's beliefs. One thing's for certain: a quiet life is no longer an option.

Video interviews with Newberry and Mitchell to promote series 2 were released by the BBC today:






The BAFTA nominations echo plaudits from other parts of the industry - the series was also shortlisted for the MIND Media Awards 2013, Best Drama Serial at RTS, Best Drama Serial at Broadcast Awards and Innovation in Multiplatform at RTS North West - while Mitchell was named one of the 17 BAFTA Breakthrough Brits last year.

BBC Three controller Zai Bennett said:
Not only is BBC Three the most-watched digital channel in the hours it's on air, we're also the most BAFTA-nominated digital channel this year with six nominations, two of which are for the extraordinary In The Flesh which returns to BBC Three next month. I couldn't be prouder of the team, the producers, storytellers, actors and presenters who make BBC Three the ground-breaking, award-winning, incredible channel it is.

Bookmark and Share Supermarionation documentary on its way

4/05/2014 02:25:00 am - Reported by John Bowman

A major new feature film about the life and work of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson has been made by video publishing company Network.

Filmed in Supermarionation - billed as "the definitive documentary about the unique puppetry and animation technique developed by Gerry and Sylvia and their team and utilised in all their programmes throughout the 1960s" - has been directed and co-produced by Stephen La Riviere from his book of the same name.

It is hosted by Thunderbirds characters Lady Penelope and Parker, and features previously unseen archive footage, new interviews with surviving cast and crew, and clips from the shows. In addition, pioneering techniques used in the productions have been accurately re-created for the film, which will be premièred at the BFI later this year ahead of a general release.

Before then, though, a preview of selected scenes together with a question-and-answer session with the film's creative team will be held at Andercon on Saturday 19th April.

In the meantime, Network, which specialises in classic British TV programmes, has released two clips from it:

With Thanks To Tony Clark

Bookmark and Share Atlantis series 2 filming starts

4/03/2014 11:33:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

Filming for the second series of fantasy drama Atlantis has started in Chepstow, the BBC announced today.

Jack Donnelly returns as Jason, with Mark Addy back as Hercules and Robert Emms reprising the role of Pythagoras.

The series launched on BBC One last autumn with an opening episode that pulled in a Live +7 audience of 8.4 million viewers, making it the biggest new Saturday-night drama series launch across all channels since Robin Hood in 2006.

The finale of the first series saw Paisphae, played by Sarah Parish, revealed to be Jason's mother. Parish, who also features in series two, is currently filming scenes that involve a dramatic shift of power in the kingdom, said the BBC in a press statement that added:
Pasiphae's desire to reign has not abated and rivalry with stepdaughter Ariadne takes her to new depths. Jason's personal involvement with Ariadne is surely a complication for Pasiphae, but will the knowledge that Jason is her flesh and blood weaken her resolve?
Also returning to the drama are Aiysha Hart as Ariadne and Juliet Stevenson as The Oracle, as well as new additions Vincent Regan as Dion and Amy Manson as Medea. Guest appearances are to be made by Robert Pugh (Game Of Thrones, The White Queen) and Peter de Jersey (Broadchurch, Holby City) in episode one.

In the press statement, co-creators Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy said:
It's wonderful to have everyone back in the studio together as we prepare to take Atlantis to new places in series two. We have some exciting new additions joining our exceptional cast and some surprises up our sleeve that we can't wait to unleash on the Atlantis audience later this year.
BBC executive producer Bethan Jones added:
It was a delight to see so many of the BBC One audience take Atlantis to its heart and we are thrilled to be returning with more adventures this year. The vision is as ambitious as ever and, building on the amazing sets in the Chepstow studios, the series will continue to deliver a visual treat for viewers, along with a deeper insight to the characters that drive the drama.
Atlantis was recommissioned by BBC One controller Charlotte Moore and Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC Drama Commissioning. It is made by Urban Myth Films for BBC One through BBC Cymru Wales and co-produced by BBC America.

The programme is written by Howard Overman and executive-produced for Urban Myth Films by Capps and Murphy.

Bookmark and Share Exhibition to celebrate 90 years of BBC children's programmes

3/13/2014 08:54:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

An exhibition examining the changing world of the BBC's programmes for children is to take place later this year.

Here's One We Made Earlier - which echoes the famous catchphrase from Blue Peter - is to be held at The Lowry in Salford between Saturday 19th July and Sunday 12th October and will look at the past, present and future of children's broadcasting on the BBC.

The interactive exhibition will pull together iconic items, footage, puppets and props from the BBC's archives as well as from private and public collections across the country, as it explores the complete story of the BBC's programming for children from the first days of broadcasting in 1922 with the launch of Children's Hour right up to the present multi-media moment.

It will be co-curated with local children, and as well as revisiting favourite broadcast moments from across the generations, visitors will also be able to look behind the scenes, have a go at being a presenter, and try a range of hands-on activities.

In addition, the exhibition will examine how children's broadcasting has both changed and remained the same over almost a century - from when toddlers were asked to "sit comfortably" to today's children who take centre-stage on air and online.

Joe Godwin, the director of BBC Children's, said:
It's great to be launching an exhibition of this kind in partnership with our close neighbours at The Lowry. From Muffin The Mule and Andy Pandy to Crackerjack, Newsround and Blue Peter, most British childhoods have been defined by the programmes and characters we love when we're young, many of them provided by the BBC.

It's really exciting to be able to showcase current programmes, as well as look back at some favourites from the past 92 years of BBC children's programmes. Families will be able to come along and enjoy the exhibition together, which is incredibly important to us, and we're looking forward to hearing what visitors think.
Michael Simpson, director of visual arts and engagement at The Lowry, said:
This exhibition is as much about today as it is about yesterday. There will be plenty of blasts from the past, but it will also be looking at how relevant and important children's broadcasting remains, and how children's viewing and listening habits are changing.

Bookmark and Share Big Finish licence for The Avengers extended

3/12/2014 12:14:00 pm - Reported by Marcus

Big Finish Productions has signed an extended licence with STUDIOCANAL to produce full cast audio productions of the entire first season of the classic TV series The Avengers.

The Avengers first launched in 1961, and starred Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel and Patrick Macnee as the elusive and suave John Steed. Beginning with the murder of Keel’s fiancĂ©e, and his sworn intent to avenge her death, that first year comprised 26 episodes. Sadly, only two of them exist in their entirety as film prints (Girl on the Trapeze and The Frighteners), while just the first act remains of the opening episode, Hot Snow.

Box Set One of The Avengers: The Lost Episodes, starring Anthony Howell as Dr Keel and Julian Wadham as Steed, is available now and has received much acclaim. It comprises the episodes Hot Snow, Brought to Book, Square Root of Evil and One for the Mortuary.

SFX Magazine
A minor triumph

Starburst Magazine
If you were ever a fan of the TV series, are interested in the early 1960s or just want a few hours of cracking drama to listen to, this is a must buy.

Sci-Fi Bulletin
A great success: Howell and Wadham work very well together as Keel and Steed; the scripts have been brought to life as authentically as possible, the music feels like the scores from 1961… It’s reawakened a love for The Avengers - and now I’ve got 139 other episodes on the way…!
In total, seven box sets of The Avengers: The Lost Episodes will now be released at six monthly intervals until January 2017. All of the 24 missing episodes will now be recreated from surviving scripts and storylines, while both Girl on the Trapeze and The Frighteners will be remade on audio to complete the series.

The director is Ken Bentley, the script editor is John Dorney and the producer is David Richardson. The executive producers are Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery.

All surviving episodes of The Avengers Series 1-6 are available on DVD from STUDIOCANAL.

Bookmark and Share BBC Radio to celebrate Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

3/07/2014 07:50:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

BBC Radio 4 Extra is bringing listeners the brand-new 30th anniversary edition of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Game online and broadcasting the first two series from tomorrow - 36 years to the day since the first radio broadcast of Hitchhiker's and 30 years since the invention of the award-winning game.

Hitchhiker's started life as a BBC Radio 4 series in March 1978. The original scripts by the late Douglas Adams spawned novels, a feature film, at least three stage shows, a TV series and a collection of comic books - as well as various towels.

The game was devised in 1984 by Adams and Steve Meretzky from Infocom. Notoriously difficult and full of oddities, it was one of the best-selling games of its era.

The 20th-anniversary edition of the game launched on Radio 4's website in 2004, and more than three million moves were made in the game in its first three days of launch and more than 50 million moves had been played within six months. It went on to win a BAFTA for Best Online Entertainment.

