Luther debuts this Sunday on BBC America at 10pm EST. I am posting interviews with the stars and episode 1 overview. Stay tuned for more ‘Luther’ info and one on one interviews and other stuff as the series unfolds, right here!
A MURDERER ON THE LOOSE. A DETECTIVE ON THE EDGE.
– Idris Elba stars in Luther, an all new U.S. premiere thriller –
A brilliant detective tormented by the darker side of humanity, Luther shines a light into the hearts and minds of psychopaths and killers, and the shadowy spaces of his own soul. A BBC AMERICA co-production starring The Wire’s Idris Elba (Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell), Luther is a gripping, psychological thriller driven by a brilliant and emotionally impulsive detective. A self-destructive near-genius, Luther might just be as dangerous as the depraved criminals he hunts. In each episode, the murderer’s identity is known from the start, focusing the drama on the psychological duel between predator and prey. Luther premieres October 17, 2010, 10:00p.m. ET/PT.
Luther is created and written by Neil Cross, the acclaimed suspense novelist and one of the lead writers on MI-5. He says: “It’s an intense psychological thriller which examines not only human depravity but the complex nature of love … and how it’s often this – our finest attribute – that leads us into darkness.”
Elba, who is also an associate producer on the mini-series, is joined by an all-star cast: Ruth Wilson (The Prisoner, Jane Eyre) is Alice Morgan, beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent and a key witness in Luther’s first investigation; Steven Mackintosh (Criminal Justice) is Detective Chief Inspector Ian Reed and Luther’s loyal friend and work colleague; Indira Varma (Rome) is Zoe Luther, who’s had the strength to walk away from the man she still loves; Paul McGann (Withnail and I) is Mark North, unafraid to compete with Luther for Zoe’s love; Saskia Reeves (Bodies) is Detective Superintendent Rose Teller, Luther’s risk-taking boss and Warren Brown (Occupation) is Detective Sergeant Justin Ripley, Luther’s loyal, awestruck new partner.
Luther follows his own moral code as much as the rules of criminal law. But as he becomes locked in a lethal battle of wits with Alice, his decision process becomes increasingly murky. The strain begins to tell as he’s drawn deeper into a series of horrific murders, and the shadow of a former case threatens to bring him down.
Forced to face his own capacity for violence – he struggles with why his wife left him and what draws him to Alice. As the stakes get higher and more personal, Luther’s lonely path pulls him towards the very edge of temptation. Is he a force for good or a man hell bent on self-destruction?
BBC AMERICA brings audiences a new generation of award-winning television featuring news with a uniquely global perspective, provocative dramas, razor-sharp comedies, life-changing makeovers and a whole new world of nonfiction. BBC AMERICA pushes the boundaries to deliver high quality, highly addictive and eminently watchable programming to viewers who demand more. It is available on digital cable and satellite TV in more than 67 million homes.
Production Credits/UK Press Quotes………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
Cast Interviews…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 3
Idris Elba (Luther)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 3
Neil Cross (Creator)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 4
Ruth Wilson (Alice Morgan)……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 5
Steven Mackintosh (Ian Reed)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 6
Warren Brown (Justin Ripley)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 7
Episode Synopses………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 8
Luther Idris Elba (The Wire, Takers, Thor)
Alice Morgan Ruth Wilson (The Prisoner, Jane Eyre)
Ian Reed Steven Mackintosh (Criminal Justice, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)
Zoe Luther Indira Varma (Rome, Human Target)
Mark North Paul McGann (Withnail and I, True Dare Kiss)
Rose Teller Saskia Reeves (Red Riding, Bodies)
Justin Ripley Warren Brown (Occupation, Shameless)
Creator and Writer Neil Cross (MI-5)
Associate Producer Idris Elba
Directors Sam Miller
Producer Katie Swinden
Executive Producer Phillippa Giles
Luther is a BBC and BBC AMERICA co-production distributed by BBC Worldwide.
