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Survivors is back

18/12/2009. Contributed by Jessica Martin

Buy Survivors in the USA - or Buy Survivors in the UK

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The UK after the great plague of the 21st century is revisited in the second series of the BBC's TV series, Survivors, hitting the small screen in Jaunary 2010. Its return was delayed in case swine flu proved to be a little too close to fiction.

Abby (Julie Graham) and her mismatched family of Survivors are in disarray, now struggling not just with the difficulties of day-to-day life amidst the ruins of the post-virus apocalypse, but also with the threat of other emerging communities and the machinations of the sinister Lab.

Series two opens with Abby now being held by Whitaker (Nicholas Gleaves) and Fiona (Geraldine Somerville) at the Lab.

There she learns that the scientists have avoided infection and are looking desperately for a vaccine which they believe her unique immune system alone will generate.

Meanwhile, the family race to save Greg's (Paterson Joseph) life as he lies dying from a gunshot wound.

Drawn into a burning hospital by their search for the necessary medical equipment, Al (Phillip Rhys) and Anya (Zoe Tapper) are caught in an avalanche of rubble as the building collapses around them.

Tom (Max Beesley) is faced with the stark challenge of rescuing his friends from a seemingly insurmountable disaster with only Sarah (Robyn Addison) and Naj (Chahak Patel) to help him.

Returning for this high-octane second series are Abby (Julie Graham), a devoted mother with a missing son; Greg (Paterson Joseph), a loner, hiding the pain of his past; Anya (Zoe Tapper), a doctor who has seen too much; Al (Phillip Rhys), a playboy who becomes surrogate father to young and headstrong Najid (Chahak Patel); Sarah (Robyn Addison), a hedonist used to getting her own way; Tom Price (Max Beesley), handsome, dangerous and a high security prisoner before the virus hit; and Samantha Willis (Nikki Amuka–Bird), the last surviving member of the British Government.

Nicholas Gleaves plays Whitaker; the scientist in charge of the Lab, who – together with fellow scientists Fiona (Geraldine Somerville) and Sami Masood (Ronny Jhutti) – continues to search for a vaccine.

Patrick Malahide features as Landrey, a mysterious figure linked to the Lab.


Julie Graham interviewed about playing Abby Grant

What are the dilemmas Abby has to face in the new series?

"There are lots of things that she has to face that completely challenges everything that she thinks and has thought. Abby changes so much – where she was understanding and frightened, she almost becomes warrior-like. She has to defend the indefensible, which again challenges everything she thinks. Towards the end of the series there is a complete transition from what she was."

What's new about series two?

"The new series is so strong. Last series was just like episodic stories, but this year there is more of a serial element to it. When we got to the end of filming episode six I thought, yes this could go on. Some things happen at the end of episode six which I can't tell you, but it's definitely a story line that could easily continue."

Is there a spark between Abby and Greg?

"Well there's a sort of underlying attraction between Abby and Greg (played by Paterson Joseph), and there always will be, but that never develops in anyway. They just have an affinity with each other. In a different life, there would be a romance. But something happens to his character which prevents that from taking place."

How do you think you would cope in a post-apocalyptic world?

"I don't know. I'd like to think that I'd rise to the occasion, but there's another part of me that thinks I would just lock the door and eat baked beans, and never venture out into the world. It could be a very scary place. I'd try and find a nice country cottage and hide."

What would you miss?

"There's nothing that I would miss apart from people. I certainly wouldn't miss the telly or a microwave or anything. I'd miss a nice lunch in a restaurant every now and again (laughs)."

What would you say is the secret to the longevity of your career?

"Luck! (laughs) I think it's because I have never played a particular type of person. I've always had a very varied career. I don't tend to get pigeon-holed in the same way. I don't play terribly glamorous roles, although I have done. And I don't play dowdy housewives, although I have done that as well. Maybe that's what it is? I don't ever try to act an age that I'm not. I'm a 44-year-old actress and those are the parts that I want to play. I don't want to play someone who's 34. I think some actors cling onto that. But I think it's down to luck as well."

Would you ever go down the route of cosmetic surgery?

"No, no I wouldn't. I'm the age that I am, and I think the parts that I play are interesting people. The older people get the more interesting they get. I wouldn't have a facelift, and I certainly would not inject cows what-ever-it-is. No thank you."

What would you do as an alternative career?

"I love my job and I've always wanted to do it. I'm very lucky that I'm allowed to do it. In this economic climate I'm starting to think maybe I should have another string to my bow! But there's certainly nothing else I'd want to do. I have directed pop promos – I kind of stumbled into it, and really enjoyed it, so I'd like to do more of that."

Do your daughters show any signs of going into the business, have they got the acting bug?

