Tony Jordan, co-creator of the show, said, "Hooten & The Lady is the kind of television I like to watch. A show you can turn on after a tough day at work and just sit back, kick off your shoes and be entertained with a bit of escapism for 60 minutes. A lot of television drama has become pretty dark over the past few years, with serial killers and murder investigations filling our television schedules. Our aim was to make a show that was still smart, and funny, but was also something that lifted the spirits of the viewer. We wanted to give the Sky 1 audience a movie of the week on the small screen, real appointment-to-view television with great characters and a rip-roaring, grown-up adventure."
Hooten is a fearless adventurer who travels the world looking to make a few dollars, by fair means or foul. A foolhardy treasure hunter, he often finds himself in sticky situations. But none so far that he hasn’t been able to talk his way out of. A lone wolf, he trusts no one, but behind his rugged exterior lies a man of surprising depth and honour.
Michael Landes started his career on the The Wonder Years before going on to star as Daily Planet photojournalist Jimmy Olsen in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He has since appeared in numerous hit dramas, including Boston Legal, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and CSI: Miami, while his movie roles include Hart’s War, Final Destination 2, College Road Trip and Lakeview Terrace. Here's what he had to say in an interview with Sky 1:
What drew you to the part of Hooten?
I think the writing was the first thing, and Tony [Jordan] had a great track record, but I just loved this character. I loved that he was a bit rough, a bit un-PC and spontaneous and a little naughty and cheeky. The show seemed very ambitious. I thought: how are they going to pull this off? They were pitching to me that they were gonna make the show all over the world and I was a little sceptical because a lot of the time people pretend to do that, but we did go all over the world, which matched the ambition, and that was really exciting.
What was your favourite location?
To watch the sun rise at Angkor Wat in Cambodia was very cool. I love Italy, so the fact that we got towed around on a Vespa with a police escort to every site in Rome that you would want to visit as a tourist was insane. It’s tricky to choose – when we were in Moscow we filmed in Red Square, when we were in Italy we filmed at the Vatican and the Pantheon, so I got to go to all these great places doing what I love to do.
There are a lot of stunts in the show – did you have much involvement in them yourself?
People don’t want to see stunt people, they want to see you – the actor – as much as possible. But when you make a production you’re only allowed to do what they’ll insure you to do. But with the scale of this show, I think all the stunts we did were really ambitious and we did quite a lot of it. We had the stunt coordinators who do all the Tom Cruise movies, so not only were they great guys but you felt like you were in safe hands from day one, so they were able to push us to do more than we’ve ever done before or maybe more than I was willing to do. You’re on wires, or you’re doing fight sequences but on a helicopter that’s hanging in the air and it felt even more ambitious than I ever thought.
What was filming those scenes like?
It was tiring to film action sequences for 12-14 hours, but that was part of the job description. You have to be fit and healthy, as well as smile a lot.
And what was the most dangerous thing you had to do?
In Italy there’s a castle in Caserta that’s something like the second largest in Europe, to Versailles – it substituted as the inside of the Vatican. We were above a marble floor like 40, 50 feet up on wire – it was probably very safe because they said, “We can hold a car on these wires”, but when you’re up there for seven or eight hours, you start to hallucinate and think, what if I fall? If I fall on that marble it’s not going to be pretty. Another time I was dropped about six feet from an accelerated line and that’s more like a ride in an amusement park, where it’s thrilling, but I think I’m less of a thrill seeker than I maybe was a while ago.
Hooten and Lady Alex get off to a bit of a rocky start. What was your first impression of Ophelia?
She has a lot of the qualities of the Lady Alex character and I instantly thought she was really right. She works very hard and she’s very professional. The first time I met her I liked her and then as an actor I think she’s terrific. Sometimes that character could be the straight person, but she’s genuinely really, really, really, funny and there are some great funny moments.
And your characters’ love-hate relationship is really central to the show. How did you work on generating that chemistry?
Because we work so many hours we didn’t hang out outside of work, but at work I think we made a good partnership and a good friendship and my whole goal was, no matter what, you’ve got to get on with Ophelia, because the two of you as a team work a lot better than if you don’t like each other. I mean sometimes chemistry is made wonderfully by two actors who hate each other, but life’s too short, I don’t want to be on a show like that.
I think we had a really good relationship from the start and as it developed over the eight episodes we started to find things about each other that also were in our characters and we were able to mine that for more comedy and more idiosyncrasies.
