Follow Us on Twitter

Safe (Netflix) - Emmett J Scanlan interview (exclusive)

Emmett J Scanlan

Interview by Rob Carnevale

EMMETT Scanlan talks about his role in new Netflix thriller Safe, co-starring alongside Michael C Hall and Amanda Abbington, as well as the joy of delving through Danny Brocklehurst’s script.

He also discusses some of his career highlights, including becoming a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Guardians of the Galaxy, being a part of fan favourite TV shows such as The Fall and In The Flesh. He even gives us a taster of what to expect from forthcoming ITV drama Butterfly alongside Anna Friel.

Safe will be available exclusively on Netflix from May 10, 2018.

Q. What was the appeal of playing Josh in Safe?
Emmett J Scanlan: The appeal? The fact that they asked me and I was available! [Laughs] But seriously, the fact that it was also a Netflix original series because stuff like that is a turn on for me. A Netflix original series comes with a certain aura to it, if you know what I mean. When you see something new from them, you get excited. And then there as the fact that Danny Brocklehurst [BAFTA and International Emmy winning scriptwriter of The Driver and Exile] penned the script. It was being made by RED Productions, a fantastic production company. And the series was created by acclaimed novelist Harlen Coben, whose past TV work includes The Five, which I watched and loved. There were so many factors. And then there was the cast: Michael C Hall, Amanda Abbington, Marc Warren… it’s fantastic. But obviously, the fact they wanted me in the first place made it a no brainer.

Q. I’ve heard you describe Josh as a good dad but a shit husband. Care to expand?
Emmett J Scanlan: He’s a shit husband and a good dad, for sure. He’s the ex-husband to Amanda Abbington’s character and he lives in a caravan on the front lawn, so that he’s always near his kids. He’s an immature fella at the best of times. And he likes a drink. That’s the difference between himself and everyone else. He drinks to hide the pain. But, like everyone else, he has his own secrets and darkness. So, in that capacity, he’s no different to them. And that was a lot of fun to play with.

Q. So, what can we expect from the story itself? It’s predominantly about Michael C Hall’s paediatric surgeon and single father whose daughter goes missing…
Emmett J Scanlan: Well, it’s the kind of thing that only Harlan can do so well. And having teamed up with Danny I can tell you there are loads of twists and turns. When I read any script, I’m always very much in the moment… so, the question for me is whether that moment is big enough to turn the page and keep on reading. But I kept on turning the page with this one. It really does keep you guessing. But it’s also full of complex characters. It’s one of those great suspense thrillers; a real edge of your seat drama. I hope it engages with the audience. I’m really proud of it and I feel honoured to be part of a production like this and to have danced with so many heavyweights. I had great fun on-set.

Q. Can we expect moments of humour to break the tension?
Emmett J Scanlan: I think there’s humour. You need humour in it too. But I think that comes from some of the strange situations characters find themselves in. When we did the read throughs, there were a couple of laughs. But it’s not a comedy! .

Q. So, tell me about getting to dance with heavyweights such as Michael and Amanda?
Emmett J Scanlan: It’s such a draw to want to work with somebody like that. I’ve known Michael from his time in Six Feet Under and Dexter. So, to know you’re going to share the screen with him and talk to him man to man…. that’s great! When you do any job, you want to get the chance to speak to people you admire. And I admire Michael greatly. But Amanda, too, is funny, sharp, witty… and she’s very generous. I watch them and I learn from them all the time. But you’d be a f**king idiot not to do that.

I actually worked with Marc Warren on Snatch, the TV series, even though we never actually shared the screen. But we developed a deep mutual respect for each other and talked quite a bit on the set, and we’re now friends. So, to be able to work with him again was another bonus. When you’re on set, it’s hard to leave. And what I mean by that is that it can be quite an intense environment when you’re filming a series in a condensed period of time. You bond quickly and you can make some great friends. So, the fact that some of those friendships have outlasted the prodctiom is great too.

Q. Was there much preparation for getting into the character of Josh?
Emmett J Scanlan: I drank a lot [laughs]! Not really. I just got on-set and enjoyed it. It was more about reacting to situations that were happening around me. I just tried to bring the script to life.