WHAT THE UK PRESS SAID
“Taut, punchy, brilliantly filmed and acted with total conviction… gloriously entertaining” The Times
“Idris Elba in his best post-Wire role to date” Guardian
“Beautifully done and deliciously intriguing – and the powerfully charismatic Elba is terrific” Daily Mail
IDRIS ELBA (LUTHER)
Idris Elba provides some insight into Luther’s world: “Luther is a modern spin on the maverick detective, an unorthodox, intellectual guy, but also passionate about his work and about the cases that he fights for.”
In terms of his character Idris explains: “Luther can’t help but get emotionally involved in his cases and, as a result, when we first meet him, you realize quickly he’s been working on one case far too long. What we see as the series continues is a man trying to get back into his stride and back on top of his game.”
“He is a compassionate man who believes in his job. He has a good understanding of human beings and the psychology of human beings, especially those that do wrong. You see a man who is fantastic at solving crime, fantastic at risk assessment and fantastic at figuring out why you did it, then you see him stumbling when it comes to dealing with his personal life.”
Luther’s marriage to human rights lawyer Zoe (played by Indira Varma) is falling apart, but Luther believes if he does the right thing he can win her back. “His attempt at dealing with the break-up of his marriage is a crash-course for disaster. His marriage is on the rocks – a result of him being too passionate about his work and his wife and not being able to sustain the relationship. Knowing Luther the way I know Luther, I think he’s dug himself deeper into his work because there’s been something missing from their relationship for a long time.”
In terms of getting into the mind of a detective, Idris explains how he prepared for the role. “I met with a senior murder detective, who also advised on the drama. He gave me an insight into his working life, how long it took to get where he is in the force and the things he has seen. We talked about what life as a detective is really like – we discussed Luther’s behavior, the expected protocol for a given situation. I had to know the rules to plan how Luther breaks them. I didn’t really go on any field work or anything like that, it’s not that type of story, it’s more about the character.”
Luther’s team of detectives include Detective Chief Inspector Ian Reed (played by Steven Mackintosh), Luther’s colleague and best friend. “He’s definitely seen the best and worst of Luther, and these guys are absolutely loyal to each other – they’ve got each others’ back, no matter what. Steven Mackintosh is fantastic as Ian Reed – very, very strong and very vulnerable and believable.”
Also part of the team is the young, idealistic Detective Sergeant Justin Ripley, who requests a transfer specifically to work with Luther, such is his reputation. “Warren Brown, who plays Ripley – he’s not going to like me saying this – but he is Luther’s Robin to my Batman. Warren is a great actor and also brings a fresh-faced, unburdened energy. There are really wonderful moments where Luther does something that is completely not text book, which throws Ripley for six, but, like Batman and Robin, they stick together.”
As for the script, written by Neil Cross, Idris says: “It was a page-turner for me. I kept reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I fell in love with Luther – he’s a complex man, which is interesting, dramatically speaking. I wanted to play a character that challenged me and challenges the audience and I think we have that with Luther.”
In each episode, the audience discovers early on who the murderer is, so the drama is not in the mystery “who did it” – it is in watching Luther work out how to catch the killer. “There is plenty of tension just watching Luther’s mind work – he is an intense fellow. My character does his own thing throughout, but you as an audience will sit there thinking: ‘Should he be breaking the law to get there?’ It puts the audience in a unique position. My character has something of the fantastical about him, he wants to solve the crime at any costs – he’s like a super-hero and he never changes his clothes!”
On being back in England, Idris says: “I love being here. It’s great working in America and so far I’ve been very privileged in the roles that have come my way. Although I’ll continue to work in America, London is still home and British television drama still sets a benchmark for the world, so Luther was a unique opportunity for me. I think we’ve done something special with Luther, creating a new kind of hero for a contemporary audience.”
Talking of super-heroes, Idris has just finished filming on Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh, bringing to life one of Marvel’s best-loved comic heroes.
