SEC­OND TIME LUCKY

Su­per­heroes of­ten end up play­ing de­tec­tive, but can a de­tec­tive be­come a su­per­hero? That’s the ques­tion the sec­ond sea­son of Stan Lee’s Lucky Man has got to answer. Crime Scene tries its luck on-set in East London…

Crime Scene - - ON SET - BY SARAH DOBBS

“Do­ing this show is knack­er­ing,” grum­bles James Nes­bitt, but he can’t help grin­ning as he says it. He’s tak­ing a few min­utes to chat to Crime Scene while shoot­ing the sec­ond sea­son of Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, and though he’s work­ing to a gru­elling sched­ule, one which won’t let up un­til Christ­mas, Nes­bitt is clearly en­joy­ing him­self. And judg­ing by the gen­eral mood on the set, he isn’t the only one, ei­ther.

When the su­per­nat­u­ral crime drama first aired in Jan­uary 2016, it soon found its au­di­ence, be­com­ing Sky 1’s most suc­cess­ful orig­i­nal drama to date. And that suc­cess has given the pro­duc­tion com­pany, Car­ni­val Films, li­cence to kick things up a notch for Se­ries 2. So it’s no won­der that Crime Scene finds Nes­bitt smil­ing.

To re­cap, the first sea­son ended on a fairly bleak note for Nes­bitt’s DI Harry Clay­ton. Cursed with a mys­te­ri­ous, luck-bend­ing bracelet he can’t re­move, Clay­ton was be­ing chased by var­i­ous bad­dies who wanted to use the charm for their own ends. The iden­tity of the vil­lain­ous Gold­ing had fi­nally been re­vealed, but only be­cause he’d kid­napped Clay­ton’s wife and daugh­ter.

Clay­ton man­aged to save the day, but let Gold­ing es­cape in the process. Per­son­ally, pro­fes­sion­ally and even mytho­log­i­cally, things were go­ing pretty badly for our sup­pos­edly lucky hero. And it doesn’t seem like it’s go­ing to get any eas­ier for Clay­ton in Se­ries 2…

It’s late Septem­ber, the first proper day of au­tumn, when Crime Scene vis­its and just over half of Se­ries 2 is al­ready in the can. The show’s crew are set up in Shad­well’s King Ed­ward VII Me­mo­rial Park, with the ac­tual film­ing tak­ing place in­side a for­mer power sta­tion’s pump house. In­side, the build­ing’s in­dus­trial look has been soft­ened by the ad­di­tion of some ab­stract art and saggy so­fas, and there’s also a corpse – well, okay, an ac­tor made up to look like one – sit­ting in the mid­dle of the room. A Steadicam op­er­a­tor moves slowly to­wards the dead man, while ac­tors Amara Karan ( The Night Of) and Dar­ren Boyd ( Luther, For­ti­tude), play­ing of­fi­cers Cho­han and Or­well re­spec­tively, walk first be­hind the camera and then around it to dis­cover the body. Be­fore they can in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther, a gun­man clutch­ing a hostage storms into the room yelling threats… and then the scene is re­set for a take from an­other an­gle.

Nes­bitt con­firms fans can ex­pect a lot more ac­tion from Se­ries 2.

“It’s em­brac­ing the genre much more,” he ex­plains. “I think in the first sea­son of some­thing like this, it takes its time to find its feet. What we dis­cov­ered is that, by em­brac­ing the genre more, we’re also em­brac­ing the re­al­ity of the char­ac­ters much more – we’re putting or­di­nary char­ac­ters in ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tions.”

In prac­tice, that means Se­ries 2 will take a more episodic ap­proach to its crime el­e­ment, with a stand­alone mys­tery in each episode. Nes­bitt tells us there’s one about a poi­soner, an­other in­volv­ing a po­ten­tial chem­i­cal at­tack on London, and also a “kind of Sweeney Todd” story.

Mean­while, the su­per­nat­u­ral side of things will con­tinue to cre­ate prob­lems for Clay­ton and his near­est and dear­est, due to the fact that Gold­ing’s still out there, and also be­cause of a new char­ac­ter, Is­abella Au­gus­tine, who’s about to change the rules of the bracelet all over again. Played by Dutch ac­tress Thekla Reuten ( Hid­den), Is­abella serves as a sort of foil to Clay­ton.

“She’s got a sim­i­lar bracelet,” Nes­bitt re­veals. “Harry has been told all along that there’s only one, so that com­pli­cates things. At first, it might seem quite good, be­cause it’s in­cred­i­bly iso­lat­ing to think you’re the only one with that [ power], so the idea that some­one else has it too – a mys­te­ri­ous, beau­ti­ful wo­man – that has to be an at­trac­tion for him.”

“At first” is telling – it sounds like Is­abella will turn out to be bad news. Nes­bitt won’t be drawn fur­ther, but he does ad­mit that Clay­ton’s re­la­tion­ship with the bracelet is still de­vel­op­ing.

“I think it throws up dif­fi­cult choices,” he says. “If you’re sad­dled with it, what’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to it? It can be a power for good, as he’s seen, and who’s to say that ev­ery­thing he’s been told about yin and yang is ac­tu­ally true?”

