Survivors

Dystopian sci-fi drama Survivors has been axed by BBC One following two seasons.

The show, described as being loosely based on the Terry Nation novel and not the original 1970’s series of the same name, has been ended following dwindling audience numbers.

Survivors followed a small group of people who survived a vicious outbreak of some unknown strain of influenza which wiped out most of the human race. The first season ran in the UK in late 2008 and the second finished screening in February of this year.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “The BBC is committed to making a broad range of varied and ambitious drama, but in order to achieve this we do have to move on from some pieces in order to allow new work to come through. After two series Survivors will not be returning.”

The series was also shown internationally in the likes of South Africa, America and Australia.

Anya finds herself trapped in the rubble with Al in the opening episode of the series as Tom races to rescue her.

As the series develops, Anya and Tom’s mutual attraction becomes an increasing dilemma for her – can she reconcile her feelings for him with her sexuality? And, if so, can she open and up and trust a man whose cold menace and hidden past frighten her?

What does your character get up to in the new series?

“My character is integral at the start of this new series. The first series ended with Greg (Paterson Joseph) being shot and Abby (Julie Graham) being taken away.

“Anya is the only one qualified to deal with Greg’s wound. She has to step up to the challenge, despite being scared herself, and what’s lovely about that is you start to see her in a more focused, stronger, more confident role which carries on throughout the new series.”

How easy or difficult was it to make the surgery on Greg look authentic?

“It was a real challenge, obviously we wanted to make sure it looked authentic and I was performing the operation as if I was an experienced doctor. There are no doctors in my family, and I think I would make a terrible doctor because I am so squeamish!

“We had this brilliant guy on set named Andrew Day, who is a real surgeon, to show me how to hold the equipment and sew up a wound. He was a real source of inspiration because he calmed me down, and helped me to relax so I felt more in control of the situation.

“The atmosphere during the filming of those scenes was fantastic and really electric; it actually felt like I was doing an operation! The prosthetics they used to create Greg’s chest wound was fantastic, it was oozing blood and the shrapnel was imbedded beneath the prosthetic skin which meant I could really have a good search around inside which added to the authenticity and tension of the storyline.”

Tell me about the explosive first episode and being buried beneath a mountain of rubble, dust and debris.

“In order to perform an operation on Greg to save his life, Anya needs the right equipment. She remembers a training hospital close by so she heads off there accompanied by Tom (Max Beesley) and Al (Phillip Rhys). When they arrive at the location the hospital is on fire but they decide to enter the building anyway. It quickly becomes a very dangerous situation as the building begins to collapse. Anya and Al are trapped inside beneath the rubble.

“The production built this set around us in this tiny area beneath an enormous pile of rubble in this dank basement which was uncomfortable but very realistic. From an actor’s point of view it was great because it set the scene, and the atmosphere was charged with a sense of claustrophobia and suffocation. The props guys also dropped dust, grit and water through the cracks on top of us.

“There was one particular instance when I had just been put into the rubble, trapped inside this narrow hole, on my back with my eyes closed; as the cameras turned over a heavy concrete prop suddenly fell about an inch away from my face and I let out this scream and began to panic a bit which fitted in with what was required! I hope they actually use that in the final edit of the film.”

How would you describe the new series?

“The new series is much darker than it was last year. In the first series the producers wanted the audience to perceive this little glimmer of hope at the end of each episode but, for series two, the writers have been a bit more daring this time, and it’s much more high impact. There’s more emotion, more romance and action. Everything has been heightened which makes for a really exciting, action adventure.”

Is there a romantic entanglement with Tom (Max Beesley) this series?

“The relationship between Tom and Anya is complex. It established itself in series one when she saved his life and he’s never forgotten that, and he develops an obsession with her. She doesn’t really understand it, but she’s aware there’s an intensity and passion between them. He personifies everything that she is not: he is violent, volatile and unpredictable but there is something between them and they do get closer!”

What did the cast get up to during breaks in filming to help you relax?

“We would go to the cinema and out for a drink to go over our lines for the next day sometimes. We just chilled out really because the schedule is pretty punishing. This is our second year together and we do kind of love each other and enjoy each other’s company which really helps.”

What are up to next?

“I am relaxing and enjoying my new house which I moved into recently and have been doing up.

“I have also just completed work on an independent film, The Baseline, with a producer friend of mine, Freddie Connor, who I went to drama school with. It’s about gang culture in London and also stars Jamie Foreman and Dexter Fletcher. It’s pretty hardcore and very violent – not something you would take your grandma to see!”