The 30th-anniversary specially-updated version of the game will allow users to share their achievements with friends over social media via the official Twitter feed @h2g2game.

The game will now be in high definition, thanks to refreshed illustrations and graphics. It is web-based and will be accessible via Radio 4 Extra's website. Players will also be able to take the game on the move, as it will be compatible with tablets and other internet enabled devices.

Radio 4 Extra will also be broadcasting series one and two of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. It has been more than 10 years since these programmes were last heard on BBC Radio and they perfectly accompany the game. Actions within the game follow the plot of the radio series and some puzzles are only solvable by players with knowledge of the programmes and story.

The single-player game starts with lead character Arthur Dent working his way through a series of different challenges and zones. Players use a specially-designed keyboard to enter their commands and there are achievements to be won throughout the game by completing a series of tasks. This interactive work of fiction sees players visiting other planets, meeting aliens and robots, and creating (or losing) the plot, based on their decisions and choices as they progress through the game. It is renowned for its difficulty and it never misses a chance to kill players off in hilarious and infuriating ways.

Caroline Raphael, commissioning editor for Radio 4 Extra, said:
Douglas was a true visionary and in his own glorious way foresaw all the technology we now take for granted. Radio 4 Extra is delighted to host this game alongside the first two series. Hitchhiker's fans will be rewarded for their loyalty over the years and newer fans have a real, but fiendish, treat in store. March 8th is a special day for the galaxy, so help us celebrate it in the unique way that only BBC Radio 4 Extra can.
The first episode of the first series will be broadcast at 6pm, with further episodes following weekly in the same slot on Saturdays.

And later this month, the original Hitchhiker's cast will continue to shake up the Radio 4 schedule when they reunite for a special performance, broadcast live from the BBC Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House. Led by Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, they will be bringing to life the characters created for them by Adams in highlights from the entire Hitchhiker's saga. The actors will be joined on stage by a Special Guest Voice Of The Book - Adams's long-time collaborator and sometime flatmate John Lloyd, who co-wrote the fifth and sixth episodes of the first series and was associate producer of the TV version.

It takes place on Saturday 29th March at 10am as part of the Character Invasion event that will see some of the nation's best-loved characters invade Radio 4 and take over the airwaves. Tickets for the show can be applied for via this link. Please note that they will be allocated via a random draw. People can register for up to four tickets per household at any time until Thursday 13th March at 4pm. Other broadcasts that same day can also be applied for, but should you be successful in the draw you will only receive tickets for one session. It should also be noted that allocation of the free tickets does not guarantee entry.

Bookmark and Share Wizards vs Aliens gets third series

3/03/2014 03:38:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

The CBBC sci-fi adventure series Wizards vs Aliens has been recommissioned for a third series, it was announced today.

The drama - created by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford - follows the young wizard Tom Clarke, played by Scott Haran, and his scientific friend Benny Sherwood, portrayed by Percelle Ascott, as they try to stop the Nekross, who are threatening to destroy all of wizardkind - and the Earth - in their pursuit of magic.

It will start production next month to air in 2014/15, said the BBC, which added:
In this brand-new series, the pace steps up as Tom and Benny come face to face with a new alien race and a whole variety of magical creatures. Meanwhile, Varg has a new wife by his side, but the mysterious Lady Lyzera has a secret of her own . . .
CBBC controller Cheryl Taylor said:
CBBC is the home of thrilling and inspiring drama for children and Wizards vs Aliens is a perfect example of that.

The series is vivid and brave and our audience loves the portrayal of loyal friendship alongside exciting alien battles and stunning wizardry.

Children want to talk about Tom, Benny and the Nekross and we know they'll be delighted to hear a third series is being conjured up by the talented team in Wales.
The first series comprised 12 episodes, with series 2 comprising 14. It is currently unknown how many episodes will make up the third series.

Produced by BBC Cymru Wales, it is filmed at the BBC's Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff and on location around the area. Series three will be executive-produced by Ford and Nikki Wilson for BBC Wales and Sue Nott for CBBC.

UPDATE - 5th MARCH: The BBC told News In Time And Space today that the third series would comprise 10 episodes. This will make it the shortest series so far.

Bookmark and Share Jonathan Creek series 5 trailer released

2/18/2014 11:50:00 am - Reported by John Bowman

The BBC has released a trailer for the new series of Jonathan Creek.

The 30-second promo sees Creek - having relinquished his windmill home now that he's married - scathingly comparing the new community in which he lives to Twin Peaks.


As previously reported, series 5 starts on BBC One on Friday 28th February at 9pm with The Letters of Septimus Noone. A clip from the episode has been made available on the Radio Times website, in which the BBC One series Sherlock is parodied.

The second episode of the three-episode run is entitled The Sinner and the Sandman. Its broadcast date and time are yet to be confirmed.
In The Sinner and the Sandman, a retired local psychic inadvertently makes the most amazing and impossible prediction of his career.

As Creek and Polly strive to settle into rural life, they find their apparently serene country village is riddled with all manner of strange and disturbing undercurrents . . .

Trouble is already brewing in the nearby community centre - recently reopened after a major facelift - where a sordid sex scandal is about to break, casting a pall of gloom over the celebrations.

And at the vicarage, the arrival of a new baby is overshadowed by tales of a "weird hump-backed beast" that has been seen prowling in the garden by night and foraging through the rubbish bags for foodstuffs.

Even the Creek residence is struck by misfortune, as the prospect of a plague of deadly Japanese knotweed threatens to trigger widescale panic throughout the village. And after a whole slew of other unfortunate events, there are fears that some strange parochial apocalypse is about to dawn.

Jonathan Creek, meanwhile, finds himself paying a charitable call on the eccentric Mr Eric Ipswich - aka "The Amazing Astrodamus" - an ancient and reclusive former psychic magician who will shortly bring the village to a standstill by pulling off the most baffling act of clairvoyance in history.

And what is behind the macabre recurring dream that continues to haunt Creek's wife Polly, in which the kindly children's nursery character The Sandman is transformed into a dark and chilling figure of evil?
Creek is played by Alan Davies, and Polly by Sarah Alexander.

Bookmark and Share BFI to mark BBC2's 50th anniversary and hold Missing Believed Wiped special

2/18/2014 11:02:00 am - Reported by John Bowman

The BFI is to mark the 50th anniversary of BBC2 with two special screenings.

Set up to offer alternative programming to the two other mainstream channels then on offer (namely, BBC1, which was renamed from BBC tv, and ITV), BBC2 was originally meant to open on Monday 20th April 1964, but a fire at Battersea Power Station caused a major power failure in the area that meant the schedule had to be postponed to the next day. Since then, says the BFI:
The channel has carved out a special place in the cultural TV landscape – from in-depth science and documentary to groundbreaking comedy and drama. Across these two screenings we take a look at the first fascinating week of BBC2 via surviving archive programmes that show an astonishing range of subjects and ambition, and which laid the foundations for the channel we all know and love today.
Both screenings take place on Wednesday 23rd April, and they start at 6.10pm with The Opening Week + Sir David Attenborough In Conversation With Alan Yentob.
This selection of archive clips aims to capture the flavour of the opening week (including the first night's power cut, and the hilarious newsreader forced to stay on air with nothing to cut to!). Clips include light entertainment shows such as Jazz 625: Duke Ellington in Concert, comedy from The Alberts' Channel Too and Arkady Raikin (the Soviet Union's leading comedian), and drama with Julius Caesar (the National Youth Theatre production with original jazz score).
BBC executive Alan Yentob will be discussing BBC2 past, present and future with Sir David Attenborough, who was the channel's controller from 1965 to 1969.

This will be followed at 8.45pm by the production of Kiss Me Kate - featuring Howard Keel, Patricia Morison, Millicent Martin and Eric Barker - that formed part of the opening schedule.
This lavish production of the famous Cole Porter Broadway musical was commissioned to kick the channel off with a bang, and to showcase the better picture offered by BBC2's brand-new 625-line system (until then, all UK television had only been 405 lines). Add to this a superb cast (Howard Keel and Millicent Martin), some spirited dance routines and numbers - including, appropriately enough to open a new national TV channel, "Another Op'nin', Another Show" – and we guarantee you a toe-tapping televisual extravaganza!
A fanfare for the channel based on the Morse code translation of "BBC2" was composed by Freddie Phillips. He later composed the theme music for the "Trumptonshire trilogy" of children's TV programmes comprising Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley, for whose characters he also wrote songs.

