From creator, writer, and director Ben Chanan, the conspiracy thriller The Capture (which is available to stream at Peacock), is a terrifying look at what can happen when intelligence services turn their own capabilities toward creating fake news, in order to help them achieve a specific outcome. When soldier Shaun Emery (Callum Turner) sees his murder conviction overturned due to flawed video evidence, he looks to begin rebuilding his life with his young daughter. Emery’s plans are thwarted when CCTV footage from a night out turns his life upside down and he finds himself fighting for his freedom again.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Turner opened up about creating his character, how the scripts read like a book, the dynamic between Shaun and Detective Inspector Rachel Carey (Holliday Grainger), and why he won’t be returning for the second season. Plus, Turner makes time to talk about how jarring it was to go straight from The Capture to Emma., and his experience making Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
COLLIDER: How much were you told about this, in the beginning? Did you know what the full story arc would be, or did you not know what the ending would be?
CALLUM TURNER: They gave us everything, which I prefer anyway, so that I can build and plant things, and paint it with the full knowledge. But when I got the scripts, they only sent me four episodes. By the time I finished the end of the fourth episode, I needed to read the rest. It was so good, even on the page. The way Ben [Chanan] wrote it was like a book.
I always wonder, when you watch a story like this and it is so gripping, what that’s like, on the page? Is it something where that’s just the script when you read it, or do you need to have conversations, behind the scenes, to figure out where it’s going?
TURNER: When I signed on to do it, it did change a little bit, but not too much. It was pretty tight, the whole way though. It’s rare having someone direct it who wrote it, and who knows every inch of the piece. That’s not the norm. He knew all the beats he wanted you to hit and how he wanted you to hit them, all the way, really. Honestly, when I got the scripts, it doesn’t happen often where I get it and I can’t stop reading it. I’m a slow reader, but I think I read four hours of television in about two. I just blasted through it.
How did you view Shaun Emery? What was it about him, as a character, that you found interesting and that you felt like you could add, in bringing him to life?
TURNER: Shaun is someone who I could know. I haven’t played anyone from London, really. I haven’t played anyone from where I grew up, and I felt immediately connected to him because of that, and I wanted to go on the journey as Shaun. There’s an element of someone trying to retrieve his soul, I found in Shaun. He’s someone who’s famous nationwide, for the wrong reasons. He’s on the front page of the newspapers for being called a murderer. He’s in prison. His life led him to this point. He’s someone who’s had dark days and escaped with the Army, but never really faced up to who they were or what their traumas were. You meet someone who is on the cusp of changing that. He wants to change how his family views him. He wants to change the relationship that he has with his little girl, with the mother of his child, with his friends, and with his grandfather. I found that fascinating. As someone’s about to really turn their life around, they’re dragged back into this nightmare that’s faked. He’s determined to get out of one nightmare, and he’s immediately thrown back into another. I found that fascinating. I really wanted to explore that.
I was very lucky because I trained for the physical stuff with this guy who was a paratrooper for 24 years. We spent a lot of time with each other, over six months. We spent most days, but not weekends, together and he gave me so much information about what it’s like before you go on tour, what it’s like when you’re on tour, what it’s like when you come back from tour, your relationship with your family, your relationship with your kids, and hundreds of stories about being on tour and what it’s like being a soldier. That stuff was invaluable to me. Going into that space, that was something I really nothing about.
Does it also help you to put on the uniform? Does that inform who he is, in some ways?
TURNER: It helps identify where he’s been and what he’s been doing, but I don’t really wear the uniform too much. When you see the initial reason that he’s in prison, that was great because all of the other people in that sequence are ex-soldiers. It was a real snippet into what it would be like, for a couple of days. That was a lot of fun, by the way.
It seems like this would be a tough role because this is a guy who has to hold so much in. He can’t say what he’s really thinking and he can’t show what he’s really feeling because of who he is and the situation that he finds himself in. Were there challenges in portraying that and having to really hold so much in?