NEIL CROSS (CREATOR/WRITER)
Charged with the daunting task of creating “a modern detective icon”, Neil Cross says: “Luckily, I had the idea of this complex character who became John Luther. Writing Luther was a very different experience for me, primarily because of the scale and the responsibility of it. It was a very enjoyable challenge but it was very different. Anyone who’s watched television will know that the history of television is littered with iconic detectives. So finding something new was a big task.”
But not impossible – as Neil reveals how he came up with the Luther concept. “In crime fiction there are two broad genres – one is the mystery genre, the puzzle-solving genre, and that’s where there tends to be a genius detective, a lone maverick, or an eccentric. This is the tradition best exemplified by people like Sherlock Holmes.”
“The second tradition involves a much more morally committed, a much more beaten and bruised central hero figure. That’s the tradition best exemplified by people like Philip Marlowe. What I have never seen, what I’ve never read or seen on television, was a character who exemplified both of these primary traits.”
So the idea for Detective John Luther began to form, but what about the rest of the series? “It was the character who came to me first, this man who exemplified this distant intellectual puzzle-solving detective, married with this kind of bruised moral crusader. It seemed to me that the best way for us really to engage with him, and to see his world through his eyes, was to see the moral outrages that he deals with – in order to understand the cost that these crimes have on him. To that end I took a leaf from Detective Columbo’s book and made the story not a ‘whodunit?’, but a ‘how to catch him?’”
“We see the brutality, we see the violence, we see the aftermath and then we see Luther going after his criminal. We see his brilliance, his frustration, his anger, we see his insight and we also often see his moral compromise.”
Coming from a mostly novel-writing background, the experience of writing a complete television series was something new for Cross. “Luther is really my biggest single project. It’s the first show on television I’ve created and written in its entirety. So the potential for embarrassment for falling flat on my face was enormous. The first four months was pure fear.”
Neil describes how seeing it all come together has been quite an experience. “We attracted the most remarkable cast and, seeing how they took these characters and breathed life into them, made them real and made Luther’s world a real world – a three-dimensional proper world full of real people – was magnificent to behold.”
When asked about his favorite TV programs, Neil seems initially reluctant to answer. “I’ve spent far, far too much of my life watching television. So from all of those tens of thousands of hours of viewing it would be a terrifying for me to single out my favorite ever shows. As soon as I start to name one I get half a dozen more, there are hundreds and hundreds of television shows which I love.”
When pressed, he admits “David Tennant as the 10th Doctor (Doctor Who), I think for a long time, was the best television show in the world. The Wire is a landmark in the history of television – which is part of the reason it was so exciting to have Idris Elba playing Luther. Other favorites included The Shield, Coronation Street, The Simpsons and The West Wing.”
Neil’s literary influences have changed little throughout the course of his life. “The funny thing about me and my narrative touchstones, and the books which formed me, is that my tastes haven’t changed that much. It was my step-father who introduced me to books, he brought me Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson, and a whole bunch of children’s classics from that era: Tom Sawyer, Little Women, by Louisa M Alcott, which I adored at the time, also The Three Musketeers, The Count Of Monte Cristo.”
Neil also confesses he avoids hero-worshipping any real-life people. “I don’t have any real-life heroes. I’ve had the opportunity to meet several people that I admire over the last 20 odd years, and to the first approximation they’ve all been enormous disappointments. I think having fictional heroes is one of the secrets of a happy life.”
RUTH WILSON (ALICE MORGAN)
Ruth Wilson is Alice Morgan, beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent and introduced as a key witness in Luther’s first investigation. Luther, however, quickly discovers she is not as innocent as she seems.
Ruth reveals what is going on in Alice Morgan’s brilliant mind. “At the age of 13 she went to university and studied physics, so she left home and engaged with people a lot older than herself at a very young age – so she’s emotionally stunted in that sense. She looks at things from a physicist’s point of view, that we are matter, we are just atoms that form. Essentially, we’re all going to die anyway and you’re just a body of matter as that tree is, so if you chop down that tree it’s the same as killing someone.”