And earlier in the month, the BFI will be holding a Missing Believed Wiped special entitled Maximum Access: The Complete and Utter History of Britain, with Michael Palin as a special guest.

This event takes place on Wednesday 2nd April at 8.50pm.
The BFI's Missing Believed Wiped initiative exists not only to highlight recovered TV material but to provide a showcase for the public. These screenings serve multiple purposes: to allow enthusiasts to see the titles; to inform cataloguers and archivists of the survival status of the material; and - perhaps most importantly - to alert schedulers, programme-makers and commercial distributors to the finds, leading to greater exposure.

To that end, this Missing Believed Wiped special will focus on the zany, pre-Python comedy series The Complete and Utter History of Britain - Michael Palin and Terry Jones' 1960s precursor to the much-loved TV show Horrible Histories. Here, we find sketches such as Richard the Lionheart relating his exploits in the Crusades in the manner of a laddish holidaymaker, and William the Conquerer engaging in post-match analysis.

Fans will be delighted that all the surviving material from this seminal series, along with new complementary material from Palin and Jones, will now be made available on DVD (thanks to Network Releasing).
Palin is to introduce the event.

Tickets to all the above will go on sale in due course.

Bookmark and Share Jonathan Creek series 5 start date and time confirmed

2/12/2014 11:49:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

The new mini-series of Jonathan Creek will start on Friday 28th February at 9pm, the BBC confirmed today.

The BBC One drama, starring Alan Davies as the eponymous mystery-solver and Sarah Alexander as his wife, Polly, returns for three episodes, beginning with The Letters of Septimus Noone.
When a classic locked-room novel is turned into a West End musical, one of its stars falls victim to a real-life "impossible crime".

The Mystery of the Yellow Room, based on a 19th-century story by Gaston Leroux, is currently thrilling London theatre audiences with its enticing blend of music, romance and sizzling Gothic melodrama.

But events take a sinister turn one night when the show's glamorous singing sensation Juno Pirelli is found horribly stabbed inside a locked dressing room, from which no assailant could possibly have escaped.

No weapon or any other evidence of an intruder can be found, nor any rational explanation for the victim's wounds.

As the actress's life hangs in the balance, her producer and colleagues remain baffled. And attention once again turns to the lateral-thinking Jonathan Creek for a solution to the whole grisly puzzle.

But can Creek - now a happily-married man - even be persuaded to embark upon the investigation? As he and his wife, Polly, struggle to come to terms with a sudden personal tragedy, a series of dark and disturbing family secrets is about to emerge that will throw the couple's whole world into turmoil . . .
Davies recently revealed to Radio Times that the episode will parody BBC One stablemate Sherlock, with fast cutting and close focusing on clues as a Creek admirer and criminology student called Ridley, portrayed by Kieran Hodgson, gets things hopelessly wrong when he imitates Sherlock while attempting to work out the recent travels of Creek and his wife.

The episode will co-star Ali Bastian as Juno Pirelli, Paula Wilcox as Hazel Prosser, Simon Thomas as Christophe Holtz, and Raquel Cassidy as Sharon.

Bookmark and Share Musketeers will ride into action for second series

2/09/2014 06:59:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

A second series of swashbuckling drama The Musketeers was announced today by the BBC just three weeks into the 10-episode run of the first.

The contemporary take on the classic Alexandre Dumas characters had a consolidated audience of 9.3 million for episode one, which aired on Sunday 19th January, making it the corporation's biggest new drama launch since Call The Midwife in January 2012. The first three episodes have averaged 6.3 million viewers in the overnight ratings.

Set on the streets of 17th-century Paris, where law and order is more an idea than reality, the series follows the eponymous quartet who are far more than King Louis XIII's personal bodyguards, but ultimately stand resolutely for social justice: for honour, valour, love - and for the thrill of it.

It stars Luke Pasqualino as D'Artagnan alongside Tom Burke as Athos, Santiago Cabrera as Aramis and Howard Charles as Porthos. All four will return in series two, whose length is yet to be confirmed.

Creator Adrian Hodges said:
I'm completely thrilled to be able to continue the journey we have begun on The Musketeers. Writing and helping produce the show has been one of the greatest challenges and joys of my professional life.
Charlotte Moore, the controller of BBC One, commented:
Drama in 2014 has got off to a great start on BBC One and The Musketeers has really brought something fresh and new to the channel. I can't wait to see how things will develop in the next series.
The show is made by BBC Drama Production and co-produced by BBC Worldwide and BBC America. Jessica Pope is the BBC executive producer, Hodges is an executive producer and lead writer, and Colin Wratten is producer.

Kate Harwood, the head of Drama England at BBC Drama Production, said:
I am delighted that Jessica Pope, Adrian Hodges, Colin Wratten and their team are able to go back to 17th-century Paris, round up those superb Musketeers and fight some more good fights for the BBC One audience.
The show was recommissioned by Moore and Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC Drama Commissioning.

Episode four - entitled The Good Soldier - airs at 9pm tonight.

Guest actors still to come in this series include Sean Pertwee, JJ Field, Vincent Regan, Ashley Walters, Amy Nuttall, Tara Fitzgerald, Annabelle Wallis, Zoe Tapper and Vinnie Jones.

Bookmark and Share Champions actress Alexandra Bastedo dies at 67

1/13/2014 01:14:00 am - Reported by John Bowman

Alexandra Bastedo as Sharron MacreadyThe actress Alexandra Bastedo who played Sharron Macready in the cult '60s ITV series The Champions died yesterday of cancer at the age of 67.

Born in Hove, the keen animal-lover's original ambition was to be a vet, but showbusiness beckoned and she made her film debut in 1963 as one of the title characters in 13 Frightened Girls - aka The Candy Web.

More films followed, as did TV, which led to the multi-lingual Bastedo being cast as one of the three eponymous Champions - United Nations agents with perfected human abilities given to them by a secret civilisation following a plane crash in Tibet.

The sci-fi/action/adventure series - which also starred William Gaunt and Stuart Damon - was created by Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman and ran for 30 episodes between September 1968 and April 1969. In her biography on her website, Bastedo wrote how being in the show changed her life:
Apart from becoming a household name in England, Scotland and Wales I became an international star, particularly in Spain and South America where they called me "La Bastedo".
Over the course of her acting career, she appeared in many more films and TV series, including Batman Begins, EastEnders, and Absolutely Fabulous. Her real dream, though, was to rescue animals, and she founded the Alexandra Bastedo Champions Animal Sanctuary, which at first was based at Almodington, near Chichester, in West Sussex. She and her husband - the actor, writer, and director Patrick Garland - then moved to nearby West Chiltington, where the sanctuary was also relocated.

A passionate advocate of animal protection, Bastedo wrote a memoir entitled Beware Dobermanns, Donkeys and Ducks plus a number of books on the welfare of cats and dogs. In addition, she was patron to a number of animal welfare organisations, including Compassion in World Farming, the Wildlife Aid Foundation, the National Animal Welfare Trust, Greyhounds in Need, and Naturewatch.

Yesterday, the actor and friend Peter Egan, who along with Gaunt is a patron of the ABC Animal Sanctuary, tweeted:

Garland died last April, aged 78.

Bookmark and Share The Musketeers start date confirmed and interviews released

1/09/2014 12:37:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

The BBC's new drama The Musketeers will start on Sunday 19th January at 9pm, it has been confirmed.

The 10-part series is being billed as a fresh and contemporary take on the characters created by Alexandre Dumas for his novel, set in 17th-century Paris.

Written and created by Adrian Hodges, it was filmed in Prague and stars Luke Pasqualino as D'Artagnan, Tom Burke as Athos, Santiago Cabrera as Aramis, and Howard Charles as Porthos. It will also feature Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu, Maimie McCoy as Milady, Hugo Speer as Treville, Tamla Kari as Constance Bonacieux, Alexandra Dowling as Queen Anne, and Ryan Gage as King Louis.

It has been directed by Toby Haynes, Saul Metzstein, Farren Blackburn, Richard Clark, and Andy Hay, with music by Murray Gold.

