The Tourist series on BBC One two sees Elliot (Jamie Dornan) and Helen (Danielle Macdonald) travel to Ireland to find answers about Elliot’s identity, but instead they are forced to face the dangerous consequences of his past actions.
Interview with Jamie Dornan – Elliot Stanley and Executive Producer
Tell us about your character’s journey from series 1?
I play a man of many identities. In the beginning of the first series, Elliot finds himself in Australia and after a long car chase with a truck, Elliot gets hit off the road and has an accident, waking up with no memory of who he is. A couple of people help Elliot piece things together and try to find answers which essentially leads him to some very dark places. For the second series we pick up with Elliot in Ireland where he tries to discover his real family and get some answers on who he is. Whilst Elliot is in Ireland, he also gets caught up in all kinds of craziness with people trying to kill him.
What were you expecting from the second and what made you want to continue the project?
You are always hoping to find an audience that is sort of willing and hungry. We were only ever meant to have the one series; I remember Jack and Harry Williams who created the show saying it will just be one. I don’t think we expected it to be the most watched show in the UK that year and when there’s that much of an appetite, it felt like the right thing to give people more. With it being so successful there’s also a lot of pressure on the second series. You want to get it right and it’s a very different setting. For the second we are in Ireland, which has a very different vibe. It’s tricky trying to establish the different settings and make it its own thing but also honour what people loved about the first series. I was excited by it, it’s an exciting thing to continue the journey. Selfishly for me, not having to uproot my entire family again was quite a good thing.
What would you say are the central themes of this series?
Family is a big theme in this series. We’re dealing with a guy who has no concept of who he is, and you can only imagine how terrifying that is, but little by little there are these kernels of information revealed to him and he starts to piece his history together and his family history. It’s not that pretty, but it’s vital and it’s a big part of our story.
So family is a major theme. Love is a big theme too. We begin the second series with the two of them together and their love, trust, and support for each other is very crucial to the journey that they go on.
How does Elliot’s self-discovery journey progress in the series and what challenges does he face?
He finds out a lot more about himself now that he’s back in Ireland; the land that he’s from. There’s a lot of big discoveries about who he is and who his family are. Elliot finds out a lot about the sort of shenanigans that his family have been involved in and the implications that’s had on his life. He doesn’t understand what’s going on because he doesn’t have any recollection of why these people know him, as it’s all from his life pre-accident.
You are an executive producer in series two, how has the experience been?
It’s been great. It was one of those opportunities that presented itself to me and I was excited to do it. It’s also nice to do it in a capacity where I already have the relationship with everyone involved and to come into this realm having already committed so much to the project. It’s been nice to have a bit more say over the creative aspects of the show and it’s something I’m proud of.
What has been your favourite scene to film so far and why?
I’ve just loved filming with Danielle Macdonald. We have an incredibly close bond. We had a strong bond filming the first series, but it’s really blossomed more in the second series because we’ve had a lot more scenes together. We just trust each other so much. Anytime we have big scenes together in the series we know we’re going to be approaching it the same way and on the same frequency, so having that with Danielle has been class. I’ve also loved working with Mark McKenna who plays Fergal in this; we’ve had a couple of poignant scenes. There’s one in the forest early on when I had a lot of energy in the second week of filming, and when I look back on all the filming I did with him, I look back at it very fondly.
There is a lot of dark humour embedded throughout series one – how do you balance that with the thriller narrative?
There is this constant balance between the comedy and the very dark or emotional nature of what is happening in the scenes. A gag might be thrown into a scene, and it can be discombobulating. I think it’s been helpful that we’ve done an entire series of it already so, I’m comfortable with it. I love it and I love the way Harry and Jack write. I would say it’s all about getting comfortable with the way the scenes play out. I think it is why people responded to it the way they did. It’s not just a linear way of telling stories, there is always an element of playing with multiple genres.
There are some incredible stunts in The Tourist, what was the most challenging to shoot?
I had to hang off a cliff for a long time. I was harnessed but you couldn’t really see it and the whole point of the scene is that I’m hanging there for a comically long period of time. So, this does mean to film it, I really was hanging there for a long time, and I have a dodgy shoulder which really paid the price for hanging there for a whole morning. That was the most tricky and annoying scene to shoot because I’m an old man and my shoulders don’t work.
What do you hope viewers will take away from The Tourist?
I hope they enjoy it as much as the first. We are offering up something a bit different purely by geography. I feel like the colour of the Outback, the scale of it and fear was a major character in the first series. We’ve taken that away this time and we have suddenly gone from the orangey dirt of the Outback to the lush green settings of Ireland. Particularly with the first episode, it’s like a Tourism Ireland advert. It’s different and I hope that people are on board with that and get the same sort of satisfaction as they did from the first series. The humour is all there, and the story is as mad as the first series.
What do you think about series two will appeal to international audiences?
I find, having left Ireland 22 years ago and travelled pretty much everywhere since, there’s a real intrigue with Ireland. People are just fascinated by Ireland, and I feel like everybody sort of has a bit of a love for the place and the people. Usually if they’ve been here, they think of it and speak of it very fondly. So hopefully that’s a big appeal, we’re showcasing Ireland in a big way with loads of Irish talent and some very funny Irish people.
What do you think makes Jack and Harry’s writing so unique and exciting for actors?
They’re just bonkers and I can tell which is a Jack line and which is a Harry line. They do write separately and together. It’s a strange way they do it, but it’s totally their own thing and it’s unique and they’ve managed to do that over the years. They also have a very strong identity when they write and that shows how involved they are in the show. Their writing is very unique, I sometimes think it takes a minute to get into the rhythm of how they write. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of time to do that because I’ve got a series under my belt. But it’s interesting watching other actors come in and try to sort of work out that rhythm too. It’s totally its own thing and I don’t think anyone plays with genre as sharply as Jack and Harry do. It’s a lot of fun to play with on set.
How does it feel to bring the show home to Ireland?
It’s amazing. The first day of shooting we were in Kilpedder in Wicklow, and I was walking through the trees and the worst rain I think I’ve ever seen came in and I thought, this is what it’s like to film in Ireland. I had sort of forgotten it being three or four years since I filmed here but Ireland is beautiful. I’ve been to parts of Ireland that I’d never been to before. We predominantly filmed in Dublin and Wicklow, but we’ve managed to travel a little bit outside of there and got to showcase what a beautiful place Ireland is. Working with an Irish crew having the same sort of sense of humour has been great. It’s been a dream to shoot here.