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BBC America’s new drama series Intruders, could also be called John Simm Finally Comes to America. Or how about after an Oscar and many TV arcs and MOWs, Mira Sorvino Does a TV Series

John Simm

Of course the eight-series is more than that. It stars Mira Sorvino and John Simm and TV character actor (and fellow UK import) James Frain in a mysterious story, about the personality and spirit of one person shifting into the body of another. And this isn’t some sort of shape-shifting ‘a la True Blood either. But even though a personality and spirit is thoroughly lodged in the body of another, apparently the recipient doesn’t know how it got there or … who might have put it there and why. 

In this realm, people can walk around for years and not know they are not who they think they are. Still with me?  

Despite a long career, this is Simm’s first role in an American series. Although die-hard fans of the long-lived Dr. Who TV series may remember him appearing opposite David Tenant’s Dr. Who as the bitchy Master, in the Last of the Time Lords story arc which aired in 2007. And others may remember him as Sam Tyler in the original UK series Life on Mars or for the miniseries, State of Play. Although Mars’ ran in the US but was cancelled after one season, State of Play, became a feature film starring Ben Affleck, Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren, but didn’t do winningly at the box office. 

The Master Doctor WhoAs for Sorvino, here’s a little refresher course: She won an Oscar after starring in a Woody Allen film (Mighty Aphrodite). She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard. She once dated Quentin Tarantino. She’s a mom to four children, Mattea 11, Johnny 9, Holden 6,  and Lucia two. She’s also a wife, but hasn’t let that stop her from going between film and TV, seemingly as often as she likes.

And now for the details on Intruders.  

Set somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, the film follows the story of an ex-LA cop (Jack Whelan played by Simm) and his wife (Amy played by Sorvino) who moved there after leaving the force. He is now a successful writer of best-selling mystery books, while his wife has some kind of executive job (which at press time, was yet to be revealed). Things are going along fairly well for the family until … 

There’s a mysterious dark-haired man with a sure-fire trigger finger (Frain) who is going around killing anyone who seemingly has two personalities/spirits in the same body. Early on, what the audience is left to guess is who is innocent, just who is evil, and whose side is this mysterious dark-haired man on? Does he really have to annihilate everyone he comes in contact with? Why is this happening here?  Why is this happening now?

Life on MarsThere’s also a little girl (played with relish by the young and very talented Madison Brown from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland) or, is she really a little girl? And why can’t Frain’s character kill her like he has all the others?

John Simm and Mira Sorvino talked exclusively with about exactly what they think is happening with The Intruders, without giving too much away, of course. “I think you are supposed to be confused at the end of the first episode. I think the audience finds out what’s happening  when Jack finds out, so they go with Jack,” he explains.

“There’s this incredulous phase that Jack goes through—disbelieving and cynical, and you think, what the hell is going on? It’s that ordinary guy finding himself in the middle of an extraordinary situation which he would never believe, but what if? In a way it’s a little bit like Life on Mars. It’s similar. Obviously it would never happen, but if it did, what would you do?"

Sorvino with cake"The reason I love this story is because it doesn’t treat the audience like an idiot. It doesn’t sign post it. You have to work it out, and pick up on the clues and they do all come together, all these strands come together. It all gets tied up in the end and It’s all very clever, but a real mystery.”

Simm calls his character an “accidental success as an author”, explaining that Jack has moved away from LA because of some “incident”.  “He hit on this idea of finding crime scene photographs and writing them and about the case, and it’s just a huge hit. So now he’s on the second book, even though he’s not actually even an author, and has writer’s block, and we see him staring at the computer.” 

“In the meanwhile, his wife is acting strangely, little tiny things, talking in her sleep, music and so he’s already a little suspicious.We don’t know what’s going on, and then he get’s this knock on the door from his old school friend, Gary. So the book goes out the window because this is the beginning of everything.”