“She doesn’t interact in the same way other people do – she has no empathy, she doesn’t feel things in the same way, so she doesn’t feel the consequences of her actions. She has complete fun in the world that she lives in.”
There is an interesting relationship that develops between Alice and Luther – something for which Alice is not quite prepared. “She’s always been in control, always been dominant, always felt superior to everyone around her,” Ruth explains. “Then she suddenly meets her match, as does he, in this interview room. There’s an energy both intellectually and sexually – it awakens feelings in her and in Luther, but especially in her, because she’s never had these sorts of feelings before. They can’t leave each other alone. They seem to interact on a level that no one else can. He’s potentially a psychopath. Or he’s got those tendencies. So she’s trying to woo him across to have fun on the ‘dark side’.”
Writer Neil Cross has created some fascinating characters and relationships, and Ruth reveals what attracted her most about the project. “What intrigued me about the script was the writing, which was fantastic, and the characters within it – you don’t get many female roles which are evil in that sense. I was really intrigued by it, and thought it was a wonderful piece that you could have a lot of fun with.”
And, on the general style of the piece, all the cast seem to agree: “The style that Neil writes in is quite heightened – it’s not an average cop drama, it’s a psychological thriller. It’s very cinematic in the way it’s written and the way it’s shot. I think it’s a really unique piece of television. It’s a psychological thriller which is edgy, exciting, fun, stylish and unique. You’d be stupid to miss it!”
Alice is extremely intelligent, but doesn’t seem to fulfil the traditional geeky stereotype. “There are quite a few ways you could probably play Alice. She’s a physicist, so she could be quite geeky – odd in that way – mousy. But I had this idea that she’s almost too perfect. She’s untouchable, she’s someone that you’d see – be struck by, she’s very striking – but you’d never see her again. She’s almost an apparition. She’s also sexy – she toys with men, she toys with other women – she manipulates people.”
Alice also seems a world away from Jane Eyre, her best known role. “I try all the time to do something that’s going to take me somewhere else as an actress. The parts I played, both Jane Eyre and Queenie in Small Island, there’s always an emotional drive throughout the story with those characters. It’s been quite weird for me to play, because I’m so used to being emotionally driven by being in love with someone, or loss of something, or frightened by someone – suddenly she is this all powerful woman who doesn’t have those feelings.”
Research was therefore needed to be able to get to grips with Alice Morgan’s world. “I watched lots of films about psychopaths and bought loads. I’m sure the cashier must have thought I was very weird. I also looked online and watched a documentary about psychopaths, which was frightening. It gave me a real insight into psychopaths and sociopaths and how they work and how they feel – they don’t feel like we do, they don’t have empathy and they don’t have remorse.”
Some might think playing a psychopath would be a difficult, even distressing, job. Ruth found it quite the opposite. “I’ve had a lot of fun playing her – I’d come off set and feel sort of gleeful with the scenes I do! They’re just completely otherworldly.”
STEVEN MACKINTOSH (IAN REED)
Steven Mackintosh plays Detective Chief Inspector Ian Reed, a colleague and loyal friend of Luther’s. “Really, they are old mates, close friends”, says Steven. “I think Reed is an essential support to Luther. He understands that Luther is brilliant at what he does but also that he has this unorthodox way of working – and that he has this instinctive, wild side to the way he works which can get quite unruly.”
“Reed is very good at watching that closely and making sure that he’s alright, as he knows that it’s got him into some problems before, in his past. He [Luther] has this incredible quick brain and his instincts have got him into quite deep water. He gets very emotive about the cases that he’s working on and Reed’s aware that he can get carried away.”