What were the similarities you found between yourselves and your characters?
I’m not super-serious in life; I always try to look for a laugh, or a bit, or a joke, or a smart-ass remark. Hooten goes beyond what I do, but I just played into that and I think Ophelia’s very proper and I think she leant into that. Because she’s intelligent, she holds people accountable and she wants things to be done right and that’s a lot like her character. Hooten has a dark past, but he stuffs that way down and he’d rather make a joke and dissolve a situation with humour, and I think I do that a little bit. I would rather not fight and have a laugh. There’s an expression: If there are gnats or flees, don’t make a big deal, if there are lions and bears, then you have to fight.
The show’s got quite a classic Romancing the Stone feel about it. What do you think will appeal to today’s audiences?
A lot, I think. When I see what’s going on in the world, I think the fact you can escape into an adventure is very refreshing and I would welcome that in a heartbeat on my television. But also the fact that these characters have great banter and they’re written very well, the fact that you go all over the world, and there’s also the element of history and treasure hunting… I think [it has] all those elements that work so well in Romancing the Stone and Indiana Jones… and Moonlighting – everyone always wants to recreate that.
Did you take inspiration from any classic adventurer characters?
All those movies influenced me, as a young guy I loved watching them. You have these guys in the late 80s and 90s who were just a little rougher around the edges. Even like John McClane in Die Hard, who was a smart ass – I think Hooten has a lot of that. I didn’t draw on it specifically for my performance, but I think it’s been in my ether for 20 years, so it’s influenced it in a way.
What was it like on set?
The set itself was a very fun environment, Ophelia and I tried to make jokes. If people are in a bad mood and taking themselves too seriously, it becomes a much longer day. As a result the whole crew were really comfortable, they would just tell it like it is, they’d take the piss. In America they don’t talk to the main actors.
In general it was fun, but we had a snake wrangler who caught 37 snakes in two weeks, like, five black mambas – some of the most poisonous snakes in the world. And they would bring me a safe garden snake and say: “Nothing today”. Then two weeks later, they said we caught all these things and everyone had photos on their phone.
And how about that scene in episode one where you’re tied upside down?
That was day one in the jungle and I don’t know if it was the heat, the hanging upside down or the smoke they had… but there was something wrong with the camera and I was hanging upside down for a little bit and I ended up getting sick. I threw up six times, then I went back and they did the shot and I said, “If I look messed up in that first scene where the camera reveals we’re upside down, that’s not acting”. That’s the truest experience you’ll get in Hooten & The Lady.
Tell us about the rest of your co-stars.
I knew Blake Ritson from Upstairs, Downstairs and he’s such a fun guy, he came to the party and had a laugh. Jessica Hynes I only got to work with once very briefly but I think she’s a genius, I loved her in W1A. Angel Coulby was really lovely. Jane Seymour’s cool, we had a two-hour drive from Rome to Naples – she’s awesome, she shows you everything on her iPhone. She has, like, an iPhone 10,000 that has more gigs than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s like they made it especially for her.
I will say one thing, I don’t know a show that actually pulls talent from all over the world like this. Instead of asking, “Who can do a Russian accent?”, we had actors come from Tenerife, Malta, Russia, Italy, London, Denmark, America, Cambodia, so I think it’s great for the international acting community, I think that’s really cool. When that guy goes back to Malta and says, “I did a show”, his community will be aware of Hooten & The Lady. It makes it more authentic – even though it’s a big action adventure show, we always try to ground it in as much truth as possible, otherwise it’s just light and fluffy.
And if you could write your own Hooten & The Lady adventure, where would it be set?
On an overnight train through Europe, in the old-fashioned train cars, where we’re dressed for a really nice dinner and then there’s a fight sequence. It doesn’t sound original, but I think there’s something cool about that.
Or you could say there’s a Japanese kamikaze pilot that killed himself at Pearl Harbour in possession of this great Japanese artefact, so we have to do an episode in Hawaii. I’m selfishly trying to bring it back to America, but we’re not really old enough [to have artefacts]. We kind of did a lot of sunshine and beach, so maybe something in the snow – you could go to Santa Claus’s house in Lapland.
I’ll look out for that one in the next batch.
Haha – that’s the Christmas special.
Lady Alexandra is a curator at the British Museum in London. Although prim, proper and straight-laced, she is ever-eager to ditch the paperwork and follow in the footsteps of her intrepid idols Percy Fawcett, Howard Carter, David Livingstone and Mary Kingsley and venture to uncharted lands in search of long lost historical treasures.