Trapped in the rubble of a collapsing building in the first episode, Al is confronted with the very real possibility that he will die. It comes down to Anya, trapped with him, to bolster his morale and remind him that happiness and maybe even love are still possible in this post-apocalyptic world.

As the series progresses, Al continues to act as a father figure to Naj while he also begins a secret romance with Sarah. Might they finally find happiness amidst this harsh new world?

How does the new series kick off?

“We started immediately from where we finished off. We hit the ground running. Al, Anya (Zoe Tapper) and Tom (Max Beesley) enter a burning hospital looking for medicine, antiseptic or some sort of equipment to help Greg with this potentially fatal wound, and the hospital collapses around them, it’s already burning and I guess the structure is very weak. Al is buried with Anya and is fighting for his life. She basically keeps him alive and coaches him to keep him strong until help comes.

“It’s during this near-death moment he really takes a look at his life – the lifestyle, the actions that have brought him to this point and what his life has been, and he has an epiphany – he has never been in love, it’s something that he feels he would be good at, he also realises that he has a responsibility to Najid (Chahak Patel) and even says to Anya: ‘tell him if he asks, if I don’t survive this, that I was strong’, so things kind of fall into place for Al in regards to who he is, what his responsibilities are and what he would like if he get out of there alive.”

What was it like filming those scenes?

“We went underground to the basement of this disused building; it was damp, cold and dark. Using props, the production built this set – which looked like real rubble – and they inserted me into this very narrow hole and poured dust all over me. There was very little space to put the camera, the shots were taken through cracks, little areas where light might shine from above, so you really get that sense of claustrophobia, that sense of just being alone. The only way I could move in that confined space was by lying on my back and the camera picked up what ever it could. You can’t really rehearse those scenes, it was all naturalistic and very little acting was required.”

So is love on the cards for Al in series two?

“Al becomes more aware of the dynamics of the sensibilities of the group after the incident at the hospital, and one member of the group especially, Sarah (Robyn Addison). He is the only one that picks up that something has happened to Sarah in episode one. He offers his sympathy, and from there what is a kind act of friendship turns into romance and he basically ends up falling in love, which is something he’s never done before, something he realises he wants during that near-death experience. So we see a sensitive, much more open Al than we really did last year.”

Has the womaniser been tamed?

“Somewhat, but there’s still that little sparkle in his eye, he still likes the ladies, but I think the idea of being intimate in a personal nature in a relationship is something that is appealing to him and is something that he needs and has never had.”

Why should people tune in?

“As great as last year was, we only had six episodes to present the characters and the world in which we are now living in, and now we get to have an adventure in that world! The new series is much more dynamic, much more action-driven and there’s more of a sense of purpose with regard to what we need and the immediacy of getting that.

“There’s a shorthand with the characters because we know each other better, so that familiarity helps; we get the chance to look at the characters in a complex way. It’s a character-driven, action-adventure drama, so you get a bit of both worlds. There’s nothing quite like this on British television, which is really exciting.”

What was it like filming in Birmingham?

“As much as I love Manchester, and the whole music scene, I think the show needed a change of environment. We’re in danger and on the run from episode six to episode one of the new series, so we needed that change.

“There were some great locations in the city and, outside the city itself, some beautiful countryside: Chepstow, Stratford and Worcester were gorgeous. I don’t live here anymore, or haven’t been, and just to get back and see the English countryside… and the summer was better than we had last year.

“We don’t really shoot anything on a set on Survivors, nothing is really constructed; everything is on location. You can’t build a 12th century cottage, house or these manor homes we were shooting in, and it looks a million dollars on screen. So the production of the show is exceptional.”

What did you do between filming series one and two?

“I was lucky enough to work with Steven Spielberg on Tintin, Peter Jackson is also involved as well. So that was a dream come true to work with one of the most successful directors of all time, and one of my heroes.

“I did Dario’s Fo, a play for my theatre company, Open Fist. It is a satire about the legal system.

“I recently completed filming the movie The Space Between with Melissa Leo, who was nominated for an Oscar for Frozen River. I am lucky, very lucky.”

How do you relax?

“I love travelling. I will be in Argentina for Christmas and the New Year, I also love eating, music and going to concerts.”

After his near-death experience in episode one, Greg returns to health with a newfound purpose – in Abby’s absence he will lead the Family to safety, and that includes ditching their most volatile member, Tom. The antipathy between both men grows across the series, even after Abby’s return.