"Well all three and five-year-olds are completely dramatic all the time so, yes, I could see both of them doing it. I wouldn't encourage or discourage. If they absolutely wanted to do it of course I would encourage them, but I wouldn't discourage them from doing anything no."

Max Beesley is Tom Pryce

How would you describe the new series?

"The new series is excellent. I'm really pleased with it. The primary difference between this series and the last is that the characters are now established. The public know what's happened and we don't have to concentrate on the pandemic element as it is much more about survival. The new series steps up a gear. It's a little darker, there's a lot more high-octane action."

What does your character get up to in the new series?

"My character is still all about survival but what becomes apparent with him is this connection he can't quite work out between himself and Anya (played by Zoe Tapper). The dynamic between them is a big part of the second series.

"There are also some very dark moments with him without giving too much away. He is beginning to become a bit of an anti-hero, with the exception of the occasional heroic act; this chap is a nasty piece of work.

"All actors want to work with good material and there's no doubt about it, this is a great part. To be given this opportunity to portray someone who is quite real, who people buy into and believe, I think is great. I love playing the character."

What are the highlights for the audience in the new series? Why should people tune in?

"I thought the first series was great, but the second series is even better because Adrian (Hodges) and the execs put everything under a magnifying glass to see what worked, what the audience would want this year, and what twists we can put in. I think we've all worked hard to create a really fantastic bit of drama."

Tell me about the explosive opening episode and what it was like to be covered in dust and debris.

"I was covered in dirt from head to toe, it went into my ears, nose and eyes; the make-up girls had a right laugh applying seven layers of dust all over me. It was absolutely awful running around in my gear, worrying about breaking my ankles! But I'm a hands-on actor and I liked all that. Of course you could do it covered in less make-up, but those things add to the authenticity of the piece.

"In episode three we went to an area which was absolutely awful to film in, but it was a brilliant, claustrophobic environment which helped with the work. I did get hurt a few times, too numerous to remember to be honest. I smashed my head when I went down the coalmine and nearly knocked myself out. But I was ok, it added to the horrendousness of shooting there that week.

"Tom Price steps up a gear physically, I think both David the director and I had the Bourne franchise in mind whilst shooting episodes four and five. David, like me, works a lot with music in his mind and mentally edits as he shoots, both a reflection of the pressure shooting television nowadays but also an indication of someone who knows what he wants, we both had chosen the John Powell Bourne scores as choices. I loved that, and I really enjoyed working with David along with Jamie and Farren."

Filming away from home for three months must be difficult, how did the cast relax?

"We rarely had time to go out because we were working so hard. The production on this is up there with Bodies schedule wise, it was a hard shoot. We had two or three nights out together on the entire shoot. I had the cast over for a lovely dinner one night. I think its important to have a good tight unit on such a hard shoot physically and mentally and, even if it's just one night, to re-calibrate it's really beneficial to connect with one another purely on a human level."

What was it like to film in Birmingham?

"It was hard work filming in Birmingham and not Manchester this time because I have all my family in Manchester. But the good thing about Birmingham is the fact that we had much more control over a vast number of locations, so on a Sunday and Monday we could shoot and close everything down which was amazing. There are some incredible shots on the roof looking down on the main streets. The production did a great job of finding locations although some of them were miles away."

You appear to spend quite a bit of time in LA during the year, why?

"When I look at the rainy weather, I cannot wait to be out in LA. I love everything about it – the food, being healthy, the sun and my girlfriend is out there. It's a different quality of life. You can get up in the morning, go and train, have a nice breakfast, then get in the car and in 25 mins you can hit the beach. Sitting on the Malibu coastline by yourself on the beach is just lovely."

It's great to see Robbie Williams back, any plans to play any sessions with him or anyone else?

"I loved touring and playing with Rob, his album's amazing, really, really good. I'm delighted for him, he's one of the great artists of our time, wonderful lyrics and a brilliant performer, but I just don't get time anymore to do many sessions, or touring, as my filming schedule is pretty tough. I occasionally get a call for a nice big gig from different artists and if I'm free I'll do it. Music is a beautiful gift to have and I'm very lucky to have been sprinkled with the golden music dust, so to speak."

What are you up to next? Tell me about your film project?

"Mr Goodnight is a movie set in Manchester in 1966. It follows the leader of a gang of crack safe blowers and his dominance of the Manchester underworld. It is also a real look inside the mind of the man, and his effect on those around him. We have a few exotic locations that will stretch the budget but I am producing it with Gub Neal of Prime Suspect and Cracker fame, so I am in very good hands. Ray Winstone, Marc Warren and Mathew Rhys are all attached along with Christopher Fulford and Dexter Fletcher. I know it will be something we haven't seen for a long time with gangster movies as Adrian Shergold is attached to direct. It is a lot more in the vein of the early British movies Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning etc, with a small smidgen of the works of Scorsese."

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