Death In He aven
Insights into island life
Art Atta ck
Kyle’s tattoo hasn’t just been designed to look cool, it has real world resonance too. “The tattoos have been created specifically for the show and for the point of the story,” says Zajdlic. “They’ve been carefully chosen with a lot of expert help from the Tahungas, who are master tattooists down in New Zealand, which has been invaluable. Tattoos are an integral part of Maori culture and an integral part of their identity and each one means something, so it’s important that is recognised and respected and valued.”
After sporting some impressive body art during filming, was Layton tempted to get his own tatau? “The first thing that my mum and dad said to me was, ‘ Just because you’ve got this job we don’t want to see you coming back with a Maori tattoo’! I wouldn’t get a Maori tattoo because I’m not a Maori. I was really leaning towards getting a different tattoo at the end because it seemed fitting, but I didn’t have the balls to do it. My parents will be pleased, but there’ll be trouble if we get a second series!”
Tat ’s Ent erta inment
There may be dark days ahead for Kyle and Budgie, but Zajdlic is keen to emphasise the show’s rich vein of humour. “There’s a lot of scepticism and a bit of ridicule that I think is pretty natural when you’re presented with these things. Budgie particularly is a counter- punching character in terms of ‘ keeping it real, guys’. Hopefully it has that mixture of being very entertaining but also very involving in an exciting way as the stakes grow.”
Tatau will draw on a variety of real Maori myths, but the writer is keeping his cards close to his chest as to which. “There is one, which I don’t want to go into too much,” says Zajdlic. There’s a whole wealth of them. A lot of them are parables and metaphors for real- life events, much like Christianity, which I address in the series as well. There’s a myth that’s brought up that is dismissed as merely a metaphor, and in some cases you can read it like that, but perhaps there’s something else to it as well.”
“It’s not like Lost that just went on forever, it’s a full arc of a story”
Cook Islands with Maori actors filling out the supporting roles – a level of authenticity Zajdlic believes was integral for Tatau to work. “It’s about two English guys who are fish out of water and completely out of their depth, and you can’t really do that in Lyme Regis. Well, maybe you could, but it’s a different show!
“Those tropical lands are presented to us in a very idyllic way; they’re honeymoon resorts, but there’s a much darker understream with the myths and legends. It’s a very interesting area because the missionaries went there, so you have the deep island culture overlaid by a patina of Christianity which is still very strong on the island. It seemed like a really rich area to explore.”
For leading man Layton, who graduated from drama school just a year before being cast in the show, Kyle proved a dream breakout role. “There are so many different facets to the character. He’s not just your standard young romantic lead. He’s not just an action hero. He’s really well- rounded and well- written,” Layton says. “It’s the flaws of the character that come out as the series develops that made him so interesting to play. He’s an ordinary guy who gets caught up in an extreme set of circumstances.”
As for Budgie, he quickly gains a reputation for putting his foot in things with the locals ( or in Layton’s words, “for being a bit of a mug”). But how do these two London lads react to the fact that the legends of a culture on the other side of the world are real?
“To begin with not very well at all!” says Layton. “But they slowly begin to realise the enormity of what they’re dealing with and that they have to pull together. It’s a really great observation of friendship because they’re relatable to the way you would react. Richard’s observations of the culture and the way these people live is just how you see it as well. He captures it brilliantly because there are so few people on this island and if there’s a murder everybody’s going to know about it. Budgie and Kyle really find themselves thrown in at the deep end.”
Primarily, the pair rub up against Temuera “Jango Fett” Morrison’s Anaru – the Vaipiti family patriarch whose daughter Aumea ( Shushila Takao) makes a miraculous return from a watery grave. “Tem’s actually quite high in Maori society in real life,” Zajdlic explains. “He’s very much a leader of men and in the show he plays the father of the main Maori family. Kyle is heavily involved with the daughter but also the son, who does not like Kyle at all. He’s trying to protect his children and guide his family, but with varying degrees of success.”
And unlike a certain other tropical island- based show Zajdlic plans to tell a complete tale with this first series.
“It’s not like Lost that just went on forever and had no idea where it was going, it’s a full arc of a story. But with a massive springboard for the potential, because Kyle is growing throughout the series, he gets another tattoo which means something else. People travelling to different cultures is in the DNA of the show, so you can see how it can continue. That said, if you tune in at the beginning, at the end you get the story told, it doesn’t leave you hanging.”
Tatau airs on BBC Three from early April.
The American Werewolf In London pub scene, but in a Maori church?
In case you were wondering why the show had this title. sci- fact! Ben Kingsley played halfMaori Mazer Rackham in
Ender’s Game, and sported full face tattoos.
Kyle ( Joe Layton) is a fish out of water in a strange land.
Tyler ( Tai Berdinner- Blades): waiting on a friend?