Sun, sea and subterfuge, great chemistry and stunning locations have all added up to make BBC Brit's newest crime series The Mallorca Files a hit with international audiences and the perfect escapist antidote to lockdown life.
Written by Dan Sefton, whose series The Good Karma Hospital is already an audience favourite on BBC Brit in Africa, this entertaining crime caper centres around British detective Miranda Blake (Elen Rhys) - an introvert used to living by the rules - and her German counterpart Max Winter (Julian Looman), whose approach to policing is based on gut instinct.
Shot against a backdrop of sun-drenched locations and glamorous lifestyles on the beautiful Spanish island of Mallorca, the series airs on BBC Brit (DStv 120), from 20 April at 20:00.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
Fiona Walsh spoke to Dan Sefton on the phone from London ahead of the series premiere.
The Mallorca Files is your first police drama, tell us a bit more about it.
A German broadcaster initiated the whole conversation, looking for a fun, buddy cop show. We don’t really see that genre any more and it was something I’d grown up with, so I was really enthusiastic about the idea.
The next question was, can we make that kind of show, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, that has a sense of humour? So The Mallorca Files comes from a really fun place. We know it’s a genre, but we also worked hard to find some little moments where we make people think. The lovely thing about this show is that we’ve taken a few risks, but I think those risky bits actually work the best and it seems that people are connecting to that.
Was it always the case that Max was going to be German and Miranda was going to be British? And that he was going to be a laid-back German and she was going to be quite buttoned-up?
Yes, it was and Julian Looman makes Max a lot funnier than I thought he could be! There’s no vanity in Julian’s performance at all, he doesn’t mind laughing at himself. Obviously, he’s a very handsome man but I think the humour is an interesting characteristic and so as a writing team we all picked up on that and wrote with that in mind. As the series developed we started writing more reactively in terms of what Julian and Ellen Rhys, who plays Miranda, could bring to the characters.
For me, that’s the most fun part of it, that everything has to work together – director, script, cast. And if you can understand how it’s working together and then double down on what you think is great, then I think that works really well.
So Max and Miranda are chalk and cheese to some extent, but then the question for the writers is, how do you get some more nuance in there? You’ll find that sometimes Max is a bit more serious and Miranda has a twinkle, which I think is there from quite early on in the series.
(CHALK AND CHEESE: Julian Looman and Ellen Rhys in The Mallorca Files. Photo: BBC First)
You worked as a doctor for nearly 20 years, before moving to scriptwriting.
Yes, I studied medicine straight from school and then started working right away. I spent quite a bit of time in South Africa in 1996, living in East London and working at the Frere Hospital with a friend of mine. We both had a six-month gap after our first medical jobs and it was an amazing time. We were quite cocky young medical graduates and we soon realised the people in that hospital knew so much more than we did, they had so much more experience and that was great, it made us up our game. I still talk about a lot of the experiences I had there.
At the time, especially in East London, a lot of the people coming from the Transkei were really poor and people in their 30s had cancers which we wouldn’t expect to see in the UK in that age group. They were old beyond their years because their lives had been so hard. The dignity with which they accepted those diagnoses was heartbreaking but incredibly affecting. You could see the bravery and stoicism of people.
You’ve been working full time as a screenwriter and showrunner for the last few years, but it must have been a tough decision to stop practising medicine.
I practised medicine until 2000 and then I started writing professionally. There were three or four years when I didn’t work as a doctor at all, but then I went back to work in an A&E part-time, and I worked there until about two years ago. I’ve actually now gone back to work in A&E again during the Covid-19 pandemic, I really wanted to do my bit to support the NHS during this time of crisis.
Being a qualified doctor has always been a great advantage to me up to now, because it meant I was never completely dependent on writing, it actually freed me up. If you have a fallback you don’t have to do a job you don’t want to do, you don’t feel quite so pressured into having the next success, or writing something to make the rent, you’re much more relaxed and that can help you write better.
The Mallorca Files season one premieres on BBC BRIT (DStv 120) on Monday, 20 April at 20:00.