Emmett J Scanlan

Q. So, what was the biggest challenge of playing him?
Emmett J Scanlan: I’ve not been asked that! I don’t think he was particularly that challenging. For the lead characters, there were bigger moments. I wasn’t there all of the time, so that in itself is a challenge. I’d come in sporadically throughout series, so when you’re dipping your toe in and out like that, it can be challenging. But these were such beautiful people to work with, both in terms of the cast and crew, that even that felt easy. It should have been more challenging, but it wasn’t. This sounds a little arty, but it really was like coming back into a family. When you’re filming a series or a film, there’s often a honeymoon period. To begin with, everything is hunky dory and you love being there. But eventually, as you get towards the end of it, you can start thinking that you’re better off as friends and the just move on. But with Safe, the honeymoon period lasted all the way, from beginning to end. At least that was my experience.

Q. You also have Butterfly coming up, which follows the acrimonious relationship between separated parents and how they attempt to support their gender variant younger child. What can you say about that?
Emmett J Scanlan: Well, it’s another drama from RED Productions. I actually auditioned for it while doing Safe and I got the job as I was finishing Safe. It’s penned by the wonderful Tony Marchant and it’s going to be on ITV. Anna Friel is a stunning actress. And the kid, played by Callum Booth-Ford, is stunning. It’s one of those stories. It’s brave, it’s topical and it’s something that I desperately wanted to be a part of. I remember sitting in my bedroom with the script and reading it in one sitting. It’s incredibly moving. I auditioned for it and a week later, I was asked if I’d like to play the father. What are you going to say? It’s a truly remarkable drama. I saw the trailer for it the other day and it moved me.

Q. Did you meet parents of transgender children?
Emmett J Scanlan: Yeah, we did. We went to Mermaids [which provides family and individual support for gender diverse and transgender children and young people] and met with parents and their children who were either transitioning or wanting to. And they were incredibly generous with us. It’s a tough one to verbalise in a coherent way. But yes, I did a lot of study and met a lot of wonderful people. They are amazingly brave souls and it was a humbling experience. But it motivated me to want to do the best work I could, in order to bring as much realism to it as possible. It’s our aim to have created a show that raises awareness of this issue. So, we hope that they’re proud of it. We’re certainly all proud of it. Essentially, it’s a family drama about ordinary people facing an extraordinary situation. But it’s something that’s very timely. I’d love to speak to you about it some more closer to its air date.

Q. Moving on to another part of your career, that feels timely in a different way. As Avengers: Infinity War hits cinemas, and shatters records, how does it feel to have been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to your role in Guardians of the Galaxy?
Emmett J Scanlan: Incredible. That was an incredible experience. I’d just left Hollyoaks, having done 360 episodes in two and a half years. So, I was pretty burnt out. But six weeks later I was in a room with James Gunn and auditioning for Guardians – and they said the job was mine! I had to go down to London and pretend I lived there. And it was five weeks on set. But it was beautiful. I got to play with Lee Pace and Karen Gillan. She’s so generous with her time! And then doing the scene with Chris Pratt.

Honestly, it felt kind of surreal to be doing that. But it was such a great experience. I was on the prison set and it was massive. It was bigger than anything I’d seen. I’d literally come from the streets of Chester [on Hollyoaks] and was like ‘what the hell!’. I really lucked out. And I had a wonderful time. I still keep in touch with James [Gunn]. He’s a good friend. And then I went from that Marvel production to the DC world for the TV show Constantine.

Emmett J Scanlan

Q. Have you seen the new film?
Emmett J Scanlan: Marvel know what’s going on. Infinity War is sensational. Dave Bautista is possibly a comic genius. And the scene between Chris Hemsworth and Chris Pratt is hilarious. So, it was wonderful to be able to look back and know that you’ve been a part of those sorts of things. I don’t think you actually saw my character die in the film. I think you just hear him screaming pathetically off-screen. So, maybe there’s room to come back. Or James could put me in some prosthetics. I’d be up for that! I hope he reads IndieLondon!

Q. You’ve also been a part of great fan favourite shows like The Fall and In The Flesh. So, how does it feel to look back on those experiences?
Emmett J Scanlan: It feels amazing. In The Flesh was a massive fan favourite even before I auditioned for it. The first season was amazing. And I joined the second season, which was also well received but, unfortunately, it got cancelled. With The Fall, we had two very good seasons but I was in US, so couldn’t really do the third. But it was, again, such a gift to be able to work with people of the calibre of Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson. They’re beautiful poeple to work with. Jamie has everything. I wish he didn’t [laughs]. But he’s genuinely a really nice dude.

Sometimes, when you’re in these things, you don’t really see how great they are. It’s only when you look back on things that you connect the dots… I think it was Steve Jobs who said something like that: he had a big feeling of pride when he looked back on his achievements. I’m proud to have been a part of those things and to have gone on those journeys. I loved doing them. I’ve had quite a fortuitous career over the past five years. I just hope I can add a couple more.