Follow Us on Twitter

John Wick to become TV series with Keanu Reeves on board

John Wick: Chapter 2

Story by Jack Foley

A TV spin-off of John Wick is being developed with leading man Keanu Reeves on board.

The series was unveiled by US cable channel Starz as part of its new line-up. The show will be called The Continental and will be based around the hotel that forms a focal point for many of the characters (or rival assassins) in John Wick’s world.

The New York Continental is overseen in the movie by Ian McShane, while a Rome counterpart had Franco Nero as its main figure.

As its name suggests, the show’s focus will be the wider world of assassins alluded to in last year’s John Wick: Chapter 2 and the inner workings of the Continental Hotel chain that serves as a refuge for them.

Wick originators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch are involved as producers alongside franchise writer Derek Kolstad, with Reeves also on board as a producer. He has also hinted that he may even appear in the series.

Chris Collins is in charge of writing the first episode and will run the show, with Stahelski stepping in to direct that initial outing.

The Walking Dead renewed for ninth season

The Walking Dead

Story by Jack Foley

THE Walking Dead has been renewed for a ninth season by AMC.

In addition, former show-runner Scott M. Gimple has inked an overall deal in which he will now serve as chief content officer of the franchise, meaning that he will oversee The Walking Dead‘s vast TV universe, including both the flagship and spin-off Fear The Walking Dead.

His remit further extends to gaming formats and future brand extensions on a variety of platforms.

Writer/co-executive producer Angela Kang has also been promoted to executive producer and show-runner, replacing Gimple in the latter role, of The Walking Dead. She has been with the series since 2011, writing roughly 20 episodes, including the critically acclaimed Coda and Still.

Commenting on the renewal and the personnel shuffle, Charlie Collier, president of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios, said: “This is an enormously important day for the entire The Walking Dead television universe. We are proud to acknowledge Angela’s significant contribution to the series and to set a clear path forward for a ninth season under her direction.

“Further, with gratitude and admiration, we also recognize Scott’s broad impact on, and leadership of, the content that fuels our TWD universe. Together, we will dream bigger and more broadly than ever before.

“I know I speak for Angela, Scott and everyone at AMC when I say thanks most of all to the fans and the many talented people who have helped AMC play Dead.”

Gimple himself commented: “The Walking Dead is a special show which started in an entirely different era of TV, and continues, in this new era, to confidently take chances to tell compelling stories that excite audiences and make them deeply connect with its characters, adapting Robert Kirkman’s brilliant comic book.

“As the show closes in on its 10th year, I’m honoured to keep working with the talented, dedicated people behind and in front of the camera to make it all it can be, while expanding the world of The Walking Dead with new narratives like Fear The Walking Dead and a whole host of truly cool stories ahead. Angela is a big part of the heart and soul of The Walking Dead, and I’m thrilled to help facilitate her vision of the show’s next era.”

The Walking Dead still ranks as TV’s No. 1 drama among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic even though its ratings have slid in recent times.

As the show enters its ninth season, original cast members remain few and far between. But Andrew Lincoln (Rick) and Norman Reedus (Daryl) are expected to return, while Lennie James is also poised to move to Fear The Walking Dead as the worlds will finally overlap.

McMafia - Clifford Samuel interview (exclusive)

Clifford Samuel

Interview by Rob Carnevale

CLIFFORD Samuel talks about playing the role of Femi, the boyfriend of Katya, in BBC drama McMafia and why it was great to be able to show an inter-racial relationship within the confines of such an ambitious drama, while also serving as one of the few honest characters.

He also discusses his career to date, including his time with the Royal Shakespeare Company, working with Andy Serkis on Sex & Drugs & Rock n Roll and what lies in store for the future…

Q. I’d imagine that 2018 has already got off to a pretty good start for you with the success of McMafia?
Clifford Samuel: It’s been lovely. I’ve been inundated with lovely, positive messages and it’s so nice to be a part of it and to finally be able to share something that we’ve been shooting for the past five months… and something that [director] James Watkins has been filming for the past year!

Q. So, what attracted you to the role of Femi? I’d imagine the appeal was manifold?
Clifford Samuel: What I loved about Femi is how he fits in to this huge, sprawling story. When we were discussing the character [co-creator] Hossein Amini told me that while there are so many ‘bad people’ in this, Femi is one of the few honest, dignified characters in this story. And yet he’s surrounded by people who are the opposite. I also liked the fact that it’s a three dimensional part. He’s a Nigerian who is going out with a Russian. But I’m not being shoehorned in to play a character. It’s not colour blind casting. He’s in there for a reason. So, it’s a positive, non-stereotypical part. I love the way that the show explores multi-racial relationships in a natural way.

