Frank Spotnitz talks to Screen about new UK spy-thriller series Hunted - produced by Kudos and BBC - and the UK as an exciting hub for big-budget TV.
The X-Files writer Frank Spotnitz was at MIPTV this week to discuss his new UK spy series Hunted, produced by Kudos Film & Television and the BBC for BBC One in the UK and HBO sister channel Cinemax in the US.
Hunted, directed by SJ Clarkson, sees Melissa George star as a British spy working for a private intelligence agency. After an attempt on her life by a colleague, George’s character Sam goes undercover not knowing who tried to kill her or who to trust.
Adam Rayner, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Stephen Dillane co-star in the thriller which according to US writer Spotnitz has a budget “competitive with US network shows and one very generous for the UK.” Shooting was on location in London, Wales, Scotland and Morocco.
Researching the show was an eye-opening experience for the London-based creator, writer and executive producer of the show: “It was a challenge at times because of how secretive private spy agencies are. It’s not an area I was very aware of until I went looking for it. Most private contractors don’t want to be noticed. Their websites are dry and boring and they don’t want the wrong kind of attention. I talked to people who run these companies in the US, UK and Switerland and then I researched the type of personality working at them.”
Spotnitz initially developed the series with The X-Files star Gillian Anderson but when she was unavailable they selected Melissa George from around 200 actresses who read for the part.
Is there something of the Dana Scully about Sam? “If you look at Dana and Sam on paper you might say they are different, but yes, they are both strong, very capable women. Sam’s world is dangerous and threatening, to a greater extent even than Dana’s. She has to construct a wall of invulnerability.”
After working with Kudos on Hunted and Left Bank Pictures on 2011 series Strike Back, Spotnitz sees scope for further collaboration in the UK, which he believes represents an increasingly attractive option for US and international writers and producers: “I now live in London with my family. It is really exciting being here at the moment. A lot more production is going to take place on this side of the world and sold back to US and elsewhere. The talent and location here are thrilling. So many writers I speak to in the US are jealous of my opportunity here so I’m not in a hurry to leave. The tax credit will be a huge help to the local industry.”
“Europe is in a unique position because TV co-productions make a lot of business sense and can be very creatively exciting if they maintain integrity,” continued Spotnitz. “The idea must be international but not cynical. The production shouldn’t be cobbled together for financing purposes. The last three years the US market is opening up to internationally produced content. The broadcasters there are looking to do them now because they can be bargains.”
Spotnitz is currently working across a slate of TV and features, one of which is long-in-the-works crime-thriller The Star Chamber. He also continues to push for a sequel to 1998 feature The X Files: “There is a very active and relentless fan campaign for a last movie. I do feel like it would be a terrible shame if that didn’t happen. It feels wrong not to give it an ending around the alien colonisation of earth. David [Duchovny] and Gillian [Anderson] feel the same. I have a clear idea of how it would go and I’ve been talking to Chris Carter about it for a long time. I’ll keep banging the drum whenever I meet the Fox guys [the studio holds the sequel rights but was disappointed by the original’s lackluster box office].”
Hunted will air in the UK and US in autumn 2012.