From writer/executive producer Glen Morgan (The X-Files), the BBC America drama series Intruders is about a secret society devoted to chasing immortality by seeking refuge in the bodies of others. A missing wife (Mira Sorvino), an assassin (James Frain) covering his crimes and a child (Millie Brown) on the run are all seemingly unrelated, but will intertwine to reveal a conspiracy that will lead former LAPD cop Jack Whelan (John Simm) question everything.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actors John Simm and James Frain talked about what attracted them to Intruders, having a brilliant novel to work from, trusting in their creative team, the show’s unsettling tone, that they will provide answers by the end of the season, and what’s to come for their characters. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: John, how did this come about? You were already working on The Village, so was that just not enough for you?
JOHN SIMM: I needed more travel. I see my kids far too much. No. I was very fortunate, in that I was already working on another show, but Julie Gardner, who’s an old friend of mine, came up with this. It was just one of those things where I thought, “If I don’t do this, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.” Thankfully, they were both under the umbrella of the BBC, and amazingly, they both made it work. It was wonderful, but it made for a hell of a schedule for me. It was insane! I would literally wrap, and then get on a plane and fly back. Forget the jet lag, it was straight onto the set. It was full-on. It was a hell of an experience, but I’m really glad that I was able to do it.
Did it help that they were such different projects?
SIMM: That was good, actually. It was good that they were so far apart. They’re very, very different. Everything about both of them couldn’t have been more different.
When you read this, what was it that attracted you to it?
SIMM: I met with Julie and she basically told me the whole story over coffee. I was like, “What?!” And then, she sent me an episode. And then, she said to get the book, so I got the book and devoured the book. It’s very Stephen King-y, which is a huge compliment, and (author) Michael [Marshall Smith] took it as one. It reminded me very much of Stephen King and that kind of world, and I love Stephen King. It was just a wonderful opportunity. Also, I’d never been across the water and I’d never played an American. I’d always wanted to be invited, instead of coming over and trying to sell myself. So, I was invited. It was just a fabulous opportunity, and thank you to Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter for the chance to do it. In England, I had gotten to a certain point. I had been there for about 20 years and needed to do something else, and this was perfect. This was the something else.
JAMES FRAIN: For me, it was the people involved, the quality of the writing, and the scripts. I’m often asked, “How did you know this was a good project?,” and it’s not necessarily something that you can put into words. You just get a feel for the script. And then, when you meet the people, you get a feel from them. I just want to go, “This feels good. This feels right. This is interesting. This will be a rewarding experience.” And this had all of that about it. To see that, on the screen, it does all of that, is really satisfying. It’s fucking hard to make a good show. There are so many things that can go wrong, even with all of the right ingredients. But, everything is how it should be with this. It’s like an eight-hour movie.
SIMM: We do our job, and then we wrap and it’s out of our hands. They can make a pig’s ear out of what we’ve done. We’re completely at their mercy. With this, it’s completely safe. Everybody is so good at what they do that I completely trust them to make a great show out of it because all of the elements are there.
FRAIN: I’ve got this thing where I think great shows have great credit sequences. I don’t know why that is, exactly. But, this show has a great credit sequence.
The first episode has a real unsettling feel to it, and really leaves you wondering what the hell is going on. Was it really important to you that the people behind this are people who have experience with genre material and know how to handle it successfully?
SIMM: Yeah. The source novel is brilliant, and brilliantly thought out. He’s created this incredible world. Add Glen Morgan to that, and he’s allowed to go off piece, as well. We were in pretty safe hands, as long as the world was completely there, and it was, from the very beginning. It all seemed right. It was the right story arc for every character.
FRAIN: And it made total sense to have Eduardo [Sanchez] direct the first four episodes. We’re concerned with making the characters feel real, and the story and the moment. It’s all about trying to capture the moment. Meanwhile, the director is shaping the narrative into the thriller/horror arena, where it’s about suspense about keeping the audience hooked.
SIMM: And he’s very good at that. It makes you work. It doesn’t treat the audience as stupid. At the end of Episode 1, you’re supposed to think, “What the hell is going on?” Then, you want to come back and try to find out. And you do find out. I can promise that, by the end of it.
FRAIN: We deliver.
SIMM: But, it’s slow and it’s a puzzle. You’re drip fed it. I love what they’ve done. We walked onto a set that was designed by the guy that designed Breaking Bad, and as soon as you’re there, you feel like, “Wow!” Some of the sets were incredible. That thing with it being out of your hands when you walk away is not as scary with this.
James, your character, Richard Shepherd is very mysterious and intense. Did you know what your character’s story arc would be, going into this?
FRAIN: No, I didn’t. I knew that there was going to be some kind of revelation and a transformation. They were very clear about that. They couldn’t tell me, at the time, what that was exactly, so I took them on trust. And boy, did they deliver. It really is one of the richest and most unusual and fascinating characters that I’ve ever played. I loved it. I hope we get a second season because you get to go deeper each time. I was watching the last season of Mad Men, and they’re now so in their characters and they’re so comfortable in their characters and they’re doing such good work. That can only happen from doing it over and over, and developing a character over seven years. It’s an amazing opportunity.
What can you say about what this guy’s mission is?
FRAIN: He’s very tied up to the central plotline. He doesn’t kill the sweet kid on the beach, but we discover that he had very good reasons to do so. He spends the rest of the series trying to clean up the mess caused by that mistake. And he’s not necessarily fitting in where he’s supposed to fit in. He’s gone off message, as it were. You’ll find out what he’s doing and who he’s employed by, and how he’s responding to that.
John, what can you say about the relationship between Jack and his wife (Mira Sorvino)?
SIMM: My character is the everyman. He’s the audience. He’s the man that things happen to, and we find out, as he finds out, what’s going on. As with everything in this, nothing is what it seems. He’s got something going on, as well, deep down inside, from his past, that becomes very important. It comes into play, later on, and helps him, actually. Nothing is as it seems. There’s darkness in every character. It ultimately comes from a good place because he’s absolutely in love with his wife and he wants his wife back. He will do anything to save her, as we find out. When everything is stripped back, they are devoted to each other. We find out that it’s because she saved him, at some point in the past. It’s all very confusing for him.
Intruders airs on Saturday nights on BBC America.