If you’re looking for a dark, complicated thriller to watch, Hard Sun, created and written by Neil Cross (Luther), is currently available to stream at Hulu. Detectives Robert Hicks (Jim Sturgess) and Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn) find themselves partners, even though they stand on different ends of the moral spectrum and distrust each other’s motives, for good reason. But in order to survive until the end of the world, they must find some way to learn to work together.
During this interview with Collider, co-stars Jim Sturgess and Agyness Deyn talked about why Hard Sun was both traumatic and exhilarating to make, the complex characters that Neil Cross creates, what they most enjoyed about their roles, their human evolution throughout the season, and the affect it might have on you to know that you only have five years before the world ends.
Collider: Agyness, I love how we meet your character. It’s quite a way to make an impression on people.
AGYNESS DEYN: After reading that, I was like, “Who the hell is this woman?!” You’re just left intrigued. You meet Elaine, and then you meet Hicks, and you’re just like, “What?!” And then, you realize that they’re cops and you’re trying a million miles an hour to work it out. It’s cool.
Neil Cross definitely creates very interesting and complex female characters in his TV series.
DEYN: Yeah, they’re not the typical projection. They’re a little bit of unhinged and complex. They’re in touch with their masculine side, so then they can also be provocative in a different way, rather than this projection what men think we should be like, which is really cool. He’s willing to explore. He doesn’t have anything set in stone. What I find really, really cool is that he’s intrigued and on board with your take on her, which was really refreshing.
Is it nice to just strip away what we’re used to seeing with a female character?
DEYN: Yeah. It was funny ‘cause the first thing that Neil said to us both in rehearsal was, “There is no sexual tension whatsoever.” It shouldn’t have to be a relief, but it’s nice to take away that attraction. It’s all just person to person, and it doesn’t necessarily fixate on the masculine and the feminine, the male dominance, and this whole flirty thing. That was good. Then, you don’t have the responsibility to be like, “Oh, now I have to be the sexy counterpart in this,” and there’s the token naked scene.
Does it ever get freaky and creepy when you’re telling a story like this? Was it ever hard to deal with all of the darkness and everything you have to go through for this, or is it fun when you’re doing it?
DEYN: It’s both, all mashed together. It’s traumatic and enjoyable and exhilarating ‘cause we’re both massive Neil fans. We’re able to take these characters and play, but then it’s also full-on material. It’s really physical and you feel that, as you’re going along. You feel it, as a real person, and not just as the character. It wears on you, as well. I got really ill, afterwards. My organs had exhaustion. They said, “Cut!,” on the final day and I just burst into tears. I couldn’t speak. I was just in the middle of London, in the middle of the night, alone and withdrawn, a shell of my former self.
And then, you find out that Neil Cross has a five-year plan and wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.
JIM STURGESS: The fact that this may continue is like, “Okay, just let me sit down, for at least a minute.”
DEYN: I think it’s like childbirth. Now that I’ve forgotten what it was really like, I’m like, “Oh, my god, I get to do that again?!”
What’s the fun in playing characters like this? Are there things that you get to do with these characters that you haven’t gotten to do with other roles?
STURGESS: It’s very rare that you play a character that has this information. There’s a full stop to that person’s life, and to life as we know it. It’s always interesting when you’re forced to think in ways and positions that you would not necessarily go towards. As an actor, you’re always drawn to the more complex and disturbing and dynamic roles. The more you’ve got to play with and discover and learn, the more exciting it is to play. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about the character that I’m playing. When you’re doing episodic television, there’s a potential that it could go on for quite a long period of time, so the more complex the characters are, the more you’ve got to play with. You can keep learning and discovering and peeling off layers. If you knew and understood everything about your character, from day one, to do five years of that, or whatever, you’d be pretty done with the experience. With Neil and with these characters, there’s a lot to keep finding out.
DEYN: Yeah, and the physical aspect was amazing. There’s not that much stuff, where you get to be so physical, but it’s in a certain way that isn’t like superhero fighting. It’s kept as real as possible, which is really, really amazing to play.
These characters are both kind of a mess, and they have so many things that are falling apart in their lives. Is there anything in their lives that’s on the right track?
DEYN: From the opening of Episode 1 to the last frame of Episode 6, there’s been a human evolution of it. There’s been a drastic change, which has been under a magnifying glass. It ramps up the speed and the volume because of this impending doom. You have to look at yourself.
STURGESS: It forces you to look into yourself.
DEYN: To survive this, one has to change. I always think, “Why today? Why does this story start today?” Elaine has to change. There has to be something that changes her, emotionally and psychologically. She can’t be an island. She can’t be impenetrable, her whole life. That’s just going to turn on her. So, today the day that she has to face human relations and allowing someone else to have her back, and that comes in the form of Charlie Hicks.
STURGESS: Yeah, and if you’re carrying a really dark secret, that has to be dealt with and you have to look into that to carry that. To carry that around until the end of your days is an unhealthy way to end. There is an evolution there, in which he has to deal with what has happened and how that’s affected the people around him.
Do you root for your characters to get it together, or do you hope they stay a mess because it’s more fun to play?
STURGESS: You do root for them. You want them to be okay.
DEYN: You become accepting. The mess becomes beautiful because out of mess comes change. I think that one finds themselves always in a mess, along the journey, but it just seems like a different mess than before. It’s an evolution of scrubbing off the dirt, and then there’s more dirt.
STURGESS: There’s two ways of looking at it. There’s a ground level way of looking at it, where you’re inside the character’s skin, and you’re fighting for that character and that character’s life because you care so much about them and you’re very protective of them. And then, there’s the actor turning the pages and going, “This is really interesting.” The more messed up they are, the more interesting it is to play. But when you’re on the ground, in their skin, you’re fighting for them to be okay. You’re feeling what they’re feeling and you want them to survive.
As this information starts to get out, how will they feel about the fact that it’s really going to start to affect and impact people?
STURGESS: It really looks into the different ways in which people react to that information. If you’re struggling, as a person, and if you’re confused or you’re frustrated or you’re angry or you’re not in peace, everything just turns up to eleven. It’s just going to get more and more enhanced. Extreme behavior starts to surface, and often that can come in a very violent form. It explores the idea of, how could there be a god, if something like this is possible? You look at different people’s reactions, certainly, and that’s only gonna get more interesting, if the show is able to develop. You can really look at so many different ways of that affecting people’s lives.
Five years seems like such a short amount of time, but it’s also enough time for you to really be able to think about a lot of things.
STURGESS: I would agree with that. Life has to carry on.
DEYN: It makes you squirm because you have enough time to go crazy and really sit with the prospects.
STURGESS: I found when I was fishing for ideas and looking into things, I came across these manuscripts of people with terminal illness, and they talk about that journey. I guess the world will be on a very similar journey, of initial panic, and then acceptance, and then being able to see the world so vividly. It’s that really interesting rollercoaster and journey that people are going to take. Everyone is different, but five years is a really interesting amount of time because people will learn to accept, in five years’ time. But of course, initial panic is going to hit from the off, and then you’ll see how that evolves, as people start to learn and understand it better.
Hard Sun is available to stream at Hulu.