Q. And is that something that’s developed further as the series progresses? Will we get to see more of the tensions this creates?
Clifford Samuel: I think so. There’s already been a hint of that from Episode 1, when there was quite a prejudice slur from a Russian. But there will be more hopefully because that’s what I filmed [laughs]. I remember we [James Watkins, Hossein and I] talked quite a bit about his back story while we were developing the character and how his relationship with Katya, played by the brilliant Faye Marsay, came about. We decided that they had to have met at university because they’re both outsiders. One is Russian and not able to speak much English, and the other is a black person in a predominantly white school. So, they were like a magnet, holding on to each other, whether subconsciously or consciously. But they’ve become stronger as a pair throughout the piece.

Q. It’s one of the other things that impresses about McMafia – the diversity of the cast and the fact that you have a multi-cultural cast rather than well-known British actors playing Russian roles with dodgy accents…
Clifford Samuel: It’s bold and it’s brave from James Watkins. But it was always a stipulation. You could get brilliant British names to play these roles but audiences are far too savvy and too ahead now. It takes something away from the authenticity when you do that. So, the brilliance of what we have done by casting more authentically is that we can also show global artists and global talent. It really is an all-star cast. I mean, we have the Meryl Streep of Russia in Mariya Shukshina, who plays Oksana Godman [the mother]. There’s also an Indian story, a Tel Aviv story, a British story, obviously the Russian story. But that in itself is not trying to be diverse. It’s representative of the world today. Everything is so interwoven. Global money laundering, for example… it’s not just one race involved, everyone is involved and complicit. It’s so complex.

Q. How much did you know about the modern Mafia before you took on the role? Or did its global reach surprise you?
Clifford Samuel: Sadly, I did not. I knew a bit. But what I knew was just the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t realise just how interwoven and connected they were. I thought the Yakuzas were just Yakuzas and the Mafia just dealt with the Mafia. But it’s all inter-connected. The Russian-Israeli connection shown in the show, for example, is huge. And then you have the British story, where everything is being done from a desk… but it goes goes out like a spider’s web. People grab as much as they can – meaning money. I really didn’t know as much as I thought. I wasn’t naive to it. But I had no idea about the scale of it.

And what’s shocked everyone about this series, without giving away any spoilers, is the human trafficking element, which is a huge part of the story. We all know about it but the way that part of the story unfolds is incredible and I know a lot of people who have been affected by it – friends and family. It’s put the issue on a lot of people’s radars and they’ve been upset at seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes. The character of Lyudmilla [played by Sofia Lebedeva] has an incredible journey ahead.

Clifford Samuel, McMafia

Q. Going back to the subject of diversity for a minute, and talking about the industry as a whole right now, how do you view this moment in time? Have the headlines about women’s rights, sexual harassment in Hollywood and opportunities for ethnic actors opened up new opportunities over here? Is it an exciting time in spite of some of the terrible headlines we’re reading?
Clifford Samuel: It is an exciting time. I think news like this, and certainly the exposure it’s giving in terms of the conscious effort to now be more inclusive, is always a positive thing. Yes, it’s slow in Britain. But I think it’s still forward movement. We’re evolving. And part of that is because of the way that TV has changed, with alternative platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. It’s made TV more ground-breaking, in that lots more TV stations are making co-productions. McMafia, for example, is tied in with the AMC network in the States, while I’ve also found out that Amazon Prime has bought McMafia to show in over 200 countries.

Q. What does appearing in a show as big as McMafia do for your own profile as an actor?
Clifford Samuel: It’s been incredible. I mean, acknowledgement is what you want as an actor. And people are being so positive about the show. Hopefully, that will help me secure more roles based around good stories. It’s all you ever want as an actor – to tell good stories and to be involved in high end dramas as often as you can. So, thanks to the profile McMafia has given me, I’ve been seen by and am having meetings with really serious filmmakers and screen professionals. And going back to the point I made about AMC and Amazon Prime, what a way for me to be seen in all of those countries! And for the issues it raises to be seen by so many more people. It’s educational.

