Kidnap & Ransom Interviews: John Hannah

Title: Kidnap and Ransom
Interview: John Hannah
Airdate AU: Friday 4 February 2011 at 2130hrs
Original airdate UK: Thursday 13 January 2011
Comments: can be made here >>
Network AU: ABC1
Network UK: ITV

Next interview: interviews end, << back to the Trevor Eve Interview

Interview: John Hannah plays Alexander Willard: Describe your character Alexander Willard, I suppose he is the bad guy! But he’s not that bad, alright he kills somebody and he kidnaps somebody, but that’s not really that bad, is it? Anyway, the way I played it and the way Andy [Wilson, Director] wanted it played was very emotionless, to him the kidnapping is just business, you know? He’s a businessman and it seems to me that’s kind of a natural progression of capitalism: it’s like everything’s for sale and everything’s got a price. In fact in this case both sides, the negotiator and the kidnapper, are supposed to be emotionally uninvolved. To them both it’s a business transaction, the same as if they were selling commodities or futures.

Does that mean your and Trevor Eve’s characters are in some ways similar?

Yeah and I think there’s one point in it where my character says, “Look, if it comes to it, I just want to do the deal and we can go and sit down and have a drink afterwards,” and I think that’s probably absolutely true. The only reason it becomes emotional ultimately is because the cops got involved and messed up the deal as it were.

How would you describe Kidnap and Ransom?

Well first of all it’s a very current topic, when we were filming the negotiations were ongoing for that couple that were held in Somalia. [Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were eventually released in November]. In TV terms it’s set up as a thriller like any thriller but actually, I see it as more like the way the Americans would make a thriller. It’s got a kind of visual sense to it that I don’t think you get very often on British television. Ultimately we see our television as being an extension of our theatrical heritage. With this the scripts are great, they’ve told a good story, a good thriller, but I think they’ve brought a kind of un-British cinematic quality to it. Another reason you don’t really get that on British television because it’s cheaper to have two people sitting in a room talking to each other most of the time.

What research did you do?

Our back-story is that my character’s ex-army, so I read a book while I was down there by this guy Eeben Barlow, who founded the private military contractors Executive Outcomes. I read that, just to get a bit of a context. I suppose you come out of the army and these are the things that you know and you think, “Well what am I going to do now? Security; legitimate security, illegitimate security.” They’ve got to make a living and this is the world we’re in now. Barlow talks in his book about arms deals that they were doing when South Africa was supposed to be having all these sanctions. It was so easy. I’m fairly political, and I think anybody who’s got their eyes open to what’s happening in the world is going to not be overly surprised about how deals get done, whether it’s individuals or whether it’s commodities. After all, to characters like mine, an individual is just a commodity isn’t it? So you get into that mindset then and you have to suspend moral opinion about these kind of people. You simply play the guy and allow other people to interpret what that means. The bad things that he does to others, he does them for a reason, it’s about what you do to someone to make them submissive, dehumanising people in order to deal with them like they did in the concentration camps.

Did you get much time on set with Trevor Eve, given that most of your scenes with him take place on the phone?

It was all phone calls! There was one scene we had together actually right at the very end, though. Normally for a phone call you’re told, “Right, you can have an earpiece and we’ll record his bit and you can do your bits separately.” Whereas in fact the easiest way is often to say, “Look, why don’t I just turn up? Why don’t I just turn up and I’ll duck down in the corner, pretend that I’m not there and we’ll play the scenes so that we can just respond to each other,” and that’s how we did it. Trevor was sitting on his living room sofa and I was hiding behind the camera, trying not to be in his eye line.

How was working with Trevor Eve as both actor and producer?

We were having the read through and he made a comment alluding to the fact that he does have a reputation for being his own man! But in fact he was lovely. I think because he was the producer as well and because the project was his baby he wanted everybody to feel part of it and to feel as responsible for it as he did. It helped the production, too, the fact that he was there, both star and producer, and we didn’t have to constantly refer back to an exec about changing this line or that.

You’ve played a couple of baddies in recent years, first in Spartacus and now this. Is it more fun than playing the good guys?

Everything’s a different challenge. With Kidnap and Ransom Willard has that kind of cold, dispassionate way of being. The challenge for an actor is like, “Well what is that then? What is that that makes you look at somebody and go, ‘They’re a bit dangerous.’?” I used to live in a YMCA and I shared a room with this guy. He was never in a fight the whole time we were there. Nobody ever picked a fight with him; yet everybody knew he was a nutter. And yet he’d never been in a fight we’d seen, so how did everybody know? That’s a thing you’re looking for. That aura.

How was filming in South Africa?

Great, I took the kids out. The first episode was dead light for me so I did the read through and then I had two weeks off. We went on safari and hung about in Cape Town and it was lovely.

Source: ITV

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