And “Everything” is that Jack’s wife disappears, after acting odd those several days prior. 

And then Gary comes and Jack is a bit cynical about it, until it all sort of ties up later. 

Simms had shied away from being the Brit actor in America, until now. “The reason I took the part is that (Executive Producer) Julie Gardner is an old friend. She asked me and she described it to me over an epic coffee one day. She described the whole story and I was overwhelmed by it. She said I should read the book."

Frain"It was one of those things where I’d always wanted to work in America,” he continued, “but it seemed … I was told, `Wait for them to invite you over,’ because I’d been over with State of Play and I just didn’t want to sort of come here and start again, because I’d been doing it for 20-odd years. I’d already gotten to a certain level." 

"So it was an invitation and I took the invitation . And  it’s a real challenge for me to play an American and when I read the book, it reminded me of a Stephen King story. It’s just an intriguing, intriguing premise.”

Simm and crew filmed in Vancouver, Canada and the ever-busy actor was caught between this and another project in the UK, so he says he was only able to bring his family; wife Kate and children Ryan 13, and Molly 7, out on two separate occasions during filming. However, with Intruders having gone to Comic-Con and airing here, there’s a good chance he’ll be spending more time in the US. 

Mira Sorvino, the daughter of veteran character actor Paul plays Simm’s wife, Amy, who is having a very weird time of it when the show begins.  She exclaims, “She’s not very happy about it but at the same time she’s been going through an intense pain over a recent loss, and is in that state where she’d rather anesthetize herself, rather than deal with life."

John Simm“So this situation that she finds herself in—that is bazaar and is happening to her—in a certain way it might be what she needs at this moment, to not deal with the reality of her pain. It’s definitely creating a terrible situation in her marriage because it’s kind of pulling her away from her husband, but she is really not happy enough to stay present, and to fight to stay in control.” 

The actress, who has been busy making independent films, and has a recurring role on Falling Skies, was happy to get into a part she calls an “incredible opportunity.”

“As the season goes on, the range and dimension of my role is unlike anything I have ever played. I have many extremes of the human condition in the one role. On one side, the sort of soft, vulnerable goodness and sweetness that has been devastated by loss and love,” Sorvino explains. “And on the other side, the sort of opposite extreme, which is kind of Machiavellian. I am not going to say ruthless but considering itself to be above morality, not affected by the laws of what’s right and wrong, to achieve a higher end, and passion-driven and strong but with hubris, because still there’s a beating heart within that range of emotion and that range of behavior."

Sorvino"But usually I play sympathetic people who are unquestionably good, but if you look at my range of roles almost none of them except Barcelona and Too Tired to Die, all the rest of them are good people.  In this I get to play to play a whole range of things. Some like that and some that you would say, `Oh, I don’t know if I approve but I’m drawn in.' So it’s a great, great challenge and the story is so compelling because as you go farther into it, it’s really about these huge themes. But whether or not you would believe such a paranormal situation was possible, everyone, the biggest thing’s in everyone’s life, is love and death ultimately."

"Love for the people you care about. What would you do for that love? Would you kill?  Would you throw yourself in front of the bus? What would you do?  And then what happens after we die? Do we ever come back?  Will I ever get to see that person I love again? What if I could?  What would happen if you had that certainty on your death bed and you were holding the hand of the person you were leaving behind and said, `Don’t worry, we’ll meet again and you knew it could be true. '"

"That would change everything. That really would change everything if that was possible, right?"

"Now we all live in this hope, maybe? This kind of faith, but not certainty … because no one has ever come back from the other side and said, `Here’s how it is. We know exactly what happens.”  

"Intruders is really about these things that are really human, even though it’s kind of a fantasy story. It’s a mythological story in a way.”


P.S. Still wondering what MOW is from the 1st line? It is..... Movie Of The Week!

Catch Intruders on Saturday, August 23 at 10/9c on BBC America

 / Issue 161 - September 2018
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