Q. You’re no stranger to high end productions, having done some amazing stage work already. When did you know that acting was the thing for you?
Clifford Samuel: Well, acting was never forced. Maybe it’s a naive thing to say but I’ve always loved acting. And it came as a natural thing in terms of playing dress-up in front of my family as a kid and seeing how much you can move someone. A lot of it was through comedy. But I found it a very powerful thing to provoke any emotion in a human being. So, I thought ‘let me explore that in more serious, porofessional way’. And it was fun… and still is fun. I’ve always said, even to my agent, that the moment this whole thing stops being fun, then I’m out.

But drama school, and being at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, was an incredible start for me in trying to understand theatre and theatre craft. It provided me with some incredible training. I still think it’s the best training for any actor globally – not just the Guildhall but in terms of British theatre training in general. Stage work then happened for me. I graduated early, in my final year, and was actually picked out by the Royal Shakespeare Company and – coincidentally – by David Farr, who is now one of the staff writers on McMafia.

So, that was a lovely silver lining to have left drama school early to be with David Farr and to then be playing Octavius Caesar in Julius Caesar as my first job. I was 20, I think, so still quite young to be given such a huge responsibility. But it really gave me the chance to practice my craft and I learnt such a lot during that time.

Clifford Samuel

Q. You seem to be focusing more on screen work at the moment… Is that a fair assumption?
Clifford Samuel: Yes – although there’s a but to that because any good work, no matter what medium, is important. If it turns your head around, if the writing is good, it doesn’t matter. But in terms of my immediate focus and energy, I’m trying to concentrate on the screen. It’s a good way of balancing the CV and I enjoy it. I find it to be another powerful medium.

Q. How easy, or hard, has it been to make the switch from theatre to screen?
Clifford Samuel: It’s been pretty seamless because the craft of approaching any script is the same. I do the same preparation for any character, so it’s the same amount of work for me in terms of building a role. Yes, it’s now in front of a camera and there are new techniques to learn. But I found it came naturally. And I’ve done some screen work before…

Q. You played a Blockheads drummer in Ian Drury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Clifford Samuel: That was an incredible experience. In fact, it was almost like theatre. We rehearsed for weeks because of the music element. We all said on our CVs that we could play the instrument of our characters and I remember we had this early rehearsal in a huge recording studio. The producers, the director and everyone was there, and I remember them saying: “OK guys, no pressure, but can you play one track off the Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick album. And the room was elated afterwards because we all played our instruments. But the whole experience of that movie was incredible. We also got to do diving at Pinewood.

Q. And how was getting to work with someone like Andy Serkis?
Clifford Samuel: Incredible! He’s my kind of actor. He’s very focused and it was a privilege to watch and really observe and learn how he works. I remember for that part, Ian Drury had polio and Andy’s preparation involved going to the gym for months beforehand and training one side of his body, so that one half was smaller than the other. He had recaptured Drury’s body shape by the time we started filming and that was extraordinary to witness. I hope to have a career that’s somewhere close to his.

Q. What does the immediate future have in store? Have you got anything lined up?
Clifford Samuel: I am auditioning and I’m excited about some of the projects that I’m hoping will materialise. But I can’t talk about any of those at the moment. So, I’m just enjoying the phenomenon that is McMafia and meeting such lovely creative people to talk about other projects.

Q. When you look back on your career at this point, what are your highlights?
Clifford Samuel: There’s not one… there’s so many. I mean, McMafia has to be up there. It’s a break… in fact, it’s my biggest foray into this [screen] medium. So, it’s been a true highlight. But Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll was another one, partly because we did everything (play music, act, diving, rehearsing and meeting so many wonderful artists). And obviously the RSC! And there was this lovely theatre company, Cheek By Jowl, run by Declan Donnellan, who is amazing. That was finishing school and one of my first jobs. It goes on tour all around the country [and the world] but we were in London, at The Barbican, for two and a half months. It also meant that I got to see world at 21! I got paid to travel and do an incredible show. It was the most glamorous form of back-packing!

Read our verdict on the first two episodes of McMafia

McMafia airs on BBC1 on Sunday nights from 9pm. It is also available on iPlayer.

Gillian Anderson departs The X-Files and American Gods

The X-Files: Babylon

Story by Jack Foley

GILLIAN Anderson has confirmed that she has quit both The X-Files and American Gods.

Speaking at the Television Critics’ Association’s winter press tour, the actress – best known for playing FBI Special Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files – said that the time had come for her to “hang up Scully’s hat” on the sci-fi series.

