Petro-chemist Andy Yeats (Matthew Fox) knows how dependent the world is on oil; if something were to happen to the world’s oil supply, it would set off a chain reaction: transportation would grind to a halt, supplies would cease to be delivered, law enforcement would be overwhelmed. While on a business trip to the Middle East, Andy realizes that his worst fears are coming true and his family is separated at this crucial moment. His teenage daughter, Laura (Alyth Ross), is alone at home in London while his wife, Elena (Joanne Froggatt), and young son, Sam (Taylor Fey), are in Paris. Amid this chaos, each family member will sacrifice everything to find one another, despite the distance and the dangers that separate them.
We met the cast at the press conference during the 61st Montecarlo Television Festival last June, with Matthew Fox wearing a wonderful Venice Football Club t-shirt, where we had the great privilege to watch the first two episodes of this breathtaking series.
I know you shot that like a year ago, something like that. And I know that it was another word when you shot it, but it’s impossible not to think about the current events when you are watching the first two episodes. I wonder two things. First of all, could you imagine that? Could you imagine that it could be so close to the reality we are living in now?
Dennie Gordon (Last Light director): “As we took the project on, we knew right away that it was ripped from the headlines. And remember, we were coming out of the pandemic, and we weren’t really out of the woods for the pandemic. So, we could easily imagine where our dependency on oil, was going to take us. And we saw what was happening in our cities around the world. And of course, now, today, we couldn’t have imagined the petrochemical war in Ukraine. We couldn’t have imagined, you know, so many things that are happening that we’re seeing with climate change. But we knew because it was happening all around us. We knew we were going to be current. We were hoping we wouldn’t be this current, but, uh, this is the world we intended to share with you. And we wanted to start a proactive conversation about what we all need to be doing before the lights go out. So this was our goal, to make sure that we all did everything we could to be proactive about climate change and to get off our dependency on oil.“
Joanne Froggatt: “And while we were, we were filming, Matthew, Dennie and I were… I was sharing news clips from England that I was seeing while we were filming in Prague, clips about people queuing for petrol and I was just like, this is crazy. It’s, it’s happening; the petrol prices going up and all of that. So it was, it was sort of, it was sort of happening in front of our eyes a little bit, wasn’t it?”
Maybe it’s important for you guys to, to take on projects that have a current meaning. I mean, of course, it’s a thriller, of course, it’s sci-fi, of course, it’s an apocalyptic scenario. But there is a message in it. There is something very important, there is a warning sign. I don’t know, how do you want to call him. Is that important for you guys?
Matthew Fox: “I mean, I think, you know, obviously it’s a very timely subject and the awareness of climate change I think increased tremendously over the last few years. And it feels like it’s something that’s on everybody’s mind at this point. So, for me, I think that part of the attraction to the story was about this family being torn apart; but not trying to be too directly political. Having a reality of the world that we’re living in and having this family that loves each other, very much torn apart by this moment in time and have these four people trying to reunite; I think that’s relatable for everyone. And so that was a big part of what personally I was drawn to.”
J.F: “Just to add to what Matthew is saying, I think it can be really easy because we don’t feel here in the West as much of the effects of climate change like in developing countries. And we won’t feel the effects until about 2030. In Last Light we actually see families being broken down because of it. And we feel like we can relate. I definitely think this is really timely and really important. And as Laura in the show, I had to do a lot of research, which is quite scary cause I didn’t know as much about it before as I do now. I think especially the show being, about oil, like, we need to stop using oil like today. So, yeah, I think it’s a very important message.”
Taylor, how were Joanna and Matt as mom and dad?
Taylor Fey: “Uh, it was good ’cause I didn’t have to think about it too much. Cause if I were stuck, they would just tell me how I was meant to do it and what I was meant to say.”
M.F: “Which did not happen very much because Taylor was so beautifully perfect all the time. No, perfect. He did such an amazing job.”
D.G: “I just have one quick thing about this young man. We saw hundreds and hundreds of young actors all over the globe, and when I finally got to see Taylor, he was such a natural, he’d never done anything before. And we took a tour around his house, and he showed me his soccer backyard and his soccer net. We saw that we went and saw the dogs and he was just such a natural. And I thought this is a massive talent. And, we were so blessed to have him and his mother, who was also his coach. So he’s our big discovery and we couldn’t be happier with his performance.”
Then Matthew Fox explained to us why he was wearing the Venice Football Club t-shirt, his relationship today with the TV and why he was ready to come back after the hiatus.
