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Thursday, 31 December 2020

BBC One announces Dynasties II

From the southern tip of the snow-capped Andes, to dusty plains in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, to vast wetlands fed by the flooding of the Zambezi River - these four films will tell the stories of elephant, cheetah, puma and hyena.

In 2018, more than eight million viewers were captivated by each episode of Dynasties, and the unbelievable daily struggles faced by David the chimpanzee, Charm the lioness, Blacktip the painted wolf and more. BBC One has confirmed with this season it will be bringing even more remarkable stories to life. The series will look at families and leaders; heroes and villains; triumph and tragedy.

Like the first series, each episode will delve deep into the lives of individual groups, filming in a single, iconic location, focusing on a protagonist leader and following them on their daunting quest to keep their family safe and establish their genetic line, or dynasty.

Each a leader in their own right; Angelina the matriarch elephant, she-cheetah Kali, Rupestre the puma and hyena clan-leader Suma, are confronted by a rapidly changing world with relentless competition for dwindling resources that stacks perilous odds against them. These pioneers must adapt quickly, or face losing their dynasty forever.

The second series promises to be equally fascinating, and will transport audiences into the dangerous, surprising and breath-taking worlds these animals inhabit, as demonstrated by Meerkat: A Dynasties Special on BBC One and iPlayer this December.

Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Science and Natural History, says: "Dynasties II will be a gripping look at the lives of four remarkable wild animals as they struggle to build a family against the odds. With characters you fall in love with, and genuine life-and-death stakes, this will be a series every bit as thrilling as the greatest drama."

Mike Gunton, Executive Producer, says: "Being able to tell these stories is a wildlife film-makers dream - and just like in series one, they are going to be a gripping rollercoaster ride."

The Serpent - Interview with Tahar Rahim and Jenna Coleman

Interview with Tahar Rahim

Who do you play?

I'm playing Charles Sobhraj, who is known to be a killer but also a conman - a very manipulative man, a narcissistic, and as sadistic as he is evil. Charles was born in Saigon, before moving to France when he was a kid with his mum, where he started his petty criminal career. At some point he decided to go back to his roots and move back to South East Asia to the 'hippie trail', where he started to con people and the murders began.

What attracted you to the role?

When I was 16 my brother was reading a book - this big thick book by his bed, and he was so into it. It was The Life And Crimes Of Charles Sobhraj - so I read it too, and I became fascinated by it. I think as human beings we're fascinated by - in this case - killers, but also by evil in general. It's fascination and repulsion.

I was a young guy who wanted to be an actor and after reading this book I thought, I'd like to play this guy. There's so much mystery. Fast forward to a few years ago, when I had an email from my agent saying Tom Shankland and Richard Warlow wanted to meet with me about playing a murderer called… Charles Sobhraj. I then went to a meeting with Tom and Richard, and I told them about the book and wanting to play Charles Sobhraj. When I talked with Tom more recently he said that day he didn't know if I was lying or not, but that he said to himself "this guy is our Charles - because we never know whether he's lying or not, but we believe him." But I was not lying!

What preparation did you do to play Sobhraj?

I needed to understand in a way what makes a murderer, I wanted to start from there. I read a lot of books on the subject, plus I spoke with some experts. I did my homework.

When you're playing someone who's alive and not especially famous, the key thing to do is to catch the soul. From there you can create everything else... but it's the soul, that's a hard thing to catch. Especially with Charles - it's not easy.

What was the biggest challenge for you?

It wasn't easy to be seductive and mysterious enough to draw people in, but at the same time be scary enough for the audience. You have to be aware that there's an audience watching you, but at the same time you have the characters who are in front of you, who in most cases can't be scared of Charles - otherwise he doesn't con them. It's a thin line to find. You can't hide behind the words, in this case. It's all about what's inside and about the way you look.

Interview with Jenna Coleman

Who do you play?

I play Marie-Andrée Leclerc, who is a real life person. She is from Quebec in Canada, and she's lived a very normal life with a very big family. She is very religious, devout, has never left her country before. She's nearing her 30s and I think she is craving some form of adventure. So she leaves her country for the first time and she meets Charles Sobhraj. He is a man like she's never met before. He represents everything to her that is exciting and everything she feels she hasn't had in her life so far, so she kind of becomes obsessed. I think she's a real romantic and she places so much faith and love in him, and it becomes a kind of obsessive delusional addiction with him. The reality is very, very different to the narrative that she creates.

What made you want to play her?

The script itself was so dextrous and layered. Initially you meet this character called Monique (Marie-Andrée's alias, when she's in disguise with Charles) who's this mysterious, unknowable and interesting character. And then underneath there's Marie-Andrée, the person who she really is. I was really drawn to the challenge of playing Marie-Andrée, this unconfident lady who doesn't have much self-esteem, becoming this other person. The constant play between Monique and Marie-Andrée felt like such complex material. But also the story - it reels you in completely. And the fact that it's true. There's something about the hedonistic world of the 1970s where you could get lost in a way that you can't get lost in the world anymore. The actions that Charles could commit, a lot of them thankfully couldn't happen today either.

The 1970s hippie trail was a time and place where people went to lose themselves. Marie-Andrée reinvents herself entirely. She is able to pretend and commit to being someone who she's never been, and there's something really addictive about that.

What research did you do?

We've got access to Marie-Andrée's diaries, and a lot of biographies, and there was so much reporting about the crimes that there was a wealth of material for research. Marie-Andrée's backstory in particular was so interesting in terms of understanding how and why somebody could fall into the charm of Charles and into that world. Within a short time of meeting him she was already witness to his crimes. It's like, in the space of that time how can a person become so blinded so quickly? Having the wealth of material about her previous life before she met him was so useful.

What were the challenges of the role?

Probably one of the toughest things to get was Marie-Andrée's voice. Both her French-Canadian accent when speaking English, and then her French-Canadian accent when speaking French. To try and find that was really hard… but again we can hear her interviews so I could hear her real voice in press interviews and her tapes from prison. I was learning the French language from scratch, and I'm Northern and before this job I literally could not roll my Rs, so it's been a vocal journey! I can now say 'très bien' correctly, which actually took me months. It became a bit of an intense French boot camp of training my mouth to make the noise 'trè' and many things like that. I felt like I was in My Fair Lady, having vocal training to change the movement of my mouth.

Many of the actors I was filming with are French themselves, so to try and work authentically within that realm was a big challenge. It was probably professionally one of the scariest challenges - to go from learning it from scratch to within two months being on set opposite Tahar and speaking in French. A good challenge, but a big challenge.

How much do you feel Marie-Andrée was a victim, and how much do you feel she was an accomplice?

I find her so fascinating. She has so much faith in love and is such a romantic that upon meeting Charles she kind of embroils herself in her own incorrect vision of what she thinks this environment is. She constructs her own false narrative and is so delusional. I think that's the only way she can remain in the world, knowing underneath what terrible, despicable acts are really happening and she is helping him commit. Reading the real Marie-Andrée's diaries, Charles to her is almost like a religion. Everything is about him. She places every waking breath upon the way he treats her - it's an utter, utter fixation.

I do think there's a choice that she makes - and the choice that she makes is to ignore the truth. Because to acknowledge the truth is to put her in a reality that she doesn't want to be in. She would rather exist in her own reality. She has this life and this world with Charles where she's reinvented herself to almost be a person in the magazines she's obsessed with. And the alternative is that she returns to Canada and becomes a receptionist again, and life becomes that bit more greyer.

How was filming in Bangkok?

Crazy, in the most amazing way. The scenery is incredible, and Bangkok has such a frenzy and an energy that it really infiltrates into the series. There's just so much life and culture. It's the hottest place to shoot, though. Wearing a wig in the 1970s in Bangkok is very hot!