Meanwhile, Greg’s recollection of a mysterious postcard he received days before the virus outbreak lingers in the back of his mind as strange details from the Lab begin to connect to it…

What’s happening to Greg at the beginning of series two?

“In a nutshell, Greg was shot at the end of the last series. He spends most of episode one in a state of massive shock which causes hallucinations, but it also brings on a flashback of memories he’s been suppressing, which is why I think we haven’t found out a lot about him until that point because he hasn’t wanted to reveal the whole picture. Greg’s victim line is: ‘My wife just left me’ but that’s not the whole story, he was not the innocent party that he pretends to be.”

What happens to the group when Abby is snatched and taken to the Lab?

“Greg is forced to take that leadership role. The only other person who could take over is Tom (Max Beesley) and that becomes unacceptable to Greg. There’s great antagonism between me and Tom. But in this series you see a little bit about Greg’s background, which is much closer to Tom than Greg would like to admit.”

Were there any scary moments during filming?

“The one that I always remember was in episode four when I had to film down a coal mine, it was very warm and only nine feet across and maybe four feet deep; being that deep underground and on my own was pretty impressive.”

So really claustrophobic?

“Really claustrophobic. I was only down there for 20 minutes! I have to say it was brilliant; in fact the whole episode is pretty much my favourite. There are a few explosions and some wonderful moments. We had a great stunt co-ordinator, Gary Connery, who set up some fantastic sequences.”

How would you cope in a post-apocalyptic world?

“I think I’d cope very well. Before the series started I knew absolutely nothing, but I know a little bit more now. The first place I would go to is a camping shop because that’s where you will find everything you really need – purifying tablets, water filters, energy bars, compact food, the kind that astronauts eat, waterproofs, plus you can get your hands on a survival book as well.”

Why do you think the first series struck such a chord? Is it because we have a fear about things breaking down?

“I think so. I think it’s about our modern-day priorities and how this leads us to be technology-bound. We talked about that quite a lot on set. We’d wake up at six in the morning and work until eight, and, since we were often filming in places that did not have any signal, we were all completely lost! I’ve never spent so much time staring at my mobile waiting for a single bar to appear so I could try to call home!”

Any anecdotes during filming?

“We were filming on a street in Birmingham, near a nightclub, early one Sunday morning when some revellers, who’d been partying all night, came out of the nightclub thinking: ‘What the hell is going on here? What have we missed?’ There was rubbish everywhere and all these prosthetic bodies on the streets. Totally freaked them out!”

 

Tom Pryce is back in series two and is just as ruthless and unpredictable as before.

In episode one he finds himself the leader of the Survivors in the city, faced with the seemingly insurmountable problem of rescuing his friends from a collapsed building. As the series progresses, Tom clashes with Greg (Paterson Joseph) as his past crimes and violent tendencies are questioned, culminating in his trial by Samantha in episode three and punishment in episode four.

Throughout it all, Tom keeps one eye on an exit, and the other on Anya (Zoe Tapper), hoping he can gain her affection…

How would you describe the new series?

“The new series is excellent. I’m really pleased with it. The primary difference between this series and the last is that the characters are now established. The public know what’s happened and we don’t have to concentrate on the pandemic element as it is much more about survival. The new series steps up a gear. It’s a little darker, there’s a lot more high-octane action.”

What does your character get up to in the new series?

“My character is still all about survival but what becomes apparent with him is this connection he can’t quite work out between himself and Anya (played by Zoe Tapper). The dynamic between them is a big part of the second series.

“There are also some very dark moments with him without giving too much away. He is beginning to become a bit of an anti-hero, with the exception of the occasional heroic act; this chap is a nasty piece of work.

“All actors want to work with good material and there’s no doubt about it, this is a great part. To be given this opportunity to portray someone who is quite real, who people buy into and believe, I think is great. I love playing the character.”

What are the highlights for the audience in the new series? Why should people tune in?

“I thought the first series was great, but the second series is even better because Adrian (Hodges) and the execs put everything under a magnifying glass to see what worked, what the audience would want this year, and what twists we can put in. I think we’ve all worked hard to create a really fantastic bit of drama.”

Tell me about the explosive opening episode and what it was like to be covered in dust and debris.

“I was covered in dirt from head to toe, it went into my ears, nose and eyes; the make-up girls had a right laugh applying seven layers of dust all over me. It was absolutely awful running around in my gear, worrying about breaking my ankles! But I’m a hands-on actor and I liked all that. Of course you could do it covered in less make-up, but those things add to the authenticity of the piece.