Interviews with the cast plus an introduction penned by Hodges are given below:

Our new series of The Musketeers is based on the famous characters created by Alexandre Dumas - D'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis, some of the most evocative names in all fiction, names synonymous with adventure, heroism, courage and self-sacrifice. This new version is not an adaptation of the book, but rather a series of new adventures sometimes inspired by the novel, sometimes by the events of the period, and sometimes by more contemporary issues given a historical spin. Why not attempt a new adaptation? Of course that was an option, but there have been many, many versions of the book's justly celebrated story - some wonderful, some not so wonderful - and I simply felt the time was right to do something different with the founding myth of the Musketeers and to do what Dumas himself did with history - respect it, use it wisely, but also have fun with it. I hope Dumas's spirit will forgive us the liberties we take in this new set of variations on the classic story he created; at all times we tried to be faithful to the spirit of his writing, though clearly not to the letter.

So why The Musketeers and why now? It seemed to me that although the adventure genre - however broadly defined - has remained evergreen in the cinema, it had been a long time since I'd seen anything of this kind on TV, at least outside of the family slots and dark hybrid fantasies like Game Of Thrones. Have we, as an audience, grown bored with the ideas of courage, selflessness, romance and heroism associated with the genre? I seriously doubt it. I suspect, and hope, there is a serious appetite for this kind of material amongst the TV audience, something different to police and hospital shows (good as those often are), something that isn't science fiction but which does take place in a world wildly different and infinitely more exotic than our own.

Perhaps the problem is that the whole notion of "swashbuckling" has become fraught with cliché and is full of traps for the unwary. Too often, swashbuckling has become a kind of code word for insubstantial characterisation, endless swordfights which have little or no consequence, and a kind of old-fashioned approach to storytelling which is dull and encrusted with period trappings and lame jokes. To put it simply, too often the adventure genre is lightweight and disposable. It just doesn't have enough weight to captivate a modern audience that is perhaps more cynical and certainly more aware of storytelling tricks than any before it.

There are a number of ways to update the genre; you can take the mickey affectionately - as in Pirates Of The Caribbean - or simply transpose everything we used to associate with the swashbuckler and put it in a different genre, as with almost any of the Marvel Superhero films or most Westerns and space-set films. But what I wanted to do was take the genre seriously, provide everything the audience expects from it - period detail, sword fights, muskets, brave and romantic heroes and heroines, enormous risks, rescues at the last minute and so on - and also come up with something that felt, dare I say, relevant.

In other words, I wanted to write something that wasn't jaded or cynical, and which felt like it mattered, but which also felt modern, exciting and involving, while always trying to respect the conventions of the genre. I didn't want to write something that was pastiche or satire, nor something that was po-faced and glum. After all, if The Musketeers isn't romantic, action-packed fun, then what is it?

There are a number of ways to tackle the concept of modernity in a television adventure drama - Sherlock's successful updating is certainly one that stands out. But that kind of outright conversion to the modern era didn't feel right for The Musketeers; I'm not sure the concept could really make sense outside of its original setting. So right from the start I decided we had to keep the framework everyone knows but then bring a certain modern attitude to it, something that acknowledges all the conventions of the genre, while also playing with them, sometimes humorously but never in such a way that we fail to show respect. I love this genre; I don't want to mock it. I just want it to seem as much fun to modern audiences as it did to me when I first saw Richard Lester's wonderful version back in the early 1970s.

My most essential job was to look at the famous characters and give them a fresh look and feeling. Of course, all the characteristics we expect from these four famous names are here but hopefully in ways that will surprise and intrigue. It was a case of looking at the characters in exactly the same way as I would any others I try to create - who are they, really? What matters to them? What secrets do they keep? What world do they live in? What is the true cost of heroism? It's about making them people a modern audience readily recognises and understands: heroes, definitely, but heroes who are not straightforward, who are very human and who recognise that every time they draw their swords, someone, perhaps even them, might die. And die for real. Above all I want these stories to matter to the audience; I want them to care passionately about the fate of our leading men and women, to feel invested. That way, the adventures our characters face really mean something, and every sword-fight, every ambush, every romance has real consequences in a world where there are enormous stakes to play for. But at the same time, humour is written into the DNA of these characters and I've tried very hard to honour that aspect of the original in ways that will please a modern, sophisticated TV audience without ever taking them out of the reality of the drama they're watching. The Musketeers is a drama - not a comedy, not a pastiche, not a pantomime. Everything about the detail of our world and our characters is as authentic as we can make it, because in the end, if an adventure doesn't feel real, what's the point of it?

When I started this introduction I promised myself I'd avoid glib or too easy summaries of what we're attempting with this show. But then again, why not? The Musketeers is a swashbuckler with teeth. And hopefully it bites hard and deep.

What attracted you to the show?

First off, it's definitely the fact that it's The Musketeers - something I used to watch when I was a kid - Dogtanian and the Muskehounds and all that kind of stuff. I knew the story and the characters so the fact I was able to go in with the feeling I understood the premise was a big attraction. Just to be involved in a BBC drama was great. In my opinion, the BBC are one of the best producers of drama in the world, and it made me incredibly happy to get the opportunity to be one of the leading men in one of their productions.

Did you have to do any preparation in the lead up to the role?

Not really - the only bit of prep I did was watching some of the previous films, for example the Dick Lester one, the one with Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland, the 2011 one with Logan Lerman. I did that TV research just to see what other people had done and how the Musketeers had been portrayed.

Tell us a bit more about the boot camp

Well, we stayed in a castle for a week outside of Prague, and it was literally a boot camp! There were fitness tests, getting up at stupid o'clock in the morning, horse-riding for two hours, coming back to do two hours of sword-fighting and then a short lunch, then repeating the horse-riding and sword-fighting after lunch - it was non-stop! It was the most valuable week of the shoot really - it put us in great stead for the rest of the show and kind of gave us a head start really.

Tell us a bit about D'Artagnan

Well Tom, who plays Athos, said a great thing to me the other day which was that each of the Musketeers has their own compulsion, and D'Artganan's is definitely that he has a very impulsive nature. One of the notes I was given before filming was that they really wanted to play on the fact that he had a very hot head - so I tried to put that out there. He is a desperate romantic at heart as well, so it's trying to balance those characteristics. I really enjoyed that.

Were there any specific storylines you particularly empathised with?


The relationship he had with his father is a huge thing for me - me and my dad get on like a house on fire - we are like best friends. I drew on that - so when D'Artagnan's father dies I was just thinking about what it would be like if my own father passed away - it would be hugely difficult for me. But really it was the friendship and loyalty - I'm from an Italian background so those ideals are written in stone. I tried to push that out as much as possible.

How did your relationship with the other Musketeers evolve through the shoot?


It went from strength to strength. I met Howard before we even started filming in a costume fitting, so we knew each other. When we got to Prague for boot camp we all went out for dinner together and then went out to a few bars. The boot camp was great for us to go and get all the technical aspects right, but also for us to bond and become friends. You take that energy on set - it really works - and that's evident in every episode really.

What did filming in Prague add to the show?

It was absolutely vital. To do something like this in England would never have worked. I was completely over the moon when I got told I was going back to Prague - I know how beautiful it is after filming there last year. I loved it to bits!

What do you hope the audience is going to get out of the show?

I hope the audience takes it for what it is - I don't want them to think this is anything like the way The Musketeers has been portrayed before. I think we have a very different vibe to it - the fact that we are actually using muskets for example. It's not a fairy tale, that's not what we are making, it's very true to life. The Musketeers on one side are trying to fight with their loyalties and their passion about being a musketeer balanced with their own personal compulsions, be that women or gambling. They have to balance that whilst still having a duty to protect the king no matter what's going on in their own lives. They have to do what is right no matter what, and I think that is a really cool story and message to tell the audience.

If you could sum your character up in one word, what would it be?

Impulsive . . . passionate - there are so many, I could give you a list!

What attracted you to the show in the first place?

I thought the writing was brilliant, that was one of the main things. It was the best thing that I personally had read in some time. The character Porthos was amazing. I spoke to Adrian and he mentioned that he wanted to pay homage to Alexandre Dumas senior, the father of the novelist of the original, by using strong elements of the book, but also from Alexandre Dumas senior's history. He was a general, when I guess there weren't many brown people around in uniform, so I was really attracted to that element.

Instead of the fat, drunk gambler, he wanted to make Porthos the warrior in the group, paying homage to Alexandre Dumas senior. So that was hugely attractive to me. But Porthos is someone who enjoys life and knows the value it, so therefore enjoys it because he knows it's not going to last forever.

I always read the source material and I love what Adrian added to that, and actually the way that he made it his own.

Apart from reading the source material, what preparation did you do for the part?

