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TV Interview

'Utopia' Nathan Stewart-Jarrett Q&A: 'There's scope for second series'

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Utopia - the six-part thriller from writer Dennis Kelly - was one of the most talked-about pieces of television to emerge from Channel 4 in quite some time, drawing millions in each Tuesday night with its heady cocktail of complex conspiracies, engaging characters and lurid violence.

With the complete first series available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray from March 11, Digital Spy caught up with star Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Ian) to talk about Utopia's labyrinthine plots, its visceral gore and the possibility of a second run...

Utopia, C4, Ian, Nathan Stewart Jarrett, Tue 15 Jan

© Channel 4



Utopia kept viewers guessing throughout - did you know all of the show's secrets when you were filming?
"Yeah, we did - what was really strange was, because you'd be filming out of sequence, you're questioning it over and over again, because you're always uncovering something. It did get a little confusing remembering what we knew and what we didn't.

"During the edit and the assembly, they made the story clearer and more streamlined - but yes, it was confusing at times!"

The series had a look and feel unlike anything else on TV - did you get that feeling when you read the scripts?
"I thought the script was so amazing in the way it dealt with the characters and put together this narrative - it was really gripping. I could feel that as I read it. I mean, I read all six episodes in one night - you just don't do things like that, ever! It was like reading a little novella, with this amazing dialogue and characters.

"On set, sometimes I caught myself looking over the DoP [director of photography]'s shoulder and thinking, 'Wow, that looks amazing' - but I wasn't really aware of how great it looked until I saw the first episode."

Utopia S01E01

© Channel 4



What did you enjoy about playing the character of Ian?
"It was his level of inaction and indecision. That's really hard to play - a character who never decides to do anything, unless he's forced to decide something!

"But actually he's around a lot of characters who are quite gung-ho, so I think it's quite honest that he's kind of lost as a person - he doesn't want to make a decision and rock the boat, he just wants to go with the flow, and it was actually nice to portray someone that does that."

I guess he's the character that viewers might find it easiest to relate to…
"Yeah - in terms of the stakes of what's going on and how crazy everything gets, I think that certain people would react the way Ian does. Where he begins and where he ends up is very different, as with any massive experience that you go through, but his level of indecision and action… I think it's healthy to see that."

Utopia S01E01

© Channel 4



Utopia was quite a violent show - what was your first reaction to those scenes when you read the scripts?
"I didn't really think about it, to be honest with you. It didn't really pop out as, 'Oh gosh, this is a horribly violent thing and it's gratuitous' - it felt very much [part of] that world. It needed to be there. What the characters are dealing with is so extreme that the threat needs to be real and if it's not real, you wonder why we're going to these lengths and why we're running.

"So it didn't really pop out as this unnecessary or extreme thing. Once you see it, it is quite extreme, but whenever you do see violence in life, it is shocking. So often you see violence on screen and you're not shocked and I think it's really good that we all are [still affected]."

The response to Utopia from critics and viewers was fantastic - did you keep track of the reaction?
"I've just been hearing whispers. I don't read reviews, so I just get everything word-of-mouth and it seems to be really positive. It's really good to be part of a piece of work that people are enthused about."

Utopia S01E02

© Channel 4



I heard that you watched a lot of comedy when you weren't filming to get you out of such a dark head space?
"Yeah, it was a kind of switching-off - when you're dealing with these themes, and big days and big scenes, you want to watch something that's just going to make you laugh. You can't film Utopia then go and watch a Michael Haneke film!"

Do you think there is scope for a second series of Utopia?
"I think there is scope for a second series, but I also think that it is self-contained. It really does depend. Sometimes you think things could have carried on or things aren't resolved, and people can get annoyed by that.

"But some pieces of work don't have a resolution and they leave you to figure it out, and that's great. Utopia could carry on, but resolution isn't always good."

Utopia is out on DVD & Blu-ray from March 11.

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