Coming soon to BBC3! We’re sure you’ve been intrigued by the spooky trailers
Here are two exclusive to SFX .co.uk pics from BBC’s new supernatural drama The Fades (you can’t fail to have been intrigued by the spooky trailers, surely?). And in case you didn’t read our feature in SFX 213 (if not, why not?) we’ve decided to be kind and reprint it for you below:
It’s a dismal Friday afternoon in June, and SFX is wandering around the grounds of Alexandra Palace. It’s raining, and we’re lost. We’re looking for the set of The Fades , BBC Three’s brand new fantasy drama, but so far it’s proving elusive. Frantic phone calls are exchanged as the rain begins to work its way through SFX ’s woefully inadequate Harrington, until finally, after cadging a lift from a helpful groundskeeper, we’re there.
Herded into a catering van and warmed up with a cup of sweet tea, SFX surveys the scene: chaps who look like they know how to do things with hammers and drills mingle with hipster girls clutching clipboards, the small village of production trucks and trailers a hive of activity in the shadow of North London’s most prominent Victorian landmark. Before the tea has time to turn cold, Caroline Skinner, The Fades ’ producer, is ushered in. Decked out in a black leather jacket and with wildly optimistic sunglasses perched on her head, she’s relaxed, chatty and ready to explain a show that looks set to cement BBC Three’s position as the premier breeding ground for home-grown fantasy.
“It’s quite a number,” she says, smiling. “It’s an idea that Jack [Thorne, scriptwriter extraordinaire] has been working on in the back of his mind for five years. The thing I found so exciting about working with him on developing the mythology of the show is that they’re Fades, and you’ve not seen Fades before. They’re not ghosts, they’re not werewolves, they’re not vampires, and although I think a lot of fantasy shows draw on people’s received ideas of monsters and how those things work, actually this is completely new. They are the spirits of the dead who are trapped alongside us in this world, and they’ve found a way to break back through.”
The focal point for all this inter-dimensional hi-jinks is Paul ( Coronation Street ’s Iain De Caestecker), a sixth form student who is plagued by apocalyptic dreams and is starting to see dead people. With only his sci-fi obsessed best mate Mac ( Psychoville ’s Daniel Kaluuya) on his side, and mercilessly mocked by twin sister Annie (Lily Loveless), he soon finds himself caught up in an end-of-days battle between the living and the dead, being fought on humanity’s side by the Angelics, a group of gifted humans who, like Paul, can see the Fades all around. The first and only line of defence against the angry Fades, the Angelics include Neil ( This Is England ’86 ’s Johnny Harris), a dedicated warrior who has given up any chance of a normal life to fight the good fight, vicar and healer Helen ( This Life ’s Daniela Nardini), and seer Sarah (Natalie Dormer), who has visions of a less than savoury future.
“I think we were casting for a good two or three months,” says Skinner. “It’s an interesting cast, you’ve got much more experienced, well-known actors and younger talent, and getting that balance right was probably the most fun challenge. The day that we cast Iain and Daniel as Paul and Mac was really the day that the project all came together. Once we knew that they had got that brilliant chemistry between the two of them, Farren [Blackburn, the director] and I could see the central relationship of the show coming together.”
Yet if that relationship, of two best mates caught up in something bigger than they ever imagined, is the spine of the show, its heart is all Jack Thorne. Best known for his TV work on Skins and This Is England ’86 (which he co-wrote with Shane Meadows), The Fades is all his. When SFX clambers onto a battered minibus to be driven to a set off-site, Thorne is already on board, a bundle of nervous energy wrapped in a hoody and contentedly munching an apple. “It sort of came from a childhood of being into fantasy, not having a huge amount of friends and liking wandering around on my own making up monsters,” he explains. “That’s the starting point, so it started about 30 years ago really. And you know, the books I used to read as a kid were not the sort of fantasy you’ve get nowadays, which is very much action fantasy. It was more [author] Susan Cooper – slightly pagan and folky – and that’s sort of the thing that I really wanted to explore with this. Folk horror, films like The Wicker Man .”
Taking his fantasy cues from the books and films of his childhood and throwing them into a pot with whip-smart dialogue and a limitless imagination, Thorne has kept things grounded by working up characters that are, above all, plausible. “As a fantasy show, a show that’s about ordinary people having extraordinary things happen to them, the big thing all the time is stopping anyone from being spectacular. None of our characters are brilliant, they’re all really ordinary and they’re all just stumbling through it and trying to work out how to deal with it. Even the Angelics, the likes of Neil or Sarah, they’re not great, they’re just ordinary people who are struggling with stuff. Neil lives in a caravan, d’you know what I mean? And that really interests me, the ordinary meeting the extraordinary.”
Of course, there’s been another BBC Three show that turned the everyday meeting the supernatural into success recently – so just how close is The Fades to Being Human ? “Well, I think there are two things,” explains Caroline Skinner, quick to answer what is clearly already a common line of questioning. “Firstly, the mythology of The Fades makes it different. I think the way Jack’s worked up that mythology and developed it across the series should be really exciting because you’re coming to it afresh. I think the second thing that really does distinguish it is the tone. It’s quite bold in both its comedy and its horror, and yet I think because Jack writes in such an original way and because it all comes from characters, somehow those two different feelings seem to sit alongside each other really well.”
Judging from the energised feeling on-set, Skinner isn’t wrong in that assumption. Even though the cast and crew have been working themselves into the ground – “14-hour days, seven days a week,” in the words of Jack Thorne – they’re visibly excited. Considering they’re working on a show that mixes supernatural horror with apocalyptic overtones and a bellyful of street-smart comedy, it’s easy to see why. “I think one of the really exciting things is that over the course of the series, if the audience get into it, that mythology will develop and turn in every episode,” concludes Skinner. “Just when you thought that you knew what a Fade is, you’ll find out something else. Hopefully we’ve created something that’s a bit new. I hope that it’s going to be one of the scariest things that people have seen on TV in a long time. I approached it wanting to terrify people, and I think that there are moments, certainly in the first couple of episodes as I’m watching them in the edit, that still make me jump, so fingers crossed that will play out.”
And on the next page, our interview with star Natalie Dormer…
Natalie Dormer talks marriage, Angelics and horror porn…
What can you tell us about your character, Sarah?
“She’s married [to Mark, played by Miranda’s Tom Ellis] and Sarah has this double existence, because she is an Angelic. Her gift is that she’s a seer, she can see the future, and she has visions which she then relays to other Angelics. So she’s normal, but she’s got a history of mental illness and it’s obviously something she’s really struggled to come to terms with. Mark has been her saviour from that. The marriage has broken down for a plethora of reasons, the most pertinent being that she’s living a double existence that he doesn’t understand, which creates a lot of friction. She’s been clutching at straws, trying to maintain a normal life, pretending to herself, lying that she can have a normal, average, uneventful life – and she can’t.”
What attracted you to The Fades ?
“The strength and the dexterity of Jack’s writing. Everyone loves a good love story, and everyone loves a bit of action, and everyone loves a bit of guts and gore, you know, even the girls do. Nothing in this is gratuitous – everything that is done is done to create true, weighty emotion. So there’s no horror pornography in this. When it gets really dark, it gets dark for intelligent reasons.”
Does Sarah see her gifts and status as an Angelic as a blessing or a curse?
“When you meet her at the beginning of the series she would definitely say it was a curse, because her marriage and her life have been destroyed by it. And that’s something that Iain’s character Paul has to face. It’s about finding your place in the world, where you belong, and not denying who you really are. Identity and self-identity is a very strong theme of the show. There is real, genuinely intelligent writing behind it, behind all the fun and the running around and the entertainment.”