Banished (2015) s01e00 Episode Script

Behind the Scenes

It's just an unbelievable story of survival.
How far do you go to survive? Jealousy, honour, love, betrayal.
It's violent, it's sexy.
It makes you think on every page.
There's not a drop of waste.
It was a harsh life.
People were starving, people were hungry.
How did they not all just drop dead? This was empire-building.
This is British history.
It is a universal story of what it is to be human.
I will be very surprised if anything comes near it ever again.
I think for Jimmy, he's left his comfort zone of contemporary, urban, largely Northern, largely working-class narratives and he's expanded himself into this epic historical narrative.
In everything I do, I'll always have people who know what the right thing to do is but it's too expensive to do it, you know.
If I do the right thing, it might cost me my life.
If I do the right thing, it might cost me my woman.
If I do the right thing, it might cost me a flogging, you know.
The price of doing the right thing, you know.
But all of his great themes of love, faith, religion, you know, law, justice and morality is played out on this epic scale in this confined community, where the stakes are literally life and death for everybody involved, every single character involved.
If you're a woman and you have nothing except your body, how far do you go to survive? You know.
If you're a man and a much bigger, stronger man is stealing your food and you are starving to death and nobody lifts a finger to help you because it's every man for himself, you know, at that time, what do you do, you know? It's, I think, every Every story has survival at its heart.
Full of love.
You know, the stories are full of It's full of love stories all over the place.
But at its heart, it's survival.
I think the reason that Jimmy's work translates universally is that he is speaking about the human condition.
And the human condition is universal.
It's not about where you're from or what strata of society or what ethnic background or cultural background.
He's talking about the human condition and that's an ancient That's an ancient predicament that we all carry and we're always trying to solve in all cultures.
I have been a fan of Jimmy McGovern and his writing for a long time.
You know, The Lakes, The Street, Accused.
It's just They're real people, he writes real people.
And in particular, I think, from a very selfish point of view, he writes women beautifully.
The characters have a universality to them.
Jimmy McGovern writes these great female characters, he does.
He seems to be able to speak as women in a way that is It is notable for a male writer to be able do.
He seems to be able to be inside the mind and heart of a woman and know what's going on there.
And interestingly enough, we cast Orla Brady, who's Irish, and Orla Brady's first instincts were Dublin, she comes from Dublin.
The city centre of Dublin.
And a few weeks passed and she said "I can't" She couldn't find her in Dublin.
She says she needs the sea, she needs the sea.
And I said, I know, 'cause I found it in Pembrokeshire, with the waves crashing in on the Welsh coast.
So now she plays it as a woman from Donegal.
I think Anne is a character who is apart from the others.
Partly because of her belief system being quite different from the belief system of most of the people there.
She is not Christian, except in a token way, whereas Christianity was a given.
People would be Christian in the same way that we think of ourselves as, you know, as law-abiding, nowadays.
You would absolutely believe in a concept of of God and of of hell, of heaven, of those things.
Anne has a different belief system, which I think she feels she has to hide from others and I think that sets her apart.
Is she theological, philosophical? Or is she just a con merchant? You know.
It's a fascinating story, hers.
So But I found that aspect of her character first and then realised what the story was.
Is she exploiting people? This spirituality she has, is it used to exploit people? Or is it actually used to help people? As much as this is a story about the starting of a nation and and, you know, a penal colony in Australia, it's about much more than that.
It's about the characters within that and it's a character, very much a character piece and a character-driven drama.
And in that regard it, you know, you can associate with it, it doesn't It could be placed anywhere in the world.
What, as an audience who's interested in drama, what you're interested in is these people and the way they communicate with each other.
It's about power battles, it's about hierarchy, it's about politics, it's about human interaction, it's about love, it's about sacrifice, you know.
It's got all of these themes within it that don't necessarily have to, have to be about where it takes place, it's about what takes place within it.
We're all in a tiny community.
We're all close to starvation.
We're all living under military rule.
So it's McGovern with even higher stakes.
