Hin­ter­land is the brood­ing, at­mo­spheric de­tec­tive drama that boasts stun­ning lo­ca­tions, sin­is­ter ru­ral crimes and two lan­guages - Welsh and English. Crime Scene goes west to wit­ness the bilin­gual shoot for series 3 of the global hit.


On set for the Welsh drama.

If there was a BAFTA award for TV lo­ca­tions, Hin­ter­land would win it ev­ery year. The BBC’S Welsh cop show – a Celtic Noir to ri­val Scan­di­na­vian crime – is back for a third series fea­tur­ing scenery as dra­matic as the sin­is­ter sto­ry­lines. When

Crime Scene vis­its the set in mid-wales at the height of sum­mer, it’s a be­witch­ing, bilin­gual ex­pe­ri­ence.

“You’re taken to places where there are no peo­ple for miles and miles,” says Mali Har­ries, who plays DI Mared Rhys. “The land­scape has be­come a char­ac­ter in it­self, re­ally – there are moun­tains, sand dunes and im­mense scenery around us. It has a feel­ing of the [ Amer­i­can] Mid­west. I think that’s partly why a lot of other coun­tries have in­vested in it.”

Hin­ter­land has sold to more than 100 coun­tries, in­clud­ing the US. The show’s “international” ver­sion is in English, while the S4C ver­sion is in Welsh (ti­tled Y Gwyll, which roughly trans­lates as The Dusk). BBC Wales and BBC Four screen a bilin­gual ver­sion – a mix of English and Welsh with sub­ti­tles. Just to con­fuse mat­ters, sat­ur­nine hero DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Har­ring­ton) can’t speak Welsh in Hin­ter­land, but he can in Y Gwyll.

Of course, de­voted fans watch both – some even make a pil­grim­age to the film­ing lo­ca­tions (un­of­fi­cial guided tours are avail­able). Per­haps the show’s ul­ti­mate scenery is at Borth: the tiny rail­way sta­tion, as fea­tured in Series 1, sit­u­ated be­side miles of flat marsh­land that could be a vast plain from an­other con­ti­nent.

“It has to be seen to be be­lieved, be­cause you walk out of the sta­tion and there’s just noth­ing op­po­site you – it’s re­ally weird,” pro­ducer and co-creator Ed Tal­fan tells Crime Scene.

We’ve been in­vited to a lo­ca­tion 30 miles from the de­tec­tives’ po­lice sta­tion in Aber’ (as ev­ery­one calls the coastal town of Aberys­t­wyth) in the ru­ral com­mu­nity of Llany­by­d­der. Like the cops in Hin­ter­land, the cast and crew spend an aw­ful lot of time on the road (Ceredi­gion is a county with­out mo­tor­ways). For Crime Scene, it in­volves an early start and five hours from Lon­don by train and car. There are nar­row lanes and trac­tors to ne­go­ti­ate, while the sat nav doesn’t get us the whole way – a friendly lo­cal has to pro­vide di­rec­tions. The spires that fi­nally loom into view amid rolling hills have a slightly Gothic feel. Once a sprawl­ing 46-bed­room man­sion, the build­ing be­came a board­ing school for chil­dren with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, but stood empty in re­cent years. Lo­ca­tion man­ager Paul Bach Davies grew up nearby and knew it as the “big spooky place up on the hill”. To­day the for­mer school is be­ing used for scenes in a psy­chi­atric hospi­tal. The po­lice car parked out­side sug­gests Mathias and Rhys are on the case. Sure enough, the duo are quizzing staff and pa­tients fol­low­ing a shock­ing sui­cide that may be linked to the Devil’s Bridge chil­dren’s home – the his­tor­i­cal crime that opened the very first episode of Hin­ter­land.

A quick wan­der re­veals creepy cor­ri­dors, dis­used class­rooms and an or­nate wooden stair­case that wouldn’t be out of place in a Ham­mer Hor­ror film. The ex­tras play­ing cata­tonic pa­tients are also a lit­tle dis­qui­et­ing. “Welsh ver­sion,” shouts a crew mem­ber, a re­minder that the cast have to shoot ev­ery­thing in two lan­guages.

It’s ob­vi­ously hard work for the ac­tors to have to do ev­ery­thing twice. Af­ter the scene, Har­ries re­veals that the shared hu­mour helps them get through these in­ten­sive Hin­ter­land shoots. “The script is ob­vi­ously very dark but we have such a laugh film­ing it,” she says. “In be­tween takes we are con­stantly laugh­ing. You’ve got to have that balance or you would get ex­tremely de­pressed.”

