Adrian Lester on Sky Atlantic's Riviera
Riviera is Sky Atlantic's stunning new drama series. The intoxicating thriller follows the moral descent of American art dealer Georgina Clios, whose idyllic life is shattered when her billionaire husband is killed in mysterious circumstances. But his death leads Georgina into the shadowy, criminal underworld that lurks beneath dazzling fortunes.
Adrian Lester tells us more...
What did you think of the script when you first read it?
I thought it was ambitious. We only got the first two episodes to read and a gentle overview of where things would go after that so you base your appreciation on those two things. But it was a very intriguing series and a world – the art world – that I haven’t seen before on television so I was glad to jump in and be a part of it.
How do you go about preparing for a role and do you build up a backstory to your character?
When you’re doing a TV project of this nature you can replace your backstory with ‘front story’ because you don’t know where the character’s going to end up. Also, the information about their backstory contained in the first couple of scripts you receive is very minimal, so you invent it to make sure you have a real working connection with the other actors to move forward. But, what then might happen is you read episode three, which you didn’t get before, and suddenly find out that you were orphaned. So you might say “I’m going to do loads of back preparation” when actually you have to just jump in and play. Then when you get to episodes five and six, those scripts will have been written by writers who have watched your performances in episodes one and two so they will be working from you and what you’ve already brought to the character. So you change backstory for front story and they start to create the character in line with what you’re playing already.
So it’s quite a collaborative process?
It feels collaborative because you get the script and might say “well this wouldn’t happen and that wouldn’t happen”, and then they can shift and change the script via the producers and exec producers based on what your thoughts and feelings are on how it should go next.
Tell us about your character, Robert?
He’s an art dealer who trained in the same class as Georgina. They both know a lot about art and the art world, although they work on different sides of it. Georgina is a curator and curated for this man Constantine and fell in love with him. Robert, on the other hand, has used his knowledge to start tracking where paintings are being sold, where they are being kept and who has them. It’s quite common for people who buy a piece of art to actually have a really good reproduction on their wall while the original is locked away in a vault somewhere.
The explosion sets off a huge chain of events for many people. How does Constantine’s death specifically change Robert’s life?
It changes Georgina’s life and that changes Robert’s life. It brings someone who was very close to him back into his life.
You directed episodes seven and eight of this series. How did this understanding of your fellow actors feed into your work as a director?
It’s something you have to read. As an actor who’s directing I know exactly how the actor feels. I know exactly what they’re going through as I feel like I’ve got a working knowledge from their side of the fence. It’s just understanding that their primary concern is to be as honest and truthful as possible but to not look foolish. So when you shout ‘action’, what goes down the lens is brutally real and convincing and they can do that in a very safe environment.
Did you have fun while making the show with such a great ensemble cast?
Yeah it was a great ensemble cast and there were people there from all over the world – Germans, French, Russians, Americans, British. We were all there, speaking all of those languages and people were really cool. Everyone has a slightly different method of working. As a director you step in line with the ways everyone chooses to work and on this series they all brought their cultural influences with them, which was great.
Riviera launches on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV this Thursday at 9pm. All episodes will be available on demand.