Nothing about my job could really be called arduous, that would be a grotesque distortion of the truth.
But within the ridiculously spoiled world that I live in, sometimes it's quite tiring pretending to be tired all day.
That's about as far as I can go.
But if that's my biggest problem, then I'm not really going to say any more.
What's lovely is when jobs like this come and you're not some young actor who may not Who may think, "Oh, this is great but I'm "I know there's more, I know there's better.
" I'm appreciating this like this is, you know, this is manna from heaven.
And it means the world to me on so many levels, just to be in this kind of To be accepted as a peer to this company of actors.
And this writing, that they go, "Yeah, you are good enough "at working your job "to not ruin this script.
" When I read Jimmy's scripts, I hadn't read anything better, really.
And I was so I just devoured them, which is unusual for me.
Usually I'm like, "Oh, next one" But no, it was just one after the next after the next.
It was, yeah, intoxicating.
His script is not naturalistic, it's poetic.
It has cadences and rhythms that repeat.
And he made a very deliberate choice to remove apostrophes from dialogue.
I would not, I could not, I should not, I shall not, rather than I wouldn't, I couldn't, I shouldn't, I shan't.
And what it's allowed him to do is to build these rhythms into the narrative.
And at times they're rushing and they're pacing.
And at other times they're just held.
And there are moments of great pauses and breaths, which Jimmy's been brave enough to allow into this.
I think the thing I found early doors was the kind of language, you know, erm There's quite a formal language being used, even by the convicts, who were very badly educated.
A lot of them weren't educated at all, in fact.
Most of them can't read, you know.
But there's a formal language spoken.
I think I found a language which has helped me enormously.
We work, Jimmy, Roxy and I, RSJ Films, work in a most collaborative way.
There is no Everyone contributes.
Of course, Jimmy is the writing genius behind the idea but Roxy and I contribute to that, to the development of the characters in the scripts.
And we wanted two directors who would also collaborate, so there was no distinction between first or second director.
And it was part of our choice in who we got to direct this was based on the question from me to each of them, "Are you good at collaborating?" One of the joys of me working with Jeffrey is we've been able to collaborate from very early days.
So he came on board very early on in the process.
And even on that first scouting trip we did in Australia, Jeffrey came on board then and we were able to spend a lot of time together, discussing, talking about the how-to and the visual continuity of the show.
See, I really view it as it's a British story and it's about British class and it's, erm And also, you know, British society.
It's a microcosm of what that British society was at that time moved to this expansive, opposite side of the world that may as well have been, you know, Mars to them.
And so when I sort of realised that it's not so much the forming of an It's not the story of the forming of Australia, it's the story what's kind of come before they get them there and what the decisions that they make in the course of this series at the end of it really set off what Australia becomes.
You know, this story is so significant to both our histories and shamefully, actually, in Britain, you know, we don't know a great deal about this first fleet.
Whereas for Australia, it really was the founding of their nation.
And Governor Phillip is an incredibly important character in Australia's history.
Phillip's role in this particular series, for me, I see him as having the moral dilemmas of the piece and he has to decide in this new land whether the rules of England actually do work in this frontier land or whether it's better for him to change some of those rules, to actually start a society with rules that are a little bit more flexible.
So in order for the bigger picture, sometimes he has to make some pretty pretty heavy sacrifices and big decisions in order to go for the big picture.
He likes to think there is good in everybody, even the convicts, you know.
And he'll harness that good at this birth of a nation.
I mean, they were totally ignorant of, in the early days, of the aboriginal people, you know.
One of the oldest peoples of the world, you know.
I'd describe Phillip as a modern man, really.
I think he was way ahead of his time in, in lots of ways.
His thinking was very egalitarian.
He wanted to start a society here that was based on a form of equality.
His thinking about the indigenous population was way ahead of its time.
And in fact, way ahead of a lot of people's thinking even now.
They haven't met the aboriginal people yet.
And I didn't want to go there because I know I know how important it is to get that kind of stuff right.