That’s where the su­per­hero bit comes in, then. It’s hard not to hear echoes of an­other Stan Lee char­ac­ter’s phi­los­o­phy in Clay­ton’s dilemma – re­spon­si­bil­ity, power, sound fa­mil­iar? – and when Crime Scene gets an op­por­tu­nity to talk to Steven Mack­in­tosh ( Crim­i­nal Jus­tice, Luther), who plays Clay­ton’s boss, De­tec­tive Su­per­in­ten­dent Win­ter, he agrees.

“I was a mas­sive Spi­der-man freak as a kid,” he laughs. “I don’t know why, but he al­ways cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion.”

Don’t let the genre fool you, it is en­ter­tain­ment, but it’s quite dark

Fans of the show may well be sur­prised to see Mack­in­tosh back on-set for Se­ries 2, con­sid­er­ing that Win­ter took a bul­let to the chest at the end of its first run.

“It was look­ing a bit touch and go for Win­ter,” he says, “But here I am!”

It turns out that, dur­ing the gap be­tween the se­ries, Win­ter has been laid up in hospi­tal, but has de­cided that the force needs him too much for him to stay away any longer – even if he now needs a walk­ing stick to get around. How­ever, on the bright side, Win­ter’s re­la­tion­ship with Clay­ton has vastly im­proved.

“Harry is an im­por­tant mem­ber of his team, and there’s al­ways that un­der­stand­ing that he’s un­ortho­dox,” Mack­in­tosh ex­plains. “Win­ter al­ways has to think, ‘Where is Harry now? What’s he up to?’ But he has this un­der­stand­ing now that, wher­ever he is, he’s prob­a­bly got a pretty good hunch about some­thing. He cuts him much more slack now, but Win­ter’s still very much the boss, so what he says goes.”

Like Nes­bitt, Mack­in­tosh is ex­tremely en­thu­si­as­tic about the pos­si­bil­i­ties of­fered by the show’s sopho­more run.

“It’s very ex­cit­ing get­ting new scripts and think­ing ‘What’s go­ing to hap­pen? Where’s this go­ing to go?’” he says. “All the cases are re­ally edge-of-the-seat, they’re bril­liant.”

Most ex­cit­ingly for Mack­in­tosh, his char­ac­ter gets to be more hands-on this time around.

“I don’t know if you no­ticed in the first sea­son,” he laughs, “but I was mostly stuck in an unglam­orous of­fice in Eal­ing. So I did say, ‘Is there any way that Win­ter could get out and about a bit more?’”

Mack­in­tosh’s wish was granted. The river­side set we vis­ited is only one of dozens of lo­ca­tions that the pro­duc­tion has used. Some of the more am­bi­tious lo­cales in­clude London City Airport, where the crew were al­lowed to film air­side, and the Eros statue in Pic­cadilly Cir­cus, one of the busiest places in London.

“We filmed at rush hour,” Nes­bitt says. “That was in­cred­i­ble. It’s a very dra­matic mo­ment, and you can’t block it off, so that was like theatre – with thou­sands of peo­ple watch­ing!”

It’s im­pos­si­ble to tackle Lucky Man with­out talk­ing about London, be­cause the city’s so in­te­gral to its look and feel.

“I think London is a mod­ern Gotham,” Nes­bitt muses. “And I think [ the crew] have em­braced that in the way they shoot and light it. The camera is do­ing the genre work, and we’re do­ing the real work – we’re steeped in re­al­ity, but the camera and the light­ing cre­ate this won­der­ful place that’s still un­ques­tion­ably London.”

The ques­tion of genre comes up time and time again, to the point where it some­times seems that Nes­bitt is de­fen­sive about the show’s su­per­nat­u­ral side.

“Don’t let the genre fool you, it is en­ter­tain­ment, but it’s quite dark,” he says. “I love that, how­ever dif­fi­cult and chal­leng­ing the world is, there’s a real re­liance still on the no­tion of magic and the no­tion of love. Of course, it’s es­capism, but it does have an im­pact on peo­ple, and clearly that’s some­thing Stan Lee was born with. He’s changed the lives of so many peo­ple with these no­tions. We all need a su­per­hero, I think.”

Even if that su­per­hero is a gam­bling ad­dict with a his­tory of bad de­ci­sions? Nes­bitt cer­tainly thinks so.

“There’s some­thing so at­trac­tive and com­pelling about a flawed hero – though right may be on his side, there’s wrong in him – and if you throw in a flawed su­per­hero, it makes it re­ally in­ter­est­ing,” he says. “It makes for good sto­ries about the choices peo­ple make, whether to err on the side of right, and how fine the line is be­tween good and bad.”

It’s nearly time for Crime Scene to leave, be­cause Nes­bitt’s needed back on set. But be­fore we go, we can’t re­sist ask­ing him the ob­vi­ous ques­tion: what would he do if he came into pos­ses­sion of a magic lucky bracelet? He leans for­ward, grins wolfishly and con­fesses, “I’d get my­self in trou­ble, but I’d have some fun do­ing it.”

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man re­turns to Sky 1 soon. Se­ries 1 is re­leased on 6 Fe­bru­ary.

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