Interview: Boris Van Severen talks BBC One's Baptiste.
French detective Julien Baptiste, who first appeared in The Missing series one and two, returns in the titular role of a new six-part drama for BBC One. Starring Tchéky Karyo, Boris Van Severen, Tom Hollander and Jessica Raine. It’s back on BBC One on Sunday nights and on demand via iPlayer.
Julien Baptiste is staying in Amsterdam where his daughter has recently had a child. Forever under their feet and restless, he is invited to meet up with old flame Martha Horchner, the chief of police in Amsterdam. But this isn’t a lunch to catch up on old times - she wants his help to find a missing girl, Natalie, the niece of Englishman Edward Stratton. She believes the case is connected to a Romanian sex trafficking gang. It’s vital that they find her.
Boris Van Severen plays Niels.
Could you tell us about Niels’ character and his background story?
Niels is a young, ambitious police officer who has had some struggles in his life. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer a couple of years ago and his father also passed away, which had a big impact on him. Niels has built up a wall around him because of his grief. He feels like less of a man because of the cancer and this is one of the reasons he is slightly uncomfortable with women. He is a calm guy but can lose his temper easily. He wants to prove - not only to his mother but also to Baptiste - that he can do his job, that he is man enough to do what he’s supposed to do.
Could you describe Niels’ relationship with his mother, Martha?
Martha really cares for him, especially because of everything that happened to him with his illness and the loss of his father. She still treats him like a teenager in a way which is not something that Niels wants. He wants to prove to her that he is grown up. He loves his mother dearly, and they have a good connection, but at this point in his life things are a bit strange for Niels because he is struggling with everything that has happened to him.
Could you describe Niels’ relationship with Julien?
Niels was not very happy when Julien came into the picture because he wanted to show everyone he was capable of solving the case alone. He was sceptical about Julien’s arrival, but then as they progress on their journey they start to like each other. They begin to see that they have things in common, like for example their illnesses with Julien’s brain tumour and Niels’ cancer.
Why should viewers watch Bapstiste?
The first time I read the script I was really amazed by how good and well written it was. It’s not just a police drama, it is much bigger. There are so many plot twists, which actually don’t come out of the blue as they are planted in the script from the off but won’t be noticed until you look back and viewers start to put the pieces together.
What was your favourite scene from the show?
It's the one in which Niels, Baptiste and Martha are sitting in a café, and Niels is telling Baptiste to back off from the case - he knows what he is doing and he does not need his help. It was also a long scene of six pages and we went through the whole thing every time. There were takes of five minutes which is great as an actor because you can really build things up. You can make a beautiful arch in those five minutes and that’s what I enjoy doing most.
What have you found really challenging?
Everything is challenging in some sort of way. The hardest things are actually the insignificant actions - for example when I'm just walking by in a take. I have to ask myself, am I walking past as Niels or Boris? which is a strange question in itself as it’s such a simple action. With a dialogue, it’s relatively straight forward as I can go back into the mindsight of the character and clearly be Boris.
Baptiste starts 9pm on BBC One, Sunday 17 February.