TURNER: What’s interesting about Shaun is that he’s someone that can’t hold stuff in, so it’s measuring that with this idea that he wants to become someone else now and he wants to evolve, as a human being, and he has to stop himself from saying what he would normally say. In Episode 1, we allude to his environment, where some people can be a bit racist or sexist, or say the thing that’s not right to say, that’s where he’s coming from, but that’s not where he wants to go anymore. That’s not where he sees himself now. So, that was a fun thing to play with, when the explosive energy was gonna come out and what it would have been like for Shaun before, when he would allow all of that stuff to come out. It was about trying to work out how someone retrains their brain. It was a fun experiment.
Shaun is a family man, but it’s not really a life that he’s able to live, especially with what he’s going through. And when we get to see him with his daughter, that really gives a glimpse into what life could have been like for him, if his path hadn’t shifted so drastically, away from that. What was it like to have those scenes with that young actress, and to show that side of him?
TURNER: I don’t have a kid, so I don’t know what that feeling is, but when you miss them and want to do everything for them, I wanted his daughter to be that last bit of light in his life. Everything is dark, apart from her. That was important because you get to see the gentle side and the soft side of Shaun, and the person that he actually does want to become, instead of where he ends up… That’s basically the reason that he’s still holding on, or has held on this long, and now he wants to do the best for her.
There’s such an interesting dynamic between Shaun and Rachel because they’re an unlikely duo that ends up together, as they’re both trying to figure out what’s going on. What did you enjoy about exploring that dynamic, and about doing so with Holliday Grainger?
TURNER: Firstly, I’ve always liked Holliday, as an actress. I think she’s amazing. And so, I was really happy and really excited to basically be going toe-to-toe with her and playing off of her. On our first day, our first scene was me and her, and one of the last days, we had a scene together. It book-ended the shoot, which was nice. The relationship had that cat-and-mouse thing that’s fun to play. For him, it was about how much he trusted her and how much he wanted to trust her. Ultimately, he ends up trusting her, even if it’s just for a moment.
It was announced that the series would be returning for a second season, but that you wouldn’t be returning with it, yourself. Is that because the story is taking a different direction? Did you only want to sign on for one season?
TURNER: They only signed both me and Holliday for one season, but I always imagined that the arc with Shaun would be one season. I think that was Ben’s thought process, too. It does feel like you get to the end of his journey, but with her, you want more and you want to see where she’s gonna take it next. His journey is over, as far as what he can do.
You went straight from doing The Capture to doing Emma., which seems like it would be a little bit of character whiplash. What was it like to then go play a character so very different, so soon after this? Did you have to do anything to shake one character off, to get into the headspace of the other?
TURNER: I did a lot of horse riding. It wasn’t easy, but the horse riding helped because it was so far from Shaun. I had a very brief moment of time to do that and it wasn’t easy. The Capture was so physical and Shaun was such a physical part that my body was a lot bigger than it normally is, and then I was running around talking about being in haberdasheries. [“Character whiplash”] is a good way of describing it. I’d never had that short of a turn-around before either. But the costumes in Emma were so far removed from normal clothes that it was almost just as physical, but in a completely different way.
You’ve done projects all over the map, and it doesn’t get much bigger than a franchise like Fantastic Beasts. What’s it like to be a part of something on such a huge scale, like that? Do you want to do more of that kind of thing, and does that kind of thing make you want to then go do a small character study?
TURNER: It was pretty big, but the thing about that and the genius of [director] David Yates is that he creates such a ambient vibe on set, so you don’t feel like you’re part of a franchise that’s famous, all around the world. It’s only when you promote it, that it hits you. But I loved doing those films. I had so much fun doing those films. I got to work with David and Eddie [Redmayne] and Colleen Atwood, the costume designer, who’s incredible. I love to do different things, all the time. I like to change it up. I started off, my first thing in America was Green Room, and then I went to do War & Peace, which was a period piece and completely opposite. I want to keep doing that, and working with directors that I enjoy. That’s where the fun is, for me. That’s how I want to evolve.
The Capture debuted on Peacock on July 15 and is now available to stream.
Christina Radish is a Senior Reporter of Film, TV, and Theme Parks for Collider. You can follow her on Twitter @ChristinaRadish.