Posts Tagged ‘Sir Ian McKellen’

Sanctuary’s Robert Lawrenson – Soldiering On

March 8, 2010

Actor Robert Lawrenson. Photo courtesy and copyright of Velocity Public Relations

When Dr. Gregory Magnus originally founded the Sanctuary network, he did so with the intent of surrounding himself with like-minded individuals who were just as dedicated as he was to the survival, preservation and protection of Abnormals. Magnus’ daughter and fellow scientist, Helen, did the same when she took over the reins from her father. Among her most trusted allies is Declan MacRae, who became head of the UK Sanctuary after the death of John Watson. The handsome Brit is smart, techno-savvy and knows how to handle himself in a tight spot. Sharing his character’s UK heritage was a big help to Sanctuary actor Robert Lawrenson when initially stepping into Declan’s shoes. 

“I was very fortunate in some respects that Declan was a Brit,” notes Lawrenson. “I believe it was Michael Caine who said, ‘you only have to play the differences,’ and I take that to every role that I do. I start with me and compare myself to my character. I work out what the differences are in our personalities, then focus on those and think about where I need to extend my own personality in order to create the character. 

“With Declan, it’s nice because there are similarities between the two of us, with him being an authority figure and me being kind of a quiet, authoritative type in my general sort of persona. So that’s an extension of myself. However, I don’t have an ex-military/SAS background, so that’s a huge difference right there, and that brings with it [acting] challenges, too, because Declan is a very tough ex-Special Forces guy. He’s totally comfortable with, for instance, handling weaponry and storming into a situation where there are enemy targets, but those types of things are totally foreign to me. 

“Luckily on Sanctuary, we have some really good stunt coordinators as well as a team of guys called Def-Con-5, who basically taught me what I needed to know about Declan’s military side. I understand that these guys have an actual military/Special Forces background, so they taught us everything from handling a gun and how to hold your arms, to how to survey and secure an area. To be honest with you, I’m probably ready to go to war now because that’s how much they showed us,” jokes the actor. 

“Apart from maybe a couple of times in stage productions where I’ve held a gun, I’ve never had to be that kind of tough guy in terms of a military sense. So I had to present Declan as totally switched on and clued-in about every situation and totally confident walking into enemy territory. It was interesting to learn what the professional view of that is and then try to bring that to my performance.” 

It was a year-and-a-half ago that Lawrenson came to Vancouver, British Columbia from the UK and began working with an agent to pursue acting opportunities on this side of the pond. “Funnily enough, everything I’ve done over here so far as been Sci-Fi related,” he says. “I did an episode of Smallville [Abyss] as well as a Syfy Channel original movie, Beyond Sherwood Forest, which actually starred Robin Dunne [Dr. Will Zimmerman] as Robin Hood. I played his father before being stabbed to death about six minutes into the movie. 

Declan (Robert Lawrenson) confers with his colleagues regarding their next move. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Sanctuary then came up. I’d been looking at a few other projects when I received a call to come in and meet with Martin Wood [executive producer] and Amanda Tapping [Dr. Helen Magnus and executive producer]. At the time it was just a guest-star role to play Declan in one episode. It was literally for that week’s filming. I really hit it off straightaway with Martin and Amanda – I would challenge anyone not to because they’re fantastic individuals. It was a very relaxed casting session and they really enjoyed what I did, so they booked me for the role. 

“After a couple of days of shooting, Martin came over to me and said ‘I’m really liking this Declan character,’ and then he started talking in terms of recurring the role throughout the series. Martin mentioned a couple of ideas that he had about where the Declan character might go and when it might recur, so it just went on from there and I ended up doing four episodes in season two.” 

Audiences are introduced to Lawrenson’s character in the second half of Sanctuary‘s season two opener, End of Nights, Part 2. In it, Helen and her people help Declan defend the UK Sanctuary when it is attacked by a small group of super-Abnormals, including a transformed Ashley Magnus (Emilie Ullerup). Despite his military background, dealing with this type of threat is a brand new experience for Declan, and the same was true for Lawrenson when first starting out on the series. 

“On my first day of work I found myself standing on this completely green-walled, green-floored set with just the lighting rig above me and my fellow actors around me,” recalls the actor. “I’ve done some presenting and hosting on a green screen, but never a drama, so this process was quite daunting to me and I wasn’t quite sure how to react to it. 

