Ur­ban fu­tures

David Mor­ris­sey talks about his star­ring role in a new TV adap­ta­tion of China Miéville’s novel The City & The City – a story he says is pro­foundly rel­e­vant to ur­ban life to­day

Cynon Valley - - TELEVISION -

THE City & The City is a four-part genre-bust­ing thriller adap­tated for BBC Two from the mind-bend­ing 2009 novel by China Miéville, one of Bri­tain’s fore­most fan­tasy writ­ers.

When the body of a for­eign stu­dent is dis­cov­ered in the streets of the dow­nat-heel city of Beszel, it’s just another day’s work for In­spec­tor Tyador Borlú of the Ex­treme Crime Squad (David Mor­ris­sey). But he un­cov­ers ev­i­dence that the mur­dered girl came from Ul Qoma, a city that shares a dan­ger­ous and volatile re­la­tion­ship with Beszel – and this case will chal­lenge ev­ery­thing Borlú holds dear.

David Mor­ris­sey ad­mits he had great af­fec­tion for his char­ac­ter Tyador Borlú and missed him once film­ing con­cluded.

He says: “I re­ally liked him a lot and the idea that he was a man at odds with both the worlds he was try­ing to find him­self in. He was lost, re­ally, and I had great af­fec­tion for that.”

On the premise of the unique drama, the ac­tor ex­plains: “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 about the fact that one city can­not see the other city’s pop­u­lace, they can’t look there, they can’t ac­knowl­edge them or in­ter­act with them, and that cre­ates all sorts of strange rules. In­side 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.

“I play a cop­per in one of the cities, Beszel, and a body is dis­cov­ered there and 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 I have to go over to Ul Qoma, and find out what has hap­pened to this girl. So it is a fish out of wa­ter tale, it is a man who has to go into another city and abide by their rules even though he is not used to that. 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.”

And what drew David to this char­ac­ter?

“He is a man liv­ing in a world in which he is very happy, as long as the rules are con­cerned, but he also has a real sense of loss about him. Some­thing has hap­pened to him in the past and it has closed him off and re­ally thrown him. He is quite a locked-up per­son and dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the thing that is re­ally tor­tur­ing him starts to come back. So you re­alise that the case he is on has a deep, per­sonal mean­ing to him. He is pur­su­ing this girl’s killer but also his own past and try­ing to make sense of what has hap­pened to him.”

Borlú has work­ing re­la­tion­ships with two po­lice­women, one in each city, played by Maria Schrader and Man­deep Dhillon.

“In his own world he has a ju­nior col­league, Corwi, played by Man­deep, and that is a great re­la­tion­ship. She is very ballsy, cheeky, you feel she is try­ing to get him to lighten up and crack a smile.

“When he goes into the other world he has to be­come sub­or­di­nate to another po­lice of­fi­cer called Dhatt and she is the boss. Ul Qoma is a very mil­i­tarised world, there are lots of guns, their uni­forms are very mil­i­tary, and so he has to abide by her rules and play se­cond fid­dle, which he finds very dif­fi­cult. But I loved work­ing with both of them – they were fan­tas­tic, very dif­fer­ent ac­tresses in a way but both re­ally great to work with.”

David is con­vinced city­d­welling au­di­ences will find this story rel­e­vant to their lives to­day.

“There is a mas­sive rel­e­vance… 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 what China has done is say that it is a dif­fer­ent city com­pletely, but I think 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, and we walk past peo­ple beg­ging and sleep­ing on the streets and we have be­come blind to that. We see peo­ple in our very own streets liv­ing in ter­ri­ble con­di­tions and we have de­cided to ig­nore it and our eyes are turned down.

“We are more and more on our screens and in de­nial about the world around us, and I think 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 from how we live in our cities to­day.”

The City and the City in on Fri­day, April 6 on BBC Two at 9pm.

David Mor­ris­sey as Tyador Borlu in The City & the City

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