“DON’T wake mummy…”
The chilling, disturbing and fascinating series two of The Fall is due to begin on BBC2 next month (November).
As many fans of the drama will know, the premiere screening – hosted by BAFTA – was held at London’s Mayfair Hotel on September 23.
Below is the story I wrote for a national newspaper a few hours after that launch which was used the day after in the hard copy edition and online – the latter behind a paywall.
So for those who were unable to access at the time, here’s that report.
Followed by my transcript of the post-screening Q&A that night involving Jamie Dornan, Gillian Anderson and Allan Cubitt.
Edited to remove any major spoilers about the six-part series two.
(Updated to include various photos after the expiry of their respective embargoes, including behind the scenes images at the end of the blog)
JAMIE Dornan has revealed how he was left “scarred” after playing the role of a sadistic serial killer.
The Fifty Shades Of Grey star will again shock and disturb viewers as psychopath Paul Spector in a second series of TV drama The Fall.
“You can’t fail to be left slightly scarred by inhabiting someone like that for two seasons now. I do carry elements of him with me,” explained Jamie.
Now one of the hottest properties in Hollywood, the Belfast-born actor said “in a worrying way” he could relate to the twisted killer who acts out his violent sexual fantasies.
“I did so much of the initial horrible research in the first series. A list of rotten books that I trudged my way through and read in bed with my wife.
“I think I have a deep understanding of him and why he is how he is. There are times when we’re filming, I would scare myself about how some of Jamie’s reactions would be similar…I mean Paul.
“My distaste for things would have built up over time of playing him because he has such a distaste for everything except his ‘project’, including family and everything.
“I wouldn’t take it that far. But you do carry some of that anger and that hatred in you a little bit, especially towards the end of a few months of playing him.”
Fans of The Fall – the highest rated BBC2 drama in 20 years – have waited over a year to discover the fate of Spector, the “Belfast Strangler” who stalks his young female victims before murdering them in their own homes.
At the cliffhanger end of the first series, the bereavement counsellor and married father of two young children fled to Scotland.
Having told his wife an invented story about a three month affair with 15-year-old schoolgirl Katie (Aisling Franciosi).
Also making a chilling call to Det Supt Stella Gibson, played by The X-Files star Gillian Anderson, who is leading the hunt to identify the perverted murderer and bring him to justice.
The opening episode of the second series, on screen later this year, shows a bored, restless and frustrated Spector in his Scottish hideaway with his family back in Belfast.
At one stage lying in bed next to his young daughter’s naked Barbie dolls, their necks, hands and feet trussed together with string as his sadistic murderous fantasies return.
Said Jamie: “We don’t want the second series to be just a continuation of the first. You can’t do that to an audience. You’ve got to move it on. And it went beyond anything I had in my head. It was very exciting.
“It just transcended everything that I thought it could be. It’s quite remarkable what it entails.”
The Northern Irishman has become a global superstar, even ahead of next year’s release of the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey.
He plays suave sexpot Christian Grey in the movie adaptation of the E.L. James hit novel with Dakota Johnson as the billionaire’s love interest Anastasia Steele.
Speaking after the London premiere of the new six-part TV series, having just stepped off a plane from Los Angeles, Jamie paid tribute to his breathrough role in The Fall.
“This job has totally transformed my professional horizons. It’s totally changed my life.”
And he teased about whether Stella Gibson would succeed in catching Spector in the drama, written and directed by Allan Cubitt, whose previous credits include Prime Suspect.
“I’ve always considered myself a very loyal person and, of course, if Allan wants to keep writing Spector, I’m in. If Spector is still around at the end of the second series.”
Jamie also defended the drama against critics who claimed it was “disgusting”, pornographic and unnecessarily violent towards women.
“I have feminist values and I’m well aware of what my character is doing is wrong. It is clearly a depiction of violence against women but that is because it is a truth that occurs.
“There is violence against women and it’s often by men. We’re trying to get to the bottom of why men do that, rather than just showing that sort of brutality for the sake of it.”
Gillian, who played alien investigator Dana Scully in The X-Files, is cool and forensic as the detective on a mission.
Both hunter and hunted with a growing obession for each other.
“I thought it was one of the best things I’ve ever read. Extraordinary,” said Gillian, currently starring on the London stage as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.
She also warned fans there were surprises ahead.
“I was slightly shocked at the direction that it took. I was extremely both moved and disturbed and impressed by how unpredictable some of the avenues are.”
Asked if she could see her character continuing in future series, she replied: “Definitely, yes. Hopefully so will you by the time you’ve seen the rest of the series.
“You come to understand a little bit more – and perhaps why she finds Spector, in particular, so compelling and serial killers so compelling.
