The stars of Luther talk about their return in season five

by The Listener / 18 February, 2019
Idris Elba in Luther.

Idris Elba in Luther.

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Idris Elba, Ruth Wilson, Hermione Norris, Wunmi Mosaku and Michael Smiley answer questions about the future of the dark and disturbing crime drama.

Ruth, everyone has been desperate to know if Alice is coming back to Luther. How difficult has it been for you to keep it quiet?

Ruth: Oh, impossible. It was a nightmare. I had to keep pretending and acting mysterious as to whether I was coming back or not and every interview I do, everyone asks. For three years, it has been every interview. I knew that people loved her so we had to bring her back and when we bring her back we have to do it properly.

Idris, was it easy for you to return? A lot of people have been waiting four years for this series to happen.

Idris: To be honest, it is one of those shows that wouldn’t work, in my opinion, doing it year in, year out. It is one of those shows that needs to be made in bite-sizes, because it is very dark. I think for [writer] Neil Cross, the producers and my sanity, I couldn’t do it all the time.

Hermione, as psychiatrist Vivien Lake, we’ve seen you in a completely different light, would you say it was an easy role to play?

Hermione: Well it is, thanks to Neil Cross. The four episodes are complete with beautifully crafted, clearly defined characters and then such incredible narrative. He doesn’t pull any punches, so for me it is just a huge privilege. Amazing storyline.

Wunmi, what did you think of your role as new recruit Catherine Halliday?

Wunmi: She is someone I have never really played. The side of me I have never really shown, I feel like she is in her own little world in a way.

Ruth Wilson in Luther.

Ruth Wilson in Luther.

How are we going to see the story unfold after than initial focus in the first episode on one killer?

Idris: True to Luther style, it is never straightforward and this season is extremely complex. Jamie Payne, our director, was overly aware that that is how Luther is, you unfold it and unfold it and even though this particular series focuses on one murderer, one particular killer there are so many things that fall out of that and it turns into a very complex web. As you see, Alice turns up – she isn’t here to give Luther Christmas cards, she is here to give him a headache. She has no qualms in acting out and kicking off in everything she’s doing. 

Ruth: Always, she creates chaos and enjoys it. 

Are there going to be decisions for you all to make whether you stick to the rules or if you go off the rails?

Ruth: She is always of the rails, she doesn’t stick to any rules. You do, however, see her vulnerable in this series and she needs Luther’s help.

Hermione Norris in Luther.

Hermione Norris in Luther.

It’s been said that filming Luther is quite a struggle: filming in winter and topics surrounding murder and death. Was it quite tough on set?

Hermione: I think sometimes when it is quite dark and deep it can be quite funny actually, you have to laugh more. Although it was in the winter and there were night shoots, I was excited to be back in my home town, London, and thought it would be easy, but sometimes it can take an hour to get on set. It is long days, bleak storylines, so yeah we do really get into the vibe. You inhabit a whole new world.

Idris: I tell you what was funny but not funny. The scene where Hermione, in the carpark, spits – that was real spit. Hermione is such a good actor, she really spat in my face. It is definitely a hard show to film. All of those details are written by Neil. It makes for a gruelling schedule, shooting in winter means the days are shorter and we are constantly pushing and pushing. When I first started Luther, I sat down with a murder detective and we spoke about the toll a murder takes on a detective and essentially, it is the nature of absorbing all that energy. Walking into a room and being the first person to examine a death and we are recreating all of that stuff with the most visceral type of crime.

Michael Smiley in Luther.

Michael Smiley in Luther.

Michael: In my career I have done a lot of dark films and you find off camera you are trying to find the comedy in it, because it is quite dark and you are freezing cold. You’ve got to have a bit of a laugh and get on with each other. It is hard, because it is not real, but they make it real. I remember standing freezing cold at night and then the fire brigade turned up and started making it rain even more.

Ruth, how did it feel when they killed off Alice in season three?

Ruth: I watched it and knew she wasn’t dead; you can’t kill her and not see it. I was keen to get Idris and I back together, we have been working on this for eight years. To keep coming back and see the relationship growing, the character becomes more like a little kid. So as soon as I got the call from Neil, the BBC and Idris, I was definitely coming back and it was really fun to do and you’ll see she plays lots of different roles, she has lots of wigs.

Is there an ambition to make a movie version?

Idris: It’s no secret that we’re really advancing on getting a movie version of the film up on the screen and Neil is beavering away writing. The remit for the film is to scale it up. Luther has all the ingredients to echo those classic films of the 90s like Seven and Along Came a Spider. What we’d like to do, or attempt, is to use that blueprint to create Luther the film. It will be more murder, more frowning Luther, but what we want to do is take it to a much bigger audience and scale and perhaps international as well. 

Idris Elba and Wunmi Mosaku in Luther.

Idris Elba and Wunmi Mosaku in Luther.

What were the physical and mental demands making the series eight years after the first one?

Idris: More of the same: long hours, lots of words and lots of walking. This year when we shot, I just had knee surgery and I am limping, I can see it. I thought I would try and make it the Luther walk, I think I got away with it. As long as I wasn’t doing too much running that was the order.

How do you feel about another generation of cop coming up behind Luther?

Idris: I think Luther has always had a sidekick, so there is always a theme of old-school detective versus new generation with newer style, that is a theme I think Neil is quite fixated on. 

Wunmi, is Catherine there to make sure the others behave?

Wunmi: I think she is really bright, she comes up with new ideas and hypotheses. She is the brains. She is brave enough to speak up, but she knows he is the boss, she wants to learn and stick to the rules. They are chalk and cheese, or maybe cheese and chutney.

LUTHER, UKTV, Sky 007, Monday February 18, 9.30pm.

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