May 18

Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe to star in four-part Sky Arts comedy drama A Young Doctor’s Notebook

That Daniel Radcliffe comedy drama announcement:

Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe will appear in an extraordinary new series for Sky Arts, based on the memoirs of a Russian doctor working during the Russian Revolution, as part of the brand new series of Playhouse Presents…

Young Doctor’s Notebook, which will broadcast on Sky Arts in 2013,is a unique four-part comedy drama based on a collection of short stories by the celebrated Russian writer and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov. 

Jon Hamm will take on the role of the older doctor, who has a series of bleakly comic exchanges with his younger self, played by Daniel Radcliffe.

Jon Hamm said: “I am thrilled to get the opportunity to work on such rich source material with such fantastically talented people whose work I greatly respect, and to continue the relationship with Sky who have taken such good care of Mad Men since acquiring it. Clelia Mountford and Big Talk have been championing this project unabashedly and I share their great enthusiasm for bringing something original, dark, funny and moving to light. Also, I have been watching “Bridget Jones’s Diary” on infinite loop, and I think I’ve finally got this accent thing sorted…”

Daniel Radcliffe added: “I have been an obsessive Bulgakov reader for a couple of years now so when the opportunity to become involved in this project came up, I could barely contain my excitement. The book is funny, grotesque and heartfelt in equal measure and I look forward to working with a great group of people to help bring it to life”.

Produced by multi award-wining Big Talk Productions in association with Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt’s Point West Pictures, the drama recounts Bulgakov’s semi-autobiographical experiences as a young doctor working in the small village of Muryovo at the dawn of the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Recounting from his notebooks, the Doctor considers his life and career as he tries to treat the patients of a village that is struggling to enter the modern age. Dealing not only with the superstitious and poorly educated patients but with his own inner demons, the doctor reveals doubts about his own competence and struggles with the immense burden of medical responsibility.

Mikhail Bulgalov is widely considered to be one of the finest Russian writers of all time. His allegorical and most famous novel The Master and Margarita has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.

This is not the first time Sky Arts has tackled unusual Russian comedy. 2010 saw the channel receive plaudits for their series of Chekhov Comedy Shorts which starred an array of world-class comedians performing the playwright’s lesser known comedies. The cast included Steve Coogan, Johnny Vegas, Julia Davis, Sheridan Smith and Mackenzie Crook. 

Sky Arts Playhouse Presents…strand received widespread critical acclaim, and was Sky Arts’ most successful series ever, attracting world-renowned talent to the channel including Emma Thompson, Alison Steadman, David Tennant and Sir Tom Jones, in his first acting role.

“Having two of the world’s most popular actors, whose iconic roles are seared on to the world’s collective consciousness, is an enormous accomplishment for Sky Arts. It continues a tradition we have established of attracting the most recognised faces in the world to Sky,” comments James Hunt, Channel Director, Sky Arts. “Bulgakov’s work is fascinating, dark and original and with talent like this, will surprise and entertain our viewers in a wholly unique way. It is brilliantly observed piece, which promises to be true historical magic and completely unlike anything else on television.”

“Here’s a world class line up to take your breath away,” comments Lucy Lumsden, Head of Comedy for Sky. “Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe on Sky Arts reflect just how significant the channel has become in driving creativity and delivering exceptional names to Sky Customers.”

Big Talk Chief Executive Kenton Allen said: ‘Clelia Mountford bought the project to me with a twinkle in her eye and that twinkle has rapidly developed into a rather extraordinary project that promises to be unmissable TV.I really hope we can find and entertain a whole new audience with the brilliance of Bulgakov and the pinch-yourself dream team combination of Jon and Daniel.”

Following the addition of Sky Arts to Sky Go, customers will also be able to watch A Young Doctors Notebook on the move on iPad, selected smartphones and laptops at no extra cost.

The series will be distributed internationally by BBC Worldwide.

A Young Doctor’s Notebook marks a further development of the Playhouse Presents strand which champions innovative productions and original writing, and which underlines Sky’s promise to  deliver high-quality, exclusive content to customers, supported by a commitment to increase investment in home-grown programming to £600 million by 2014, an increase of more than 50% over three years.

May 6

Homeland’s Damian Lewis on his early acting days – and getting caned at school

I remember the first time I met Homeland star Damian Lewis. It was back in 2000 on the set of a BBC drama called Hearts and Bones  (which had a eclectic cast list including Dervla Kirwan, Hugo Speer, Sarah Parish and Amanda Holden). Damian was playing a biology teacher working at a south London comprehensive school and he was down-to-earth, effortlessly charming and a helpful interviewee. At the end of the interview I asked a usual quesion: What are you doing next?

Some actors usually mumble something about having something in the pipeline. A few have real projects to go to. Damian, however, had just landed a role that would catapult him into the major league – the starring role in Steven Spielberg’s £70 million 13-part television series Band of Brothers. I remember him telling me – and it was hard not to be impressed. After all, here was a Eton-educated Englishman and he’d just beaten every US actor of his generation to play an American war hero.

The rest as they say is history. Band of Brothers was a massive critical and ratings success. Damian delivered a flawless performance as Major Dick Winters and his career has flourished ever since. I’ve followed his progress with interest ever since and like millions I’m glued to Homeland. It’s fantastic to see a decent bloke – and a very fine actor – doing so well.

I dug out one of my old interviews with Damian. Here are some snippets…

Damian grew up in London and went to boarding school in Sussex, which is where his love of acting began. “From the age of eight I started acting in school plays and Gilbert and Sullivan musicals,” he recalls. “My first role was as a policeman in the Pirates of Penzance and when I was twelve I played Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” he says.

 “School was very structured and they were keen to drum into everyone how to behave well in any situation which is a very British upper class way of thinking. I used to get sick and tired of all the culture at school and rebelled against it, although at boarding school if you are caught having as much as an illicit cigarette you might be asked to leave. The most rebellious things I ever did always involved girls. I used to get caught in girls’ dormitory in the middle of the night, which was a caning offence when I was there. I got caned an awful lot for other misdemeanours like talking after lights out, which the headmaster just wouldn’t tolerate. He thought it kept others awake and tired pupils made the school function less well.”

As a teenager Damian went to Eton, but had decided when it came to leaving, that he wanted to become an actor. “Everyone else was off to Oxford and Cambridge and other places and I had already been in a theatre company with friends and had made up my mind that acting was what I wanted to do. Fortunately, my parents were very supportive and they said they’d help me out if I went to drama school.”

 

Category: Homeland
February 17

Making a drama out of cold coffee and empty suitcases

Production designers go to huge lengths to make the sets on television shows realistic. So I am the only one who can’t quite believe that when a suitcase or something similar is needed for a scene, props teams almost always let actors carry very obviously empty ones around during filming? I’ve just seen it a couple of times in one episode of the BBC One drama Inside Men. It looks quite ridiculous and I can’t believe it’s because actors can’t cope with carrying a bit of weight…

It was similar in The Bill with coffee. A character would get a boiling hot coffee straight from the Sun Hill drinks machine and would hold it firmly despite it being in one of those very flimsy plastic cups. So either people were only cast in The Bill if they had hands made asbestos or – as is more likely – the cups were empty!

Category: The Bill