“She’s a very interesting character on television.”
Creator Allan also hit back at critics, who he said had been in a minority.
“My mantra during the first season was we should neither sanitise nor sensationalise Spector. We cut away from the violence, in actual fact.
“Certainly nothing that I’ve ever written would have been written with some notion of degrading or demeaning women.”
BBC Drama boss Ben Stephenson introduced the screening, describing the first series of The Fall as “a phenomenon”.
Adding: “It was just brilliant. An incredibly bold and insightful and controversial in all the right ways drama.”
Moving on to series two he said it was “something really extraordinary. In all ways it’s gone up by a huge level”.
Ben continued: “Gillian Anderson was already one of the world’s most iconic actresses and I genuinely believe she and her blouses have taken this show on to a new level. Yet again her performance is extraordinary.
“And Jamie, who a few years ago was unknown and was relatively new to acting and is now a seasoned pro. In this series I just think goes from great things to great things.
“I think they’re an extraordinary team. Maybe they’ll meet in the show, maybe they won’t. Who knows?
Edited extracts (removing any major spoilers) from the Q&A with: Gillian Anderson (also an executive producer) / Jamie Dornan / Allan Cubitt (Writer, creator and director). Hosted by Benji Wilson:
Q: Allan – a second series is commissioned, you sit down at your writing desk. What decisions do you have to make?
Allan Cubitt: “It’s no secret that when we originally pitched the idea, we pitched for 12 parts. So there was always some story arc in my mind that would have taken us, and has taken us, into a second season. So it wasn’t entirely unchartered territory. I had ideas about where it was going to go. But we did start a process of deciding how we would develop things that we set running in the first season. Work with characters that we felt were particularly compelling in the first season and how we would carry them on into the second season.”
Q: Was there ever any question that you might take it away from Belfast?
Allan Cubitt: “No, there was never any question of that. In fact it’s the reverse for me. The trick is how to keep it in Belfast. Because it’s so integral to the show and so much part of the texture of the show and clearly the context and the history and the culture and so on. But also it’s just a great place to work. So I particularly love being there and I love working there.”
Q: Gillian – what was your reaction when you first read the scripts for series two?
Gillian Anderson: “I thought it was one of the best things I’ve ever read. And I was completely taken by Stella and it didn’t take much convincing. I just thought it was extraordinary and had extraordinary potential.”
Jamie Dornan: “Yeah, similar. I didn’t feel that you could move that substantially far forward in terms of what we did with the first series and how moved I was by the first series and how much I wanted to do it. But the second series was just like…when Allan first sent it to me…it just transcended everything that I thought it could be. You’ll see as the series goes on. It’s quite remarkable what it entails. So I just couldn’t wait to do it, really, when I got it.”
Q: Did any of you have any misgivings about going on?
Allan Cubitt: “No, because I hadn’t told the story. I suppose that might be something we might talk about at the end of the second season. The idea was always to try and tell the story and to delve sufficiently deep into the psychology of the characters to make it that bit different, maybe. And also that these cases are complex and take an enormous amount of time to solve. So I always thought it would be well served by running on, basically.”
Jamie Dornan: “We’d always had a very open conversation with Allan and everyone, all the powers that be, about that anyway. I guess if 17 people watched the first series we probably wouldn’t be sat here. But I think because of the enormity of the success of it, we always thought we’d do more and you (Allan) would do more, if given the opportunity. Which we obviously got.”
Gillian Anderson: “But also remember the first season had such a radical cliffhanger that it would have been near to impossible, unless 17 people saw it, to not go on with it. That was always certainly my understanding. That what I was signing up to, whether BBC2 liked it or not, was going to be beyond the five.”
Q: An interesting moment in that episode we just watched – where Stella Gibson makes a reference to her past. The first series avoided back story for her. She remained enigmatic. Are we going to find out more about what she’s been through in the past? And do you know her back story?
Gillian Anderson: “We’ve discussed aspects of her back story which have influenced aspects of ways that I’ve played certain moments. There are a small handful of, not even entire scenes, but moments when you understand her a little bit more. But if it were more than that I would certainly be disappointed. That’s not what we’ve set out and that’s not…she doesn’t reveal herself that much. And so the little bits that you do get feel quite large and I think that they are satisfactory and satisfying for the time being.”
Q: Can you say what you think is at the heart of the character?
Gillian Anderson: “I think that she innately knows that she’s good at it and is passionate about the work that she does. It is, as we see, her life. And she is happy in it. And she is particularly good at what she does. It’s a choice that she made early on. We don’t learn why she went into this particular field of work. I’m not sure whether it would help you to understand her any more to know that. You come to understand a little bit more about other aspects of how she goes about what she does and perhaps why she finds Spector in particular so compelling, perhaps serial killers so compelling.”