“I told Amanda Tapping how I felt, and she said something to me that made it all click. Amanda explained that she looks at working on the green screen like working in the theater. Oftentimes in the theater, you’re working in an acting ensemble with no scenery or props, and it’s all about the script as well as the other actors and the communication between them and their characters. 

“That was the perfect thing to say because my background from childhood is theater, which I’ve done a great deal of. When I lived in England, I spend every year performing plays at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so I tend to gravitate towards the stage. That’s where I found my love of acting. So what Amanda said to me made such sense and I thought, ‘Wow, you’re absolutely right. What does it matter that I don’t have an actual wall there. As an actor, it’s something that I can just visualize for a scene.’ It was incredible, and it still sticks in my mind because it totally put me at ease.” 

Will (Robin Dunne) and Declan contemplate their next move. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

Declan’s next appearance is in the season two episode Hero, where he, Helen and Will pursue a flying do-gooder (Chris Gauthier), who has dubbed himself “The Adjuster” and has interfered in their efforts to protect an Abnormal. “Hero was a lot of fun,” enthuses Lawrenson. “Chris Gauthier is an absolute star and it was a laugh-a-minute the whole time he was there with us on-set. This was a big episode for Declan because the London Sanctuary had been heavily damaged, so he came over to spend some time at the Old City Sanctuary. This is when we really kicked off the relationship between Will and Declan in that they became sidekicks, which was then flipped on its head in a later episode, Veritas, where they were totally opposite of each other. 

“In terms of specific scenes in Hero, I remember me and Chris Heyerdahl [Bigfoot] wearing safety harnesses and standing on a warehouse railing on the show’s set. We were probably 30 or 40 feet up and pushing this old refrigerator over the railing and onto an imaginary monster that was going to be ‘painted’ in later during post-production. That was quite memorable because I wasn’t quite sure whether or not I was going to fall off with the fridge. 

“There’s another little scene at the start of the episode that I particularly like and it’s just after Will and Declan have been attacked on their motorbikes. They’re back at the Sanctuary nursing their wounds and the girls are laughing at them and taking the mick out of Will. I’d love to do more scenes like that. In fact, I got to talk with some of the guys at the Syfy Channel and they told me that they really enjoyed the comedy of this episode, so hopefully we’ll have more opportunities to see the lighthearted sides of these characters as well.” 

Amanda Tapping directed Lawrenson’s third Sanctuary story, Veritas, in which Helen Magnus is accused of killing Bigfoot. “I put Amanda Tapping on such a high pedestal; I don’t have enough blocks to raise her up,” says the actor. “She is an outstanding individual. To give the performance that she does week-in-and-week-out, and to give the performance she gave in Veritas whilst also directing, having only directed once before on both Stargate SG-1 and Sanctuary, was just amazing. 

“As an actor, this was my first time working with an actor/director, and Amanda has a way of connecting with an actor. I mean, so do the other directors. Martin Wood is a fantastic director and I’m not in any way comparing them, but Amanda has a different understanding of the process because she sees it from an actor’s point of view as well. So being directed by her on Veritas was brilliant. Whenever we were struggling to find the right way to pitch a scene, Amanda just seemed to have the right thing to say, and that was really great. 

“There’s a scene I played opposite Robin Dunne where our two characters are having a big argument in Magnus’ office. Will comes in and Declan has his feet under Helen’s desk and is sitting there tapping away on her computer looking very much at home. We had a scene prior to that, where Declan has his feet in front of the roaring fireplace in her office, and because of both these scenes, the audience is becoming suspicious of my character’s motives. Amanda just found the right away to communicate to me exactly what she wanted from my character’s point of view in this episode, so that made it a real joy for me to do.” 

A quiet moment for Declan - something rare in the Sanctuary world. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

With Dr. Magnus temporarily relieved of her lead Sanctuary position in Veritas, it may at first seem as if Declan is trying to “move in” on her territory. On the contrary, he is doing his best to protect Helen as well as those working directly with her and the future of the Sanctuary network. Lawrenson is looking forward to not only learning more about Declan’s and Helen’s relationship, but also uncovering more about his character’s background. 