The Serpent - Commissioned by BBC One and made by Mammoth Screen

An introduction to The Serpent, by Richard Warlow
Tom Shankland took me out some time late in the summer of 2013. He had a story, so he said, something he thought I should write…

The sequence of events that entwined the lives of Charles Sobhraj and Herman Knippenberg is a tale that worms its way into you. There are circularities, coincidences and synchronicities so awful and outrageous you gape. But, at the end of that night, Tom had me. I was in.

Three years later, I had the great privilege of meeting Herman for the first time. There is nothing awful or outrageous about him. Which I was grateful to have established for me in the flesh because it was the discovery of Herman's part in the Charles Sobhraj story - and his altogether more straightforward character - that had allowed me to see a way through the lysergic maze of swaggering claim and counter-claim that had always distinguished accounts of his crimes (most of it, it must be said, driven by the man himself).

I needed a structure that could not only support eight hours of television but also allow us to place someone genuinely heroic at the heart of our drama, a character both to anchor an audience's affections and whose investigations would also provide a counterpoint to Sobhraj's particular brand of magnetism. Because if Sobhraj was The Lizard King, the hip chameleon cruising effortlessly through the fracturing borders of 1970s Asia, Herman Knippenberg - to use the vernacular of the times - was a 'square'.

A square whose more traditional qualities of decency, diligence and compassion finally saw The Serpent caged.

So there were structural and thematic gains from the decision to focus on Herman. Although his pursuit of Sobhraj never fitted a classical procedural shape, had fallow periods down the years (when it seemed his quarry had eluded him for good) and was informed by the fact that the two men never met (and still have not), it allowed me to create a robust frame within and around which we could then watch as all the other characters enter - and leave - Sobhraj's life.

Chief among these was Marie-Andrée Leclerc, his lover and accomplice. A woman who left the drabbest of upbringings in suburban Quebec to find a love that both transformed and cursed her, and who now forms the third point around which our stories spin.

I want our audience to find Sobhraj the way others found him. Through Herman, who, by the discovery of the man's acts, knew him for what he was; through Marie-Andrée who saw him as the answer to the dead end her life had become; and through all those others whose journeys across the nexus points of the hippie trail tragically intersected with a killer so cruelly expert in identifying their needs...

Be it for a bed and a hot shower, rare gems, acceptance or love - Sobhraj saw those needs and then presented himself as the cure.

Mid-1970s Asia is far gone from the here and now, and the myth-making behind who Sobhraj became is elaborate and often one-sided but, through the development of the scripts, we have been scrupulous and determined in seeking first-person accounts from the people who were there.

Sobhraj had been at the wheel of his own story for many years, spinning his yarns to the enthralled and gullible, his ability to mesmerise never waning, it seems. We wanted instead to encourage and record the testimonies of others who were there...

So, Herman aside, his then wife Angela has been an invaluable friend to the project and a permanent source of both proven fact and sensitive insight. Sompol Suthimai, a colonel from Thai Interpol in those years, and whose own investigations came to cross with Herman's, has provided invaluable procedural understanding.

Finally, and still most astonishingly to me, we have been able to meet and talk with a few of those who were, for a while, friends with Sobhraj and Leclerc, who shared their home, ate their food and went to their parties.

It's been invaluable and humbling to be able to call on the memories of such extraordinary men and women. They have been ceaselessly generous in their recall of what, for a few of them, was a dark and mortally dangerous sequence of events.

Which is of course a stark and poignant reminder of the young people who were never able to tell of the moment their trails crossed with Sobhraj and Leclerc.

For far too long Sobhraj was able to falsely characterise these victims as somehow deserving of their fate, as drug dealers or drug smugglers unworthy of compassion. A position many in the media were, at the time, all too willing to repeat and reinforce.

Which is another reason we wanted to tell this story the way we have, to find these young men and women in the life they were living before they met Sobhraj and, in whatever small way we can, reclaim them for who they were: wide-eyed kids who went looking for adventure and instead found a monster waiting.

It's to all those brave young intrepids that we now dedicate the work.

Richard Warlow

The Great - An interview with Sacha Dhawan and Phoebe Fox

An interview with Sacha Dhawan

How would you describe the show and your character?

Orlo is Russia's first geek of books. A mostly ignored advisor to Peter (Hoult) whose job it is to bring some intellectual and legal framework to discussions. Under all that neurotic anxiety beats the heart of a Lion. He becomes Catherine's (Fanning) partner in crime.

The Great is an unexpected period show, loosely based on the life and rise to power of Catherine the Great. Its unique because it respects the period whilst throwing it out the window at the same time. For starters, I'm a British South Asian actor playing a character that is Russian from head to toe, and that's what the show does so well. It challenges the audiences perception right from the get go! I like to think of it as an ensemble of contemporary characters in a period setting, and the challenges and dilemmas they face are as vital as our dilemmas and challenges today.

What drew you to the script?

I was a huge fan of Tony McNamara's writing even before I read the pilot for The Great. I thought The Favourite was sublime. For me, I see Tony as a playwright first and foremost. His dialogue is naturalistic, but it never feels general. In fact, it's incredibly specific, as are the characters he creates. The Great strikes that perfect balance between comedy and drama, which makes it a complete joy to play.

I also loved the energy of it, it felt both fast and furious. And of course, I was totally drawn to the character of Orlo who was complex, multi-layered, and had real heart. I could also see the potential of the character evolving and changing over the course of the season as Catherine continued to grant him the permission to exceed his own expectations.

It was also the perfect opportunity to challenge myself. I love playing characters that flip my last part on its head. My last being a martial arts villain in Marvel's Iron Fist, the polar opposite to the 'loveable' Orlo.

How much did you know about your character before filming and what research did you do?

As The Great is loosely based on the life and rise to power of Catherine the Great, it was a relief to know that I didn't have to try and imitate or replicate a historical figure, I could make the character my own. Tony was also keen for us not to get bound down by the history or etiquette even, which was incredibly refreshing. I hadn't seen or been part of anything like it. Everything I needed to know was in Tony's writing, not in history books, which can often get in the way sometimes making you less instinctive.

What are you most curious about regarding your character?

You never know what turn your character might take next on The Great because Tony's always adapting storylines from what he sees on screen or in the edit. He's totally open to us asking him about preliminary character arcs etc., but its constantly evolving, and I kind of like that. The unpredictability; The not knowing. His storylines never fail to surprise me, and as daunting as it can be at times, it keeps me on my toes. It also forces me to be as spontaneous and in the moment as possible, because I genuinely have no idea what may be in store for Orlo next…

The script knowingly plays fast and loose with history – did that mean you approached your character differently than you normally might?

I guess because the script plays fast and loose with history it gave me the total freedom to approach the script like I would with any other; to start with a blank canvas and put my own stripes on the character as it were. The Great isn't a historical period drama, in fact, I see it more as a contemporary drama. Yes, it's based on Catherine the Great's rise to power, but at its heart, it's really the story of a young woman. And the wonderful world that springs out of that feels just as relatable in today's world not only from a political stance, but from an emotional one too.

What was surprisingly difficult or challenging about inhabiting this role?

Tony's writing is incredibly naturalistic, but it's also very specific. Every word, comma and full stop is there for a reason, nothing is ever wasted, and there's also a certain rhythm to his dialogue. It can be a challenge at times to memorise lines with this kind of precision and detail, but once you're on top of it and in the scene with the other actors that's when you hear Tony's writing really come to life. It's pretty amazing. I love getting the initial script drafts, and unpicking the dialogue, because there's never just one way of playing it. And of course the writing is incredibly funny, but to really land the joke, you have to almost do the complete opposite, and not play the humour of it at all. That can be tricky at times, trying to keep a straight face and keep it together!