Q: You two can’t have had that many scenes together. Have you discussed the characters and the story much?
Gillian Anderson: “No.”
Jamie Dornan: “No. All of that we use Allan for.”
Gillian Anderson: “It’s all on the page.”
Jamie Dornan: “The mastery of his writing – a lot of it’s done for us. We also obviously see more than you see.”
Gillian Anderson: “But also how Spector operates, or how Jamie perceives Spector operating doesn’t really have anything to do with the choices that I make for Stella. Especially because of the fact that we are – we’re not a married couple that have to talk about our joint history and conversations that we might have had together. We’ve never had conversations so we’re coming to our relationship fresh and therefore I would imagine that the less talking we do, the better. The more accurate the dynamic.”
Allan Cubitt: “In season one we made a conscious effort to keep them apart, in actual fact. And then there was the short phone call. So there was a meeting, in a way, in the first season. But it as quite a conscious thing to try and stop you dialoguing very much up until that point. That seemed to work. But there is clearly an increasing fascination. He becomes fascinated by her in the first season and she becomes fascinated by him in the first season. Her whole crusade, in a sense, is to stop him doing what he’s doing. And she nails her colours to the mast very firmly in season one, saying, ‘I will stop you, for Fiona Gallagher, for Alice Monroe, for Sarah Kay. ‘I will stop you doing what you’re doing.’ And equally he, by virtue of calling her and so on, clearly becomes somewhat obsessed by her.
“So there’s a growing obsession between them which I think the second season – I don’t think I’m giving anything way by saying the second season develops that increased conflict between them but obsession that’s growing between the two characters. But I think that’s the nature of those investigations. Everything I’ve read suggests that that’s precisely what happens when a police officer sets out to try and stop a criminal from doing what they’re doing, particularly a multiple murderer. The only way they can do it is by becoming completely immersed in that world and their world and trying to understand their psychology in the hope that they might gain the upper hand, that they might gain some investigative insight and therefore be able to put a stop to this man and what he’s doing.”
Q: Jamie – how’s an actor supposed to get himself into the mind of a multiple murderer? What do you do to inhabit the head space of Paul Spector?
Jamie Dornan: “I did so much of the initial horrible research in the first series. Allan wrote me a list of rotten books that I trudged my way through and read in bed with my wife.
“You’re trying to find a common thread between all of these guys you’ve read about but not try to cling to any of them too firmly because I wanted to make him his own thing. He deserves that. And that’s what I tried to do. There’s lots out there. Anyone quite alarmingly quickly could get a good idea of what it’s like inside the mind of some of these guys. There’s plenty of interviews on YouTube of guys like Ted Bundy or whatever. And they are totally fascinating whether you’re planning on playing a serial killer or not, they are fascinating. And with this series I felt comfortable with what I’d done in the first series. And it was a development anyway. He’s in a different place to where we see him in the first series. And then there’s little personal things that helped me jump back in for the second series.”
Q: Does it have any impact on you playing a man like that for several months?
Jamie Dornan: “****, yeah, Definitely, yeah. Maybe not all positives. But you can’t fail to be left slightly scarred by inhabiting someone like that for two seasons now. I do carry elements of him with me. In a worrying way I find him relatable. You’re careful how I use that but I think I have a deep understanding of him and why he is how he is and we get a bit more of a glimpse of that in the second series as an audience. But I think there’s times, especially towards the end of series one and the end of series two when we’re filming, I would scare myself about how some of Jamie’s reactions would be similar….I mean Paul. My distaste for things would have built up over time of playing him because he has such a distaste for everything except his project, including family and everything and I wouldn’t take it that far. But you do carry some of that anger and that hatred in you a little bit, especially towards the end of a few months of playing him.”
Q: Gillian – do you think Stella Gibson is a character we might see more of? Obviously Allan has written for Jane Tennison before..?
Gillian Anderson: “Like an offshoot series?”
Q: Do you think you’d want to play her more, you could take her further in this series?
Gillian Anderson: “Definitely, yes. Hopefully so you will by the time you’ve seen the rest of the series.”
Q: Is that because she’s enigmatic and there’s lots to read into her – lots of questions to ask?
Gillian Anderson: “I think that potentially helps, yes. I just think she’s a very interesting character on television. Not just because she’s an island and enigmatic etc. But just who she is, everything that she stands for and how she operates. On the page I find that very compelling and I don’t feel like I’ve really seen that before. I like characters that are both recognisable and mysteries at the same time, to watch and to have an opportunity to play.”
