His Dark Materials is gearing up for its second season, and it might be even moodier than you expect, thanks (?) to the pandemic.
In a lengthy interview with Deadline, His Dark Materials executive producer Jane Tranter and actress Ruth Wilson (Mrs. Coulter) discussed His Dark Materials and their other work, with a special emphasis on the upcoming season of the show and its future. In the interview, among other interesting revelations, Tranter discusses how the pandemic shaped the second season, and how the show will be different if it does get renewed for a third.
“The Subtle Knife has a slightly different structure to it,” Tranter said of the second season, which adapts the book The Subtle Knife. “It’s a much more grown-up structure, if you like, and it is slightly quieter. But I feel that in the piece there is a rather wonderful kind of brooding anxiety to it that I think almost came out of the way that we made it, and then editing on it in lockdown, and having one episode go and having to put it together around that, that actually I’m not sure would’ve been there if we hadn’t filmed it in that way.”
She continued, explaining that the editing process, in particular, which does a large part to inform the pace and tone of a television show, was heavily influenced by pandemic circumstances.
“As a whole crew and unit, you do build an atmosphere together. And I think that if you are creative and you are thoughtful and mindful about what you’re doing, you’re always thinking about that work in the overall context of the world around you, and there was an anxiety and we were all editing this remotely. Stephen Haren, the producer on the show who oversaw editing with us, was editing while having Covid and so did one of our other editors, and you see everyone’s pale faces come back,” Tranter said. “I think if you’re open-minded and thoughtful and creative, you will let some of that through. I don’t know, that might be too poetic, but for me, that’s how I work and that’s what I always feel.”
The pandemic also had another cost—it forced the crew to cut short on filming a standalone episode featuring James McAvoy as Lord Asriel, which would have added outside context to the season’s other events. Which gives the third season the tricky task, if it happens, of filling in some narrative gaps that absence creates while also starting to adapt The Amber Spyglass, the third book in Philip Pullman’s trilogy. Plans have changed here, too, Tranter revealed, saying that the plan is now to adapt that final book as a single season, as opposed to an initially conceived of two. But according to her, that isn’t due to any sort of executive meddling.
“If I’m really honest, I mean, they just said to us, ‘Tell us how many episodes you need,’ and when we looked at it, it really fitted really well into eight. I’m just greedy. I really like the real estate of television. I like stories told really slowly and that kind of like, ‘Let’s really dig into this,’ but truthfully that was me just longing to go on making His Dark Materials all of my life, and actually, The Amber Spyglass is quite right adapted into eight episodes and I will fully and humbly admit I was completely wrong and talking out of my butt. I really wanted to just keep doing it,” she said.
So it sounds like the production crew is pretty sure they’ll get a third season, and that it might be the last one. For more, check out the full Deadline interview. His Dark Materials premieres on BBC One tonight, November 8th, and on HBO November 16th.
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