On day four at the Festival de la Télévision de Monte Carlo we met two of the most well known British women in the industry; Abi Morgan and Manda Levin. Manda is a producer while Abi is the writer of ones of the biggest worldwide success movies like Suffragette, The Invisible Woman (here our review and live from the premier) , Birdsong, The Iron Lady,…
In Monaco we talked especially about their last success; the series River even if, due their really big excitement to be there, they started interviewing us about our festival experience.
River is a series that, strangely for them, has a man as main character, “but he is surrounded by women with proper parts”.
How came up the idea of an original series like River, that tells the story of a police inspector (John River) haunted by the murder victims whose cases he must lay to rest?
“We worked together on others television shows and I just loved the idea of doing something about these presences who manifest themselves…not ghosts you know, I don’t believe…I’m actually a true cynic…so the idea was write about someone who literally manifest itself…working on the mind power…actually the series is more about grief than anything else” said Abi.
Luckily for us, BBC1 reaction, using their own words was just brilliant.
“They just asked questions like…are you sure about having a character walking around with ghosts talking to him?!?! But they were so proud to stream it, even if it was a risk, something really different from their usual shows. Abi did a wonderful job and the show really touched people hearts. Stellan (Skarsgard, ed) did the rest”. ..
“…and John Crowley” added Abi “He was the first to say yes. We sent him the script. He was directing True Detective back then so he came on a Sunday saying let’s do that. He is an amazing man, so inspiring”.
“Also Stellan is a wonderful human being” added Manda “So inspiring and kind…probably that’s why he has eight children…He loves them so much! It’s like if he marries your cause trying to put all himself in it. And if there is a line that doesn’t convince him, he reads it over and over…he brings so much energy to the show…”
“And Richard (Laxton,ed) came up with the idea to shoot twice the scenes where Stellan hears the presences. Once with the actor and once without, just with the voice…it was so funny because they did some really funny contortionist exercises to be out of the camera”.
“This show is actually about writers. When you write, for example a script, you start listen to your characters…they speak into your head…they talk…like a lot…so what we see in River is like a metaphor of this process”.
“The tricky thing” said Abi “for me was to built the cast. I mean, they are all wonderful actors…but we had to see if they were credible all together…there is a new generation of actors coming up…and they are extraordinary”.
Any chance for another season of River?
This time is Manda to answer first.
“No, we think it’s really completed”.
“And it’s a really hard writing process, nearly a mental illness one. We are so proud of the product and it’s a closed chapter now” added Abi.
Abi Morgan is now working on two new projects: a TV short called Women’s Equality Party and on a biography drama titled Undeniable. Undeniable will be the story of Jessica Stern, one of the worlds leading experts in post-traumatic stress disorder who was raped along with her sister as a teenager.
While Manda Levin is working as executive producer on an new Tv mini series called Apple Tree Yard starring Emily Watson.