Well, another thing that I read was a book called The Black Count, which was all about Alexandre Dumas senior's life, which really helped because it was a chance for me to grab hold of a few things that could help me deepen the character.

As far as the boot camp went, I didn't realise how essential it was until we started shooting, because from day one myself, Santiago, Tom and Luke were sweating and panting together. So straight away, there was a level of respect because you were standing next to other guys that were also finding it difficult. There's nothing better to kind of bring everyone down to the same level than doing 100 press-ups. So straightaway we were a unit and we had to be a unit and we had to work together with the sword-fighting and the horse-riding. As well as it was an individual challenge, it was also a collective challenge. We just built this camaraderie within probably about 25 minutes and we took that on set. Whoever's decision it was, I think it was Colin [Wratten] the producer, it was time well spent.

Tell us a bit about Porthos and maybe just a little bit about his back story and how we meet him in the series

My character basically grew up in the Court of Miracles, which is the 17th-century version of the ghetto. There were 12 in Paris and the one I grew up in was the biggest one. I don't know who my father is, my mother dies when I was five, so then I basically had to fend for myself. Got into trouble here and there, I guess I was a kind of a street thief, you know, a hustler. But also a romantic, someone who was in desperate need of a family and love and the reason why The Musketeers is such an important unit for Porthos is that it is the only family he's ever known.

So there's an amazing amount of pride for Porthos that he has become a Musketeer. The Fleur De Lis that he wears on the shoulder guard means the world to him. Brotherhood, fraternity, loyalty, equality - those things are very important to Porthos.

Does Porthos have some special skills that set him apart?

It's interesting you say that because something that was described in the novel is that he can use basically anything as a weapon. Porthos has a warrior's mind - a kind of sixth sense. In my introduction to the series, someone actually pulls a sword on me and wants to have a duel and I actually use a fork to defeat him and he's got a sword. It's that warrior's mind. I mean I guess it's the equivalent of being a footballer. All footballers are technically very good, but some footballers they just have a footballer's brain.

How important was it being in the Czech Republic? What did it add to the show?

Well, the Czech Republic is a beautiful country that still has an immense amount of history which you can still see because during the Second World War it wasn’t all lost being bombed and stuff. They were occupied and so a lot of their old architecture and infrastructure still remain. Just being in Prague alone, we walked over bridges that were 600 years old, and filmed in places that were 300, 400 years old and then some. So you get a lot for free, you get a hell of a lot for free because you're in it. You're wearing your armour, you're wearing your uniform/costume. You've got your swords which are real, you've got the guns . . . Everything is real, apart from the fact that it fires blanks, so the weight is the same. You've got hats, you've got horses and you look around and you've got these buildings which are real, which are hundreds of years old and it's very easy to suspend your own disbelief, if you had it anyway, which is exactly what an audience must feel when they're watching it.

What do you hope the audience get out of the show when they're watching it?

I hope they're entertained - I'm sure they will be. I hope the audience gain an insight into the wars we've tried to create for them and take a lot from that. There are a lot of core values and huge themes that we use. The themes of betrayal and honour, heroism and love.

Can you tell us a little about your character?

I play Aramis, who is one of the king's Musketeers, whom D'Artagnan meets in the first episode. He has got that joie de vivre, he is someone who relishes life, loves what he does and lives life to the full. He is a daredevil but also, like the other Musketeers, he can be a very lonely character.

The Musketeers are sacrificing a normal life to do what they do - fight for the cause, the king and France. He is definitely a lover of women - he has a lot of romances - and with that has some really interesting storylines in the first two episodes. He is introduced to Adele, the cardinal's mistress, so he likes going into dangerous territory.

Can you tell us how we are first introduced to him as a character?

D'Artagnan is out to get revenge for the death of his father and he thinks one of the Musketeers is responsible so confronts Athos at the garrison, but we are all there. We meet this young man and can tell he has skills, because we see Athos who is an amazing swordsman and this young country boy who can hold his own against him, so immediately we can see something in him.

What's great about this script and what I loved about it the first time I read it is that even though the Musketeers are such a group, and known as a unit, they are introduced as individuals really well, so we really get to meet them as separate people before they come together - that's really clever. It's all related to the story and it's really quick-paced - it was a real page-turner - I read the script really quickly, which I think is always a good sign.

So is the script what attracted you to the show?

I think so, yes - I loved Aramis's spirit and the fact he was a fun-loving character - I knew I could have fun with it. And also it's potentially something you could be doing for a really long time, so when you have a way in and something about the character to grab on to, it makes it really enjoyable - there was definitely that with the script. And all the Musketeers are a bit mad – that's definitely in the book - but they are also noble characters. They have to always stay between two lines in a way because even though they are our heroes they are flawed, but each one makes up for the others' flaws. Together, they would make up the perfect hero, but for each Musketeer their own personality gets in the way, which is what gives it a fun side as well. There is a lot of fun and humour in it, which is brilliant.

So who is the biggest daredevil?

I think they are all daredevils in their own way, but Aramis is definitely someone who doesn't have a filter in many ways, he sometimes just sticks his foot in it - for example Constance (Tamla Kari) slaps him in the first episode. He doesn't really have a sense of danger.

Today I think Aramis would be doing parachutes and bungee jumps and extreme sports. That's part of being a Musketeer, living life to the full - confronting death. When I spoke with Adrian Hodges, the writer and creator, when he pitched the show and I was auditioning he said something I really loved - that it was the time where things were about to change in France and the Musketeers lived a life where they had authority. They were like policemen or top-end security, they could do whatever they want and have a boss in Treville who lets them do what they want. It was a time in France where they knew it was a lifestyle that was about to end, so they are living life to the full. That's definitely one of the elements of Aramis. He is enjoying it for as long as he can because he knows this lifestyle can't go on for ever.

You said earlier Aramis is a bit of a lover - what can you tell us about his relationships in the series?

Aramis is a very spiritual person, in the book he is very Catholic and is a man of God - he was brought up to be a priest. A lot of people were. He realised early on he loves women too much, he loves to fight, loves the flesh and things that don't go hand in hand with being a priest. He still has a strong belief, but he isn't a hypocrite and he would hate people that are. He has a lot of respect for people who live what they preach, but in those days to see people like Cardinal Richelieu, it was very easy to be two-faced in religion.

How do you prepare for a role like this?

The first thing I did was read the book and then just underline what I thought I liked and could be relevant and ignored the rest because we are doing a completely new take on it. I think the spirit of the book is something we have really captured and you can't get away from that really.

Then it's the training - we had boot camp which was very helpful. That was a whole week which was very full on. We did horse-riding, sword-fighting, and combat. It was also keeping fit all the way through - you had to do a lot of stretching, because with the kind of stuff you were doing like getting on and off horses then going straight into sword-fighting, you can get really tight so you have to stay in the zone.

You said he likes a fight. Have you done all your own stunts?


Yeah, we have actually. We have great stunt guys - they come up with really fun choreographies and cater to the character. Something I found out early on with Aramis is that he really relishes everything he does. Even if that is just chopping wood, he is loving the idea of just swinging the machete and chopping it - they really picked up on that.

What helps you get into character?

Putting on the gear definitely helps. I think every job is different, you know? I've done jobs where I'm literally in my trailer, then I go from the trailer to the set in the zone, but here the way we relate to each other helps, we have a lot of fun between takes, the four of us. Certain scenes require quite a bit more concentration so you make sure you have five minutes to think, but in general it's really about the banter between us. The more you do it, the more the character gets engrained in you and it's finding those variations. It's a long story over 10 episodes, and what's great is that you get new material, so you get to bring different colours to every story, because in a way they are very complex characters, they have got so many different facets to them, so hopefully it just keeps surprising and you see new sides of the characters - that's what will keep it fresh.

What's been your most challenging scene to film?

Probably fighting in the heat. We have had some days of 35 or 36 degrees fighting in the leather costumes - running up and down and doing these pretty elaborate 45-second to one-and-a-half-minute fights, which require really intense bursts of energy, like a sprint. Doing that over and over again in the heat - we had to have ice packs and fans. In a way, you are in this zone where you can't really think too much, which is kind of helpful. We rehearse those fights a lot - we get a couple of hours a week before and try and fit a couple more hours in as we lead up to the fight, so by the time you get to do it on set you can really do them on autopilot and can really bring the characters into it, bring the story in and bring them to life.

How have the four of you got on together?


