Ac­tion –


TV Plus (South Africa) - - FRAME BY FRAME -

The Smoke Sea­son 1 Thurs­days (from 7 Au­gust) M-Net 21:30

“Kick-ass, life-threat­en­ing fires and emo­tional ex­plo­sions” – that’s what you can ex­pect from new ac­tion show The smoke, re­veals lead ac­tor Jamie Bam­ber, who takes on the role of fire­fighter kev Al­li­son. The eight-episode se­ries re­volves around kev and his dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ships and in the open­ing scenes we see why he’s so trou­bled: he’s se­verely burnt (while try­ing to save a baby) and be­trayed dur­ing the worst fire of his ca­reer. Those scenes are epic, har­row­ing and hot (pun in­tended) and Jamie says that the fires and stunts seen in the show are all real. No CGI was used and he did most of the stunts him­self.

The smoke is writ­ten by Lucy kirk­wood, who’s be­hind the con­tro­ver­sial Brit youth com­edy se­ries skins (2007-cur­rent). Other than Jamie, it’s got Jodie Whit­taker (Beth La­timer in Broad­church, 2013-cur­rent), Rhashan stone (he played Ma­jor sin­clair in 2011 and 2012 in strike Back, 2010-cur­rent) and Ger­ard kearns (he was Ian Gal­lagher between 2004 and 2010 in the Uk ver­sion of shame­less, 2004-cur­rent). And judg­ing by her re­ac­tion, Lucy’s ex­cited about her show: “I write vis­ually and I wanted to make a very cin­e­matic piece of tele­vi­sion.” Al­though it’s a Bri­tish se­ries, The smoke’s fea­ture film-style and high pro­duc­tion


val­ues make it ap­pear and feel like a Us-filmed se­ries. “I like to be as in­volved as I can, so I did ba­si­cally all of my own stunts… with the ex­cep­tion of maybe two or three of them, which was down to in­sur­ance rea­sons. One was a huge fall, the other an ex­plo­sion – some­times it’s just not pos­si­ble to get the in­sur­ance for some things for a TV show.”


For the baby res­cue scene in the pre­miere episode, the crew had a bit of a prob­lem with the dummy baby. Pro­ducer Chris Fry ex­plains that “re­al­is­tic dummy ba­bies are made of a ma­te­rial that would melt in the heat, so the so­lu­tion was to use two dif­fer­ent dum­mies. The more re­al­is­tic one was filmed when we used less flame and smoke and the less re­al­is­tic one when we needed more. Un­for­tu­nately, with the un­pre­dictabil­ity of fire, the re­al­is­tic baby was dam­aged. Given the high cost of th­ese dum­mies, it was an ex­pen­sive accident!”


Ef­fects su­per­vi­sor Colin Gorry says that the team didn’t want the fire to look like just any other fire. The direc­tor and pro­ducer wanted gritty real­ism and ac­cu­racy from the fire ef­fects. “It meant we would be us­ing black smoke in some in­te­ri­ors and would have ac­tors on fully sim­u­lated fire sets.” But as Colin ex­plains, black smoke is toxic and nor­mally only used out­side and in re­stricted cir­cum­stances. The sets were “care­fully locked off and sealed with dou­ble cur­tains, then smoke was piped into the set us­ing a pur­pose-built burn tube with a cham­ber to hold the three con­sec­u­tively burn­ing smoke can­is­ters needed to com­plete one take”. Colin adds that the cam­era crews did an amaz­ing job while shoot­ing fire scenes. “Wear­ing fire suits, they got right into the heat, cre­at­ing the cam­era an­gles and en­hanc­ing the il­lu­sion of the ac­tors against the flames.”


Ex­pect a painful (lit­er­ally) shocker early on when kevin drops his pants to­wards the end of the first episode and re­veals the ex­tent of his burns. And it’s not pretty as there’s scar tis­sue ev­ery­where. Jamie says that it was ac­tu­ally one of the most dif­fi­cult scenes for him to shoot: “I just had to get over it re­ally. It was partly down to that scene that I wanted the role. It’s the most im­por­tant scene and I wanted it to be as real as pos­si­ble.” He adds that the team had to look through a photo book of real-life burn vic­tims to get a full un­der­stand­ing of what they needed to recre­ate. “But ob­vi­ously it was ini­tially awk­ward. Ba­si­cally it in­volved lots of shav­ing, tuck­ing and keep­ing things tidy re­ally…” The scene was shot with­out telling the other ac­tors what was go­ing to hap­pen, so the painful re­sponses on their faces are 100% gen­uine.

trish too­ley (jodie whit­taker)

kev al­li­son (jamie bam­ber)

rob (david walm­s­ley)

Ziggy brown (PiPPa ben­nett-warner) billy the mince (do­rian lough)

big al (mar­tyn el­lis)

lit­tle al (ger­ard kearns)

mal mil­li­gan (rhashan stone)

gog (sam git­tens)

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