Q: You mentioned what she stands for – what would you say that is?
Gillian Anderson: “She makes it very clear on a semi-regular basis how she feels about violence and violence against women and how these women are represented and how they are perceived and how it is more helpful to speak about them. And she really is a supporter of women and women being treated respectfully and rightfully. And I think she doesn’t mince words when she speaks about it and it feels like it’s in her bones. Not that she has a crusade of any kind but it goes with her in her work and everything that she does. And I like that about her.”
Q: It might seem ironic given the subject matter but would you say Allan…is this in some ways a feminist piece?
Allan Cubitt: “I’d like to think so. Obviously there were people who thought the diametric opposite of that. But there were plenty of people who did understand what I was trying to achieve in writing it. That it is, in a sense, a dissection of a certain kind of male view, an exploration of misogny. I think anything that sets out to explore a complex and difficult subject like that always runs the risk of being held up as being an example of it, rather than a critique of it.
“Obviously if you think that The Fall is misogynistic, if that was your conclusion at the end of watching the first season or the second season, I would have failed completely, abjectly. My feeling is that people who think that about it probably haven’t given it the closest reading, necessarily. It might be a knee jerk reaction to something that depicts violence against women. But, for me, the creation of the female characters within it and the entire ethos of the show and the entire argument, the dialectic, of the show I would have thought was completely clear. That actually it’s an attempt to take on a rather difficult subject, which is why it is that men turn so readily to violence and why it is that we see so many examples of violence against women perpertrated by men. And I think every beat of The Fall is really about trying to explain that.
“For example, even in the first episode you’ve just seen, what you get a very clear sense of, even when he’s alone in the Scottish farmhouse, is not just his unbelievable restlessness, his boredom at normal everyday life, but also by virtue of being alerted to the fact that his daughter has left her dolls behind and then he ties one up and fantasises about it, you get a very strong sense very early on that this man is driven by sadistic fantasies.
“And Gibson says during the course of the first episode, ‘It’s an addiction. He can’t stop himself from being drawn back into that cycle of fantasy that then…’ And the crucial difference that she points out in season one between normal male fantasies, if you like, and his violent sexual fantasies is that at some point he takes the step of putting his fantasies into a kind of reality. And that’s spoken about in this first episode and it will be spoken about more. So from that point of view, if you’re looking at the sorts of things that men think that sometimes lead them into those sorts of relationships with women where they are capable of perpetrating violence – they will think, for example, that women are dangerous. They will think that women are unknowable. They will think that the male sex urge is uncontrollable. All these sorts of things which will add up to a person who’s capable of acting like that. So I think that’s what The Fall is trying to dissect and explore. And I think it does it from a feminist point of view. I’m a bloke, so I can’t claim to be a feminist. But certainly nothing that I’ve ever written would have been written with some notion of degrading or demeaning women.
“Inevitably if you’re going to have a character like Spector, you’re going to be embracing taking on board some really very disturbing psychological dimensions to the character. And you’re playing them through. But at the same time you’re also saying that no-one, no criminal is just their criminality. They are all kinds of other things as well. And Spector is a great many other things beyond his criminal behaviour. But that’s disturbing.
“What Jamie had to get his head around was, what is his real feeling for his children and his daughter (Olivia)? And I hope that this first episode in the second season sets up that dilemma again right from the beginning. My heart is entirely with Olivia all the way through this thing. And she, for me, is the heartbeat of the thing. Because she’s a victim and she’s the most distressing victim in The Fall.”
Q: Jamie – you’re a Belfast boy. How important is the setting?
Jamie Dornan: “I just think it’s a very cool decision from Allan to set it there because there was no necessity to. But why not set it somewhere like Belfast? And by doing that you negate the connotations that Belfast has from people who aren’t from there – which is a place of bitter dispute, violence and needless killing. And people have a right to think that, because that’s what it kind of looks like from the outside. But growing up there you have a sense of that, of course, and you’re coloured by that and you carry that with you. But it’s not what the place is about. And when I first met Allan for this and auditioned, I said to him, ‘I’m just so relieved to read something that’s set in Northern Ireland that isn’t directly involving The Troubles.’ It was really genuinely refreshing. And it just serves as a great backdrop. It’s a cool looking place and I just think it’s a brave decision. But why not? Someone says in the first series, ‘We’ve had our share of murders in Belfast. Multiple murders. But we’ve never had a case like Spector. Nor should there be.”