“Declan massively respects Helen Magnus,” he says. “This is a very character-driven show and there has been a lot invested in the back stories of the characters. However, not much has been revealed about Declan. We had hints about him in End of Nights, Part 2, where Nikola Tesla [Jonathon Young] says to him, ‘James Watson [Peter Wingfield] must have told you about me before he died,’ So there is obviously a suggestion that Declan had been working with James Watson. There are other things as well, like the argument I spoke of earlier between Declan and Will in Veritas, where my character is suspected of trying to take over the Sanctuary network. He says to Will, ‘You have no idea of the political landscape,’ which implies that Declan is quite entwined with the politics of the network. 

“So to come back to what I was saying, that there isn’t much of a back story that’s been provided yet for Declan, and that’s really exciting for me. Again, we had the hints I just spoke of and also those in the two-part second season finale Kali, where Declan is mentioned throughout. Having laid all that foundation, I’m looking forward to seeing where our excellent writers hopefully go in terms of further fleshing out my character. As far as how I position Declan in my mind, I think he’s spent many years fighting other peoples’ wars, and to now be involved in what Helen is doing with the Sanctuary network, he’s found a ‘war’ that he wants to fight and a cause he truly believes in.” 

Born and raised in his native England, the actor made his stage debut at the age of 12, performing in musicals with a local youth theater group. A number of years later, he made his TV debut when he was cast in an episode of the long-running British drama series Heartbeat

“That was a fantastic first role for me because of the people I got to work with,” says Lawrenson. “I was on-set with great British actors such as Robert Glenister, David Calder and Celia Imrie, who was my mentor that week. We all stayed at this lovely manor house hotel in Yorkshire, and the night before filming began, everyone went out together for dinner. There I was sitting with these actors whom I had watched and admired for many years on TV and they were fantastic with me. The next morning, Celia sent me a note that said, ‘Don’t worry about your first scene, you’ll be wonderful.’ I’ve kept that card for years. To work with someone like her on my first scene was just amazing.” 

Holby City, Emmerdale Farm, Fat Friends, Where the Heart Is, The Royal and Doctors are among the other hit UK shows that Lawrenson has guest-starred in. Regular watchers of Coronation Street will also recognize him from his recurring role as PC Glaister. “That was another fantastic show to work on,” says the actor. “It’s very much like Sanctuary in terms of its friendly, good-natured, hard work ethic. 

Will, Henry (Ryan Robbins) and Declan race against the clock to try to solve a problem. Photo by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions

“At one point on that show, I ran into another of my screen idols, Sir Ian McKellen, who was in an episode that I was also in. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any scenes with him, but one day I rounded the corner from my dressing room on the way to the green room, and he was standing there in the hall talking to Johnny Briggs, who played Mike Baldwin. I thought, ‘There’s Gandalf [McKellen’s Lord of the Rings role] speaking to Mike Baldwin. Wow, that’s not a sight you see every day.’ I’ve worked in this industry long enough that I don’t tend to get starstruck, but when I saw Ian McKellen, I got starstruck for a moment.” 

Besides acting in front of the camera, Lawrenson also does a great deal of voiceover work for TV narration, advertising, corporate shorts and charity fundraisers, the latter of which he finds especially rewarding. 

“There was a charity project I did for the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool,” he says. “Yoko Ono is the patron of their society, obviously because of [her late husband] John Lennon. The hospital is around the corner from where he grew up. I think their charity is called Imagine [the Alder Hey Imagine Appeal], and she licensed the use of the Beatles song Imagine to them. David Morrissey had done the voiceover for one of their earlier videos and I was working with the production company that made it. David wasn’t available for their next campaign, so I offered to do the voicing for it. 

“I get personal reward and personal pride in the work I do. When I really nail a scene, I feel great, but I see that a selfish reward. When you’re able to contribute part of what you do for a living to a cause that’s going to make a practical difference in other peoples’ lives, that’s truly rewarding. I don’t do enough of that, and I’d like to do more. Amanda Tapping and Damian Kindler [Sanctuary creator/executive producer] have set up Sanctuary for Kids [S4K], and I’m hoping to help out with that charity in whatever capacity I can. 

Currently, the actor is busy doing more voiceover work, including some animation projects, as well as continuing to audition for various Vancouver-based productions. “I’m waiting to hear, too, about my possible involvement in a feature film, which would actually be shot back in England later this year,” he says. “And I’m also looking forward to finding out about Declan’s involvement in season three of Sanctuary.” 