Because I did two drama series with aboriginal people.
And quite rightly, portraying them correctly is important to them and to us.
We are filming on the ground that belongs to the indigenous people.
However, what we didn't want was to have the indigenous people featuring as background artists, as tokenism.
Maybe I could have given them 10 minutes per episode.
But that would be an insult.
A lot of it is fact but the stories are fiction.
But the people are factual, a lot of the people are factual.
You know, we keep the real names.
And there was hunger there.
You know, they were waiting for a ship.
They did get the first hangman in this way.
Johnson, the Reverend Johnson wants to build a church, and he fell out with the Governor.
The Governor was constantly at war with Major Ross.
All those things are well established in early, early white Australian history.
Do you know, it was the most valuable, valuable thing for us as cast members to be in the place where this happened.
I know that there were other places in the world where one could have filmed and could have made it look like early Sydney.
But for us, the experience of arriving here and seeing, because there is so much nature around, still around Sydney, and to see what the place would have looked like when they arrived, it's only 250 years ago, it's so recent.
And how pristine and how, you know, virgin it was.
And then to see Sydney and to understand that this world, this extraordinary city has sprung up out of nothing in such a short space of time, it just It just was invaluable to us.
The first fleet and the establishing of this colony was something I knew very little about.
And I love history, so it was a real joy to research into this period in history and to find out that Captain Collins was a real man who was given the position of judge advocate over here in establishing the colony.
It was quite heartbreaking to see the offences that people were banished for.
Or indeed, that people were taken to the gallows for.
You know, Britain was incredibly It was a harsh life, people were starving, people were hungry, yet there were incredibly strict rules which dictated that people couldn't get hold of food, they weren't able to provide for their families or themselves.
So they were forced to commit petty crime in order to just feed themselves.
And for those petty crimes, the laws were so strict that they would be hung, they would be sentenced to death for stealing bread or for pickpocketing or crimes that hopefully today we would, you know, would take a bit more time to consider all sides of the story for.
There is a very clear separation.
There's the research that's enormously useful to find out the correct historical circumstances that you're in and what brought these people in and why they're here.
But then that gets parked when you're actually playing a scene, it may well be about what's it like to know that you're going to die in 10 minutes' time or what's it like to be stuck in jail for the night.
So there are different things you might draw on but they all interplay with this generally fascinating research that we did about the time.
The bush is what contains these men.
It is the prison wall, it is the unknown.
It is no man's land.
So you At any point, anyone could run and people do run and try and escape.
But predominantly if they don't die, they come back because it's too scary out there.
And if you run out of water, it's terrifying, it is If you run away in the UK, you sort of know, you can sort of gauge, "Well, there's a stream or there's that.
" You understand the environment.
But here, it's just You're hearing noises and seeing things that you would have never ever even been taught about.
Anyone who is familiar with the Australian bush knows that it is loud, it is really, really loud.
And then cockatoos will come and fly overhead or kookaburras will come and perch in the trees with their clarion calls and And we wanted to capture all of these as wild tracks but also within the scenes to use for both the interiors and the exteriors and the editing.
And all of these sounds would have been utterly alien to these Georgian Britons arriving in this place.
Not knowing what was safe, what was dangerous, what was edible, what was inedible, what was a threat and what wasn't.
And there was this constant sense of threat around these people, most of whom had probably never moved a mile outside of their birth home in their entire life.
They've been on this horrific journey on a ship that's gone all the way to Rio de Janeiro, stopped in Rio.
They've been surrounded by death and destruction and they've gone then all the way through to here and they've been through experiences together that has welded them into a friendship and a sense of loyalty that is beyond our modern comprehension, shall we say.
I'll be adding to full driving licence and, er, scuba diving, I'll be adding axe work, I've had quite a good course from some real Australian men.
I can split some kindling wood with pretty good efficiency.
If anyone's making Robin Hood 4, I'm available in the forest.
Erm, sawing less good at but I might stick it down anyway.
