Interview: Lennie James tells Celebritain about new Sky Atlantic drama Save Me
On a tireless quest to find his missing daughter Jody, Nelly will go to any length to uncover the truth and he’ll discover more about himself and those around him than he could have ever imagined. Sky Atlantic's new drama Save Me doesn't just star Lennie Jones, he also ruddy wrote it!
Celebritain caught up with him to find out more...
It's unusual for an actor to write their own drama, how did being an actor impact your writing?
Actually, I’ve always written! I acted in my first play at 16 years old, and wrote my first play at 17. If it wasn’t for acting taking the lead, i would’ve done much more writing, and expected to be music more of a writer than an actor. When I was writing it, I hadn’t thought about myself playing a character in mind! I wrote it knowing my commitment to The Walking Dead, and didn't think I'd get to play "Nelly" even if i wanted to, but with Sky being an absolute champion of 'Save Me', they agreed to do it even thought it wasn’t ideal as it would mean short days in production, but they agreed for me to be "Nelly", and to film it during the breaks of me playing "Morgan" on The Walking Dead.
Did you write the parts with a specific cast in mind?
No. I don’t tend to write that way! sometimes I’ll write with people in mind, I'll take inspiration from other people, In the story, Alice and Stevie play a couple, and they’re actually based on a couple who drink in a pub that i used to go into a few years back.. I never knew the couple, I never spent much time speaking to this couple, but the dynamic was in my mind, and when writing the part of this couple the couple from the pub were in my mind!
Sometimes I have very clear people in mind, and i use the heart of who i want them to be in the story, for example the later episodes of "Save Me", I wrote while we were in production, so I already knew who was playing which part, we’d already started filming and I was still writing the later episodes!
I wonder whether the couple from the pub will ever watch it and know?!
I doubt it, but it’s possible! There are a number of tales, and ways that things are said, that will definitely make people I know recognise themselves in it! I mean, I’m not sure that couple will, but i hope they watch it, because I just hope they watch it! (laughs)
Sky are known for generous budgets, will that be apparent in save me?
I think for SKY, this is actually relatively low budget! The scale in Save Me, is the storytelling, it doesn’t need a massive backdrop or loads of money being spent on it, that’s not what it’s about! SKY showed us an insane amount of generosity, and they were giving us notes and emails the whole time, reminding us of why they were interested in this program, and how it always about the characters and the depth in the story. They were so supportive throughout the long process. Working with SKY was very easy and painless, and they were so supportive!
Suranne Jones is an incredible talent, how was she to work with?
Ah, she was a real pain in the arse! (laughs) No, she was great actually. the incredible thing about Suranne is she’s so much fun to be around, she’s a smart actress, and so talented, the part she plays in this is a very tricky one, and a lesser actress could not have done the fantastic job that she has! At one point in the story there is a missing child, but you don’t actually get to know the child before they go missing, so the way of getting the audience to know the child, is all on "Claire" (Suranne's character). She is the one who makes that missing child real! Along with that Claire also has the history of an old relationship, she's trying to make marriage work, and she is dealing with her ex who is trying to find this child. Suranne made all of that look so effortless!
It's such a gripping story, where did you get the idea from?
I always have ideas bubbling around in my head, some i write down, some i don’t. This idea came from a movie idea I had, about the father being absent from a child’s life and then being brought back into the child’s life after something had happened, and then SKY asked me if i had an idea for a returning series, and then i worked with that idea, and that turned into "Save Me".
Is it a one off piece or could there be more?
When SKY originally asked me if I had an idea, they wanted a returning TV series. The journey of these first 6 episodes, is all about Nellie trying to find Jodie. It’s not going to be a one off, if SKY want more, then I’d like to write more!
All episodes are available now via Sky and NOW TV.
Words: Sam Darlaston for Celebritain