To find out more about Robert and see clips of his work, check out his official website at www.robertlawrenson.com . 

Steve Eramo 

As noted above, Robert Lawrenson photo courtesy/copyright of Velocity PR, and Sanctuary photos by Jeff Weddell and copyright of Sanctuary 2 Productions, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

The Prisoner’s Jamie Campbell Bower – Teen Angst

November 17, 2009

Jamie Campbell Bower as Number 11-12 in The Prisoner. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

Imagine having a life where pretty much everything you want is within easy reach and all you have to do is ask for it. In AMC’s re-imagined version of The Prisoner, Number 11-12 wakes up to that every day as a resident of The Village. The son of Number Two, the overseer of this residential “paradise,” and M2, his idealistic mother, this 17-year-old is among the privileged and is being groomed to one day take over his father’s duties within The Village. It sounds like the perfect situation, maybe not for 11-12, but it was one that actor Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays 11-12, could not wait to jump into.

“There had been rumors of The Prisoner floating about, and then I got a phone call from my agent telling me, ‘I think you should go out for this.’ He’s rarely wrong, so I did,” recalls Bower. “I received four pages of audition sides from one of the episodes, and as I read them something really struck home with me. There was just something quite moving about the material and this idea of family and the connection between 11-12 and his father, Two, played by Ian McKellen.

“So I was very excited about the project to begin with, and it was, I think, a rainy Tuesday afternoon when I went down to London’s South Bank next to the Thames for my audition. Whatever I did must have worked because I received another call telling me that I got the role, which was brilliant.”

11-12 with his father, Number Two (Ian McKellen). Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

While a life of privilege may sound enticing to some, especially a young person, it is rarely all that is cracked up to be. And as typically happens, no one seems to have asked 11-12 what he wants.

“With my character, it’s that classic case of, ‘I don’t want to be the prince any more. I want to be an ordinary person,” says Bower. “But then he also thinks that one day he might inherit The Village, so like most people his age, 11-12 is definitely feeling some angst towards his father. As for his relationship with his mother, M2 [Rachael Blake], it’s very distant. He loves her dearly, but he never sees her. His mother is just this entity in the house they live in, and 11-12 strives to have a much closer bond with her.

“So as you might imagine, 11-12 is quite highly strung and emotionally charged. He also has this feeling that he’s missing something in his life, but he doesn’t know what it is. Acting-wise, maintaining that high level of intensity and emotion wasn’t easy. In fact,there was one particular scene that I did with Vincent Regan [Number 909] that screws up my character in a major way. We shot it over an entire day and I had to be incredibly emotional most of that time. Again, it was tough, but it was also a challenge and one I enjoyed because it really helped me to grow as a person as well as an actor.”

Not a good day in The Village for 11-12. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

Much to his surprise, a frustrated 11-12’s eyes are opened to an entirely new set of possibilities for his future, thanks to The Village’s newest resident and The Prisoner‘s lead character, Number Six (Jim Caviezel). “Six’s arrival throws a bit of a spanner into the works of The Village,” notes Bower. “He comes along and forthrightly and outwardly says, ‘This isn’t all there is’ and 11-12’s reaction to that is, ‘Well, maybe he’s right.’ So his interaction with Six is one of curiosity as well as questioning and trying to understand why it is that this man is saying what he’s saying. And I think 11-12 ends up believing in and trusting Six.”

While their onscreen personas are caught up in the turmoil of what is happening to them, The Prisoner‘s cast as well as crew could not have enjoyed their time together more, Bower included. “Everyone involved in this project is incredibly talented and fun,” enthuses the actor. “Working with Ian McKellen is an absolute joy and a pleasure. The same is true of working with young British stars like Hayley Atwell [Lucy/4-15] and Ruth Wilson [Number 313]. We all became good mates and helped each other out, patted one another on the back when we needed it, and laughed at each other when we didn’t need it,” he jokes. “We spent four-and-a-half months together in South Africa. Not many people can say that, apart from those who live there, and we had a really nice time.”

Bower was 14 when he decided that he wanted to become an actor, and four years later made his feature film debut in director Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. “I had just turned 18 and was at boarding school in the English countryside,” he says. “I was sneaking out at five o’clock in the morning through my house master’s backdoor and getting into a car that was waiting for me outside the school gates to take me to set. I’d then return to school around seven at night and go back to bed.