The period costumes look terrific. What were your reactions to them?

I felt immensely proud as an actor of colour to not only wear a period costume, but a costume that gave the character status at court. I was dressed to be 'seen', right on the front line as it were, and I loved that. Not only was there a real attention to detail, but our brilliant costume designer, Emma Fryer was also really collaborative to ensure that we created a period costume that was totally unique to Orlo; from the way his neck scarf was
tied, right down to the style and colour of his shoes. I found the costumes quite comfortable actually. To be fair, I think us guys have it a lot easier! In saying that, I did find wearing 'heels' took a little bit of getting used too. Oh, and I forgot about the wig?! That actually took quite a bit of time to put on…if only you knew how long it takes Orlo to get ready in the mornings?!

The Great is a LOT of fun to watch. At the same time has a lot to say in a world still living in the fall out of #MeToo; would you agree?

The Great is a lot fun to watch, but it's also refreshing to be part of a show that empowers women, not just on-screen, but behind the screen too. We have some amazing female crew members, assistant directors, producers, writers, and HODs [Heads of Department]. And three fantastic female directors who worked on season one; including Geeta Patel, who directed the series finale, and absolutely nailed it! The Great wouldn't be the show it is without this incredible pool of talent.

Did you have a favourite scene to film? Do you have a favourite or most memorable line of dialogue?

I loved filming the sequence where Orlo heads to the front line to speak to Velementov in episode six, but doesn't quite get there. Instead it becomes a catalyst of events that change Orlo forever. To be fair, I always felt his 'lion heart' was going to rip from its seams at some point and this was the perfect opportunity to tip him over the edge.

Also much as I love filming in the palace, which is actually a huge studio in East London, it's always nice to venture beyond and film on location. Whenever a character or group of characters leave the palace grounds I know we're about to embark on a mini adventure or excursion, and there's always a genuine feeling of excitement amongst us all, depending on the weather that is?!

What are you most looking forward to in season two (of what you can share at this stage)?

Orlo comes back a changed man after those catalyst of events in episode six and I'm excited to see how the character evolves going forward. I'm also excited to see how the dynamic between Orlo and Catherine develops in the next season. Not only are they partners in crime, but the two are like siblings who love and care for each other but are also prone to be at loggerheads as well. And they're not afraid to challenge each other but never fail to have each other backs in times of crisis.

I can't wait to get back on set especially after such a turbulent year that has affected so many of us. There's no doubt this will bring a new energy into Season 2, which will only take the show to even greater heights.

2020 has been quite a year; how would you describe your own experience of it? The Great will TX in Jan of 2021 on Channel 4; How would you describe your expectations of 2021?

I'm still trying to process my experience of 2020. It's certainly had its up and downs, but we've also been fortunate enough to witness some key historical changes that I hope will shine some light on what has been a dark period for many. It's been a turbulent year but it's also given us the opportunity to reflect, and connect with the things that really matter. Who knows what 2021 will bring, but whatever the outcome, I know that the resilience of the human race will continue to adapt to whatever life throws at us. I've learnt to just try and be as present as possible, take each moment as it comes, making sure we look after each other along the way.

The Arts couldn't be more important than ever right now to provide us with that well needed respite, and escapism. And The Great certainly does that, in spades. The show wouldn't be what it is without our amazing team of ensemble actors, many of whom orginate from a theatre background, including Tony McNamara. Without theatre, shows such as this that challenge boundaries, would cease to exist, which is even more of a reason that we strive to keep the Arts alive.

An Interview with Phoebe Fox

How would you describe the show and your character?

The show is an irreverent take on the life of Catherine The Great. A costume drama with funny bones. I play Marial, a former lady of the court, now turned begrudging servant.

What drew you to the script?

I loved Marial! She's a foul-mouthed, casually violent, force of nature with a witty heart. I knew I'd have fun playing her.

The script knowingly plays fast and loose with history – did that mean you approached your character differently than you normally might?

I'm a bit of a nerd, so I would normally have started the process of creating Marial with a deep dive into the history of the period. But from the first day of rehearsal it become quite clear that it would have been a slightly pointless task. Instead I worked on the character through her physicality. From the way she holds her head, to how she walks.

What was surprisingly difficult or challenging about inhabiting this role?

The script demands an enormous amount of speed. Especially when you're (trying to) deliver the funny lines, you need to be able to whip through it - something that's incredibly hard when a corset is stopping you from taking a full breath.

The period costumes look terrific. What were your reactions to your costumes?

I had a moment of jealousy seeing the other ladies dressed up to the nines, whilst I had to make do with my head wrap. But I channelled all that into the character, and actually in the end I think I dodged a bullet- my costume was much comfier, and with 12-hour working days, comfort is the holy grail.

Did you have a favourite scene to film? Do you have a favourite or most memorable line of dialogue?

"Shut up whore" has gotta be up there…

What Christmas or Holiday traditions do you always abide by or look forward to?

And can they happen this year, do you think? Is there, for example, a TV series or film or book you return to? I think we may have to forgo the game of rounders my family normally plays on Boxing day! Aside from that, my husband has already started talking about our annual re-watching of The Lord of The Rings trilogy- not exactly Christmassy but a tradition all the same.

2020 has been quite a year; how would you describe your own experience of it?

2020 has been crap. I have high expectations for 2021!

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Vinyl and cassette sales surge as streamers collect the music they love in lockdown

New figures released by record labels' association the BPI using Official Charts Company data will show that alongside continued growth in streaming, which now accounts for around 80% of UK music consumption, sales of vinyl LPs and audio cassettes surged ahead in 2020. Fans turned to their favourite music in ever greater numbers to escape the lockdown blues, the figures will show.

There has never been so much choice in terms of how to discover, access and enjoy music. Most fans turn to the immediacy of streaming for much of their daily listening, but increasingly they complement this by collecting much-loved albums on vinyl, CD, download and even on cassette. Record labels work with their artists to provide this choice by releasing music across digital and physical formats and by licensing their artists' work to hundreds of different music services.

Vinyl gets the high five

Nearly 5 million (4.8m) LPs were purchased in the UK over the past 12 months – a leap of nearly a tenth on sales in 2019 and a 13th consecutive year of growth since 2007. Vinyl LPs now account for nearly 1 in 5 of all albums purchased (18%) and are at their highest level since the early nineties. Vinyl generates almost twice as much in industry revenues as music video streaming platforms, such as YouTube, despite the tens of billions of videos watched every year.

Among the titles expected to be announced as the year's best sellers by the Official Charts are classic LPs by iconic artists such as Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, who in 2020 celebrated their 50th anniversary, Oasis's (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, Amy Winehouse's Back To Black and Nirvana's Nevermind. New studio albums have also done very well, including Harry Styles' Fine Line, Kylie Minogue's Disco, AC/DC's Power Up, and Ultra Mono by IDLES – the follow up to the 2019 Hyundai Mercury Prize shortlisted album Joy As An Act Of Resistance.

Vinyl LP sales initially dipped during the first lockdown but by September they began showing positive year-to-date growth for the first time. Campaigns such as LoveRecordStores, Tim's Twitter Online Listening Parties (both in March), Record Store Day (postponed to June but with extra events), The Record Club and National Album Day (in October) helped to rally fans in support of indie record shops, specialist chains and the artist community.

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI, BRIT Awards & Mercury Prize, said: "In a year when all our lives have changed, music's power to inspire has never been more evident. The immediacy and convenience of streaming make it the go-to audio format for most of our listening, but more and more fans choose to get closer to their favourite artists and albums on vinyl.

"It's remarkable that LP and audio tape sales should have risen at all given the challenges we've all faced. The surge in sales despite retail closures demonstrates the timeless appeal of collectable physical formats alongside the seamless connectivity of streaming."