We got on great from the get go - even when we met in Prague. Colin the producer took us out to dinner with Toby the director and there has been a lot of that because we were all in the same building. We get together a lot, cook for each other - well, Luke is more the cook so we were always all over at his place, or I had people over and we would then go out for dinner. We really related to the guest stars too and had a great time with them when they came out.

What attracted you to the show initially?

I think, unlike other superheroes, what one gleans about the Musketeers, certainly from the source material, is that the good that they do happens in quite a spasmodic manner, in short bursts. I identified with that - if I was ever to be someone who was involved with protecting mankind from peril, I'm not sure if I would be able to do it in a particularly strong and sustained manner. I loved that about the characters in the book - they are extremely eccentric and do what they can, when they can. When I came on board there were only two episodes written, so I was saying yes to what was there, but also to the whole idea of the show. It was more than just a script, there was a history and a heritage to it. The scripts Adrian has written are snappy, fast-paced and full of wit.

Did you re-read the novel before embarking on the project?

I did yes, and I dipped in and out of it whilst we were shooting the project. I also read quite a lot of other Dumas stories. I think The Musketeers is probably the Dumas novel people are most familiar with, or if not that it's The Count Of Monte Cristo. I've always been a big fan of Dumas because, on the one hand, he writes a lot about revenge, but he also writes about the cost of it to the revenger - I'd always had an interest in that.

How did you approach playing Athos?

Initially, there was a certain amount of editing going on in terms of how much of myself I brought to it, because the character seems above all else to have such great economy of expression, so I wanted to get that in all the different ways I could - physically and vocally. To a degree, he is also a father figure to the others and has quite a painful history. He relies on the structure of the Musketeers hugely - he is almost institutionalised by it. He would be lost without it.

Like all of the Musketeers, he is a maverick - they all like to do things their own way. He drinks, and that helps him function, and also to make him feel more sane. I think he is a very romantic character - although virtually celibate - because of everything that has happened to him. He is deeply weary of women, and one of the interesting things about the series is that, because new stories have been brought in, it was a chance to see him confronted by a very different femininity when he meets Milady.

There is a line in the book that says he smiles but never laughs, and that really helped me to shape the character. When he does smile it's almost to do with the other three - the enjoyment of their particular eccentricities.

Does that sense of brotherhood shape the show?

Yes, absolutely - they are deeply reliant on each other on all sorts of levels, not least of all emotional - that's part of the comedy of it. Although you could argue that Athos is the most solitary of them, each one of them is prone to the odd outburst of "Well, damn everyone else, I'll sort this out myself." None of them is the lone ranger. As human beings, we are essentially reliant on each other and any notions we have of a life of autonomy is an illusion really. I think that's one of the most important parts of the whole story.

How did that translate to being on set with the other cast members?

I would say I'm so aware of that now - because I really miss the other three guys and Hugo and all the other cast, but particularly the boys because I got so used to being with them. I just remember laughing so much when we were doing it, but I'm sure that was the parts feeding into us and us feeding back into them.

What was the biggest challenge whilst you were out there?

It was the first time I have played a lead in a series and been in it all the way through in a very consistent way, and I would say the biggest challenge is hanging on to your through-line but trying to make it fresh and trying to not repeat yourself. It's the difference between spontaneous and random. Having different directors for each block helps that because there is a negotiation there - they have things that they want to see but you can help to guide them by telling them how it slots in to what has happened before and after in the series.

What do you hope the audience gets out of the show?

I just hope they enjoy it. I don't know if it's necessarily the sort of thing where you expect people to be watching the credits roll and thinking about their own life. It's romantic, it's an adventure and it does nod its head to something earlier, something Arthurian, not the series but the era when chivalry and honour were important things. It's about four heroes who, despite being heroic, are eccentric, occasionally getting it wrong and needing each other.

What attracted you to the role?

Milady! I read it from her perspective, and as a female presence she is so incredibly powerful and has such a driving force of hatred and vengeance mixed with vulnerability, I thought that was particularly exciting. I also just loved the wit of the show and depth of the characters - I feel like you sort of hadn't seen that before with other adaptations of The Musketeers. It was a whole new world, which seemed to leap off the page. The depiction of Paris in that time was very well penned, it had a real earthiness and a realness, which is what I like watching and look for in scripts.

What was it like getting to Prague and seeing that world imagined?

Some of the locations were absolutely spectacular. We don't have those kind of buildings here in the UK, they just have such grandeur to them. The hallways and ceilings were just breathtaking, and they really add to that authenticity of the show - there are no wobbly sets! The set that was built at Doksany, which was half-real and half-set, was amazing - you could walk around the streets of it and you felt like you were in Paris. There was an extraordinary amount of detail that went into it. I shot one scene on top of a hill, and they had searched for miles to find this one particular tree and this one branch which was perfect for that scene. At first you think, surely we could have just used any tree - but it did exactly what it needed to do. That's a testament to the level of detail that came in from every angle.

Was there good camaraderie on set?


A huge amount - it's what you always want to have but you never quite know if that's what you are going to get. It's such a long time, and we are all there together - particularly the four Musketeers and the crew who were living there solidly for seven months. You have to have fun and get to know each other very well. You are thrown into this sort of little bubble which you exist in for that length of time, so it's a very shared experience. It's what I love about the job - I love that little team and family you create in whatever time period you have on set - it's really vital. It really comes out in the show too.

Tell us a bit about Milady

She's quite ferocious as a character - fearless and incredibly feisty. She's very complex and deeply flawed but I like that complication playing her. She's quite a damaged creature. What I loved in the original novel is that there were a lot of animalistic references about her being a panther and a tigress when enraged. She is a survivor in the truest sense, she has nobody to rely on. She didn't come from a family that was at all wealthy, she came from a completely poverty-stricken background, so is very damaged by the experiences of her childhood and being mistreated. It was a really tough world to live in, particularly as a woman if you weren't married off and didn't have a husband with money. She's really clawed her way up into a very powerful but still vulnerable position working for the cardinal. He is still in control, but she has a great amount of influence over him, and is a great asset of his. She can never really relax because she knows that he can dispense of her - she's constantly one foot forward and has to have eyes in the back of her head - there's a sharpness to her that she can't let drop, which makes her fascinating and formidable.

What do you think the Musketeers think of her?

A terrible and vile woman who is a murderer and contract killer! They see her actions as opposed to her background, so whereas I have to understand her to play her they can't understand why she does what she does. They see she has murdered somebody or double-crossed somebody, but don't see any reasoning or any motives behind it - she's certainly not liked by them.

What do you hope the audiences get out of the show?

A great sense of fun - there is a whole world full of wit and playfulness. Mainly I want them to see that that world has a danger to it - the reality of existing there is hard - but also to get that sense of adventure. I think people are going to feel very strongly for characters - that's going to be quite interesting - who they will love, who they want to get together. There is so many dark undertones that make it such a rollercoaster - a really three-dimensional show that has a lot of levels.

What attracted you to the show initially?

I was very excited just reading the title really - The Musketeers is a wonderful story. Knowing it was written by Adrian helped an awful lot because he is a high-calibre writer and then just reading it, I thought it was brilliant. It's the same old thing: any actor basically loves a good script and that attracts anyone really. Treville's a great part, you know if you read the books then you'll know that it's a fantastic part and so all of those ingredients really.

What kind of research did you do once you'd got the script?

Just reading the novel again. It's been many, many years since I'd read it last. I was always a big fan, having been brought up with the 1973 and '74 film versions, you know, with Oliver Reed, Michael York, Christopher Lee and Sophia Loren and all that sort of lot, so I knew that they were amazing films and I was only like five or six years old when I first saw those. But, they have kind of stuck with me and stayed with me all my life. So, as far as research goes, just re-reading the novel.

What do you think makes this version of The Musketeers fresh?


It has all the right ingredients. The young directors that they've brought on were always full of enthusiasm. I think the art department are incredible and the actors that they've brought on. I think it's literally just everything about it that kind of gives it a real exciting fresh feel. I don't think anything that has been done recently has been wide of the mark, this just feels more honest to the real sort of ethos of how Dumas wrote the novel. It's seems like a good time to revisit it, but to revisit it honestly. I think certainly having seen the way it's being produced and directed it feels very pacey and I think that's very exciting. You know it's an exciting story but I think if told well then it just feels modern again.

Can you tell us a bit about your character, Treville?