When Har­ries joins us in the for­mer school li­brary, she’s laid-back and chatty

The land­scape has be­come a char­ac­ter in it­self, re­ally

and would prob­a­bly let Crime Scene try on her fa­mous red coat if we asked. “The coat def­i­nitely makes you feel like Mared as soon as you put it on,” she ex­plains. “I don’t think she’s a par­tic­u­larly sex­u­ally free person, she’s quite con­strained and she’s got cloth­ing that keeps her hid­den.”

Celibacy wasn’t al­ways the case, though, as the lonely de­tec­tive has a teenage daugh­ter. In this sea­son, DI Rhys’ se­cret past is re­vealed. “You learn loads about her in the third series,” says Har­ries. “I’ve al­ways said that Mared’s ro­man­tic life has kind of been put in the deep freeze. But there are glimpses in the third series where some­body from her past comes back.”

As for her pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship with Mathias, there are some strains in the team fol­low­ing his er­ratic be­hav­iour. Es­tranged from his wife, he slept with the mother of a mur­der vic­tim – an un­pro­fes­sional act that got her killed too. Mathias him­self barely sur­vived Series 2: the caravan in which he lived was torched and he re­ceived a blow to the head. This time he’s in dan­ger of go­ing rogue as he hunts his attacker.

“He’s been through a lot with the IPCC [ In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Com­plaints Com­mis­sion] and she sup­ported him,” says Har­ries. “They never be­come close – I can never imag­ine them hav­ing a drink or a meal. That would be re­ally awk­ward and they wouldn’t func­tion like that.”

Yet Rhys does ven­ture into Mathias’ per­sonal space for the sea­son fi­nale, when she turns up in his hotel to dis­cuss an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that could fin­ish their ca­reers. From the very first episode, Hin­ter­land has kept us guess­ing about their boss, Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Brian Prosser (Aneirin Hughes). A shad­owy fig­ure, he’s ei­ther plot­ting or per­haps just trou­bled by an old case. Series 3 will bring an­swers.

As well as the Devil’s Bridge abuse story arc, this sea­son con­tin­ues with the stand­alone mys­ter­ies over 90 min­utes. Dark, moody and at­mo­spheric, Hin­ter­land also takes a twist with an episode that iden­ti­fies the mur­derer from the start. When an es­tranged hus­band (Owen Ar­wyn) goes on a killing spree and kid­naps his young son, it turns into a race against time for Mathias.

It’s a gru­elling role, for which Har­ring­ton gives a pow­er­ful por­trayal of an iso­lated de­tec­tive dev­as­tated by the loss of his young daugh­ter. His suf­fer­ing is re­flected in the dis­turb­ing cases – many in­volv­ing chil­dren – that come his way. Some­times they end badly, which in­ten­si­fies his tur­moil. In the last series, he even had a go at Rus­sian roulette.

There may not be many laughs in his show, but Har­ring­ton has a mor­dant sense of hu­mour that punc­tu­ates his oth­er­wise deeply felt opin­ions. Dressed in his char­ac­ter’s preppy shirt, tie and jacket, he joins Crime Scene in the tro­phy room of Llany­by­d­der RFC rugby club af­ter lunch.

While Mathias has had a hard time of it, Har­ring­ton is sur­pris­ingly up­beat about his char­ac­ter’s prospects. “In lots of ways I think that the caravan ex­plod­ing has prob­a­bly done him the world of good,” he says. “Be­cause when you’re pissed on the side of the hill at the end of the world, you don’t re­ally meet any­one.”

Has he changed much in this series? “He’s still as cool as fuck, and he’s pretty elu­sive as well. You see a softer side to him, a side that he can’t hide from... You may even get a cou­ple of smiles out of him!”

The Hin­ter­land team have plenty to smile about too. The global suc­cess of the show, in­clud­ing the US fol­low­ing on Net­flix, is way beyond their orig­i­nal ex­pec­ta­tions. But then Har­ring­ton al­ways saw Mathias as stand­ing apart from parochial UK de­tec­tives. “What we were mak­ing was some­thing Euro­pean, not

par­tic­u­larly British,” he ex­plains. “So we knew it was go­ing to sit very well in Europe. The Scandi Noir thing was tak­ing the world by storm and I think we may have hitched a ride onto that wave – but that will only take you so far.”