The decision means that the forthcoming 11th season of The X-Files will be her last. It is due to air in the UK on Channel 5 sometime this year and has just started its run in the US.

Commenting on her X-Files departure, Anderson said: ““I arrived at the decision before we did the previous six, but I was really curious. I felt that the previous six was going to be it. It was dipping our toe back in again … and getting to play these wonderful characters again.

“I think as [series creator] Chris [Carter] has said himself, that short stack of episodes felt like we were learning how to walk again and that this season of 10 feels like the pace is up and we’re running.”

She continued: “I wouldn’t necessarily have been happy if those six were how we said goodbye. … There’s lots of things that I want to do in my life and in my career and it’s been an extraordinary opportunity and extraordinary character and I am hugely grateful. [But] it’s time for me to hang up Scully’s hat. It just is. “I’m finished, and that’s the end of that.”

Whether Anderson’s exit means the end for any future X-Files series beyond season 11 remains to be seen. But her co-star, David Duchovny (aka Agent Fox Mulder) said he would be happy to continue with or without Anderson.

“I’ve tried to say goodbye to Fox Mulder many times and I failed,” he joked. “And they all went and did the show without me, so how do you like that? I’m feeling pretty pissed off, now that I remember.”

As for American Gods, Anderson follows showrunners and creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green in walking away from the provocative Starz drama.

she said: “I’m not doing any more American Gods. Bryan and Michael Green aren’t either, as has been announced.”

Fuller and Green decided to quit the series after clashing with producers Fremantle over the show’s second season budget.

David Oyelowo, Dominic West and Lily Collins join BBC's Les Miserables

Gringo

Story by Jack Foley

DAVID Oyelowo, Dominic West and Lily Collins are to head the cast of the BBC’s forthcoming adaptation of classic novel Les Miserables.

West will take on the role of Jean Valjean, Oyelowo will play his rival Javert, and Collins is Fantine.

The cast also includes Olivia Colman and Adeel Akhtar as Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, Ellie Bamber (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Cosette, Josh O’Connor (Ripper Street) as Marius and Erin Kellyman (Raised By Wolves) as Éponine.

The six-part drama has been adapted by Andrew Davies and will be directed by Tom Shankland.

It will go back to the original novel and delve deep into the layers of Victor Hugo’s story, closely examining Jean Valjean and Javert’s cat-and-mouse relationship, against the epic backdrop of France at a time of civil unrest.

Commenting on his role, West described Valjean as “one of the greatest characters in world literature”.

“His epic journey of redemption is one of the extraordinary roles an actor can take on and I can’t wait to get stuck in to bringing Andrew’s brilliant adaptation to the screen,” he said.

Production is due to begin in February in Belgium and Northern France.

Les Miserables was most recently brought to the big screen by Tom Hooper in a musical film starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway.

Golden Globes 2018: Big Little Lies takes four awards in TV categories

Big Little Lies

Story by Jack Foley

HBO mini-series Big Little Lies won the most awards in the television categories at this year’s Golden Globes, including honours for its stars Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgard.

The show, which tackles domestic abuse and motherhood, was also named best limited TV series.

In a ceremony marked by Hollywood’s response to the ongoing sexual harassment scandal that has rocked the industry since last year, Kidman was one of several winners to pass comment on the issue.

The actress played a victim of domestic violence and sexual abuse in the drama, and dedicated her win to her cast mates, daughters and mother, saying: “Wow, the power of women.”

Kidman’s cast mate Laura Dern, winner of a best supporting actress, also referred to the issue by addressing some of the reasons why women had stayed silent for so long.

She said: “Many of us were taught not to tattle. It was a culture of silencing, and that was normalised… May we teach our children that speaking out without the fear of retribution is our culture’s new North Star.”

Two more of the night’s big winners among the TV categories were The Handmaid’s Tale and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, which picked up two awards each.

The former won Best TV Series, with its leading lady, Elisabeth Moss, named best actress in a TV drama.

Moss dedicated her win to author Margaret Atwood, whose book is the source material for the series, while also alluding to the sexual harassment scandal by way of making comparisons with the book’s subject material.

After reading a quote from Atwood, she told the audience: “We no longer live in the gaps… we are the story in print and we are writing the story ourselves.”

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, meanwhile, picked up awards for Best TV Series – musical or comedy, and for Rachel Brosnahan as best actress in a TV series (musical or comedy).

