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, show creator Neil Cross talked about how the story for Hard Sun evolved, his desire to make an anti-Moonlighting, the five-year plan, the evolving dynamic between Renko and Hicks, why he finds himself drawn to telling dark stories, and what does and doesn’t scare him. He also talked about making the upcoming season of Luther the “biggest, most exciting, most thrilling, scariest” yet, what he has enjoyed about writing the Luther-Alice dynamic, over the seasons, and how that coat came to be.
Collider: How did Hard Sun come about? Was Luther not dark enough, that you had to think about possible end of the world story ideas?
NEIL CROSS: Yeah, this is just a bit of light comedy. It came in two waves, like two LEGO bricks. I had the idea for the characters first. I wanted to do an anti-buddy show, like an anti-Moonlighting, where we had a man and a woman who really, really dislike, distrust and fear one another, who are forced, through circumstances, to work together, and never fall in love, never go to bed with each other, and never become friends, but are somehow bound by something. I didn’t know what it was, who they were, or what kind of genre or world this would be set in. I just had this notion of this relationship. I am a massive Moonlighting fan. I love Moonlighting, but it was that will they or won’t they, and then they did and it killed it. So, Renko and Hicks never will. They will never even like each other. And then, I’m a compulsive book buyer and, twice a year, I go through my shelves and select books I know I’m never gonna read or know I don’t really like, and I box them and give them to charity. I was doing that task to music and I was playing David Bowie, and the first track on his album Ziggy Stardust is called “Five Years.” It’s a song in which the character played by Bowie learns that the world has got five years left, and instead of it descending into a mad, nihilistic, Megadeth dirge, he goes for a walk across this market square and everything and everyone he sees is given this absolute value, in the light of the knowledge of their oncoming destruction. It’s actually this really uplifting song about the value of human life, and I realized that I could put those characters in that world. That’s where the idea of the show comes from.
Do you always think about the five-year plan you’ve set up for this story, or do you try not to think about that endpoint?
CROSS: I’ve always got idea and I have this endless collection of notes, randomly across my computer and my house. There are notes written on the fridge. Hard Sun is a quite unique mixture of genre. There’s a cop show in there, there’s a conspiracy thriller show in there, there science fiction in there, and there are big, personal story arcs. The idea is that, as we progress, we can tell different kinds of stories, in different ways. We’re not limited by genre because we’ve started out unlimited by genre. We can tell any story we want, in any way that we want, so it’s really quite liberating.
How we’re introduced to Renko, in the beginning of the series, is so interesting. Did you think a lot about how you wanted to introduce viewers to this world?
CROSS: Yeah. You want something to be really entertaining. It’s like when you were in creative writing classes and they say, “You’ve gotta write a really good first sentence which hooks the reader.” That stuff is my really good first sentence. It’s almost challenging the audience and saying, “Try to turn it off, after that!” It’s pure story. There’s almost no words, in the first six or seven minutes of this show. It’s just stories with pictures, but also character stories with pictures. It’s quite a challenge to do that, but I think it works really well.
Because Renko and Hicks do have to rely on each other, to a certain degree, will they ever get to a point where they don’t necessarily like each other, but at least understand each other?
CROSS: I want the audience to want them to. When I pitched the show, I said, “In every episode, one will begin to trust the other, a little bit, and then the other will pull the carpet out from under them.” They’re never gonna be best friends. They might have moments of connection and moments when they’re working together towards one goal, but they’ll never be besties.