“In episode three we went to an area which was absolutely awful to film in, but it was a brilliant, claustrophobic environment which helped with the work. I did get hurt a few times, too numerous to remember to be honest. I smashed my head when I went down the coalmine and nearly knocked myself out. But I was ok, it added to the horrendousness of shooting there that week.

“Tom Price steps up a gear physically, I think both David the director and I had the Bourne franchise in mind whilst shooting episodes four and five. David, like me, works a lot with music in his mind and mentally edits as he shoots, both a reflection of the pressure shooting television nowadays but also an indication of someone who knows what he wants, we both had chosen the John Powell Bourne scores as choices. I loved that, and I really enjoyed working with David along with Jamie and Farren.”

Filming away from home for three months must be difficult, how did the cast relax?

“We rarely had time to go out because we were working so hard. The production on this is up there with Bodies schedule wise, it was a hard shoot. We had two or three nights out together on the entire shoot. I had the cast over for a lovely dinner one night. I think its important to have a good tight unit on such a hard shoot physically and mentally and, even if it’s just one night, to re-calibrate it’s really beneficial to connect with one another purely on a human level.”

What was it like to film in Birmingham?

“It was hard work filming in Birmingham and not Manchester this time because I have all my family in Manchester. But the good thing about Birmingham is the fact that we had much more control over a vast number of locations, so on a Sunday and Monday we could shoot and close everything down which was amazing. There are some incredible shots on the roof looking down on the main streets. The production did a great job of finding locations although some of them were miles away.”

You appear to spend quite a bit of time in LA during the year, why?

“When I look at the rainy weather, I cannot wait to be out in LA. I love everything about it – the food, being healthy, the sun and my girlfriend is out there. It’s a different quality of life. You can get up in the morning, go and train, have a nice breakfast, then get in the car and in 25 mins you can hit the beach. Sitting on the Malibu coastline by yourself on the beach is just lovely.”

It’s great to see Robbie Williams back, any plans to play any sessions with him or anyone else?

“I loved touring and playing with Rob, his album’s amazing, really, really good. I’m delighted for him, he’s one of the great artists of our time, wonderful lyrics and a brilliant performer, but I just don’t get time anymore to do many sessions, or touring, as my filming schedule is pretty tough. I occasionally get a call for a nice big gig from different artists and if I’m free I’ll do it. Music is a beautiful gift to have and I’m very lucky to have been sprinkled with the golden music dust, so to speak.”

What are you up to next? Tell me about your film project?

“Mr Goodnight is a movie set in Manchester in 1966. It follows the leader of a gang of crack safe blowers and his dominance of the Manchester underworld. It is also a real look inside the mind of the man, and his effect on those around him. We have a few exotic locations that will stretch the budget but I am producing it with Gub Neal of Prime Suspect and Cracker fame, so I am in very good hands. Ray Winstone, Marc Warren and Mathew Rhys are all attached along with Christopher Fulford and Dexter Fletcher. I know it will be something we haven’t seen for a long time with gangster movies as Adrian Shergold is attached to direct. It is a lot more in the vein of the early British movies Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning etc, with a small smidgen of the works of Scorsese.”

Kidnapped by masked gunmen at the end of the last series, Abby awakes in The Lab dazed and confused, unaware that her life is in danger.

Abby’s journey through this series sees her grow from a traumatised victim of the Lab’s cruel experiments to a strong and resilient leader. However, her deeply held morality is set to be shaken, particularly in the light of discovering the details of Tom’s past and what harbouring him means.

She also acknowledges that the quest for her son must take a back seat to securing a future for her new family. At least until the last episode…

What are the dilemmas Abby has to face in the new series?

“There are lots of things that she has to face that completely challenges everything that she thinks and has thought. Abby changes so much – where she was understanding and frightened, she almost becomes warrior-like. She has to defend the indefensible, which again challenges everything she thinks. Towards the end of the series there is a complete transition from what she was.”

What’s new about series two?

“The new series is so strong. Last series was just like episodic stories, but this year there is more of a serial element to it. When we got to the end of filming episode six I thought, yes this could go on. Some things happen at the end of episode six which I can’t tell you, but it’s definitely a story line that could easily continue.”

Is there a spark between Abby and Greg?

“Well there’s a sort of underlying attraction between Abby and Greg (played by Paterson Joseph), and there always will be, but that never develops in anyway. They just have an affinity with each other. In a different life, there would be a romance. But something happens to his character which prevents that from taking place.”