“Let’s begin with the t-shirt. My wife Margherita is born and raised in Venezia and has much family there. I’ve always been in love with the city and the Lido, so… I’m supporting the team <laugh>, I’m a big supporter of the team. Moving on, the break from television was really a break from the business. I mean, I had a kind of a bucket list in my mind of things that I wanted to accomplish in the business. And after I did Bone Tomahawk in 2014 had kind of completed the bucket list. And at that time Margherita and I had our kids at an age where I felt like I needed to really reengage. I had been focused on work for some time and had been running the family so beautifully, but I felt like it was time to be home, and I really felt like I was retiring from the business and working on other creative elements that are really personal to me; some music and writing. And then I kind of got to a point where I thought that maybe the bucket list included executive producing. I’d never done that before. The opportunity to be involved in the Last Light came along. And so I wanted to give it a shot and it felt like the right time, with Dennie Gordon, I’d worked with, years ago on Party of Five, <laugh>, neither one of us could barely remember when that was, let’s say many years ago, so it just all kind of came together. It felt like it was the moment to jump back in and see how it felt to be in front of the camera again and to act again. And it was surprisingly rewarding and I felt really good doing it with this incredible group of people, and the collaborative aspect of it and how well we all bonded, how much we believed in the project, and it turned out to be a fantastic experience.”
Joanna, can you tell us about your experience speaking French?
“Yeah, well I couldn’t speak French, but it’s always something I’ve wanted to learn. I didn’t start French lessons until I was 11. I only did French for two years at school. I didn’t have great teachers, so I’ve always wanted to speak a second language. So even though it’s just a few lines in the show, I was actually really excited about having to master it. But it took me longer than I’d like to admit <laugh> to sort the sounds out. What I do is I learn my few lines to the point that I don’t have to think about them on set so they feel authentic and natural. And to sort of try and do that in a different language was extremely challenging, I have to say. But I loved it and now,… it inspired me to learn more French. Absolutely. But I’m not ready to answer to your questions in French yet.”
What did you learn from Taylor?
J.F: “Good question. Well, I learnt all sorts of things from Taylor every day. You know, he was just a reminder to be in the moment and to be authentic and true. In our space together we make our own little world together, it was just, a constant reminder to just be playful together and, you know, play the roles and just, just be authentic in our characters. So, yeah, thank you for teaching me that every day.”
Alyth Ross: “This is one of my first experiences on set and Taylor’s very first experience on set. So I was really nervous in my first couple of days, but then I saw this guy who came turned up and he was just like, yeah, fine, easy, easy going, very calm, nothing could stress him out. So I think I took a lot from him, which was just like, it’s gonna be okay. He always reminded me that I was having Dannie and the entire cast to support me so I had nothing to fear.”
M.F: “Taylor knows pretty much where every single professional soccer player in the world, plays on. So I learned a lot about where players play. It was kind of a test. He’d ask me where a player plays and I wouldn’t know and then he’d tell me.”
D.G: “We also called Taylor Chocolate Escobar because he would come to set every day with this little case of specific chocolates and he’d go to Matthew and say, this one is for you Matthew, and this one is for you every day. He had specific chocolates marked out for us.”
Matthew, I would like to ask you, of course, as an artist, but also as a human being, as a father, if there’s something that concerns you most. What’s your biggest fear about the planet that we are leaving to the next generation?
M.F: “Well, as parents, you worry about your kids’ future constantly. Considering these past years that we’ve gone through with the pandemic and how prevalent climate change is affecting our lives at this point, you are more worried than ever. I mean, you just see it every day. You can’t look at the papers without seeing radical weather and things, affecting people’s lives, affecting families’ lives, every single day. I mean, it’s just a bombardment of it, it’s just undeniable at this point. Even though, there are those out there that still are in some sort of denial. You worry about your children’s future, even if we were living in a much calmer world. I think that you worry about your kids and you want them to have a wonderful future. You want them to live a life that has more opportunity, a definition of happiness that is even better than your own. But, obviously, this world that we’re living in these past years with what’s happening in Ukraine, the pandemic, the climate changes, just seems like it’s a very worrisome moment for us all. And so, in terms of the kids, I mean, we just try to stay positive with them and get them to see that anything’s possible for them if they work hard enough.”
I wonder if you could talk about your characters: who do you play, what did you think of them and if there was anything that surprised you once you really got on set and inhabited them.
A.R: “I’ll go first. Laura is really driven and very ambitious, and she’s very sure about what she wants to achieve. So that was something that I like learning about her character and trying to find that in myself was really quite exciting. What else about Laura? I think that what really surprised me about Laura was how much gumption she’s got, like at the beginning of the show. I think she’s very quiet, I’m assuming, and then obviously as you saw last night well sometimes she is really not. She kind of holds her own, which was very fun to play. And obviously, she’s English, and I’m not English, so I had to do a lot of work on the accent for the show. Laura’s really cool. I wanna be more like her in my life. I think.”
M.F: “I’m always surprised by how things on the page always feel a certain way so you begin to imagine this world and this character and what they’re about, and then you get into the work and it’s always shocking to me how much harder than you thought it’s gonna be. For example, the stunts Dannie put me through.. she was mean to me. I had a lot of moments where I thought, you know, I should have gotten in a little bit better shape. In my mind, in the beginning, he’s like this petro chemist and it is a little mysterious what’s really going on with him and step by step there is this sort of a reveal like an onion being peeled back and those physical sequences in scripts sometimes they just are like these briefed sorts of descriptive things. And then when you get into doing them, they require a lot more physicality and a lot more flexibility than you think they’re gonna require. So it’s a little surprising sometimes.”