11-12 shares a rare moment with his mother, M2 (Rachael Blake). Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

“I did that for about two weeks and then I made the decision that I should probably just leave school and not bum a free bed off them every night. So that’s what I did, and it was an incredibly terrifying experience for me, being just 18 and working alongside people like Tim Burton as well as Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall. It was also a phenomenal opportunity and it gave me such an amazing starting point that I could never have dreamt of, so I was very, very lucky.”

Besides The Prisoner, Bower can also currently be seen as Caius in the latest installment of the hugely successful teenage vampire tale The Twilight Saga: New Moon. “I was in Los Angeles not too long ago and they were casting for New Moon,” says the actor. “My American agent asked me if I would like to audition for it, and I said that I’d kill to audition for it. So I met with [director] Chris Weitz and then I got a call offering me the role of Caius, which I was really excited about.

“Caius, along with Michael Sheen’s character of Ar0, and Marcus,who is played by Chris Heyerdahl, are the leaders of an ancient Italian vampire coven known as the Volturi. We shot in Vancouver and I was there for about three weeks working with actors like Michael, Chris, Dakota Fanning [Jane], Rob Pattinson [Edward Cullen] and Kris Stewart [Bella Swan]. It was a real treasure of a role for me and another great set of actors to work with and learn from.”

Change is in the air when 11-12 crosses paths with Number Six (Jim Caviezel). Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

The actor has a lead role alongside Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell in the upcoming film London Boulevard and has guest-starred in an episode of the new British Fantasy TV series Game of Thrones. Harry Potter fans can also look forward to enjoying Bower’s performance in the two-part Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

“I play Gellert Grindelwald, who’s an old friend of Dumbledore’s [Michael Gambon],” he says. “They have this idea that they can create a utopian wizardry world, and then there’s a big fight and something awful happens,” teases the actor.

“So it was another fun project, and ‘fun’ is one of the things about this job that’s important to me. I hope I can continue doing this up until the point that it isn’t fun any more. That’s when people become jaded and become the person that they never wanted to be. I think growing as an actor and a performer is a wonderful thing to behold, and feeling like you’re learning as well. That’s especially important for young actors like myself who have chosen a different path. We haven’t gone to university, but, instead, have decided that acting is what we want to do, and as long as you’re learning while doing it, then I think that’s the main thing that will keep you happy.”

Steve Eramo

The Prisoner concludes tonight, Tuesday, November 17th @ 8 p.m. EST/PST.

As noted above, all photos copyright of Granada TV and AMC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Ruth Wilson Talks About The Prisoner

November 15, 2009
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Ruth Wilson plays the beautiful and troubled Number 313 in The Prisoner. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

IN early 2006, Ruth Wilson exploded onto the scene by winning the title role in the BBC’s major new adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre – her first job out of drama school. She went on to gain a BAFTA TV nomination for Best Actress in 2007 and was also brought to the attention of Hollywood with a Best Actress nomination at the Golden Globe Awards. Suddenly labeled as the new “British bright young thing,” the actress next appeared onstage in Maxim Gorky’s The Philistines at the National Theatre in London. This was followed by playing the leads in two critically acclaimed feature films, Capturing Mary, in which Wilson appeared opposite Dame Maggie Smith and David Williams, and A Real Summer, written specifically for the actress and which she performed alone as a monologue.

In The Prisoner, Wilson plays Number 313, a doctor who plays a key role in the day-to-day running of The Village. The following is an AMC Q & A with the actress about her involvement in the miniseries.

Who is 313?

Ruth Wilson – She is a strange figure, a doctor in The Village. She initially meets Six [Jim Caviezel] in Club More – at that point,you have no idea who she is. She next appears in the hospital where Six is waking up, and gradually the relationship between him and 313 grows. She is always there, always around. She has been assigned to look after him by Two [Sir Ian McKellen]. It is part of her job and she doesn’t think much of it. It is only when she is talking to Six, and he starts making her question herself, that all her doubts about living in The Village are exposed. The women in this version are more interesting than the rather two-dimensional characters in the original The Prisoner. 313 is real; she is always changing and has no secrets.

What attracted you to the role?