He was effectively the first Musketeer. He was in King Louis's court when they were kids. My father was a king's soldier and he was his favourite soldier, so when we were growing up as kids Treville had access to the court and was able to play in the court with the young prince. So when the prince became older and when he became king it seemed natural for him, when it came to creating an elite band of troops to act as his security and bodyguards and the like, it seemed a very natural thing to task Treville with that job - to be his number one left-hand man or right-hand or whatever it is, and also bring together the band of troops that became the Musketeers. Treville's motto is loyalty and strength - that's how he lives his life and that's how he is in regard to the king as well.

What is Treville's relationship like with the other Musketeers?

He is like an older brother figure. I feel that there's certainly a real love, respect and, in some cases, fear of Treville. Again, in the novel it mentions these three elements - love, respect and fear - and it says that to be these things is like the paragon of male virtue. There's no higher accolade that one could have bestowed upon you. So that's basically how the Musketeers see him. It's fear, it's love, it's respect. It's all those things. But I'd say in a more sort of fraternal way than anything paternal.

Does Treville still get his hands dirty when he needs to?

Certainly more towards the end of the series - his hands get dirtier and dirtier actually.

What is Treville's relationship like with the king and the cardinal?

With the king it's undying loyalty. Occasionally frustrating because the king is an arse an awful lot of the time, but he does amuse me an awful lot. I think Treville gets a little exasperated with him sometimes because the loyalty he shows him I think he would like it fully reciprocated. He does make foolish decisions, but I do find him amusing and there is that sort of love and loyalty there even though, like I said, I do find him occasionally exasperating.

What irks me I think is the fact that the king has so much respect for the cardinal, who I know to be a low-down snake in the grass. That I find very, very irksome - that the king holds him in such esteem and really makes an awful lot of decisions based on the advice of the cardinal. If anything, that makes my job an awful lot harder as well, because I know the cardinal is always plotting and always planning all this skulduggery that invariably makes my job an awful lot harder. Plus, he's got his red guards who are effectively our enemy. They shouldn't be, but they're our rival. We're always duelling and scrapping with the red guards in the streets and in the bars and always brawling. My relationship with the cardinal is one of profound distrust, but occasionally I also have to work with him. We're forced to work together, which makes things awkward. But my professionalism is something that has to overlook what I know about him. Sometimes I'll lose my temper with him because I know exactly what he is and what he does.

What was it like filming in Prague?

It's such a beautiful country. It's great to be away from everything to know that you can just focus on the work. There's a real romance to Prague itself, which I think kind of helps. The Czech Republic itself has all these incredible castles and gardens that the sort of government protected and maintained, which meant creating this world, or made it a lot easier to create the world of 17th-century Paris. The world of the Musketeers. The people themselves were very welcoming and very friendly, so it kind of made the whole experience a very happy and positive one. If you're feeling that way, then obviously it's a lot easier to do the work. If you're enjoying your time there, it makes the job so much more pleasurable.

What do you hope the audience get out of the show week by week?

I hope they genuinely enjoy this fresh retelling of a story that I think most people are familiar with in the first place and also, for younger viewers, that they learn about these characters and love them and love the whole world and the whole history: just genuinely get caught up in this action adventure romance, which is kind of what the whole thing is. This is like story-telling at its best and that's why we make these things - to give audiences a right rollicking piece of entertainment. I hope they just watch it and love it and keeping watching it in their droves.

What attracted you to the Musketeers?

I thought the script was fantastic. Something really different to what was currently on the TV and also a character that was completely different to what I'd previously played. A big thing was that the female parts were so strong, which is rare in this industry.

What preparation did you do for the part?

Well, I'd already seen the film version starring Oliver Reed, but after finding out I'd got the part I purposely didn't watch any other versions of the story. I didn't want other people's performances to affect my interpretation of the part. I read the Dumas novel to gain an insight into the Musketeers' world and researched the era in which the story is set.

Tell us a bit about your character

Constance Bonacieux is the young wife of the town's cloth merchant. Her life is comfortable but void of excitement and happiness. She becomes involved with the Musketeers and this all changes. You see the true Constance. She's feisty, intelligent and passionate. She really holds her own against the boys and you wouldn't mess with her. Despite all this, underneath there's a massive vulnerability. She has a beautiful soul and is completely selfless.

What is Constance's view of the Musketeers?

She keeps them in check. She knows they can cause a bit of trouble but ultimately she knows they are good guys and trusts them 100 per cent. She has a particular soft spot for D'Artagnan . . .

Do you think you would have enjoyed life in 17th-century Paris?

Absolutely not. Wearing a corset everyday? No ta. Also everyone would have stunk!

What was your favourite scene to film?

I think it was probably the first scenes I filmed. It was from episode one, where Constance has to pretend to be a prostitute. It was night and minus 10 with snow on the ground. I've never been so cold in my life, but it was so exciting. The surroundings were stunning and I got to fire a gun!

What do you hope the audience get from the show?

I hope it appeals to everybody. It's a drama that everyone can enjoy and it's something very different to what is being shown on other channels. It's dark, gritty and edgy but is also funny as well.

What attracted you to The Musketeers?

The script was so action-packed and obviously the story is quite well known, the original. It was still the original characters, but the story was fun and the script was up to date and had a kind of modern feel to it. I just could tell that it was going to be a great family show and it would look great.

Can you tell us a bit about your character and who you're playing?

My character is Queen Anne and she is married to Louis the king. She's still quite young, and even though they've been married for 10 years they got married when they were basically children, and so she's still feeling her way in court. Although she's got all the trappings of power, she has quite little power in real terms because the cardinal is there controlling everything and he's also quite wary of her because she's originally from Spain, whom France are on the verge of war with. She has a bit of a hard time as well because she's in this relationship with Louis, who's quite a difficult sort of character, and they don't really have a romantic relationship at all. They're more like brother and sister and she has a lot of pressure on her to be expected to have a child, an heir to the throne, and she's not yet been able to do that, so at the start of the show she's in a difficult position. But she handles everything with a lot of grace, whilst still remaining quite strong-willed.

What do you think is so appealing about the genre?


I think this is different from the other period stuff out there, because it's got this kind of chivalric romantic feel about it, but also a sense of fun. It's a bit wittier in a way than some of the drier, heavy period dramas that you see on TV.

I think what's attractive about period drama is the different worlds and the characters there who are sticking up for what you believe in.

You did quite a lot of scenes with Peter Capaldi. What does he bring to that role of the cardinal, which is such an infamous role in history and in the films of the past?


It's just such brilliant casting I think. I couldn't imagine anyone else doing it now. He is the ultimate cardinal in my view. When he is acting as the cardinal, he oozes this kind of sinister quality and it's brilliant. He was just fascinating to watch and a lovely man to work with. I couldn't say enough good things about him really.

What's Anne's relationship like with the Musketeers? How does she first meet them and how does that progress throughout the series?

Well Captain Treville is in and around quite a lot in court - he is one of Louis's right-hand men, so she's quite familiar with him. I think symbolically for her, they represent a kind of adventure, a kind of romantic adventure that she isn't able to experience living in court and being stifled by kind of all the obligations of being queen. The values that they stand up for, like bravery, honour and social justice, are all things that she supports and I think she trusts Treville in a way that she doesn't trust the cardinal. When the cardinal and the Musketeers come to blows she'll always be on Treville's side.

What did filming in the Czech Republic and being there bring to the story?

Yes, I can't imagine where else we could have done it now. There were amazing locations, I was wowed every single day I went on set basically, and it was nearly always different. There were obviously a few rooms that were used again and again, but I was so surprised by how many different locations there were. They just seemed to be endless. It looks epic and completely of the time and it transports you to that world. You've got the gritty kind of tavern scenes and fighting scenes with the boys. Then when you come to court you're really in court and you feel that I think from the location.

It's fair to say you got some of the most elaborate costumes. How did that help you get into character?

Yes, hugely. Because you just wouldn't have a clue what that feels like to be wearing that sort of thing every day, which is what it would have been like. There are corsets and huge, heavy dresses with masses of layers. So in terms of how it makes you feel when you're in it, you do automatically feel different. You have to hold yourself differently. But also, the sheer elegance of the material and all the details is a constant reminder that you were the highest class. You were one down from God essentially, as ruling the country.

And just finally, what do you hope the audience gets out of the show?