“What is interesting about his character is the very emotional side coupled with an extreme intelligence. He’s incredibly bright and instinctive and everybody who is working around him is aware that he has this kind of genius. At the heart of Reed is his longstanding friendship with Luther. He’s a good man. He’s a decent man who’s on exactly the same side as Luther in terms of catching the people doing these awful things. Some of his methods, again, may be sometimes unorthodox and he will have his own set of rules in his head as to what he finds reasonable and unreasonable.”
“The relationship between the two consists of ‘a mutual respect’. They’re professionally on a level and I think that Luther realizes that Reed is good at what he does as well.” They also share a similar idea of justice. “Crimes where women and children are being hurt he feels very strongly about. He feels very passionately, as does Luther. It’s important finding the people who commit these heinous crimes.”
Stephen didn’t find himself as drawn to the police world as his character. “I could just feel the bleakness of the work. Thank God there are people who do this work. It’s incredibly important, but I think the emotional impact of it must be immense. I think there are certain character traits which suit the job and I think people find defence mechanisms for dealing with it. Obviously, there’s a certain dark humor that develops as a response.”
The cases themselves are fascinating. “The audience know very early on who the perpetrator is and it’s about how the police fit the pieces together and find that person, pin them down. They’re really interesting, different cases as well. It’s very dark. They are very varied and interesting murders which take place with lots of different, strange and dark motives. Neil’s got quite an imagination. It’s quite something.”
On the writing itself, Steven says: “It’s dark but, at the same time, there is a pace to it. It’s very gripping and fast-moving. There is a great touch of humor as well, which he is very good at – a slight throwaway line, maybe that dark police humor which we were talking about. The characters are really clearly defined. He has a very unique writing voice. I just remember quite quickly wanting to know what happened. The pages were turning quickly. That’s a great sign.”
WARREN BROWN (JUSTIN RIPLEY)
Playing young Detective Sergeant Justin Ripley, Luther’s new partner is Warren Brown. “He’s young, gifted, idealistic – quite in awe of Luther. He’s been transferred to work with Luther because his reputation’s gone before him, so they’re partnered up to crack on with the next lot of cases that come about,” says Warren.
His relationship with Luther is one of admiration. “He sort of idealizes Luther, and he’s dedicated to him, but he is absolutely 100 percent by the book. I don’t think there was ever a point where he doesn’t have respect for him. Luther’s sort of this figure that everyone’s heard about, all the divisions all over the country.”
Luther and Ripley are very different characters. “Ripley’s character is everything by the book and respect for the rules, and Luther hasn’t got that. But, ultimately, they’re both after the same goal, they’re both trying to nail the bad guys.”
The regard isn’t all one-sided. “Luther sort of admires some of Justin’s qualities, the fact that he doesn’t have any biases, and he won’t just judge when he first gets to a scene. He is good, and he’s got morals and he wants to do the job to the best of his ability and, if he can help someone, he’ll help someone, and not let anybody down.”
On the series in general, Warren insists: “It’s not just a police drama, it’s a dark, psychological crime thriller. It doesn’t look like anything else that I’ve seen. Really, really good characters, great stories and twists and turns along the way, it’s a bit of a rollercoaster.”
Detective John Luther returns to work after a spell of leave following the traumatic arrest of the serial killer Henry Madsen. Luther’s first case is investigating the murder of the parents of child genius, Alice Morgan. He quickly deduces that Alice is responsible for the deaths, but the seemingly perfect crime leaves no evidence with which to convict Alice.
Outside of work Luther is trying to win back his wife now he’s got his life back on track. She has moved, on however, and has a new man in her life – Mark, who is the antithesis of Luther. Will Luther be able to save his fractured marriage to Zoe?
As the murder case proceeds, Luther realizes he has become Alice’s next project and that Zoe is in danger – because he dared to question Alice’s brilliance. Luther and Alice seem to have a strange connection – both ex. Luther airs October 17, 10pm est/pt.
STAY TUNED FOR EPISODE 2 OVERVIEW RIGHT HERE NEXT WEEK!!