16 When worlds col­lide:

The Walk­ing Dead star David Mor­ris­sey talks about his role in the new SoHo sci-fi crime drama The City & The City. James Ramp­ton re­ports.

The TV Guide - - CONTENTS -

Sci-fi meets crime in new drama from The Walk­ing Dead star.

China Mieville’s ac­claimed, hal­lu­ci­na­tory 2009 sci-fi novel, The City & The City, which is a mur­der mys­tery set across two par­al­lel cities, was pre­vi­ously thought to be un­filmable. So ac­tor David Mor­ris­sey, a huge fan of the work, was in­trigued when he was in­vited to take the main part of In­spec­tor Tyador Borlu in Tony Grisoni’s four-part Bri­tish TV adap­ta­tion of the book. Mor­ris­sey, who has also starred in The Walk­ing Dead, The Miss­ing and Bri­tan­nia, ex­plains. “I have known Tony Grisoni for a long time. He was the writer of Red Rid­ing, which I was in a num­ber of years ago. About two years ago he told me he was writ­ing an adap­ta­tion of China Mieville’s The City & The City. “I thought it was great that he was do­ing it, but I was slightly taken aback. The book is an amaz­ing story. It is a won­der­ful world that China cre­ates, but I thought, ‘How are you go­ing to bring that to the screen?’ ’’ The 54-year-old ac­tor got his an­swer 18 months later. He con­tin­ues that, “I got sent the script with a let­ter from Tony and the di­rec­tor, Tom Shankland, say­ing, ‘We would love you to play the lead, In­spec­tor Tyador Borlu’. When I read the script, I thought it was fan­tas­tic. But I still had big ques­tions about how they were go­ing to re­alise this strange and in­cred­i­ble world that China had cre­ated.

“So Tom talked me through his ideas and con­cepts and his de­sign board and pho­to­graphs.

“I think he is a won­der­ful di­rec­tor and one I have wanted to work with for a long time, and so I said ‘yes’.

“It was a real leap of faith, but I loved the way Tom and his team have cre­ated these two worlds.”

That leap of faith was en­tirely jus­ti­fied. The City & The City ex­erts a mes­meris­ing hold on its view­ers. All the same, this un­ortho­dox uni­verse takes some ac­cli­ma­tis­ing to.

Mor­ris­sey ac­knowl­edges that, “The con­cept is strange. It is a de­tec­tive story told in this city, which is ac­tu­ally two cities that share the same foot­print. But there are very strict reg­u­la­tions. One city can­not see the other city’s pop­u­lace.

“They can’t ac­knowl­edge them or in­ter­act with them and that cre­ates all sorts of strange rules. There is a se­cret po­lice force called Breach and they are there to make sure that no­body breaks those laws of in­ter­act­ing be­tween the cities.”

The ac­tor pro­ceeds to out­line his role in the drama.

“I play a copper in one of the cities, Beszel. A body is dis­cov­ered there – a girl has been mur­dered. Over the course of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we re­alise that she may have been mur­dered in the other city and brought over. So Borlu has to go over to Ul Qoma and find out what has hap­pened to this girl.

“It is a fish-out-of-water tale. It is about a man who has to go into an­other city and abide by their rules, even though he is not used to them.

“The au­di­ence will have to get used to the rules. But once they do, there is some­thing quite fun about see­ing how these two worlds are re­alised.”

All the same, might au­di­ences still strug­gle to see how the fan­tas­ti­cal The City & The City con­nects with their own lives? Not ac­cord­ing to Mor­ris­sey.

The ac­tor un­der­lines that, “There is a mas­sive rel­e­vance in this. Here is a story about one group of peo­ple liv­ing in a city who are deny­ing the ex­is­tence of an­other group of peo­ple liv­ing in the same city.

“The con­ceit is that it is a dif­fer­ent city com­pletely. But we don’t have to look too far in our ma­jor cities to see how peo­ple have ghet­toised them­selves or are liv­ing in gated com­mu­ni­ties. We walk past peo­ple beg­ging and sleep­ing on the streets and have be­come blind to that. Our eyes are turned down.”

Mor­ris­sey adds that, “We are more and more on our screens and in de­nial about the world around us.

“The City & The City is tak­ing that type of mod­ern no­tion and ac­cen­tu­at­ing it to a height­ened level, but I don’t think it is too far a stretch of the imag­i­na­tion or too far from how we live in our cities to­day. We see peo­ple in our very own streets liv­ing in ter­ri­ble con­di­tions and we have de­cided to ig­nore them.”

“We don’t have to look too far in our ma­jor cities to see how peo­ple have ghet­toised them­selves or are liv­ing in gated com­mu­ni­ties.”

– David Mor­ris­sey

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