The Fades: Jack Thorne Interview

The writer of The Fades talks series two, Battlestar Galactica and why ET on Blu-ray will be great…

We love The Fades at SFX: gripping, funny, superbly written and bursting with big ideas and fantastic performances, it’s the latest in a growing list of exciting home-grown sci-fi to have us utterly hooked. With The Fades released on DVD today, we spoke to writer Jack Thorne about his plans for a second series, why it’s scary writing sci-fi and filling Daniel Kaluuya’s head with Battlestar Galactica

SFX: What sort of reaction did you experience when The Fades aired?

Jack Thorne: Pretty good to be honest! I think it took a while for people to know what it was, and as soon as people knew what it was it went down really well. I feel good about it.

SFX: There are certainly a lot of people that want to see a second series.

JT: Well, we still don’t know one way or the other yet. They keep saying soon, but you know, it’s good that it’s not a no!

SFX: Do you know what will affect your chances?

JT: It’s a waiting game really. The financial review made it very tough for BBC Three generally, and I think that it’s a difficult situation.

SFX: Does it help that The Fades showed how far you can go on a fairly limited budget?

JT: Totally, and that’s all to do with the directors, the producers and the crew who were just incredible. In so many ways, I got so lucky making that show. I hope it does happen, but it was such a good ride and I’m really proud of it.

SFX: How close to your original idea did the show turn out in the end? Did it change a lot?

Jack Thorne, creator of The Fades

JT: Not hugely to be honest. The first episode went through 36 drafts, so it should have shifted quite a lot, but it was all about refining that original thing and trying to find a way into it. As you get to know something you change how you feel about it, but that original thing in my head, it’s not hugely dissimilar from that. The boys got a little older, who the Fades were changed a bit, but I wrote a series outline after about draft four of episode one, and we stuck quite closely to it. I wanted to go back in time in episode four, but other than that we stuck quite closely to it.

SFX: Was the idea with that to go back to the Second World War era?

JT: Yeah, exactly that, to a little Welsh village then. But if we get a series two I’m going to do it, so I shouldn’t talk about it too much. That’s was one of the things that I really wanted to explore, that time and what happened then. But I think it’s good that we didn’t answer those questions, because hopefully it’ll give us something to explore in series two.

SFX: It certainly felt in this series that there’s a lot about how things had broken back then we still don’t know.

JT: The important thing for me was that it felt complete in and of itself. I hate those shows that end with Paul facing John, and him raising his hand and then you cut to black. I’m not a bit fan of those shows, so I wanted to make it as complete in and of itself as we could. And then the exec producer turned to me afterwards and said what is there still to tell, and I gave her a list and she went “oh yeah, there’s quite a lot of stuff still to tell,” about who the Angelics work for, about what happened when ascension broke and all that kind of stuff. I think that’s still to explore and it could be a lot of fun.

SFX: How far ahead have you got planned out?

JT: Three series. I’ve got three series in my head, but that could be two series and a one off, or two one offs, depending on what gets offered to me. I’ve basically said I’m available!

SFX: Do you plan to always have Paul and Mac at the centre of things?

JT: Yeah it’s Paul and Mac’s journey, and I’ve got a very different thing in my head for what I’d do with the two of them if we get the opportunity to explore it, and where we could take them. Because the whole thing is sort of a love story between those two, and Mac is the human that will keep pulling Paul back.

SFX: One of the great joys of the show was the rapport between Mac and Paul – you must have had a lot of fun writing for those two?

JT: It was just literally me getting to relive my childhood with a friend that thought like me, which I didn’t have at that age. So there was a wish fulfilment thing going on – I don’t know which one I was, Mac or Paul, but whichever one I was I didn’t have a Mac or Paul!

SFX: How did you pick Mac’s favourite films and shows? Did you have to narrow it down and think “what was I into at that age”?

The lovely Pam Dawber and a hairy comedian

JT: Yeah, to some degree. It was really interesting, there was a lot of stuff on the forums about ‘how would Mac know Mork & Mindy? Well, when I was that age, I was watching I Love Lucy, I was watching Bewitched, I was watching all that stuff. The idea that just because a show was made in the’70s Mac wouldn’t be watching it is just ridiculous to me. There were some lines cut out about how important Pam Dawber is to their world, but Pam Dawber is a goddess and is revered as such by these boys. One of the script editors, Richard Cookson, is as much of a nerd as I am, and we themed the episodes around Mac’s references, although no one would ever notice it. There are clear themes as to why Mac talks about certain things in certain episodes – I say clear, they aren’t clear, but there are reasons for everything he cites and we had a lot of fun playing with that.

There’s Wizard Of Oz stuff in episode four, ET in episode six is a clear theme running through. That’s stuff that hopefully will come out when people watch it again. There’s a reason for everything – ET I was desperate to cite if only to sat that people need to buy the three disc edition rather than the two disc edition, because people always see the wrong cuts where ET moves his hips and gets in the bath and all that. You know when it comes to Blu-ray, Spielberg is releasing the original cut, because he’s learned not to mess with the original.

SFX: If only a few more people could learn that lesson…

JT: Mr Lucas could certainly do with it. There were certain things where I thought ‘I want to talk about that’, and so was given the opportunity through Mac.

SFX: Did you get a chance to educate Daniel Kaluuya much in the ways of SF?

JT: Yes. And he knew nothing. The two things I said when he got cast were grow your hair, because he had quite short hair and I knew Mac didn’t have short hair – he wasn’t happy about that and was desperate to cut his hair all the way through the filming – and the other thing was to watch Battlestar. Then we worked our way through a few others that were important to understand the character. He got really in to Battlestar, I think he’s watched the whole lot now.

SFX: Battlestar seems to be like a gateway drug in to SF for a lot of people.

JT: I get that, that show is a Christmas present show for me, I get it for people that don’t know sci-fi and they always fall for it. I think Battlestar is just perfect – well, I don’t think it’s perfect, there are some duff episodes along the way and the ending isn’t perfect, but the show is brilliant,

SFX: Have you been keen to write a genre show for some time?

Mac, Paul and a toilet roll

JT: I was always slightly scared of it. I think you need a big idea. I was slightly scared of doing it because I didn’t want to let myself down, and be hated. It really mattered to me what you guys said, the sites that I check every day, it really mattered to me, and if I’d been the show that had been the show that was just slightly embarrassing I’d have been really upset. With sci-fi or fantasy, to get it wrong you just end up looking like a dickhead and I was very anxious for that not to happen. Reading the reviews and reading the forums, the thing I loved was that it seemed to be different things to different people. And I’m sure that if we had a discussion about Battlestar, the things that I took from it would be different from the things you took from it, and that’s what’s really good about sci-fi and fantasy when it works.

SFX: What were your influences when you were writing? Was there anything you were watching or reading for inspiration?

JT: I was watching Friday Night Live and The Killing, because I couldn’t watch anything that was too similar. I couldn’t watch Being Human or Misfits, because I would just get too jealous almost that they knew how to do it. I’m more of a fantasy novel than a comic book person, so it was more Susan Cooper and Neil Gaiman, those sorts of people. I read Alan Moore, but I haven’t read every edition of Spider-Man, so it’s much more those slightly Pagan worlds that Gaiman and Cooper inhabit that are more my kind of thing.

The Fades is released on DVD today – don’t forget you can still read SFX‘s episode reviews here at SFX.co.uk.