RW – I find her fascinating to play every scene – there are so many unsaid things going on. Each scene I have to play for the scene. She has a sophisticated, neat, intelligent look. She is a clever woman, but is tortured by everything she has to do. 313 is someone who is pivotal to the way The Village works and fundamental to making it work successfully. She is overcome with guilt. I’ve tried to play her real. In Episode One, she has to build up a relationship with Six to get him to open up to her. She is not as she seems.

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Numbers Six (Jim Caviezel) and 313. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

What is her relationship with Six?

RW – They have the same doubts and the same questions. She becomes his confidant. In Episode Three you find out that 313 is a dreamer – she dreams of another place which, in The Village, is a crime and she is forced to deny this. She can’t help being drawn to Six. It is the same with Two – she is drawn to him. In the earlier episodes, she has grown closer to Six and found out how dangerous he is. He has made her dangerous to herself, and she is struggling to hold on to who she is in The Village. She has to obey Two otherwise she will suffer the consequences. She almost has to make a choice between The Village and Six.

Describe 313 as a dreamer?

RW – As a dreamer, she becomes more and more tortured by her dreams. She can’t work out what they are and they keep coming back to her. She’s like an outcast – someone who is secretly hiding who they are. [In latter episodes], she becomes more honest and finds out who she really is. Two makes her face her dreams and nightmares.

How did you find working with Ian McKellen?

RW – It’s great working with Ian because there is a real playfulness that he has. His character is the baddie, but he has loads of depth. Two abuses 313 and manipulates her, but she is drawn to him as a father figure. She opens up to him.

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Number 313 on-call in The Village. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

The Prisoner debuts with two episodes on Sunday, November 15th @ 8 p.m. EST/PST and continues at the same time on Monday, the 16th and Tuesday, the 17th. Watch for more Q & As as well as cast interviews as the week goes on.

As noted above, all photos copyright of Granada TV and AMC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Writer Bill Gallagher Talks About The Prisoner

November 14, 2009
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Jim Caviezel stars as Number Six in AMC's re-imagined version of the classic British TV series The Prisoner. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

AFTER a rather itinerant life, working in all manner of jobs – from window cleaner to welder – Bill Gallagher studied at the University of East Anglia, under Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. Subsequently, he taught drama and dramatic writing at the university before becoming a fulltime writer. His first stage play, Darkle, won The Sunday Times Playwriting Award.

Raised in the ship-building community of Newcastle, Bill now lives in Norfolk and has two children. With a passion for television drama, his credits include Maigret, Clocking Off, Hero of the Hour, Out of the Blue, Moving Story, Conviction, Four Fathers and Lark Rise to Candleford. Bill is the winner of Trik Awards and Monte Carlo Awards, and has been nominated for BAFTAs and Royal Television Society Awards. As a young boy, Bill saw The Prisoner during its original broadcast and was mesmerized by it, without understanding why. It has since haunted him in many ways that few dramas have. The following is a brief AMC Q & A with the writer.

How did you get involved with the re-imagining of The Prisoner?

Bill Gallagher – I had a phone call from Granada Television. It was such a surprising call…and I found myself having this bizarre conversation about reworking The Prisoner. I knew immediately I wanted to do it. I won’t claim to have been a longtime fan of the original series, but I had seen it once as a boy. It had such an impact on me. It was so strange and so unfathomable. It disturbed me like no other TV show. That stayed with me for a long time. That all came back to me, so I knew immediately I wanted to do it. And then the prospect of doing it terrified me.

What terrified you? Was it that the show had such a cult following?

BG – Partly, I respect the original. I am inspired by the original. But, it’s never about redoing it and pleasing the people who love the original. They love the original because of what it is. It was the scale of the task. It is such a mind-boggling concept. I knew I couldn’t just make a conventional drama built on conventional structures. I knew it had to be different.

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Exactly what are Number Two's (Sir Ian McKellen) true motivations? Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

Talk about the character of Two and his backstory.

BG – In the original series, there was a series of Twos and he was The Village authority figure. what I was interested in was to stay with this man and to open up the battle between Six [Jim Caviezel] and Two [Sir Ian McKellen] and to get to know Two. Who is this man? What is his mission? What are his moral challenges? If he is a man with a vision, and that vision becomes The Village, then what are the costs to him? What happens when this man has a family? I was really interested in the character of Two and that couldn’t be achieved by replacing Two each week. His actions tell us who he is, but I was also interested in finding out why he does what he does, and what it has cost him.