Allan Cubitt: “I had in mind that thing where…if someone like Spector were to exist in a town that small, it sets up reverberations. It disturbs the entire community. Which is one of the things I was trying to capture. Hence the girl on the train (as seen in 2.1) who’s somewhat trepidatious about going back, has changed her hair colour. People get very scared by these sorts of events when they’re occurring and I wanted to try and capture something of that. Something of the panic that surrounds a person like Spector. You’ve seen it happen in London lots of times. But you do read about it when it’s in places where people go, ‘How can this be happening to us? How can this be happening here?’ And I wanted to try and get a little bit of that into The Fall.”
Questions were then opened up to the audience:
Q: Jamie – do you want to use this platform to say that you are a feminist yourself?
Jamie Dornan: “I have feminist values and I’m well aware of what my character is doing is wrong. We don’t see it maybe the way that many other people have seen the show – that it is misogynistic and unnecessarily violent towards women. I think it is clearly a depiction of violence against women but that is because it is a truth that occurs. There is violence against women and it’s often by men. We’re trying to get to the bottom of why men do that rather than just showing that sort of brutality for the sake of it.”
Q: (From me, as it happens): Jamie, you said earlier on that it’s quite remarkable what this second series entails. Obviously you can’t give anything away. But in terms of reading those scripts for the second series, were you shocked and / or surprised at the direction it takes and what’s in store for you character? And also perhaps if Gillian could answer that in terms of her character?
Gillian Anderson: I was…shocked is the wrong word. I was impressed and not surprised but pleased and slightly shocked at the direction that it took. I was extremely both moved and disturbed and impressed by how unpredictable some of the avenues are.”
Jamie Dornan: “I guess with the second series we don’t want it to be just a continuation of the first. You can’t do that to an audience. It’s not really fair. You’ve got to move it on. And I was expecting it to be moved on and we’d had many conversations about roughly the direction it would go and what would be the fate of Spector, particularly talking to Allan. And it went beyond anything I kind of had in my head that was capable story-wise. It was very exciting.”
Q: Allan – did your vision and the way you wrote series two, was it changed in any way by some of the things that were said after the first series?
Allan Cubitt: “No I didn’t. I wasn’t into self-censoring or anything as a result. I think we should be clear that there were some criticisms but they were by no means the majority of people or anything of that sort. One of the papers said it was the most disgusting drama ever made or pornographic or something. I just don’t think that there’s any possible way you can support that in an intelligent way. My mantra during the first season was we should neither sanitise nor sensationalise Spector. That’s a very difficult line to walk. I completely get that. And I didn’t direct the first season. So in the sense the second season that I’ve directed will I guess reflect, perhaps, even more my vision of the piece. But I made some conscious decisions. The body count, I decided, would be very low compared with most dramas. One woman was killed in season one. That was it. Three guys died in season one. That tends, of course, not to be mentioned. I made a conscious decision that we would not start with violence, we would get to know them. We cut away from the violence in actual fact. I’m not in any way attempting to minimise the impact of it because I think actually the more you draw the audience into a psychological relationship with the victims, the harder it’s going to be. Which is why, just seeing Olivia make a cup of tea upsets me. So the bigger your investment in the characters, the more impactful the dramatic moments will be. So you don’t have to cut people up to make that impact.”
Q: Jamie – this has been a breathrough role for you. What does it mean to you on a professional level?
Jamie Dornan: “This job has totally transformed my professional horizons. It’s totally changed my life. It’s all down to Allan and everyone else. But particularly Allan. I’ve always considered myself a very loyal person and, of course, I want to – if Allan wants to keep writing Spector I’m in. If Spector is still around at the end of the second series.” (laughter)
Q: Gillian – the effect on you of playing Stella?
Gillian Anderson: “The series as a whole has been miraculous from the very beginning for me. The production team, working with Allan and the whole crew. And the gentleness and the care with which it’s treated and the feeling on set and the ethos of the project. Just all of it is admirable. And coming down from Allan and his amazing mind but also his belief about what this piece is and what it represents. And so at varying times in filming the two seasons I’ve done quite a lot of other things, popping in and out. And it feels like such a gift in so many ways and exactly the kind of environment that I strive to work in and I feel very, very lucky to be a part of it and to have an opportunity to live in the shoes of Stella because I really enjoyed playing her. And to get to shoot in Belfast. Just all of it has been a joy.”
Episode six non-spoiler images:
And that ending of The Fall series two? Do not read on if you have yet to watch…
The series as a whole was top class drama so while the conclusion did not spoil it for me, it’s not the one I would have chosen.
Far too contrived…and you could see it coming a mile off.
But both series will live long in the memory.
With truly brilliant performances from the entire cast – not least Jamie Dornan, Gillian Anderson and Colin Morgan.
And here are four new pics from that final series two episode, released by the BBC the day after the BBC2 TX: