Marcella fans have been counting down the days until the Anna Friel police drama makes its return, and luckily there isn’t long to wait now for series two to get under way.
The ITV programme is much more than a typical whodunnit – Anna’s character DS Marcella Backland is suffering from mysterious blackouts that leave her unable to remember whether she may have played a key part in the first series’ crimes.
She’s back again on a new case, and we caught up with the show’s stars and writer to find out what the team are working on this time.
How dark should we expect series 2 to get?
Marcella became known for not shying away from tough storylines and grim details, so we’re definitely not expecting it to go all Midsomer Murders on us for series two.
However, viewers should brace themselves for an even darker storyline as Marcella and her team investigate the murder of a schoolboy whose body is found bricked up in a wall - and who turns out to be her son’s missing friend.
Jamie Bamber, who plays Marcella’s love interest and boss DCI Tim Williamson, revealed: “There’s a body in a wall of a child who hadn’t lived that long, but suspects range from aged ex-rockers and their managers to rent boys.
"It just goes everywhere, from the top to the bottom of society, and you don’t know which trail is going to pay off in the end, but each red herring is satisfying in its own way.”
Writer and director Hans Rosenfeldt, who also wrote Scandi-noir drama The Bridge, doesn't plan on the series getting any lighter.
“I don’t think I would be very good at cosy family drama. I do like dark stories," he said.
"I loved horror movies as a kid - I went to see them far too early, so I’ve been raised on them. I read a lot of graphic novels. I like the dark plays of humanity.”
How tough is filming on the cast?
Dealing with such grim subject matter obviously takes its toll on the actors involved.
Nicholas Pinnock, who plays Marcella’s ex-husband Jason Backland, shared: “There are a lot more twists and turns than in the first one - it gets much darker. When Jason’s dealing with Marcella when she’s in those states, it’s tough. It’s exhausting.
“Your conscious mind knows you’re acting but your subconscious mind has no idea - so you’re releasing the same chemicals as if you're really angry or frustrated.”
Ray Panthaki, who plays DI Rav Sangha, added: “Rav and Marcella have to witness something and we were asked whether we wanted to see it before shooting, but I decided I’d rather just play it with my real reaction in the moment.
“It was really quite moving in parts. When you’re doing a show with long days, early starts, late finishes, you feel you’re in this bubble and real life doesn’t really happen. Any tough stuff, we’re going through it together.”
Even Hans acknowledged the toll his work takes.
“I think it’s harder to be an actor in my shows than it is to be writing them, because they invest far more of their personality to really embrace that story. I’m just writing them, and when I’m not writing any more, I’m doing something else.”
That “something else” might surprise his fans - he's a fan of US reality series RuPaul’s Drag Race.
"I’ve watched all the seasons of that! It’s a great show, so good. I watch that and Project Runway," he laughed.
He added: "A guilty pleasure, because it’s really bad, is Face Off. I’m not like ‘oh Face Off, I have to watch it,’ but if it’s on, I can’t turn it off.”
Does anyone know who the killer is?
These days, detective dramas are such big business that any information about who the killer is will be kept tightly under wraps – and that goes for the cast, too.
Nicholas said: “No one knows who the killer is – the killer is told and people will find out along the way, but we have bets about who it is and we’re suspecting each other.”
One actor has managed to get so into his role as DI that he worked it out, though.
Ray said: “The first series, they decided not to tell us who the killer was. At the time I thought, ‘this is really strange, how can you act this stuff?’. I think it was a Scandinavian way of working that Hans brought and it created this atmosphere in the green room that we were all trying to work out who it was. I got it completely wrong.
“In hindsight, it was a really great way to work because we are investigating it, so it’s very real. My detective skills have obviously improved because I got it right first time this time. It’s certainly not more obvious - I think it’s because I’ve got better as a detective!”
Jamie added: “The modus operandi of this production is not to tell the actors too much because we’re investigating as we go along. I think that’s even true for Anna, it’s quite weird.
“Broadchurch chose not to tell the killer themselves until the very end, but I don’t think that makes sense as an actor creating a performance - you need to know what your own personal history is to be fully present, unless you’re a character who’s able to deny what you’ve done in the past and arguably Marcella is a character like that.”
Explaining more about the process, Hans said: “We tell the killer who they will be, especially now there are children involved, because not every actor wants to be that kind of person on screen. We ask for a meeting with them and we tell them."
Are Marcella and Jason secretly still in love?
They may have had one of TV’s bitterest break-ups, but Jason is still on the scene in series two and Marcella gets very upset when she discovers how serious his new relationship is.
Could there be more to come for them?
Nicholas speculated: “I personally think Marcella and Jason are still in love. It goes beyond being parents to a couple of kids. Relationships are complex, it’s not always straightforward, people have their ups and downs and I think Jason and Marcella are no different.
“There’s a bond between them that you just can’t break, no matter what they go through they’ll still have that bond. I equate that to being some form of love. I think it would make a very interesting story if they were to reconcile everything they’ve been through.”
But Hans didn’t agree: “In my head I don’t think they’re still in love. I think there are some emotions there – I’m not sure it’s love. They had a life together, so it’s hard to just end it. Personally, I think Marcella shouldn’t be in love with him, he’s not a very nice person. I think she can do better.”
What’s it like working on a British Scandi-noir?
Hans is known for his work on the hit series The Bridge, but said that he was keen on working in a non-Scandinavian country when he wrote Marcella.
Citing his UK TV loves as Safe House, Unforgotten, and the David Mitchell and Robert Webb comedy Back, he’s obviously just as much a fan of British TV as we are of him.
Jamie said: “The Nordic mentality in popular fiction are people on the Asperger’s spectrum who do not feel emotion in the same way that we do. Marcella has cut off her own emotional truth in order to function and it’s caused a massive problem in her home life and her police work.
“You are dealing with events that you can only imagine what it would be like to go through them, but with people who don’t feel. That’s the Scandi-noir umami even though it’s set in Blighty.”
Ray said it had been a dream job for him: “When this opportunity came along, I just had to see Hans’s name on the script to say I’m in. I think he’s such a special writer and he makes our jobs really easy.
“The dialogue is great and on top of that you’ve got a master of plotting, so it’s a sure fire hit. There are certain writers that you wish could write for you all the time.”
Is this the ending Marcella fans will be looking for?
Confirmed. Marcella (Series 2) new eight-parter starts Monday 19 February at 9pm on ITV. pic.twitter.com/pFJpoBMFIs— ITV Press Centre (@itvpresscentre) February 7, 2018
Neither Hans nor his actors are pretending that every viewer’s questions will be answered by the season finale, but they claim that only makes the series even more tantalising.
Nicholas teased: “Will they love the last episode? Absolutely, without a doubt. Will they still have questions? Absolutely, without a doubt. That leaves it somewhere to go.
“The finale this year is absolutely epic – I’m not just saying that because I’m part of the show. If I thought it was a little bit meh I probably wouldn’t say anything, but I actually do think it’s going to be wonderful.”
And Hans confirmed the news you’ve been waiting for: “We have a plan for a third series. That soul searching over her blackouts is taking her somewhere that we could easily pick up in series three.”
Marcella series two begins on Monday, February 19 at 9pm on ITV.
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