Ophelia Lovibond made her film debut in Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist in 2005, the very same year she appeared in Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker’s prescient cult comedy Nathan Barley. Since then, she has made her mark in Hollywood with roles in Mr Popper’s Penguins, No Strings Attached and Guardians of the Galaxy. On the small screen she has starred in a host of hits, including Sky Atlantic comedy Mr Sloane alongside Nick Frost, Sky Living’s hugely popular US import Elementary and acclaimed BBC mockumentary W1A. Here's what she had to say.
How would you describe the series?
The show is an adventure drama. It’s quite nostalgic in its tone but it’s contemporary and has a big feel to it. It doesn’t feel like a TV show. It’s extremely ambitious and takes you all around the world to places you might not have been to before. It has a Romancing the Stone feel to it but it has lots of action. There’s a lot of energy but there’s real jeopardy in there as well because you really care about these characters.
What can you tell us about your character?
My character, Lady Alexandra, works for the British Museum. She ends up meeting Hooten, which puts her in situations she’s never been in before. And she finds out she’s hardier than she thought. You see her evolving and her confidence in her opinions spreads to confidence in her own choices.
What’s the dynamic like between Lady Alex and Hooten?
They’re completely different creatures. She believes he’s reckless and irresponsible. She’s meticulous and quite pedantic and that’s where the humour comes from. They often have the same objective – getting hold of a lost item – but they go about it in completely different ways. There is merit to both of their approaches but both need touches of each other’s methods. She doesn’t trust him as far as she can throw him but she needs him just as he needs her. They begrudgingly learn to trust each other because they’ve been on these epic adventures.
Did you get to visit any exotic locations while filming the series?
It was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the filming experience. You read the script and see that part of it is set in Cambodia and you just assume you’re obviously not going to go there. And then they say you need to get your jabs because you’re actually going! I went to Cambodia early to explore and visited Siem Reap. It’s just incredible, it really is just magical. We also went to Moscow and filmed all over South Africa, including a sub-tropical jungle in KwaZulu-Natal.
It sounds like the dream job
The schedule was incredibly ambitious and there was a lot to pack in but we did get to see things you wouldn’t normally see if you were there on holiday. Whenever we did have a free weekend we’d get to explore. When we were in Moscow filming the episode in which we were searching for a Fabergé egg, I went to the Kremlin and got to see an actual Fabergé egg and learn the incredible story behind it.
How did you enjoy working with Michael Landes?
He was brilliant. He was so easy to work with. From the moment we met there was an immediate rapport between us. Of course we had to play against that when in character, as Hooten and Lady Alex wind each other up. For all Lady Alex’s meticulous pedantry that drives him mad, she’s fearless. Hooten is kind of brutish and inelegant and she finds it irritating, but she also appreciates that he’s loyal and brave. But Michael made things fun and kept people’s energy up.
Did you have a lot of fun on set?
We would be in the most bonkers places – on cliff edges, by waterfalls – and the crew were brilliant. They were on cranes, building platforms over ravines. They just made it happen. You can imagine what things will be like when you read the script but when you actually arrive on set you realise they’ve built this entire world. It was an intense shoot but it was fun because of where we were.
Did you relish the action element of the story?
I had an amazing stunt double called Sinead but I did a lot of the action myself. That was another one of the appealing aspects of the job. I was allowed to do lots of stunts and the stunt team were incredible at teaching me. I played with snakes and climbed up a 50-foot chapel and descended down it again at speed. I did that myself and so I wanted a close-up to show everyone it was me!
Why should viewers tune in to the show?
Because it is so different from anything you’ve seen before. It takes you away on these adventures. The unlikely duo is entertaining – the back and forth – the rat-a-tat rapport.
Then you’ve got helicopters, explosions, hot air balloons, rhinos and snakes. But it’s the relationship between them in those ridiculous situations that makes it different. It’s not just an adventure show and it’s not just an unlikely relationship, it’s a combination of things.
And it’s filmed on such an epic scale too
A massive part of the appeal is that we actually went to those locations rather than being in a studio. The locations are as much a character as Hooten and Lady Alex. There are many shows that are full on, but this one doesn’t have murder and monsters, it’s uplifting. My brother can watch and so will my mum. The whole family can enjoy it.
Hooten and the Lady starts on Friday 16th September 21.00 Sky 1
Images - Sky
Images - Sky