The BPI will report its final music consumption figures on January 4th 2021.

Predicted best-selling vinyl albums for 2020 (Based on YTD Official Charts data)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Oasis – (What's The Story) Morning Glory?
Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
Nirvana – Nevermind
Harry Styles – Fine Line
Kylie Minogue – Disco
AC/DC – Power Up
Queen – Greatest Hits
IDLES – Ultra Mono
Arctic Monkeys – Live At The Royal Albert Hall
Cassettes reel in the fans

Though still only a fraction of overall recorded music, cassettes, typically released in limited edition format, now come as standard on many album releases. Final figures based on Official Charts data for 2020 will be confirmed on 4th January, but it is projected that around 157,000 tapes will have been purchased in the past 12 months – double the total of the year before and the highest amount since 2003, when 243,000 tapes were sold and Now 54 was the year's biggest seller on the format. This would mark an eighth year of consecutive growth for the format, which is finding a new market among music enthusiasts of all ages who value its retro, collectable appeal.

Among the most popular titles released on cassette in 2020 were Lady Gaga's Chromatica, 5 Seconds Of Summer's Calm, which to date is the year's fastest-seller, Yungblud's Weird, and The 1975's Notes On A Conditional Form. Other artists to have reeled in the fans on the format include South Korean all-girl pop band Blackpink, Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, Haim and not forgetting Kylie, whose 80s inspired Disco was a particular highlight of the year across all three main physical formats.

Predicted best-selling cassette albums for 2020 (Based on Official Charts data)

Lady Gaga – Chromatica
5 Seconds Of Summer – Calm
Yungblud – Weird
The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form
Blackpink – The Album
Selena Gomez – Rare
Kylie Minogue – Disco
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Haim – Women In Music Pt III
The Streets – None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive

Friday, 25 December 2020

The Great - An interview with Nicholas Hoult

How would you describe the show and your character?

The Great is a satirical view of Catherine's experience moving to Russia and planning a coup to become Empress after she discovers that her marriage and the court was not all she hoped for. It's about her growing up and understanding how she can change the world around her and use her voice. I play Peter, he's a childlike emperor who runs the court like a big party, lacking empathy or a filter. He's a real foodie.

What drew you to the script?

I love Tony's writing, it's unlike anything I've read. Sharp and witty with wonderful turns of phrase but also brilliant character development.

How much did you know about your character before filming and what research did you do?

Honestly not much, I'd maybe heard a rumour about Catherine and a horse. To prep for the character, I didn't research the real Peter, I used the script more as my guide to what the character should be like. We're not trying to be factual but tell a great story with this backdrop.

What are you most curious about regarding your character?

He's obviously a product of his environment and emotionally scarred from his parents so it's fun to examine that.

The script knowingly plays fast and loose with history – did that mean you approached your character differently than you normally might?

Yes, because I didn't feel locked to trying to recreate an authentic version of Peter it meant I could be looser and have more fun with the role.

The series is set in Russia but is filmed in English. How did you hit upon the accent you went with?

The accent I went for is kind of based on a public schoolboy, quite clipped. I think Peter has a stream of conscious so talks quickly and doesn't filter himself.

What was surprisingly difficult or challenging about inhabiting this role?

The fun thing is discovering more and more through Tony's writing. The character has lots more depth and heart than originally appears so that's a fun challenge.

The period costumes look terrific. What were your reactions to your costumes?

I love the costumes; they certainly help to inhabit the character. I especially like the skirt I got to wear.

The Great is a LOT of fun to watch. At the same time has a lot to say in a world still living in the fall out of #MeToo; would you agree?

Yes. It's very much about female empowerment and holds a mirror up to a lot of things happening in the world today. But wrapped up in a fun historic setting.

Has any of Tony's way of seeing the world crept into your daily life?

It's made me appreciate food and quality cooking and flavour pairings more!

Do you have a favourite line of dialogue?

So many wonderful lines of dialogue I can't remember them all, perhaps "Toosh" that Peter says to Catherine before getting corrected to "Touché".

What are you most looking forward to in season two (of what you can share at this stage)?

I'm looking forward to seeing where the relationships go, the characters took so many unexpected turns in the first series I'm excited to see what's next.

2020 has been quite a year; How would you describe your expectations for 2021?

Where to start!!! Try to be optimistic and hopefully we can take any positives from this year forward into 2021 to make it better?

The Great - An Interview with Elle Fanning

How would you describe the show and your character?

The Great is a historical satire that follows Catherine the Great's rise to power in 18th century Russia. Catherine is an idealistic young woman who finds herself in a backwards world, married to a tyrant. She quickly realises she would be a better ruler and plots to take over the throne. Catherine is romantic and naive at the start, but throughout the series her ruthlessness grows.

What drew you to the script?

I was drawn to Tony McNamara's singular voice. The tone and world he created was one I had never read before. The effortless blend of dark, bizarre comedy and emotional realism. I read the script before I saw The Favourite so I really had nothing to compare it to. The elaborate period setting, over the top situations, yet still grounded characters all set in a high stakes environment. He truly is a writing genius! Above all, Catherine as a character was what made me have to be a part of the show. She is such a dichotomy of a person. Each page surprised me with what she was willing to do. Tony captured her struggle as a woman trying to navigate a patriarchal society and not always succeeding. She isn't a perfect character. She is learning as she goes along with the guidance from the court.

How much did you know about your character before filming and what research did you do?

I have to admit I did not know much. I knew she was the Empress of Russia, but I did not realize all the amazing things she did for her country. Sadly, the world has reduced her legacy to a false rumour about her and a horse. She brought art, science, and women's education to Russia. And she invented the rollercoaster! I stopped there once I learned that. Anyone who invents the rollercoaster has got to be fun! The Great does play loose with history. Our show is by no means a historical document, but hopefully captures the essence of the real Catherine the Great and what she achieved and stood for.

What are you most curious about regarding your character?

I absolutely love Catherine's unapologetic arrogance. She has a youthful confidence, which translates to always having a way to problem solve. She loves herself and truly believes she is best for the job. Her optimism pushes her through some extremely tough situations. Throughout the series, destiny plays a beautiful role. Catherine's love affair is not really with a man, it's with a country. Her driving force is for Russia and fulfilling her destiny to help find reason and democracy. I would say Catherine is an activist in every sense of the word. There are two types of people. Those who sit back and watch and those who take action. Catherine runs into the flames every time.

The script knowingly plays fast and loose with history – did that mean you approached your character differently than you normally might?

Very early on, Tony told us to put away our history books. I wanted to create my own version of Catherine. I still approached her like I would any character. I guess the most different was it being a 10-hour series instead of a two-hour film. Having the luxury to explore and pace myself with a character was a blessing. Tony is also super strict with our lines. There is absolutely no ad libbing! In a way, being married to the words makes for a whole other kind of freedom. Freedom in the movement and in the rhythm of scenes.

The series is set in Russia but is filmed in English. How did you hit upon the accent you went with?

Since we are not following the history books and in actuality, we would be speaking an entirely different language altogether, it made most sense to go with an English accent across the board for all characters. Tony writes for the rhythm and cadence of the English accent. It sounds much more delicious.

What was surprisingly difficult or challenging about inhabiting this role?

The comedic timing and memorisation. Tony writes us some meaty speeches. My memorising muscle was stretched to its limits. I have never done theatre, but I would think our scenes felt a lot like doing a play. And the comedy of it all was a new challenge. Nicholas Hoult was no stranger to Tony's writing, having just come off The Favourite, so Nick helped me a lot to get the speed and banter required for scenes.

The period costumes look terrific. What were your reactions to your costumes?