How do you think you would cope in a post-apocalyptic world?

“I don’t know. I’d like to think that I’d rise to the occasion, but there’s another part of me that thinks I would just lock the door and eat baked beans, and never venture out into the world. It could be a very scary place. I’d try and find a nice country cottage and hide.”

What would you miss?

“There’s nothing that I would miss apart from people. I certainly wouldn’t miss the telly or a microwave or anything. I’d miss a nice lunch in a restaurant every now and again (laughs).”

What would you say is the secret to the longevity of your career?

“Luck! (laughs) I think it’s because I have never played a particular type of person. I’ve always had a very varied career. I don’t tend to get pigeon-holed in the same way. I don’t play terribly glamorous roles, although I have done. And I don’t play dowdy housewives, although I have done that as well. Maybe that’s what it is? I don’t ever try to act an age that I’m not. I’m a 44-year-old actress and those are the parts that I want to play. I don’t want to play someone who’s 34. I think some actors cling onto that. But I think it’s down to luck as well.”

Would you ever go down the route of cosmetic surgery?

“No, no I wouldn’t. I’m the age that I am, and I think the parts that I play are interesting people. The older people get the more interesting they get. I wouldn’t have a facelift, and I certainly would not inject cows what-ever-it-is. No thank you.”

What would you do as an alternative career?

“I love my job and I’ve always wanted to do it. I’m very lucky that I’m allowed to do it. In this economic climate I’m starting to think maybe I should have another string to my bow! But there’s certainly nothing else I’d want to do. I have directed pop promos – I kind of stumbled into it, and really enjoyed it, so I’d like to do more of that.”

Do your daughters show any signs of going into the business, have they got the acting bug?

“Well all three and five-year-olds are completely dramatic all the time so, yes, I could see both of them doing it. I wouldn’t encourage or discourage. If they absolutely wanted to do it of course I would encourage them, but I wouldn’t discourage them from doing anything no.”

Survivors by Adrian Hodges returns to BBC One for a second series in January 2010 picking up moments after the thrilling cliff-hanger to season one.

Abby (Julie Graham) and her mismatched family of Survivors are in disarray, now struggling not just with the difficulties of day-to-day life amidst the ruins of the post-virus apocalypse, but also with the threat of other emerging communities and the machinations of the sinister Lab.

Series two opens with Abby now being held by Whitaker (Nicholas Gleaves) and Fiona (Geraldine Somerville) at the Lab.

There she learns that the scientists have avoided infection and are looking desperately for a vaccine which they believe her unique immune system alone will generate.

Meanwhile, the family race to save Greg’s (Paterson Joseph) life as he lies dying from a gunshot wound.

Drawn into a burning hospital by their search for the necessary medical equipment, Al (Phillip Rhys) and Anya (Zoe Tapper) are caught in an avalanche of rubble as the building collapses around them.

Tom (Max Beesley) is faced with the stark challenge of rescuing his friends from a seemingly insurmountable disaster with only Sarah (Robyn Addison) and Naj (Chahak Patel) to help him.

Returning for this high-octane second series are Abby (Julie Graham), a devoted mother with a missing son; Greg (Paterson Joseph), a loner, hiding the pain of his past; Anya (Zoe Tapper), a doctor who has seen too much; Al (Phillip Rhys), a playboy who becomes surrogate father to young and headstrong Najid (Chahak Patel); Sarah (Robyn Addison), a hedonist used to getting her own way; Tom Price (Max Beesley), handsome, dangerous and a high security prisoner before the virus hit; and Samantha Willis (Nikki Amuka–Bird), the last surviving member of the British Government.

Nicholas Gleaves plays Whitaker; the scientist in charge of the Lab, who – together with fellow scientists Fiona (Geraldine Somerville) and Sami Masood (Ronny Jhutti) – continues to search for a vaccine.

Patrick Malahide features as Landrey, a mysterious figure linked to the Lab.

Witten by Adrian Hodges (Ruby In The Smoke, Shadow In The North, Charles II and Primeval), the producer is Hugh Warren (Frankenstein; The Chase), the directors are Jamie Payne (Primeval), David Evans (Unforgiven, Wild At Heart, Shameless) and Farren Blackburn (Holby, Doctors). The executive producers are Susan Hogg (Lark Rise To Candleford; Waking The Dead) and Adrian Hodges.

Survivors was recommissioned by Jay Hunt, Controller, BBC One, and Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning.

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