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Torchwood: The New World – Creator Russell T Davies on another returning character

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Russell T Davies
Russell T Davies ©2008 Film Review Online
Russell T Davies
Russell T Davies © Film Review Online

In the second part of our interview with creator Russell T Davies, who in bringing the Torchwood series to America, he talks about returning characters, the tone of the new series and life in Hollywood.

I haven’t read or heard of any mention of Kai Owen returning as Rhys. Is Gwen going to be on her own here, or is he coming back?

Torchwood - Kai Owen
Rhys (Kai Owen) © BBC

I’m not going to say! (he laughs) Yes, he’s returning. Lovely Kai Owen, it’s just contracts are yet to be sorted and things like that. That’s the only reason why we’re being discreet.

But for those of you who don’t know, Gwen, who is the lead woman of the series, has a lovely husband called Rhys, played by Kai Owen, and now a baby between the two of them.

The sight of Gwen Cooper with baby in one arm and gun in the other is going to be our poster, I hope, because that’s just going to be irresistible. I can’t imagine Gwen without him, and so he’s back, and he’s a very big part of events.

And we’re so looking forward to working with him again. He’s just had a baby himself in real life so he’s very happy.

At the very end, Rhys found out what Gwen does for a living, and all of a sudden, he’s entrenched. So does that make a profound change in it now?

Torchwood, 2.4 - Kai Owen and Eve Myles
Torchwood, Episode 2.4 Meat – Rhys (Kai Owen) and Gwen (Eve Myles) © BBC

Yes, but by the time this starts (the series) will have been off air for two years, I think. We’re taking a brand-new audience into consideration. So Rhys is now ahead of the game, as it were. There are no secrets. They’re a team.

A really lovely thing to write in a storyline is a husband-and-wife team who love each other. And they have fun with each other. It’s kind of sexy in a really unusual way. So I love that coupling. So yes, he’s right up there with the team.

Will we be seeing Captain John Hart again?

Torchwood Season 2 - John Barrowman and James Masters
Season 2 – Captain Jack (John Barrowman) and Captain John Hart (James Masters) © BBC

Sadly, there are no plans for James Marsters as Captain John Hart, whom we love. I absolutely adored working with James, who is probably too busy. He seems to be in everything now.

He’s in Caprica. We love him. No plans yet, but he’s always there offstage waiting to make an appearance, I’m sure.

Is this going to be entirely arced, or will there be some side stories?

It’s entirely arced. “Children of Earth” is the template. Now, that was five episodes long with an absolutely continuous story.

This is an absolutely continuous ten-episode story because the story is that big.

One of the important aspects of Torchwood was its humor. Will that continue with this version?

I say in the edit room, ‘Don’t cut that joke. Cut anything. Cut the plot. Cut the murder, but don’t cut the joke.’ I love a joke. You have the poster outside, which is John Barrowman as Captain Jack standing in a World War II coat.

There’s a size and a sense of fun to that. You’ve got a bisexual hero, being played by an openly gay man, in a modern-day thriller set – that’s got to have fun, doesn’t it?  It’s already fun. You can’t say that without smiling, can you? So that’s always going to be there.

What are you making different for the American audience?

The tone won’t change. It will be Torchwood of old for fans and for regular viewers. But for new viewers we hope it will have this global sweep to it now which is justified by the story.

Sometimes I dread saying a story has an international scope because that usually means a scene set in Berlin for no reason. Whereas this genuinely has a story that literally motors people from one country to another with a ticking clock behind it.

Given that you’re on Starz now and the standards and practices are much looser, will we see an even sexier Torchwood?

Well, I invented Queer as Folk, so I’ve always had loose standards and practices! It’s funny to talk about the sex.  Sometimes the whole debate gets summed up as sex and violence.

Even talking about Spartacus, people have referred to it as sex and violence. Spartacus is so much better. It’s so much more than sex and violence. It’s about sexuality and physicality and lust and passion. So when you get it right, as that series did, then you’re singing. You’re telling a good story. And I think, hopefully, that will be the case with this.

Torchwood, 1.05 - John Barrowman
Episode 1.05 Countrycide – Captain Jack (John Barrowman) © BBC

How about nudity?

What, now? Please! (he laughs) If it demands it, I do think there’s nothing worse than a great big global international thriller that stops for sex scenes. It’s like, ‘Get on with it, please.’

Seriously, I did do great big sex scenes in Queer as Folk because that’s what the drama was about. Literally people were losing their virginity in front of you. What was happening in their heads was the most astonishing thing.

It’s probably hard to make that happen in a thriller where there’s a clock ticking all the time. But if the right moment comes along, we will absolutely be honest with it, no matter who is in the bed.

Tell us about your adventures in Hollywood.

That’s a film in itself.

How long has it been since you moved here?

It’s been just over a year now.

What have you found different and interesting about it?

That’s literally been fascinating. I could write a book about this, so I’ll try not to talk for too long about it.

But in the end, although there were so many differences; structural  differences, budgetary differences, differences  in the process, it’s a bunch of  people in a room trying to tell a good story. So I’ve loved it. And I love the scale of stuff over here. I love the ambition.

The fact that someone like a channel called Starz comes along and grabs hold  of us and shakes us by the neck and makes us work in this fascinating way, I’m loving it very much, Television is so much bigger here in America. And I love the fact that everyone in this town, whether it’s the waiter in the cafe or the woman waiting for a bus, they all talk about television all the time.

Back home I can’t believe that people don’t talk about television all the time. I can’t believe they have other jobs and other things to talk about. So it’s better over here.

Mind you, I did have my niece back home say to me, “Have you met anyone famous in Hollywood?”  I said, “Well, you pass people in the streets.”  She said, “Who have you seen?”  I said, “Well, Tim Robbins, Jamie Lee Curtis.”  She went, “Anyone this century?”

Update: The title of the Starz series went on to be called Torchwood: Miracle Day.