The costumes are drop dead gorgeous. I wish I could say they were as comfortable as they were beautiful. The corsets take some getting used to. I do not envy the ladies of the time. All of us women were so jealous of Nick [Hoult] and the other guys because they would saunter around shirtless or in robes! Corsets aside, the way my costumes tell Catherine's journey is vital. Her silhouettes stay pretty simple and practical compared to the ladies of the Russian court. My main colors were pale blue and green. But of course, at the end there is an electric pink dress (my favourite) that summarizes Catherine perfectly. It is her birthday dress and the dress she's going to kill her husband in! It incapsulates her femininity, youth, and boldness.

The Great is a LOT of fun to watch. At the same time has a lot to say in a world still living in the fall out of #MeToo; would you agree?

There is a particular scene I'm thinking of when Catherine says to Marial (Phoebe Fox): "if they invent something easier than buttons, we're in trouble." Our show is about a young woman expressing her opinions loudly and being shut down for doing so. But Catherine persists in making herself heard.

Has any of Tony's way of seeing the world crept into your daily life?

Definitely! I now use "Huzzah" and "indeed" quite often! I haven't started smashing glasses yet, but when the occasion calls for it, I'll be ready! I definitely have had enough practice!

Did you have a favourite scene to film and most memorable line of dialogue?

In episode two, Nick and I have a scene at the breakfast table. It was one of our first long back and forth scenes. We're just sitting and firing back at each other. I remember feeling so elated and having so much fun with Nick. He is such an incredible actor and human. We work very similarly and like to try off the wall ideas whether they work or not. He has made Peter entirely three dimensional. A character who on the page is so nasty and vile, Nick makes likable and charming. Also, we are always the first to crack and laugh in scenes. Once we start it's hard to get us to stop! My favourite line of dialogue, I have to say, was, "the horse said no, and nay means nay."

What Christmas or Holiday traditions do you always abide by or look forward to? Is there a Christmas film you return to?

My grandma's Christmas cooking is what I look forward to most! She is from Georgia, so the more butter the better! Christmas morning, she makes these cinnamon rolls called "sugar babies" that are essentially pastry wrapped around a melted marshmallow! My favourite Christmas movie is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

2020 has been quite a year; how would you describe your own experience of it? The Great will TX in Jan of 2021 on Channel 4; How would you describe your expectations of 2021?

2020 has affected everyone. We will always remember this particular year. It has been a time of fear, loss and sorrow, but has hopefully brought us all together. Everyone on this planet has been affected by the pandemic in one way or another. It has given us a commonality that hasn't existed for so long. This year has certainly made me more grateful and reminded me not to take the small things for granted. I hope 2021 brings peace and unity and many, many hugs!

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Pandemonium - Interview with Katherine Parkinson & Jim Howick

With family morale at an all-time low, the Jessops decide they're going to have their summer holiday after all, even if it means doing it in October. In Margate. All filmed by their youngest son, Pandemonium charts the Jessops last, dogged attempt at some quality family time in 2020, despite the best efforts of a global pandemic to pull them apart.

Pandemonium, a 1x30' is a BBC Studios production for BBC One written by Tom Basden. It was commissioned by Kate Phillips, Acting Controller BBC One and Shane Allen, Controller Comedy Commissioning. The Executive Producer is Josh Cole. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Gregor Sharp.

Character Overview - Rachel Jessop

A positive problem-solver, Rachel is hellbent on finding ways for the family to enjoy 2020, even when their plans have been totally trashed by the Coronavirus. Taking it upon herself to prop up the family finances and her husband Paul's self-esteem, Rachel goes to extreme and increasingly risky lengths to hold things together and give them the holiday she promised.

Can you give us an overview of the story?

Pandemonium follows a family over the last year who have to change their plans for a holiday of a lifetime to California.

What drew you to Pandemonium?

I was drawn to the script because it was Tom Basden writing, and also because I think it is extremely timely and will resonate hugely with everyone.

How do you relate to the Jessop family and your character Rachel?

I especially relate to Rachel's passion for the van Tulleken twins.

Do you have any favourite moments from filming?

My most memorable moment was jumping in the freezing Margate sea. I actually quite enjoyed it in the end but never again.

There's so much to watch over Christmas. Give us one really good reason Pandemonium should stand out as one to watch?

Pandemonium is what we've all been through the last few months, and I hope it presents the funny side to what has been a testing time for us all.

Character overview - Paul Jessop

Despite his best efforts to project confidence, Rachel's husband Paul is a fairly insecure soul, prone to overthinking things and occasional defeatism. Always harking back to his glory days as an Olympic Archer in his 20s to bolster his ego, Paul takes himself very seriously - even if the rest of the family find him quite ridiculous.

What drew you to Pandemonium?

Firstly, the script. I love Tom's work, always funny and smart and secondly, the concept. I really liked the idea of being in a family sitcom, shot via the eye of a home video.

Can you talk about your character Paul? Does he change throughout the episode?

Paul is an ex Olympic archer at a loose end because his archery school has closed due to Covid. He is a man who still lives off his former (almost) glory and is ridiculed by his family on a daily basis. He's also addicted to fudge.

What was it like working with Katherine and the other cast?

Katherine is a dream sitcom wife. She's incredibly funny and very nice. The other members of the family are very nice and very good too. It was a playful week full of delicious corpsing.

Do you have any favourite moments from filming?

We had to film in a car on the back of a low loader (a trailer thing on the back of actual car, actually being driven). That was fun. We had to make up car games and improvise songs. We went quite a way up the M1, after a while you forget you're being towed. That is until Katherine takes her hands off the wheel and everyone's terrified for a second.

There's so much to watch over Christmas. Give us one really good reason Pandemonium should stand out as one to watch?

It's a good old-fashioned funny family sitcom but the concept is cool and makes it feel modern and real. Almost like a documentary. So, it actually offers something completely different. Modern Family meets Blair Witch!

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Sky Documentaries announces gripping new docuseries exploring the next generation of football superstars

Sky today announces a gripping Sky Original docuseries from Expectation, Chasing the Dream, which follows promising young football players from South London as they enter the most critical time in their fledgling sporting careers. Produced by BAFTA and RTS award-winning indie, Expectation, in association with Sky Studios, the 4x60 minutes series will air on Sky Documentaries and NOW TV in 2022.

Filmed over the course of eighteen months, Chasing the Dream takes us to the epicentre of British footballing talent – South London. Here, young players battle the odds in fenced-in, artificial pitches known as "the cages", that occupy unlikely corners of towering council estates.

In this tough environment, the stakes are high as young players use their talent in the hope of securing a better life for themselves and for their families.

Alongside the players, the series centres the voices of pivotal influences in the tight knit world of South London football. From the scouts, agents and coaches who nurture talent, to the player's families and those who stand shoulder to shoulder on the pitch. In Chasing the Dream, we see that for these young players, football is not just a dream, but the only way out.

Poppy Dixon, Director of Documentaries and Factual, Sky said: "We're so proud to be able to share the powerful stories of these young players from South London along with the voices of their families and those nurturing their talent. Audiences will experience the heart-warming and dramatic journeys of these footballers, daring to change theirs and their families' lives through the beautiful game. Chasing the Dream will join a host of compelling, must-see documentaries from award-winning film makers on Sky Documentaries."

Colin Barr, Creative Director, Factual & Factual Drama, Expectation said: "South London is known as "the concrete Catalonia" for a reason and it's amazing to get the chance to tell the stories of young players trying to hit the big leagues. We'll witness the wins and the losses, the joy and the heartache. It's the side of football we never see, and we can't wait to bring audiences this gripping series."

The Ibiza Affair, a new Sky Original series for Sky Deutschland.

