Interview with Tom Hollander (left) who plays Douglas Petersen in Us

Us - David Nicholls adapts his bestselling novel for BBC One

20th September 9pm, BBC One​

4 episodes. All episodes available on iPlayer



Tell us about the story of Us?
Us is actually a very familiar story which I think a lot of people will be able to identify with. It’s written by the charming David Nicholls and the screenplay is fairly true to the book. The trickiest thing is that in the book you know what is going on inside a character’s head. One way that works is within the flashback element of the story, which is very present in the book and in the adaptation too.

I think one of the most poignant things about the way that David has written the story is how the present-day Douglas and Connie are intercut with flashbacks of them as a young couple. You see them, how they fell in love and yet how things have changed. It’s not easy adapting your own book for the screen but he’s a brilliant writer who obviously he knows his own story inside out.

Tell us about Douglas Petersen.
Douglas Petersen is a man whose wife wants to leave him but he doesn’t want to be left. His son Albie gets on much better with his mother than he does with his father. Right at the beginning of the story, Douglas is told that his wife thinks their marriage is over. Their son is about to go to art college and they have spent months planning an art tour of Europe.

Douglas is fairly conflicted about the idea as he isn’t sure he wants to go on holiday with someone who might want to leave him. However he decides that the best way of fighting for his wife is to go on the holiday with the mission of making his marriage survive. It’s an opportunity for Douglas to try and prove to Connie what a wonderful man he is and it’s a chance for him to resolve things with Albie, all of which goes wrong pretty quickly!

What attracted you to the project?
I love David’s writing and it seemed like a lovely part to play. It was very exciting to get to produce it alongside David too.

Tell us about the other characters.
Douglas thinks his wife Connie prefers her son Albie to her husband so there is a slight triangle there. There is also a certain amount of discomfort for both Albie and Douglas as he’s quite a grumpy dad! The story speaks to parents of a certain age, those who have children who might be about to fly the nest or go to college. Connie has empty nest syndrome and is terrified of the gaping hole that Albie is going to leave. Albie is an artistic, musical, creative and complicated teenager and Connie was also an artist. Meanwhile, Douglas is a scientist.

Tell us about your casting?
I think it was David [Nicholls, Writer] and Greg [Brenman, Executive Producer]’s idea to cast me in the first instance, possibly suggested to them by Sarah Crowe the brilliant casting director. But we’ll never know… that’s the thing about casting. It’s a mysterious process! We then worked closely with Sarah on the rest of the wonderful cast. She cast Rev for us all those years ago, so it was lovely to work with her again.

Tell us about the challenges of shooting in so many different cities and locations?
It was wonderful to be shooting in the actual places. It was particularly magical as we had access to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a couple of rooms in the Louvre in Paris for an afternoon, the glorious Joan Miro Fundacion in Barcelona for a day and in our very own National Gallery. These all felt like a great privilege and it was magical because there wasn’t anyone else in them.

It was very challenging for production and shooting in four different countries. There were four different crews and we were shooting out of sequence as ever; so you could be walking into a doorway in Amsterdam in episode two, which then turned into a staircase in Paris in episode one, which turned into a bedroom and then weeks later back into a studio in London, to play the room through the doorway in Amsterdam, to enable you to end up on a different street in Paris. It was quite a logistical feat to get it done! There was a lot of stress involved but relief every time when you looked up at the amazing places you got to film in.

We were also filming on the Eurostar and other trains, travelling from Paris to Barcelona but pretending that it was Paris to Amsterdam, which worked well until we got to the wilds of Southern France and Northern Spain where it didn’t really look like the lowlands of Flanders! I remember feeling quite pressured because we had a lot of material to shoot in a particularly finite amount of time because of the length of the moving train journey.

What can the audience expect from ‘Us’ and why should they tune in?
It’s a rom-com in reverse. It’s really about a break up rather than them getting together. It has a particular humour to it, which is David’s writing. It’s not a story without hope, it is a story about hope. It almost sounds a rather depressing premise but it really isn’t.

Source BBC One

September 18, 2020 4:55am ET by BBC One  


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