How did you imagine the character of Six and his journey?

BG – Six begins from a premise that’s already given to me by the original series: there is a man cast into this strange place, he wants to escape, he rails against authority, and he’s determined to assert his own individuality. For me, it’s the man himself and his history. What if Six was a lonely man? What if he was a man who didn’t know how to form relationships? What if he was a man whose work separated him from the world? What are the challenges that are thrown to Six himself, in his own beliefs, in his own ideas, in his own failings? The series is a hero’s journey. That journey is an attempt to escape, an attempt to overcome the monster that is Two. But also, it’s a challenge to overcome the monster in himself.

The Prisoner debuts with two episodes on Sunday, November 15th @ 8 p.m. EST/PST and continues at the same time on Monday, the 16th and Tuesday, the 17th. Watch for more Q & As as well as cast interviews as the week goes on.

As noted above, all photos copyright of Granada TV and AMC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Sir Ian McKellen Talks About The Prisoner

November 11, 2009
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Sir Ian McKellen as Number Two in The Prisoner. Photo copyright of Granada TV/AMC

IN the 1960s British TV series The Prisoner, a character named simply Number Two was the overseer of The Village, a remote seaside community that welcomed new “residents” but rarely allowed anyone to leave – at least alive. When an ex-British Secret Service agent, Number Six (played by actor and series co-creator Patrick McGoohan), was brought to The Village against his will, Number Two was assigned the task of finding out the truth behind why Six resigned from his job.

Over the course of the show’s 17-episode run, no less than 17 actors and actresses portrayed Number Two, with Leo McKern appearing three times and Colin Gordon appearing twice. Some stories featured more than one Number Two, including It’s Your Funeral, in which two incarnations of the character played major roles in the episode, while images of two others were seen as well.

This Sunday, November 15th, AMC will air the first two episodes of its six-part miniseries remake of The Prisoner. Award-winning British stage, feature film and TV actor Sir Ian McKellen assumes the role of Number Two and, like his predecessors, is equally dogged when it comes to finding out Number Six’s (Jim Caviezel) true agenda. In the following AMC press Q & A, Sir Ian McKellen talks about the 2009 miniseries and his role in it.

Why did The Prisoner interest you?

Ian McKellen – This is the sort of thing I would enjoy watching myself and that is always the test. It also arrived at the right time – I wanted to work and, to top it all, it brought me to Cape Town. Now, it’s more intriguing than when I first read it. It’s a thriller and unlike the original series, this is much more about what Six wants to escape from and why he can’t escape. There are clues from the very first scene in the opening episode.

Who is Two?

IM – In the original series, Two was running The Village. More than that, he was played by a different actor for each episode, but this time there’s just me playing the part. Two appears to be in charge of The Village and he has the qualities of someone who might well be that. If you like The Village, you’d accept him as your leader and revere him, but if you don’t like The Village, you’d think he is a monster. I personally don’t think he’s creepy at all.

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A pensive moment for Number Two. Photo copyright of Granada TV/AMC

What about Two’s family?

IM – It is no secret that Two has a family. He has a son in his late teens and he has a wife who’s comatose and with whom he is madly in love. So he has a wife who he can’t really talk to, and a son who doesn’t want to talk to him. He loves them both and it is his love for them both that sets the whole story rollicking along. Does he bring Six to The Village to take over from him or does it become his motive as the story goes on? You never know with The Village.

Why is The Prisoner so compelling?

IM – Once you get involved with something as good as this you find out things you didn’t know before. I read online about people who indulge in mutual dreaming. Sometimes the dreams are identical. I suppose Bill Gallagher [who wrote this re-imagined version of The Prisoner] knew that, and if he didn’t, is very perceptive to these things. What I like about The Prisoner are all the oddities, the strangeness and the peculiarities. Portmerion [the setting in which the original 60s Prisoner was shot] doesn’t look real. It’s a fantasy. Bill Gallagher’s Prisoner is set in a more believable place and one that clearly has a style to it. Swakopmund has the feel of a prison, with the mighty Atlantic Ocean on one side of the town and desert on the other side.

Are there similarities to the original?