TV adaptation of the political scandal that rocked the Austrian government last year

Based on bestselling book, authored by Süddeutsche Zeitung journalists Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier

Sky Studios and W&B Television today announced The Ibiza Affair, a new Sky Original series for Sky Deutschland.

A meeting of several hours between two high-ranking Austrian politicians and an alleged Russian oligarch in a finca (country house) in Ibiza is secretly recorded on video. On 17 May 2019, the video is published by German news outlets Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and Der Spiegel - triggering a political scandal of unimagined proportions. The Ibiza Affair, a fictional series, tells the incredible story of how this video came about. It uncovers the background that led to the fateful meeting and shows how the political drama took its course.

The four-part series is based on the non-fiction book Die Ibiza-Affäre: Innenansichten eines Skandals (published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch) penned by Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, two journalists from Süddeutsche Zeitung, as well as background interviews and previously unpublished information.

W&B Television produces on behalf of Sky Studios. The series is written by Stefan Holtz and Florian Iwersen. Quirin Berg and Max Wiedemann produce for W&B Television, Marcus Ammon, Frank Jastfelder and Lucia Vogdt produce for Sky Studios. Filming will begin early 2021.

Marcus Ammon, Director Original Productions Sky Deutschland said: "The Ibiza Affair is a gripping political thriller. A scandal so unbelievable that it would be hard for any scriptwriter to dream up. Following the huge success of Der Pass, we are delighted to be once again working with Quirin and Max to tell the incredible story behind this now world-famous video that brought down Austria's FPÖ vice chancellor and with him the entire government."

Quirin Berg, producer W&B Television said: "The Ibiza Affair provides powerful evidence of the importance of independent journalism as the driving force of truth-telling and thus the cornerstone of our democracy. In the process, this story is completely absurd, spectacular, shocking, gripping - and above all, reality."

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Dancing on Thin Ice with Torvill & Dean

Fri 01 Jan 2021
9.00pm - 10.30pm

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean travel to Alaska on an extraordinary quest to fulfil a life-long dream.  

The Olympic champions have spent a remarkable 45 years on the ice together – but astonishingly they've never skated in the great outdoors. Jayne and Chris recall how as children they were inspired by a mural in Nottingham ice rink showing skaters on a frozen mountain lake. Ever since, they've wanted to skate free in nature, rather than round in circles on artificial ice. Now they've come to Alaska to make that dream come true.

But luck is against them – in Alaska's hottest year on record there is not a lot of ice to be found.
So Jayne and Chris's travels into the remote wilderness become a hunt for wild ice, skating wherever they can. From train to husky sled, from frozen lakes to glaciers, it's a spectacular journey. But will they succeed in their mission – to find the most magnificent natural setting to dance a special new version of their iconic Bolero as a unique tribute to our precious planet?

Stephen Fry narrates.

Britain’s Got Talent Christmas Spectacular

Britain's Got Talent is back for a spectacular Christmas special as we welcome to the stage the most memorable and talented acts from the past 14 years. Plus, in a Britain's Got Talent first, the acts will be collaborating and performing together for the ultimate Christmas extravaganza. All four judges will be stepping out from their seats and into the limelight for the very first time in what promises to be a festive filled show.
Keeping the festivities in order will be the nation's favourite presenting duo, Ant and Dec. Joining them will be our judging panel Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon, David Walliams and Ashley Banjo, who will be ready to be impressed by a whole host of talent.

Fri 25 Dec 2020
8.00pm - 9.55pm

BBC One commissions adaptation of Kate Atkinson's award-winning best-seller Life After Life

BBC One has commissioned a four-part adaptation of Kate Atkinson's Costa Award-winning Life After Life from House Productions.

The production company set up by Tessa Ross and Juliette Howell, which was behind the Emmy- nominated Brexit - An Uncivil War starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has secured the order for the epic drama which has been adapted by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Bash Doran (Traitors) and will be directed by Bafta Award-winning director John Crowley (Brooklyn, Boy A).

Life After Life is an intriguing, gripping and heartwarming story which centres on Ursula Todd, who dies one night in 1910, before she can draw her first breath. On that same night in 1910, Ursula is born and survives. She finds herself time and again, living and dying in different circumstances only to be reborn into a new, alternative iteration of life once more. This compelling and thoroughly unique story sees Ursula navigating her way through a critical era which spans two world wars, an encounter with Hitler and plenty of major life events. But what is it that Ursula so desperately needs to stay alive for?

Each of Ursula's alternative lives brings new challenges and half memories of what has come before, and with every one, fascinating, joyful, traumatic, witty and surprising experiences and relationships. Having an infinite number of chances to live her life, immense questions emerge: Can you ever lead a perfect life? Can you change the course of history? Can you save the world?

Tessa Ross and Juliette Howell, executive producers, say: "We feel hugely privileged that Kate Atkinson has entrusted the adaptation of her bestselling, award winning novel Life After Life to House. We have brought together an immensely talented team who love the novel as we do to: Bash Doran's scripts brilliantly capture the heart and soul of the novel, the warmth and scale of its world and the extraordinary characters who inhabit it. All human life is here, told through the experiences of Ursula who keeps on dying and being reborn.

"And in John Crowley, we know we have a wonderful and ambitious director who brings huge heart, gripping storytelling and an extraordinary visual flair to this incredible story. We can't wait to get started."

Piers Wenger, Director of BBC Drama, says: "We are honoured to be able to bring Kate Atkinson's adored Life After Life to life on the BBC. With the incredible team of Bash, John and House Productions behind it we have no doubt that this is going to be a really remarkable adaptation."

Filming on Life After Life will take place in spring 2021. Bash Doran has written all four episodes, John Crowley will direct and the producer is Kate Ogborn (End of the F***ing World). Doran and Crowley will be executive producers as will the novel's author, Kate Atkinson. Tessa Ross and Juliette Howell are executive producers for House Productions and Lucy Richer for the BBC. It was commissioned by Charlotte Moore, BBC Chief Content Officer, and Piers Wenger, Director of BBC Drama. BBC Studios will be the international distributors of the series.

Bobby Lockwood joins BBC One’s Casualty as paramedic Leon

He's handsome, charming, loveable… and could possibly get on your nerves. He never walks into a room without you knowing about it - but his ability to read the room is often off the mark. Leon cares so much about what others think, and puts 110% effort in with everyone he meets. However, his endless excitement can get in the way of knowing exactly where to stop, and he can sometimes brush his friends and colleagues up the wrong way.

Bobby Lockwood says: "I have absolutely loved playing Leon and it's a privilege to be representing paramedics and the NHS at such a critical time. Covid has made our job harder, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for our actual heroes on the front line."

Loretta Preece, Series Producer of Casualty says: "I am thrilled that Bobby Lockwood is joining our cast as the irrepressible paramedic Leon Cook. Bobby is adorable and has the most extraordinary comic timing. The Casualty building has been abuzz since Bobby joined us and I am confident that the audience will take Leon to their hearts. While Leon often finds himself inadvertently creating comic situations, we also see his character grow through his demanding and emotional work as a paramedic. Leon is a natural with the public, he feels things very deeply and everyone who encounters him seems to be charmed by him…. Except for Connie Beauchamp but that's another story."

Lucy Worsley to uncover real-life stories of the Blitz in new film for BBC One

BBC One has commissioned a special film exploring the Blitz, to mark the 80th anniversary of this cataclysmic event. Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley (1 x 90 min) will uncover the real-life stories of ordinary civilians caught on the frontline of a bloody and terrifying war. Night after night, from September 1940 until May 1941, German bombers attacked British cities, ports and industrial areas, in heavy and frequent attacks. Made by Blakeway Productions, part of Zinc Media Group, the film will reunite the team behind the Bafta Award-winning BBC One's Suffragettes With Lucy Worsley.

