Michelle Hurd, Harry Treadaway and Evan Evagora on Star Trek: Picard, working with Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes, and more

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“I’m just trying to work out whether I’m allowed to say what I think I’m allowed to say,” paused Harry Treadaway.

We’ve asked the assembled actors if they can tell us a little bit about their characters. So far, the answer has mostly been yes: Michelle Hurd explained that her character, Raffi, “has a very complicated relationship with the Federation. Very strained. She worked with Picard back in the day after Next Generation, and they had a bit of a falling out”. Evan Evagora, meanwhile, described his character Elnor as “a young Romulan boy who’s an expert in hand to hand combat. He’s pretty good with a sword as well, and he was raised in an all-female sect of warrior nuns”. Elnor is an orphan and a refugee; Raffi is haunted by decisions she’s made in the past, both of their lives changed radically by the destruction of Romulus.

But Harry Treadaway is having a slightly harder time telling us anything at all about his character. The three of them confer for a moment, whispering to each other so we can’t hear.

The second of four Star Trek: Picard themed interviews – this time with new cast members Michelle Hurd, Harry Treadaway and Evan Evagora!

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Sir Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan on Star Trek: Picard, how the new series addresses the present, and more

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Captain Jean-Luc Picard is here. Not only in a new Star Trek television series, but he’s also sitting just across the table from me.

There’s something a little surreal about that. Technically, yes, it’s actually Patrick Stewart who’s sitting here in front of me – but in all ways except literal, Captain Picard is in the room, and we’re all captivated.

It’s not the sort of thing you ever really think is going to happen, and it’s clear Patrick Stewart didn’t expect to be here either.

“For many years, any suggestion that I might revive Picard,” he explains, “I passed on immediately, straight away, without hesitation. Not because I wasn’t proud of what we did on Next Generation. I was, and I loved all the people that I worked with very, very much. But I thought I had said and done everything that could be said and done about Jean-Luc and the Enterprise and his relationship with the crew and so forth.”

Which, well, makes a lot of sense. There’s a version of Star Trek: Picard out there – a half-written script on someone’s hard drive, a forum comment, the whisper of a dream – where nothing has really changed. Captain Picard, on the Enterprise (the Enterprise-F this time, of course), boldly going where no one has gone before. But we’ve seen that: we’ve seen a hundred and seventy-eight episodes of it, and they were often wonderful, but all good things must come to an end.

Except, of course, here we are.

So! This was very exciting!

The day after going to the London premiere of Star Trek: Picard in Leicester Square, I had perhaps the most personally exciting interview of my career: Sir Patrick Stewart! And Jeri Ryan! Captain Picard! And Seven of Nine!

Eventually, I suspect I’ll write more about the experience itself – I think perhaps there’s something interesting to be said about it – but for the moment, let’s just sit and enjoy quite how cool this is.

Patrick Stewart!

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Costume designer Caroline Duncan on Servant, working with M. Night Shyamalan, and more

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You always have to be conscious of your audience and considerate of your audience, but you’re not working to satisfy your audience, you’re working to satisfy and fulfill the creation of real characters. Ultimately in doing your job, you help your audience to feel the characters are grounded and real, identifiable. The opposite of that is I’ve never worked with an actor who I think had so identifiable a role before that I was trying to push away from, which was your original question about Rupert. Kind of an amazing challenge! It was just fun to think about that element when designing his costumes too.

New interview! I spoke to Caroline Duncan, costume designer (it amuses me that her initials match her job description, although we didn’t talk about that at the time) on Apple TV+’s Servant, as well as Showtime’s The Affair, and also Netflix’s When They See Us. 

Particularly interesting – or I thought so anyway – was talking about how she used costuming to reflect similar plot points, the death of a child, across two very different programmes, and discussing how she approached the costumes for Rupert Grint, given that he, as an actor, carries with him certain associations other actors don’t.

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Edward Norton on Motherless Brooklyn

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I think, had I made this film a long time ago, I might have had more of a commitment to the cynicism of the genre. Part of the benefit of me having a little more time with it, and the times we’re living in shifting and changing around us in certain ways, is that it gave me a real pause about the idea of being dark for darkness’ sake, you know? I didn’t want to communicate apathy or cynicism – I wanted to communicate that, when people encounter power and the dark things that power is doing, there’s a need to be heroic and act against it.

Not long after I finished this interview, I was suddenly struck by not only how extremely, extremely cool the things I get to do are, but also how intensely lucky I am to be able to do them. (I mean, there’s also a bit of hard work involved too, I suppose.) That was a really great feeling, just sitting and thinking about that for a moment.

Hope you all enjoy this, anyway – it was great to talk to Edward Norton about Motherless Brooklyn. It is, obviously, quite the passion project for him, a huge labour of love, so he was really engaged talking about it – which is always nice, as an interviewer!

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw on Motherless Brooklyn

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I always think you can’t really play a genre. You have to be grounded and real, and then the world – hopefully – is built around you. One of the things that I loved about Laura is exactly that: she’s not your classic femme fatale, she’s not a 50s housewife. She’s a layered, multifaceted human being, and you know we don’t often see that very often in female characters – and certainly female characters of colour in the 50s – so I just tried to bring as many emotional nuances to her as possible.

This is very exciting! Another in-person interview, and – crucially – my own on-screen debut! (Well, sort of, the Edward Norton interview was actually filmed first.)