He’s ob­vi­ously proud of a series he de­scribes as a “very heart­felt piece of work”, and sees Mathias as more imag­i­na­tive than the av­er­age TV de­tec­tive (foren­sics and strict pro­ce­dure aren’t re­ally his thing). “It’s about un­der­stand­ing hu­man na­ture and why peo­ple do the things that they do, and that’s re­ally the de­tec­tive work,” he adds.

It’s a par­tic­u­lar tri­umph for Har­ring­ton, who doesn’t share Har­ries’ flu­ency in Welsh. “It’s quite poetic, it lends it­self to melo­drama re­ally well,” he says. “I’ve spo­ken it most of my life, but it’s not my first lan­guage. It’s very dif­fi­cult for me just to flip be­tween the two.”

How does he cope? “Swear, blame other peo­ple, nor­mally. Of late, I’ve kind of learned to not be as an­gry about it, be­cause it’s a hell of a frus­tra­tion.”

At least things are more har­mo­nious be­tween the two cops. “Tom and Mared are in a good place,” he says. “They re­spect one an­other. They’ll never be bud­dies, but I don’t think they’ve got friends any­way, so it suits them.”

There’s also a sense of fi­nal­ity about this series – at least for now – as

sto­ry­lines are tied up. “It’s the cul­mi­na­tion of the one big story for the third series, which has built up from day one. So there’s a lot of clo­sure.”

Should we ex­pect a con­fronta­tion be­tween Mathias and Prosser? “There was al­ways go­ing to be a show­down,” Har­ring­ton re­veals. “But where we’ve taken it is some­where un­ex­pected. I think ev­ery­one will be sat­is­fied with it. No dis­re­spect to any­one, but I felt that the char­ac­ter of Prosser was slightly lost through­out a lot of [ Hin­ter­land]. What they’ve done with him is in­te­gral to this third series. It’s a good end­ing to this chap­ter.”

Of course, that raises the ques­tion of what’s next for the show and its cast. Har­ring­ton plans to do some trav­el­ling and look at US op­por­tu­ni­ties, while Har­ries will spend time with her fam­ily (she’s mar­ried to Broadchurch ac­tor Matthew Grav­elle) while con­sid­er­ing new roles.

There’s some con­cern about Brexit, too, as Hin­ter­land ben­e­fited from EU fund­ing for Series 1 and 3. “This show would never have hap­pened had it not had EU money,” says Har­ring­ton.

Tal­fan says Brexit “doesn’t make it eas­ier – it’s a very un­help­ful step,” but he’s qui­etly con­fi­dent the show will re­turn “in a slightly dif­fer­ent vein”.

Over the last four years of film­ing, the team have be­come part of the com­mu­nity in Aberys­t­wyth. Apart from a dis­agree­ment in a pub that led to an as­sault on Aneirin Hughes (a fa­ther and son were fined in Jan­uary), re­la­tions have been friendly, thanks in part to the Hin­ter­band, the cov­ers band fea­tur­ing Har­ring­ton (on drums and vo­cals) and other cast and crew mem­bers. So far, Har­ries has been a re­luc­tant mem­ber of the group.

“We just get off on it,” says Har­ring­ton. “We were a bit ten­ta­tive at first and thought peo­ple might laugh at us be­cause we started to per­form pub­licly – and we did some ter­ri­ble gigs.”

The band have ob­vi­ously come a long way since then. In fact, Har­ring­ton seems mildly de­spon­dent about their up­com­ing fi­nal gig in a lo­cal pub. As well as a reper­toire that ranges from Bob Dy­lan to Bruno Mars, they’ve learned sev­eral new songs for the oc­ca­sion. “We’re just go­ing to say good­bye to Aberys­t­wyth,” he says.

It’s also time for Crime Scene to make the long jour­ney back home, but even one day hang­ing out in Hin­ter­land of­fers plenty of ev­i­dence for the pos­i­tive at­mos­phere on the set of this dark drama. Of course, Har­ring­ton might be tempted away by a big US role af­ter the Welsh show’s state­side ex­po­sure. But he doesn’t sound quite ready to give it all up.

“I would hap­pily do an­other one but there are other things I want to do as well,” he tells Crime Scene. “I think the brand of Hin­ter­land could con­tinue, though – there are prob­a­bly more sto­ries to be told here.”

Hin­ter­land Series 3 is on BBC One Wales from 5 April and on BBC Four in May.

The lo­ca­tions present their own chal­lenges. Richard Har­ring­ton plays trou­bled Dci tom­math­ias.

Har­ring­ton looks pained. A take in Welsh, maybe? Series 3 has a story arc about abuse in a chil­dren’s home.

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