Simon Young, BBC Commissioning Editor, says: "Never has there been a more timely moment to explore what Blitz Spirit really means - and to unpack the archetypal experience of Britons in the midst of crisis. And there is nobody better equipped to tease apart the myths and truths of this piece of national folklore than Lucy and the team who made Suffragettes such a standout success."

Emma Hindley, Creative Director, Zinc Media, says: "I'm very excited to be working again with the Bafta Award-winning team and director Emma Frank. This time, through finding powerful first-hand accounts from biographies, oral history collections and private, unpublished diaries, Lucy will tell the story of some of the 'ordinary' women and men who lived and died in the Blitz and unpack some of the myths that surround this chapter in the UK's national story."

Lucy Worsley adds: "Having helped out the Suffragettes with their 'outrages' in 2017, I can't wait to visit a different and even more devastating part of the 20th Century with the same team."

Between 7 September 1940 and 11 May 1941 the suburbs, streets and homes of ordinary British people became a battleground. People living in London and other cities in the UK found themselves fighting a faceless enemy that rained death and destruction down on them from the sky, night after night. Nearly 50,000 people would perish beneath the rubble - in the tube stations and the bomb shelters, in their backyards and in their own beds. Women found themselves stepping into jobs that had previously been closed to them - on the frontline, volunteering for Civil Defence roles in their thousands - to be ARP wardens, stretcher bearers and nurses, alongside men who were unable to join up or who worked in key roles like the fire service. Blitz Spirit with Lucy Worsley will reveal how they took on the daily realities, the terrifying build-up, the horrors and even the thrills, of life during the eight-month Blitz.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Trailer released for fast paced and edgy ZeroZeroZero, coming to Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in 2021

Filmed across three continents (North America, Europe and Africa) and in six languages (English, Spanish, Italian, French, Wolof and Arabic), the eight episode series revolves around the violent Mexican cartels, power hungry Calabrian 'Ndrangheta and corrupt American businessmen who are all competing for supremacy over the world's cocaine trade.

ZeroZeroZero features an international cast including Andrea Riseborough (The Death of Stalin, Battle of the Sexes), Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spiderman 2, In Treatment), Gabriel Byrne (In Treatment, The Usual Suspects), Harold Torres (González, Sin Nombre, Northless), Giuseppe De Domenico (Euphoria), Adriano Chiaramida (Romanzo Criminale – La Serie), Francesco Colella (Made in Italy, Piuma) and Tcheky Karyo (Nikita, A Gang Story).

ZeroZeroZero will make its debut in 2020 on Sky in Italy, the UK, Ireland, Germany and Austria, on CANAL+ in France and in the French-speaking countries of Europe and Africa, and on Amazon Prime Video in the US, Canada, Latin America and Spain. International distribution is handled by STUDIOCANAL TV.

Cast for Stephen Merchant’s The Offenders announced as filming resumes in Bristol

The series follows seven strangers from different walks of life forced together to complete a Community Payback sentence in Bristol. As they become involved in each other's lives, they also become involved with a dangerous criminal gang.

At first, the Offenders seem like archetypes easy to pigeonhole, but gradually we see behind their façades, understand their hidden depths and what made them the people they are today. We are reminded that no one is all good or all bad. Everyone has a story.

Academy Award winning actor Christopher Walken becomes an offender undertaking community service in his first lead British television role, alongside writer and director Stephen Merchant, with Rhianne Barreto, Gamba Cole, Darren Boyd, Clare Perkins and Eleanor Tomlinson.

Meet The Offenders:

Rhianne Barreto (Honour, Hanna) plays Rani, a gifted but rebellious maths student who has been hot-housed from a young age by her loving but controlling parents

Gamba Cole (Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle) plays Christian, a young man struggling to raise his kid sister while staying one step ahead of the Brook Hill Crew, a notorious Bristol crime gang

Christopher Walken plays Frank, an inveterate scoundrel trying to reconnect with his family
Stephen Merchant (The Office, Jojo Rabbit) plays Greg, a lonely lawyer coping with divorce, work-place bullying and scary men with knives

Darren Boyd (Killing Eve, Lucky Man) plays John, a businessman and law-abiding pillar of the community furious at being labelled a criminal

Clare Perkins (EastEnders) plays Myrna, an ageing activist and campaigner who has lost none of her youthful radicalism

Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark, The War of the Worlds) plays Gabby, an aristocratic celebutante whose glamour and life of leisure masks deep-rooted problems

Additional cast include: Jessica Gunning (Back, Pride) as Diana; the Offenders' Community Service Supervisor, who supervises with what she deludedly believes is an iron first, Dolly Wells (Dracula, Doll & Em) as Frank's daughter, Margaret, Ian McElhinney (Game of Thrones, Derry Girls) as John's father, John Snr, Nina Wadia (Goodness Gracious Me, Bend it like Beckham) as Rani's mother, Shanthi, Aiyana Goodfellow as Esme and Charles Babalola as Malaki.

Stephen Merchant says: "Like so many other productions, we'd just begun filming when Covid-19 struck and we had to shut down. I'm delighted that we're now finally able to resume filming with this incredible cast and finish this long-standing passion project. This is the first series I've made in my hometown of Bristol and I'm so excited to showcase the city and utilise the amazing local talent."

Famous names confirmed to play celebrity edition of The Circle for Stand up to Cancer

As previously announced, The Circle will be back for a double helping of gameplay next year as the reality competition series returns for an all-celeb series to raise funds for Stand Up to Cancer plus the third outing of the main series on Channel 4.

The showbiz names moving in to the most talked about apartment block in Britain to take on the game where anyone can be anyone are:

Baga Chipz
Charlotte Crosby
Denise van Outen
Duncan James
Lady Leshurr
Saffron Barker
And playing the game as double acts controlling one profile are:

Kaye Adams and Nadia Sawalha
Rickie Haywood-Williams and Melvin Odoom
Sam Thompson and Pete Wicks
With some of the celebs playing as themselves and others taking on a celebrity catfish persona, this edition of the game will see suspicions heightened and gameplaying galore as the celebs compete for the title of most popular player.

The six-part celebrity series will air early next year ahead of Series 3 of The Circle, which will once again see a batch of players compete in the game of popularity for a potential £100k prize. Emma Willis returns as host, delivering the players some surprise alerts along the way, and comedian Sophie Willan resumes her role as the unmistakable voiceover of each episode.

The series is in aid of Stand Up To Cancer, a joint national fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 that brings the UK together to speed up progress in life-saving research

Monday, 14 December 2020

ITV’s I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! is 2020's biggest TV show

ITV's I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! is the biggest television show of 2020 with an average of 11.2 million viewers watching across the series.

Based on location in Wales for the first time, the show climaxed with a peak of 12.1m viewers watching the final. An average of 11.4m - up 0.8m on 2019's series - a 44 per cent share of TV viewers, watched Giovanna Fletcher crowned Queen of the Castle. The total reached 11.6m with the inclusion of viewing from non-TV devices. All figures include consolidated seven day viewing.

I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! was also the most popular show of 2020 for young viewers with an average of 2.8m and two thirds [66 per cent] of 16-34s watching across the series. Overall, it is the second most watched series of I'm A Celebrity, which has been on air since 2002.

I'm a Celebrity started the series with 14.3 million viewers [including viewers watching via non-TV devices], its biggest ever overall audience for the opening episode of the long-running series and the biggest show of the year outside news specials - and ITV's biggest audience since the Croatia v England World Cup Semi-Final in 2018.

BBC Arts & Sadler's Wells announce line up for all-day digital festival, Dancing Nation

Today, BBC Arts and Sadler's Wells announce details of a special new collaboration celebrating the UK's outstanding dance talent as it returns to the stage, in an all-day digital, live and pre-recorded broadcast, Dancing Nation.