Other winners included Sterling K Brown, who was named best actor in a TV series (drama) for This Is Us, Aziz Ansari, who was named best actor in a TV series (musical or comedy) for Master of None, and Ewan McGregor, who took home the best actor award for a limited series or TV film for his dual performance in Fargo.

The main winners in full

Three Billboards wins four awards in film categories

Sons of Anarchy spin-off in the works

Sons of Anarchy: The Final Season

Story by Jack Foley

A SPIN-off series to Sons of Anarchy is officially in the works at FX.

The cable network confirmed this week that 10 episodes of Mayans MC have been commissioned.

Kurt Sutter’s follow-up to FX’s long-running biker drama will premiere in 2018, either in late Autumn or the summer pegged to the 10th anniversary of the flagship series.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mayans MC will be set in a post Jax Teller world, where EZ Reyes (JD Pardo), fresh out of prison, is a prospect in the Mayan MC charter on the Cali/Mexi border.

The show will subsequently follow EZ as he carves out his new outlaw identity in a town where he once was the golden boy who had the American Dream within his grasp.

The ensemble cast also includes Edward James Olmos, Sarah Bolger, Clayton Cardenas, Richard Cabral, Michael Irby, Raoul Trujillo, Antonio Jaramillo and Carla Baratta.

Announcing the spin-off, Nick Grad, FX president of original programming, said: “Kurt Sutter is a master storyteller and Mayans MC has the raw energy and intensity that are hallmarks of his signature style.

“Thanks to Kurt, co-creator Elgin James and this amazing cast, Mayans MC builds on the legacy of Sons of Anarchy, taking it in a thrilling new direction that we can’t wait for the world to see.”

Helena Bonham Carter to play Princess Margaret in The Crown

The King's Speech

Story by Jack Foley

HELENA Bonham Carter is to play Princess Margaret in Netflix Royal drama The Crown.

The actress is close to closing a deal to play the role in the forthcoming third season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Carter would take over the role from Vanessa Kirby, who played Margaret in the first two seasons.

The second season of the drama series from Peter Morgan launched on Netflix on December 8, 2017.

It saw Margaret marry Antony Armstrong-Jones, the Earl of Snowdon (Matthew Goode). The season ended with her pregnant with one of their children.

Olivia Colman is set to replace current lead Claire Foy in the lead role of Her Royal Majesty for the show’s third and fourth seasons.

Along with Foy and Kirby, Matt Smith (who plays Prince Philip) will also be departing the series, as the characters are being recast to cover later years in the royal family’s lives.

Carter is no stranger to playing royalty. She played Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Prince Albert alongside Colin Firth in The King’s Speech.

She has also been made a CBE for services to drama.

Game of Thrones producers officially confirm 2019 return

Game of Thrones

Story by Jack Foley

THE eighth and final season of Game of Thrones will not air until 2019 – it’s official.

HBO issued a statement on Thursday (January 4, 2018) to confirm that the remaining six episodes will definitely air sometime in 2019.

As yet, however, there is no start date owing to the complex nature of the production of the final series.

Production on the final season began in October and is currently scheduled to run through until August 2018 — a full year following the season seven finale.

The length of the shoot is designed to reflect the epic nature of the final episodes, which are all rumoured to be feature length in running time, and the complex nature of the special effects.

The show will also continue to visit different continents.

Directors for season eight are show-runners David Benioff and DB Weiss, David Nutter and Miguel Sapochnik. Writers are Benioff and Weiss, Bryan Cogman and Dave Hill.

HBO is also currently developing a number of prequel series.

Netflix confirm sequel to Will Smith's Bright

Story by Jack Foley

NETFLIX has confirmed that Bright is getting a sequel.

Director David Ayer and stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton are expected to return.

Bright premiered on Netflix on December 22, 2017 and despite receiving a critical panning is the highest viewed Netflix film ever on the service in its first week of release and one of the biggest originals (including sequels/additional seasons) Netflix has ever launched.

Bright is the No.1 movie on Netflix in every country (190+ countries) since its release with more people viewing the film internationally than domestically.

About Bright

Set in an alternate present-day, this action-thriller directed by David Ayer (Suicide Squad, End of Watch, writer of Training Day) follows two cops from very different backgrounds (Ward, a human played by Will Smith, and Jakoby, an orc played by Joel Edgerton) who embark on a routine patrol night that will ultimately alter the future as their world knows it.

Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which in the wrong hands could destroy everything.