In 1967, the late Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner altered the scope of the Sci-Fi psychological thriller genre, becoming one of television’s most influential cult classics.
In November, AMC’s reimagination of The Prisoner hopes to stays true to the conceptual and visual brilliance of the original, reflecting the same key elements, telling the story of Number 6, this time played by Jim Caviezel.
He is a man who finds himself trapped in a place called The Village, with no memory of how he arrived there. Everyone there is identified by a number, and no one there has a concept of the world beyond The Village, or any memory of their prior existence.
I spoke with Trevor Hopkins, the producer of the mini-series, about the updating of a classic.
How did this project come about?
This idea came to be about three years ago from the executives at Granada International in London, who approached our writer, Bill Gallagher.
He came up with a reinterpretation of the idea and Sky was involved at a certain point of time, but it just wasn’t a great marriage, and we moved on and ITV became involved with AMC, but AMC has been the real driving force behind it.
Can you talk about the challenges of reinterpreting something like this?
We’re all huge fans of the original, but we realized very early on that what we couldn’t do is copy it, and what Bill Gallagher wanted to do was to reinterpret it and create something that could be a thriller.
We wanted to be as unfathomable and enigmatic as the original.
The central mystery in the original had t do with Number 2 trying to find out why Patrick McGoohan’s character had resigned. Is there a central mystery that’s driving the story in this version?
I think that theme is taken on, of a man waking up trapped somewhere he can’t get out of.
The themes have the issue of family, of love, of control and of freedom in the same way, freedom of choice, how much should we be allowed to have in our society of freedom.
In that way, there are parallels of someone leaving a world and waking up in this extraordinary place for a reason that wants to be discovered.
Do you think it will be as surprising to people as the original was?
We hope so. There are questions all the time on each of the episodes.
I understand that The Village we see is an actual town and not some CGI construction.
We had to decide where we were going to make it. The original was made at Port Mariam in Wales. We decided not to go back there, it’s a fantastic place but we decided to search for a new location.
We went to Australia, to Eastern Europe and eventually ended up in Africa in Namibia. We had heard of this small town called Swampkumond, which is a turn-of-the-century German town surrounded by this incredible landscape.
We needed to be close to the metropolis that would double as a city, which was in the end, Cape Town.
What, if any, was Patrick McGoohan’s involvement with this?
We asked him to play a cameo in the piece, because it was the perfect thing for him. Although he loved it, he wasn’t able to travel and take part in it.
The mini-series is six hours. Is there a conclusion, and if it’s successful and AMC wants more, do you have a plan in place for doing more?
There is a conclusion at the end of the sixth episode, but whether or not there would ever be more for AMC, I don’t really know.
Are you prepared to do more if they want more?
I think we will always be prepared, yes, The Village could continue.