I hope they have a really good time. I hope they really grow to love the characters because I think they're all hugely loveable, villains as much as the heroes. I think, well, I hope that they engage with the through-line of the characters, and obviously each story, each week has got a really great story and they have fun watching it and they laugh. But I hope they also engage with the roots for the through-line of the characters, you know, the romantic backgrounds of all the characters where they've come from. I think that's been well crafted into the script in a quite detailed way. I hope the audience pick up on those things and it makes it more enjoyable for them.

What attracted you to the show in the first place?

Well, I thought that the writing was very, very good. I loved the script. That was definitely what first attracted me. The character of Louis was the character I auditioned for as well and I thought he seemed like he would be great fun to be. I've never played somebody of such high status on television, but I have done it in theatre. He seemed like a character full of contradictions who was able to go from being emotional to being humorous to everything in between. I found that very appealing and challenging and exciting.

What sort of research did you have to do when you knew you were going to be playing King Louis?

I read The Three Musketeers, the Dumas book. The historical Louis is rather different to our Louis though, but I still do sort of dip into biographies of Louis XIII and have found some to be helpful. I've watched a lot of drama around the period. I watched all the previous Three Musketeers films, which were all very good, and that sort of thing really. I've played kings before and so started to remember what was useful about playing them. It's nice when you play characters where you can draw on previous research.

What do you think were the big differences between the real King Louis and the fictional one in The Musketeers?

He's certainly perceived in history to be a weak king and that is sort of Dumas's doing really. There's a suggestion in one biography that he actually wasn't weak at all and that he was on the front line of a horse fighting his own battles. The historical Louis is sort of up for grabs as well really, so we haven't worried too much about it, we're sort of creating our own Louis. We're taking many sort of fictional liberties, but hopefully creating a fun series, a playful Louis XIII rather than an historically accurate one.

Could you tell us about Louis and just a little about his back story in this reimagining of The Musketeers?

Louis has basically had his own mother attempt to steal his throne, so psychologically he is very damaged and his father was assassinated. There was this very competitive court life, where people like Cardinal Richelieu and his own mother and many of the courtiers are ruthless and brilliant politicians. So psychologically, he's had to deal with a lot of trauma and responsibility. I think Louis has sort of dealt with that by not dealing with it really, and has to rely on a lot people.

What is his relationship with the Musketeers?

It's well explored in the series. I think in the beginning he doesn't really know them individually. He sort of recognises a familiar face, but knows Hugo's character because he is the chief guard essentially. Different adventures happen, basically every one of them saves Louis's life or the queen's life at some point, so that's how the personal relationships develop. By the end of the series, he is on first-name terms with all of them, and you can see the beginnings of the relationship.

Very few people get to see the cardinal up close like Louis does. How would you describe their relationship, the king and the cardinal?

I would describe it as complicated. I think the cardinal has Louis's best interests at heart - or rather he has France's best interests at heart and he thinks that Louis is probably the safest option to keep France as stable as it can be when there is so much political friction and so much discontent and so many outside pressures in terms of competing empires. I also think Louis is very useful to the cardinal because the cardinal is so brilliant and Louis is not as brilliant. But he is easily manipulated by someone and wants the cardinal's brilliance, so he is a useful pawn. I think Louis is pretty safe in the cardinal's hands, but who knows? You couldn't really completely trust him, but I think Louis has to and sort of does.

What was it like acting so closely with Peter Capaldi?


It was a joy. He became a very, very close friend. We were in practically every scene together, so we spent a great deal of time together. He is a very funny and extremely wise and sensitive, interesting person. We still occasionally send each other humorous text messages. Working with Peter Capaldi will be treasured and I hope to do it again soon.

Just finally, what do you hope the audience gets out of the show week by week?


I hope the audience will primarily enjoy themselves. I think it's a fun show. I hope they're gripped by stories and charmed by the characters or repelled. I hope they come along for the ride. I think it's a good show, we're all very proud of it.

How would you describe your character in The Musketeers?

Cardinal Richelieu is protector and confidant of the king as well as being essentially the first minister of France. He runs the country. He is a military figure as well as a religious and political one. He has a network of spies and operates like an illegal secret service to pursue his ends. He is by nature Machiavellian.

Did you do any research for the role?

I read the book.

How does the drama series differ from the book?

There is an expansion of the world and characters beyond that of the book.

Do you have any anecdotes from set?

The production suffered from a lot of injuries: dislocated shoulders, bruised shins, the odd concussion. It's one of the occupational hazards of being a swashbuckler. I myself suffered a nasty dislocated thumb, but embarrassingly not from swinging a sword around. Instead, my injury came from a domestic the cardinal was having with Milady, Maimie McCoy. I threw her against the wall not realising I'd caught my thumb in her large frock. I felt a jab of pain. And when the director said "Cut" I looked down and saw my thumb was on the wrong way round. Nasty! Instinct took over and I shoved it back. Which made my eyes water and my knees weak. The lesson clearly was, never get into a fight with Maimie McCoy!

How would you have coped living in the 17th century?


I don't think I would have been great in the 17th century. I would have enjoyed the frocks, and certainly some of the food would have been appealing, but the disease and hygiene would have worried me. I certainly would have missed the NHS.

Bookmark and Share BBC to mark 30th anniversary of Spitting Image

1/07/2014 01:44:00 pm - Reported by John Bowman

The 30th anniversary of ITV's satirical puppet show Spitting Image is to be marked with a special documentary on BBC Four.

In Whatever Happened To Spitting Image? the arts strand Arena will reunite the founding creative team and tell the vexed and frequently hilarious story of the genesis of the satirical puppet show, with exclusive contributions from caricaturists Peter Fluck, Roger Law, and TV producer John Lloyd.

Spanning 131 episodes over 18 series from February 1984 to February 1996, the show was made for Central Independent Television and broadcast across the ITV network.

The puppets became almost as famous as the politicians they lampooned, and in 2000 were auctioned off at Sotheby's. In the course of the documentary, the team sets out to discover where they now reside and who is taking care of them in their old age.

Revealing the extraordinary technical achievement of the series, Arena meets the caricaturists, puppet-mould-makers, designers, puppeteers, impressionists, writers, and directors who worked tirelessly to ensure the show landed its weekly jibes and punches at the politicians, royals, and celebrities of the day. And, tracing its journey to our TV screens, through 12 years of huge audience figures and weekly controversy to its eventual demise, Arena will ask what Spitting Image got right, where it went wrong, and whether its absence for the past 17 years has left a hole in the schedules that has yet to be filled by modern broadcasting.

The documentary has been directed by Arena series editor Anthony Wall, who said:
I made a film about Fluck and Law in 1980, some years before Spitting Image was made, so it's great to be able to revisit their distinctive contribution to Britain's television history.
Cassian Harrison, the channel editor for BBC Four, commented:
It's a testament to Arena's success and eclectic tastes that they've secured access to the Spitting Image team. This is a timely opportunity for Arena to look back at one of television's most extraordinary satirical successes.
A date for broadcasting the one-hour programme is yet to be confirmed, with the BBC currently saying that it will air in the spring, but it will have a preview screening at the BFI Southbank on Thursday 27th February at 6.10pm.
Thirty years ago, Roger Law and Peter Fluck were happily ensconced in a converted Temperance Hall in Cambridge making cruelly funny Plasticine caricatures. These models were photographed and presented to the world in print under the anonymous byline "Luck & Flaw". Unlike a drawing, the caricatures looked like they might move and, Geppetto-style, they did. Law and Fluck, with co-conspirator TV comedy supremo John Lloyd, unleashed one of the most shocking and hilarious TV series ever. Arena tells the story of Spitting Image.
After the screening, there will be a question-and-answer session with Fluck, Law, Lloyd, and Wall.

The big-screen showing and Q&A will be followed at 8.45pm with a special two-hour celebration and Q&A featuring clips and guests including impressionist Steve Nallon plus "victims" Lord Roy Hattersley and Lord David Steel.
We're delighted to host a panel of well-known writers and performers who gave the show its satirical edge and who became household names in the process, alongside some of their victims - politicians and celebrities - who will discuss the effect their puppet personas had on their careers. Using illustrative clips, we examine the show's controversial impact at the time and its lasting legacy, and reveal behind-the-scenes secrets of the performers, puppeteers, writers, and directors. So, in the words of one famous crew member: "Puppets up, loves - wave those dollies in the air!"
Tickets to both events go on public sale at 11.30am on Tuesday 11th February - click here for the preview screening/Q&A and here for the celebration/Q&A - with a joint event ticket also being made available.