And, yeah, and leech work, we've done a bit of leech work, that was good.
So I can now hold it in front of the camera for a good few seconds before I scream like a girl.
It's been great.
It's been great being here.
And the dirt, as you can see, I can't get it off.
So every time I finish filming and I go and say, do some shopping or go out to eat, I get looks and I'm sort of I've been wondering why people are staring at me and then I realise it's 'cause I have bruises, or what looks like bruises, on my body constantly.
There was a while when I had bruises on my neck and that's when, yeah, the looks were very weird.
We wanted to create a very simple approach to being able to break down our characters to make sure that the actors didn't spend a whole lot of time in make-up, that they could spend most of their time being in their character but we wanted them to also feel a part of that.
So we got them quite involved very early on by helping them help us put on dirt on their hands and getting involved a little bit more into what may have happened to them.
And we asked for their opinion, you know, how maybe dirty their hands would be, what sort of work, what sort of tasks they were doing.
But we created basically a sort of a watercolour effect which would just cover the All the hands and all the face, just very, very tiny bit mixed with a little bit of oil for a bit of sheen and it would pour into the pores of the skin and therefore it would be very in-ground and it would be maintained very easily on set so that, once again, we weren't impacting on time and making constraints on the production as a result.
In the real situation, people would have used wax to form their hair, their hair would have been dirty.
They wouldn't have necessarily had soap if they were convicts because soap was a very specific, you know, thing that got given to the richer.
And the poor people didn't have access to that.
But they would have had maybe sea water to wash with so their hair would be quite bedraggled.
It would be quite It wouldn't have access to brushes and combs.
So to recreate that we gave it a bit of a salty feel.
We gave it a little bit of a windblown feel.
And we added dust in the hair to create Because there's a lot of dust in the environment.
They're sleeping in dusty, dirty conditions, so that added to it.
I love not having to worry about how I look or, yeah, how I come across, being able to just focus on the truth in the scene.
I mean, I know that sounds a little bit ridiculous sometimes but it is true.
It's just a real joy to be able to focus on the storytelling and let other people worry about the look and what it's meant to be.
I don't mind not looking glam at all.
I think it's great.
For David Walmsley and Rory McCann, who played Stubbins and Marston, they had to learn how to They genuinely had to learn how to smith metal, how to work metal, in our live forge.
And it was a challenge they both relished.
And literally during a scene, while they're acting, they're having to work live metal.
I mean, that's the way, that's how the smiths would describe it.
Heat it, get it to a temperature where it's malleable and then literally work it whilst playing the scene.
And both of them did it with huge ability, actually.
They, you know, they were both being trained by a blacksmith who only works on period methodology.
And, you know, fortunately, it's a world that's full of pedants and experts in different crafts.
No, I haven't done any smithing before but I've got I've actually got three pals in Scotland - that are farriers, blacksmiths.
- INTERVIEWER: Ah! And when I came over, you don't really know what to expect in sets, you know, a lot of it's all pretend, as you can imagine.
But when I got there, the anvil was a real anvil that was used by convicts, and the forge, that, the bellows were as well, it was the original kit.
And, you know, that was the effort they made with it.
And this incredible design designed set we're working on is for real.
And that is the most exciting thing, that, you know, it's all playing make-believe we're grown-ups getting to play make-believe and quite often it's hard, you're pretending there's an alien coming at you and it's just a man with a tennis ball with some eyes on it for some sci-fi thing or there's a green screen and you have to imagine you're here.
Here, you come out of your tent and you look down and for 700 metres you can see people and life and real fires, people doing things and you're just, "Okay, I'm here.
" You know.
Bar putting camouflage over the cameramen, it's like, it's as real as it's ever felt.
There's no feature film I've done, nothing I've seen with such attention to detail and beautiful, I mean, this stuff should stay as some kind of museum, you know, it's extraordinary, it's extraordinary.
Banished means an awful lot to me.
It is the stand-out screen job of my life.
I will be very surprised if anything comes near it ever again.