IM – There are references back to the original and there are characters that appear in the original that appear in this. I don’t think it is any secret that Rover is back. In this, as opposed to the original, we discover where Rover comes from. Questions are answered. People who enjoyed the original might ask why have you cast an American and not an Englishman in the central role? It all will be answered. The Prisoner is being re-imagined by a group of people who are fans of the original.

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Two shares a family moment with his son, 11-12 (Jamie Campbell Bower) and wife, M2 (Rachael Blake). Photo copyright of Granada TV/AMC

What do you think The Prisoner is about?

IM – It is about relationships in the context of things which preoccupy us. It is about the nature of government today, about the state of mental health, about conspiracy theories. It is a thriller because exciting things happen, and if you are interested to know why they happen  you would want to watch the next episode. The story plays with current observations just like the original did.

The Prisoner debuts with two episodes on Sunday, November 15th @ 8 p.m. EST/PST and continues at the same time on Monday, the 16th and Tuesday, the 17th. Watch for more Q & As as well as cast interviews as the week goes on.

As noted above, all photos copyright of Granada TV and AMC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!

Jim Caviezel Talks About The Prisoner

November 9, 2009
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Number Six (Jim Caviezel) finds himself a long way from home in The Prisoner. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

“I am not a number, I am a free man!” That was the battle cry of the title character in the 1967 – 1968 British spy drama/science fiction TV series The Prisoner. Starring and co-created by actor Patrick McGoohan, the show tells the story of a British Secret Service Agent who, after resigning, is kidnapped and taken to a secluded (and inescapable) seaside locale called “The Village,”  where his abductors use all manner of psychological techniques to try to figure out exactly why he resigned. This Sunday (November 15th), AMC begins airing a three-part re-imagined version of The Prisoner starring Jim Caviezel (The Passion of Christ, Final Cut) in the title role. The following is an AMC Q &A with the actor, who talks about his involvement in the project.

What was the appeal of the role of Six and the series in general?

Jim Caviezel – The challenge for me was taking on an iconic role in a series of such cult status and making it my own. It is a hugely ambitious TV project. It is surreal, complex and challenging for the audience.

How would you describe your character?

JC – Six is stubborn, persistent, curious and clever. He is always looking for answers, refuses to conform and never gives up hope. Six is constantly looking for a way out of The Village – either physically or psychologically. In each episode, he tries to escape by different means.

Does it make it harder or easier playing an iconic lead? How do the Sixes in the original Prisoner and this new version differ?

JC – Although it would be foolish not to recognize the original character created by Patrick McGoohan, the Six I play is very much a contemporary man dealing with issues that affect us now. He does have some similar characteristics with the original Six, like his defiant nature and his complex antagonistic relationship with Two [Sir Ian McKellen]. But we learn more about his life before The Village. We also see him building strong relationships with other Villagers through the six episodes.

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Number Two (Ian McKellen) is determined to extract the truth from Number Six. Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

Were you a fan of the original series of The Prisoner?

JC – I purposely decided not to view the original series. I wanted to find my own interpretation for the role without being influenced by what had been done before.

How do you eel about shooting a remake? Do you think it will inevitably invite comparison with the original and, more specifically, invite comparisons between your portrayal of Number Six and Patrick McGoohan’s?

JC – Yes, it is inevitable that comparisons will be made, but our series is more a reinvention than a remake. It looks at the situation with a fresh eye, and deals with issues that affect us now, and the character is very contemporary. The creative team is keen to remain faithful to the spirit of the original, but both the structure and the character have been reworked. Hopefully, audiences will be able to enjoy it as a separate piece of contemporary television.

What was it like filming with Sir Ian McKellen?

JC – He is a superb actor and we had enormous fun playing adversaries.

What did you think of Namibia?

JC -The space, the desert and the dunes are awesome. The town of Swakopmund is a strange and interesting place – an authentic German town in the desert of Africa.

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Six appears to have made a friend in 313 (Ruth Wilson). Photo copyright of Granada/AMC

The Prisoner debuts with two episodes on Sunday, November 15th @ 8 p.m. EST/PST and continues at the same time on Monday, the 16th and Tuesday, the 17th. Watch for more Q & As as well as cast interviews as the week goes on.

As noted above, all photos copyright of Granada TV and AMC, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!