When I woke up on the morning of July 23rd the heavens had opened. The first few hours of the morning saw biblical amounts of rain and lightning that could lit up every room of the house. Weather of this brutal nature would normally cause me to bury my head deeper within the warmth of my covers and drift off back to sleep, but this morning I was off to Ripper Street! The short flight to Dublin was surprisingly smooth given the weather we had experienced earlier in the day and it wasn’t long until we (me and every other journalist) where piled onto a bus and driven to the army barracks which is magically transformed into the dirty streets of East London that we know on Ripper Street. I’ve been to a fair few sets this year but none with quite the grandeur and scale of this. For a spilt second it doesn’t seem real and then after you’ve stepped onto the cobbles and peered down the various alleyways and tunnels you forget you’re on a set at all. The design team here have excelled themselves. Every nook of Ripper Street feels wonderfully authentic. There are elements to the set that you don’t even notice from the comfort of your sofa. The posters, the toilets, the signs every element adds to the fantastic atmosphere that oozes from the screen.
After our wander down the infamous street the cast (Matthew Mcfadyen, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring and Jerome Flynn) joined us for a Q&A and discussed the reactions to series 1 as well as what we can expect from the upcoming second run.
So what was it like being reunited after a long break for season 2?
Matthew Macfadyen: It was quite odd, it was really like no time had passed.
Adam Rothenberg: It was really very casual because a lot of people had been working here throughout the year. We were the only ones who had been away. No one was particularly enthused to see us again!
Had you all kept in touch during the break?
Matthew Macfadyen: We went to LA to do the launch of this on BBC America so we met up there and MyAnna and me did a job together..”
Matthew, your character on screen obviously has changed quite a lot, he seems more reflective of his own life..How would you say he has moved on and the problems he’s facing?
Matthew Macfadyen: He’s sort of much more lonely in this series because he’s not with this wife so he throws himself into the work even more than he did. It’s a bit sad for poor old Reid.
How does he feel about the new young policeman arrive?
Matthew Macfadyen: Initially he reacts against him because he doesn’t want a repeat of what happened to Hobbs so he tries cruel to be kind. He’d rather have a grizzled veteran.
Jerome, did you have to hit the gym a lot before filming?
Jerome Flynn: I kept up my swimming and running but I’m about to do that again for some more footage. We’ve got a big boxing match coming with Joseph Mawle up and we have got a trainer in.
The show has been very successful. What has the appeal been for viewers?
Matthew Macfadyen: I think it’s always the writing. It’s a procedural show, a thriller with great storylines and good characters. People tell me there’s a nice feel to it. A sort of Western feel and people respond to that.
Do you think the criticism about violence in the first series was valid or not? How did you react to that?
Jerome Flynn :I think those two go together. People like that dark Victorian London stuff, that’s how Victorian London was. SO I think the criticism is on the same piece of paper as to why people are attracted to it. People love to go back into our history and live it without having to necessarily feel it.
Are you all OK with watching that violence. Do you find it quite gory?
Matthew Macfadyen: The first episode was about Jack the Ripper, it’s got to be violent. You can’t cater for modern sensibilities too much or what’s the point?
How do you enjoy the costume aspect to it?
MyAnna Buring: You’re looking at me in particular aren’t you! The corset is a love/hate thing. Some days it’s fantastic, others you can’t move. They help a lot with the character, you walk in a different way you’ve got a different posture. Long Susan’s dresses are incredible. The craftsmanship is something really special.
MyAnna can you tell us what happens with you in this series?
MyAnna Buring: Charlene has left the brothel and gone into Music Hall and Long Susan supports it. She takes Jackson to watch her do her thing. When we start off we find Long Susan and Jackson attempting marital bliss. It’s hard from them to walk away, they don’t have the finances and I’ve always felt Long Susan wasn’t just doing it for the money, she’s still got quite feminist feelings and agendas.
Who’s the joker among the four of you here?
Matthew Macfadyen: It’s a problem, trying to keep it under control.
Adam Rothenberg: You’re the worst one though.
MyAnna Buring: It’s Matthew, he just giggles and you’ve got the most contagious laugh ever.
Matthew Macfadyen: It’s very bad in Jackson’s dead room, we just walk in there and start corpsing.
Adam Rothenberg: Try saying ‘semen’ with a straight face!
Adam, can you tell us more about what’s happening with Jackson
Adam Rothenberg: This season finds him in a sort of existential crisis. He’s become a nine-to-fiver. All the intrigue of his life has been laid bare. There’s really nothing left for him and he wonders who he is if he isn’t misbehaving or running or hustling and surviving. Long Susan gets a taste of power and independence and Jackson becomes kept man going to the office every day. You see him struggle.
Were you happy with how the stories have gone in season 2?
Matthew Macfadyen: You can see the writers having more fun and taking risks.
MyAnna Buring: Little scenes get written in like us having tea, you can start playing with subtleties.
Adam Rothenberg: The characters discover each other which is new. You see behaviour and see people starting to inhabit and live together. It’s a drama about characters.
How easy is it to memorise the Victorian dialogue?
Matthew Macfadyen: It takes a few weeks to get back into it. The first week was hard but after a while you get used to it.
This takes up a lot of your year. Is it in the back of your mind how much time one project takes up or are you just glad to be working?
Matthew Macfadyen: It’s just nice to be working, I know that’s the boring answer. It’s not part of a big plan, we’re all bumbling from one job to the next, it’s chaos. There’s no master plan.
Can you see this series running and running?
Jerome Flynn: There’s definitely potential for a long run. If Richard wants to carry on writing it.
Adam, have you had much reaction at home?
Adam Rothenberg: No. No one believes I’ve been working! It’s like the cliche of saying you have a girlfriend in Canada. It’s done well in the States but it’s such a huge country and so many channels, hopefully it’ll be ‘box set’ territory. It’s surreal to think I have a career over here that no one’s heard of back home.
Matthew, your character has a new love interest in this series. Can you tell us about that?
Matthew Macfadyen: He’s met this woman who’s a London county councillor who’s a very smart lady and they instantly hit it off but it’s very early days and light at the end of the tunnel for Mr Reid.
Jerome, how does Drake’s marriage affect him this season? Is he more domesticated?
Jerome Flynn: He had a very broken background and he’s been craving to be a gentleman and have a wife and it filled that hole. She’s very loving and he’s made up about it but there’s stuff he’s still not facing.
Jerome. How have you found being on a mainstream terrestrial show again that’s not a cult hit?
Jerome Flynn: You’ve got to come and kind of ‘be on’, it’s been a big change in my mid-life but not one i regret. It’s a great job. I didn’t take it lightly.
Do you enjoy what they do to your hair? The plaits at the back?
Jerome Flynn: I don’t mind the plaits, but in a heatwave with the wig on the back. I suffer for my art! Listen, this is a great job and they’re not easy to come by and this definitely is a great job.
Is Police corruption a theme this year?
Jerome Flynn: Yes it’s simmering underneath the whole series.
Matthew Macfadyen: Lots of juicy stuff there. Backhanders and corruption in business.
Ripper Street returns Monday 28th October at 9.00pm on BBC ONE.
*Pictures courtesy of Owen O’Connor.*