I have no idea how the video is – I now suddenly understand why some actors never watch their own films, even the idea of watching this back feels too awkward – but I do remember Gugu being very lovely to talk to. (And myself getting a bit tongue-tied!)

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Film Review | Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

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As Lionel Essrog, Norton offers a characteristically precise performance – every tic and spasm of the 1950s gumshoe’s Tourette’s syndrome meticulously recreated, in many ways the pinnacle of the careful affect Norton is known for as an actor. But to focus on the precision of the performance obscures its sensitivity. What might at first be written off as an ostentatious display of overly attentive histrionics, justified only by itself to itself, belies something much more tentative and tender. There’s a lightness to Norton’s work here, something gentle not lost in his formal dedication to the psychical neuroses; Lionel is rendered with vulnerability and treated in turn with empathy. There’s a depth beyond the superficially impressive imitation of the rhythms of Tourette’s – a crumpled, weary interiority suggestive of a man always slightly out of step with his surroundings.

Another new review from me! Something I was conscious of particularly with this one was how I wrote about acting, specifically; actually engaging with the details of performances is something I find difficult to articulate, so I’m trying to work on that a little harder. Fairly pleased with what I wrote in the end, actually, so that’s nice!

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Film Review | The Two Popes (2019)

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In its weakest moments, The Two Popes treats Benedict as an aberration, an interruption that needed to be corrected by Francis – at times, the affection felt towards the current Bishop of Rome risks tending towards the hagiographic.

And yet The Two Popes clearly aspires to a more complicated narrative. Central to this story are the sexual abuse cases that came to light towards the end of Benedict’s papacy. It’s a fraught subject, and The Two Popes is necessarily precise in approach – the careful levity of McCarten’s script is easy to appreciate, conscious in how it threads the needle between this and its otherwise gentle humour, never quite polemic or farce.

I am really, really pleased with this review. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to bring myself to write something properly, for a myriad of boring reasons, but here I really managed to break that writer’s block. Lots of half-completed drafts cluttering up my desktop at the moment, but this, thankfully, is not one of them.

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Film Review | The Nightingale (2019)

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Kent lingers on the violence, lingers on assault, lingers on the casual, visceral nature of this world; the camera holds its gaze far longer than one can bear, deliberately unsettling audiences and challenging them not to look away. Indeed, The Nightingale is designed for the cinema experience – being able to look away from the laptop screen and check Twitter defeats the point of Kent’s unrelenting direction, however necessary it might sometimes feel.

Here’s my review of The Nightingale, accompanying my recent interview with its two lead actors.

It’s an interesting film, The Nightingale – as I remark in the review, it’s a movie that’s far easier to respect than to like. There’s a lot about it that’s hugely, hugely impressive: not just Jennifer Kent’s direction, but also the performances of Aisling Franciosi and Sam Claflin. (And indeed of Baykali Ganambarr – I’m a little annoyed with myself I didn’t find the space to mention to his performance in the review itself, it’s quite a notable omission.)

I wasn’t especially fond of it when I first watched it; my appreciation of it has grown since then, though, the more I’ve thought about it. It’s definitely a film that benefits from deeper thought and consideration – certainly, had I reviewed it closer to when I watched the film, I’d have likely written about it more critically than I ultimately did. Admittedly I’m not super pleased with the review itself: I think perhaps I could’ve done a stronger piece of writing about the film than I actually did, particularly in the second half of the review.

Still, though. Pretty pleased with that segment I quoted above. Good set of sentences, that.

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Aisling Franciosi and Sam Claflin on The Nightingale

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You should never see a scene of – well, any kind of violence, but in this case, sexual violence and not be made to feel uncomfortable. In my opinion, it’s filmed wrong if you don’t feel repulsed by it – there’s something wrong in the way that it’s been depicted.

This is a very exciting one! First-ever video interview. Not that you can actually see me in it, mind – I’m rather more suited to a radio career than television – but I was in the room, and they were filmed, so it counts. And it was a pretty cool experience generally, so that’s good.

I’ve linked directly to the YouTube video above, but there’s also a little bit of a write-up over at Flickering Myth, if you’re interested in that as well. It’s a good interview, I think – we only had a relatively short time together, but still managed to get to the heart of what’s proving to be quite a challenging film. (I’ll have my own review of The Nightingale up in a few days – it’s certainly quite a striking film, if nothing else.)

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Composer Kurt Farquhar on Black Lightning, the evolving sound of an ongoing series, and more

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We’ve had to change and alter things to be a little bit darker, a little bit edgier. There’s a lot of solo violin and cello, string quartets and things like that, mixed with some urban ethnic sounds and a lot of interesting samples. We’re just making up some shit, we’ll see! But it’s been pretty exciting. It’s a very interesting season, trying to figure out where they’re going. I personally have not been watching ahead – I watch an episode when I get it, when it’s ready for me, that’s when I look at it. I don’t look at any of it earlier, because I just want to be discovering this like the fans are, I want to be so close to my emotions so that the only difference between me and the fans is that I get to emotionally erupt onto the musical palette, you know? Like “oh my God, that was so cool!”

Another interview! This time with Kurt Farquhar, who’s the composer on Black Lightning – and lots of other things too, actually, because he hasn’t worked on fewer than five shows at once since 1991.

It was also quite interesting to hear about Kurt’s plan to start suggesting producers hire other, new composers instead of him – helping composers who are just starting out get more established. That’s pretty cool, I thought. Read more at the link, as per the norm.

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