J.F: “Yeah, my answer is similar to Matthew’s actually. It’s you know, as an actor you always do your homework and then know that when you get on set it’s probably all gonna change. But that’s how you make yourself feel confident and prepared and then you’re open to everything else coming together on set. But, um, Matthew’s right, I did the same thing of going, oh yeah, great. I get to do a few little action bits, that’s gonna be really fun. And then, when I actually got on set, I stupidly, picked up shoes with like quite a big heel, for like running around cobbled streets and jumping over motorway barriers and I actually pulled my hip and I was like, Jo, how long have you been doing this for? 25 years? And you picked these shoes knowing full well this is what you’re gonna have to do. So, yeah, I was a bit surprised, like Matthew. I thought I really should have made myself a bit fitter before I got into this and wore flat shoes. What about you Taylor? What surprised you?”
T.F: “What surprised me was how difficult it was to play the role of Sam and how he would help people, everywhere, every person, no matter what.”
J.F: “Yeah, you did it so well. It was brilliant.”
D.G: “We learned a lot from Sam, didn’t we? Yeah. How to open our eyes.”
Matthew said earlier the world changed in the last two years. We’re all going back to normal now. It’s like never happened in some cases, but have you adjusted yourself and have you shifted your priorities in any way?
D.G: ” I’ll jump in. We put solar panels on our roof. Our house is producing a tremendous amount of solar energy right now. We live in Los Angeles; we’ve switched to all-electric cars. These are two tiny things that everybody can do and hope everybody will do. And we’ve been just more mindful. I think my husband and I my son we’re much more mindful and, we see how we have to be awake and open to new technology and support our government leaders who are taking us there. We have something in America called Build Back Better, which we hope our government will support. And I think just this awareness and this ticking clock, the ticking clock is very much a part of our series. So I think those are just things we’ve done in our house and I know my colleagues have done the same.”
What’s more frightening in the show? Is it the message on the end title?
D.G: “Oh, just quickly, my brilliant photographer, Patrick Murguia and I discussed at great length that this show would be about the dying light. The show is called Last Light and that became a thematic image for us throughout the whole series. That the lights will go out, the lights will go down for all of us unless we do something. So by the end of the series, I don’t know how much you guys have been able to see, but by the end of the series, the lights are going out and we’re experiencing the worst possible scenario because of our dependence on the oil. And I think that we end up with a huge message of hope, but we really want to let everybody see this is where we’re headed.”
M.F: “I think another thing that drew a lot of us to this project is that the bad guys are the good guys and the good guys kind of a bad guys. And so, I mean, it’s a lot of grey areas and going on with what’s happening now. I actually really love Apocalypse Watch and its leader Karl (Tom Wlaschiha). I think we were all drawn to the notion that Apocalypse Watch, who’s causing this chaos is actually just the only way to remind us it’s time for radical action.”
J.F: “Yeah. And like you said I think we can all sort of agree with what they’re saying. We just don’t necessarily agree with the way they go about getting their action.”
Joanne and Matthew, how do you see the relationship between your characters?
J.F: “Good question. Well, we talked about this, quite deeply in rehearsal and we kind of decided on where they are in their marriage and about their family. And we decided that they’re obviously very much in love and they’ve had this wonderful life together and had two children with a big gap in between. But there is a space at the moment where, you know, I think my character has definitely been put under a lot of pressure because of Sam’s degenerative eye disease and she’s kind of given up her career to take care of Sam and also fundraise to get funding for this new treatment that could possibly save his sight. So she’s devoted herself to that and Andy, therefore, has had to take up, the reigns of, you know, the full providing for the family financially. And cuz he works away, that’s automatically brought, you know, literal distance but also a bit of an emotional distance between them. Um, that’s right, isn’t it?”
M.F: “Yeah, and I mean, number one it was just such a pleasure to work with Joanne and, yeah, we actually, spent a lot of time, the two of us and with Dennie talking about that because on the page there wasn’t so much there and we wanted to try to find the right scenario. Like, for example, that scene in the bedroom where there’s all that silence and tension and we wanted to try to have you kind of understand that there’s some sort of history going on with this kind of moment, Andy having to go to work and leaving Elena in a really precise moment where this surgery’s only a few days away. We felt it was important to try to build that history in our minds so that it would translate into the film and hopefully, we succeeded in that. And again, you know, I just love that it starts there. It starts with this place where marriage is maybe even in a little bit of trouble. Like it’s struggling a little bit and that something so much bigger suddenly swipes into the world and reminds you of how important the people that you love are to you and that you’ll do anything to have that connection.”
J.F: “It was great going on that journey with Matthew and Dennie. Matthew’s such a gracious and generous actor and it was wonderful to just try and find those nuances, with the three of us, that weren’t written about the relationship”
Last Light, available on September 8th on Peacock