A festival of world-class dance taking place at Sadler's Wells, Dancing Nation is streamed on BBC iPlayer for audiences in the UK and on Sadler's Wells' website for viewers outside the UK, throughout the day on Thursday 14 January 2021. The event features a series of new works and audience favourites from a diverse and thrilling line up of the UK's best-loved dance artists. All performances are staged and filmed in strict compliance with current Covid-19 health and safety guidelines.

The programme includes big-name dancers and choreographers alongside breakthrough talent across ballet, contemporary and hip-hop dance styles, including works from Matthew Bourne's New Adventures, English National Ballet, Royal Ballet principal dancer Natalia Osipova, Boy Blue, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, Akram Khan, Rambert and more. 

Saturday, 12 December 2020

ITV commissions a new adaptation of H.E. Bates’ novel, The Darling Buds of May, entitled The Larkins

ITV has commissioned a six part comedy drama series, The Larkins, starring Bradley Walsh and Joanna Scanlan as the iconic fictional characters, Pop Larkin and his wife Ma.

The Larkins is a new television adaptation of H.E. Bates' novel The Darling Buds of May, written by acclaimed screenwriter Simon Nye (Finding Alice, The Durrells, Men Behaving Badly) with the aim of capturing the warmth, optimism and escapism of The Larkin family for a modern generation.  Abigail Wilson (Trollied, Carters Get Rich, Stella) writes one of the episodes.

Screenwriter Simon Nye said:
"The novels are short, hilarious and magical. We will be expanding the Larkins' world a little and can't wait to immerse ourselves in this glorious countryside idyll."

The comedy drama will be produced by Objective Fiction, Genial Productions and OMG Scotland with executive producers, Ben Farrell and Charlotte Lewis for Objective Fiction, Sophie Clarke-Jervoise and Simon Nye for Genial Productions and Toby Stevens for OMG Scotland. Bradley Walsh is also an executive producer.

The book and its sequels were last adapted 30 years ago as The Darling Buds of May and became one of ITV's all time highest rated television comedy dramas winning critical acclaim and audience approval.

Commented Bradley Walsh on his casting as Pop Larkin:
"I'm thrilled to be asked to be part of this much loved and iconic series of stories. The warmth and affection that H. E Bates has generated through his books is so uplifting and I cannot wait to be part of the Larkin family. It'll be a hoot!"

Commented Joanna Scanlan on her casting as Ma:
"What better comfort could there be from all we have endured this year than the rolling laughter and outsize hugs of Ma and Pop? It's going to be an honour to help bring The Larkins to the nation's devices!"

Set in the late 1950's, The Larkins is the story of a working-class family led by the golden-hearted wheeler dealer Pop Larkin and his wife Ma, together with their six children, including the beautiful Mariette.  

Fiercely loyal to each other and their community, each Larkin family member has a strong work ethic, alongside a disinterest in authority.  

The series has been commissioned for ITV by Head of Scripted Comedy, Nana Hughes.  Commissioner Chloe Tucker will also be overseeing production on behalf of the channel.

Gordon, Gino and Fred: Desperately Seeking Santa

Wed 16 Dec 2020
9.00pm - 10.00pm

Gordon, Gino and Fred are getting together for another extraordinary culinary Christmas adventure.

2020 has been a bit bleak to say the least and the boys are keen to end the year with a bang.

After Gino led them to the deserts of Morocco for last year's mis-adventure, Gordon is determined that they celebrate the season properly this time, so has arranged a boys' trip away before the madness of a family Christmas kicks in, to the ultimate winter wonderland and the official home of Santa.

Gordon Ramsay
Gino D'Acampo
Fred Sirieix

Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix wins BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year 2020

The trophy was presented to the rising star by Blue Peter presenters Richie Driss, Lindsey Russell, Mwaka Mudenda, Adam Beales and the Blue Peter Young Judge Lucy Tristram.

The award follows a successful year for diver Andrea after she claimed her first solo international gold medal at the FINA Diving Grand Prix in Rostock in the Women's 10m Platform, aged just 15. This added to her winning a maiden senior British title in the same event at the British National Diving Championships just a month previously.

Andrea follows in the footsteps of 2019 winner Caroline Dubois and past sporting superstars like Ellie Simmonds, Wayne Rooney, Andy Murray and Tom Daley, who was on the Young Sports Personality of the Year judging panel alongside 2018 Young Sports Personality of the Year winner Kare Adenegan.

The BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year shortlist and winner was selected from nominations made to the BBC and by sports governing bodies via the Youth Sport Trust.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year takes place on Sunday 20 December at 8pm live on BBC One from Media City UK in Salford.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

First look images of new Sky Original ‘Paradiso’ from Sky Deutschland

Sky today revealed first look images for new Sky Original 'Paradiso' – previously known as Funeral For A Dog based on Thomas Pletzinger's novel of the same name.

The images were taken on location at Lake D'Iseo and Lake D'Orta, Italy, where filming for the series commenced at the start of September.

The eight-part series is currently filming in Munich and Berlin, and will shoot in Bulgaria, Finland, New York and South America in early 2021.

The stellar German cast includes Friedrich Mücke (Ballon, Tatort), Albrecht Schuch (Berlin Alexanderplatz, Bad Banks), Alina Tomnikov (Arctic Circle – Der unsichtbare Tod), Ina Geraldine Guy (Into the Beat - Dein Herz tanzt), Daniel Sträßer (Hausen, Charité) and Anne Ratte-Polle (Es gilt das gesprochene Wort).

Based on the novel Funeral for a Dog, 'Paradiso' is the story of journalist Daniel Mandelkern who abruptly leaves his wife Elisabeth and travels to Italy for an interview with the celebrated German writer Mark Svensson who is living there in seclusion with the photographer Kiki Kaufmann.

Daniel's visit is supposed to only last a few hours, but Tuuli Kovero, the heroine of Svensson's novel and his eternal love, asks him to stay. Daniel is fatally drawn into their lives, becoming entangled in the mystery of Tuuli's missing partner Felix Blaumeiser, as well as a fascinating story seemingly familiar from Svensson's novel: a love triangle that began in Colombia, blossomed in Finland, broke up in New York.

'Paradiso' is scripted by novelist Thomas Pletzinger (The Great Nowitzki) with head authors Hanno Hackfort and Bob Konrad (4 Blocks). It is directed by David Dietl (König von Deutschland, Rate Your Date) and Barbara Albert (Licht, Böse Zellen). Executive producers are Eva Kemme and Martin Heisler for Flare Entertainment, Marcus Ammon and Frank Jastfelder for Sky Deutschland and Jason Simms for Sky Studios. Andreas Perzl is producer for Sky Deutschland. The series is funded by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, FFF Bayern and Piemont Film TV Fund. NBCUniversal Global Distribution will handle the international sales of the series on behalf of Sky Studios

Eva Kemme, Producer Flare Entertainment, said: "Italy, Brazil, Finland, Bulgaria, New York, Germany in times of COVID 19 - is there anything more to say? We thank our partner, Sky, for giving us their loyalty and support. We also thank directors Barbara Albert and David Dietl, our fantastic captains in a stormy sea and a big 'thank you' to our brilliant cast and crew who all have braved the winds in such a positive way! Together, we have already accomplished so much and we are looking forward to our journey after the Christmas break."

Andreas Perzl, Producer, Sky Deutschland, said: "To begin filming such an ambitious project with numerous international locations was always going to be a challenge, but especially so during these times. However, we know that our outstanding cast and our dedicated production team are in the best of hands and the safety of all involved will always be our top priority. Having captured the first part of the shoot set against the beautiful backdrop of Lake Orta, we can't wait to take the story further afield and deliver a truly international series for viewers in 2022."