BBC One’s new global crime epic McMafia spans a breathtaking range of locations.
The series is based on Misha Glenny’s bestseller of the same name and centres on a Russian family in exile in London, following the international web of crime that they are caught up in.
Find out more about the places across the world that the cast and crew travelled to in recreating the reach of a global crime network.
Where was McMafia filmed?
As the series is based in London, you might see many familiar locations around the city as the backdrop to the action.
The Russian Godman family are wealthy, so we’ll see some of London’s grander buildings taking centre stage.
James Norton, who plays main character Alex Godman, said: “We were able to film at these great London locations, like Lancaster House and the Victoria & Albert Museum. It was wonderful when the public went home and we descended in mad glory with our white vans.”
McMafia also shot many scenes in Croatia, as well as travelling to Cairo, Mumbai, Tel Aviv, Moscow, Serbia, Prague, Turkey, and Qatar.
Why did McMafia use so many locations?
Screenwriter Hossein Amini explains that the range of settings was vital to the show.
He said: “The experience of exile has become more and more common. With increasingly free movement, people often live in countries where they weren’t born. Those countries also change because of the influx of immigrants.
“In London you can hear dozens of languages spoken in a single day. This is something else we’ve tried to capture in McMafia: the experience of a globalised world where the same movie billboards can be seen in every city, the same brands and advertisements appear on TV, the same hit songs are played in nightclubs, and there’s a ubiquitous McDonald’s restaurant in every city hub.
“The series is about crime in the modern world but also about the modern world in general. Our intrepid team, led by James Watkins, have shot in over a dozen countries to capture the cross-pollination that’s occurring around us every day.
“Our anti-heroes don’t run neighbourhoods, they run countries, they don’t aspire to be the king of a city, they want to rule the world.”
James Watkins, McMafia’s screenwriter and director, added: “It was incredibly important to us to cast globally for the authenticity. One of the first discussions we had with our partners was that when we depicted Russia, we wanted the language to be Russian, so needed to cast Russian actors. I think audiences are far too sophisticated now to have an English actor putting on a Russian accent, it feels fake.
“In order to immerse people in these worlds we wanted to seek out the best actors in these different countrie - Russia, Israel, Georgia, Czech Republic etc.
“We shot in many territories around the world, main and second unit, to give us that breadth of scale. We were in London, Croatia, Serbia, Qatar, India, Turkey, Czech Republic, and Israel.”
Why did Croatia feature so heavily?
Viewers who’ve visited Croatia will be able to spot many a scene that takes in the country’s beautiful coastline and stunning cities.
Zagreb, Opatija, Split, Rovinj and the island of Pag all feature in the programme – although they’re all masquerading as somewhere else.
Watkins explained: “None of the story is actually set in Croatia, but Croatia is incredibly impressive in how it can double for so many places. There is such a variety of landscape and architecture.”
Norton added: “In order to show the size and scope of the mafia, the second unit filmed in places like Mumbai and Tel Aviv, but the main unit mostly focused on London and Croatia.
“It was an eye opener filming in Croatia, which is an amazing place. It’s so versatile [in terms of] the weather and how it was able to cater for an incredible number of countries.”
What were the filming highlights?
Watkins said: “Filming in India was very special. The chaos, the noise and the sensory overload was all really wonderful. It was a new world to me and being able to capture that was incredible.
“The other highlight was working with actors from across the world and talent that you might not normally see in mainstream drama in the UK or USA - actors who are huge stars in their own countries but undiscovered to those audiences. It’s wonderful to be able to showcase their talents.”
Norton said: “It would be hard to choose a highlight on this job. It was an adventure we all went on together for over eight months; we went to the most extraordinary locations and met the most ridiculously wonderful people.”
McMafia begins on January 1 and 2 at 9pm on BBC One. It continues on Sundays at 9pm.
Catch up on BT TV via the BBC iPlayer app.
Episode 2 preview.
Semiyon convinces Alex into a venture designed to harm Vadim's business in Prague. Meanwhile, a young girl is taken on a very different journey.