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TV Interview

'Black Mirror' returns: Charlie Brooker, Hayley Atwell talk series two

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It's fair to say that the first series of Charlie Brooker's dark anthology series Black Mirror made quite an impact - the dark, dystopian '15 Million Merits' and the crushingly tragic 'Entire History of You' were moving and dark in equal measure, while series opener 'The National Anthem' - in a curious case of life imitating art - whipped up a sensational Twitter storm and became of the most talked-about pieces of drama of late 2011 / early 2012.

From Monday night, the show returns to Channel 4 and, given the huge success of the first run, did Brooker feel the need to push the boat out even further? Was he aware of the pressure to 'top the pig'?

Black Mirror Season 2: Be Right Back

© Channel 4



"This time, he's got to make the pig cum!" quipped the writer and broadcaster. "No, we didn't think that!

"It's interesting - with the first series, all three little films were different genres. You had a 'ticking bomb' thriller with the pig, you had a dystopian Orwellian Apple store nightmare for the second one and then you had a kitchen-sink, futuristic relationship break-up for the third one.

"They were different styles of film, although they had a similar sensibility. There's not many places where you can do that - a completely different type of show from week to week."

Brooker explained that the three new films that make up Black Mirror's second series - opening instalment 'Be Right Back', political satire 'The Waldo Moment' and the urban thriller 'White Bear' - are again inspired by his affection for the anthology shows he enjoyed as a younger, less cynical television viewer.

"A lot of TV drama exists to give you what you want, on a week-by-week basis. There's nothing wrong with that - you return to things because you like the characters," he suggested.

"But I missed shows like The Twilight Zone or Tales of the Unexpected - where in a way the show was the recurring character. You knew you were going to get something of a certain tone but you didn't know what the ingredients were going to be."

"With this series, all three episodes are almost different genres, but again explore contemporary fears, woes, potential problems that are potentially over the horizon."

Black Mirror Season 2: Be Right Back

© Channel 4



The new run launches with 'Be Right Back', starring Captain America: The First Avenger's Hayley Atwell - it's a story of fantastic technology and a broken heart, with Brooker calling his script "very intimate and personal".

"It's sort of poignant - it might surprise people," he admitted. "'The National Anthem' started out in my head as a spoof of 24, and then I thought it would be funnier to treat it straight and make this joke scenario a horrible thing.

"This is different in that it's possibly more earnest than people might expect. It's more melancholy, this first episode."

The story's emotional core and its heart were what attracted star Atwell to the role of Martha, a young woman who loses the love of her life Ash (Domnhall Gleeson) and is unable to let go.

"Some comedians are brilliant and very clever, but there's a cynicism there," said the actress. "It lacks any kind of depth and just says, 'Look how s**t everything is' - which absolutely has its place. But I just wanted an alternative.

Black Mirror Season 2: Be Right Back

© Channel 4



"When I watched Black Mirror I found it inventive and very smart, and it had this weird tone and sense of foreboding. It was about relevant issues, but was still made in a witty, sexy way."

So enamoured was Atwell with Brooker's work that she immediately called her agent and begged him to land her a role in the second series of Black Mirror - without any idea of what she might be letting herself in for.

"I loved the tone of it, so I didn't care what part I would get," she admitted. "But having said that, when I read the script for 'Be Right Back', I just thought… that's really weird, and really good!

"It was really poignant, but it still had the wit. I was just completely and utterly delighted to be invited to be a part of it."

Black Mirror Season 2: White Bear

© Channel 4


[Above: Lenora Crichlow in 'White Bear']

Beyond 'Be Right Back', the likes of Daniel Rigby, Tobias Menzies and Jason Flemyng star in 'The Waldo Moment' - which explores the dark absurdity of politics - and Being Human's Lenora Crichlow leads 'White Bear' - the tale of an amnesiac woman who is ruthlessly pursued by a mindless mob.

And beyond that? Brooker certainly has ideas for a third series of Black Mirror should the second run go down as well as the first.

"There's certainly more stories that we haven't done," he confirmed. "Partly because some of them would've been in similar territory to ones we've done already, and sometimes you think of a good idea for a story but don't know how it ends. So definitely - there's definitely more where these came from."

Black Mirror returns to Channel 4 this Monday (February 11) at 10pm.

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