Actress Samantha Morton has said the BBC is in a “mess”.
In an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, the actress, who this year was seen in BBC1 drama Cider with Rosie, suggested that it was “liberating” to work on Sky Atlantic drama The Last Panthers because of the creative freedom she was afforded on the drama.
Asked if she minded that the Sky show drew considerably smaller audiences than work that is shown on mainstream channels like BBC1, she said: “I don’t care, I absolutely don’t care. The BBC have a whole different agenda, politically, in regards to entertainment, how they spend money. It’s in a mess, frankly.”
Asked to elaborate on what she meant about the BBC being in a “mess” she said: “It’s where money is placed and directed and who has power and how they operate within that power structure. Where the money goes and why.
“In the past you were making dramas like [1978 mini-series] The Lost Boys and all sorts of great drama. I am not saying they aren’t making great drama at the moment, there certainly are. But there are complexities within that.
“With Sky Atlantic, there’s not the kind of politics involved, in a way there are different politics. But as an actor I found it really liberating.”
She added that the BBC “has to sort itself out”: “Working for a company like Sky Atlantic and an independent production company like [Last Panthers producers] Warp… you have something where there is no compromise. These people have been left to make a programme by people with a huge amount of integrity and taste.”
The Last Panthers has attracted audiences over around 150,000 per episode over a seven-day period according to research body Barb. Sky points to the success of the first episode which has so far been watched by a “cumulative audience of more than 1 million”, including downloads.
But Morton said that the drama will have a continued appeal and longevity despite the relatively low audience figures compared with mainstream BBC1 and ITV drama: “It’s an international drama. A lot of people in my family don’t have Sky or Sky Atlantic but it will be available to download and you will be able to buy the box sets. Things have staying power that way. If people want to watch it they will find it. People talk.
“It will be available for other people to see. It’s not really about viewing figures in the instant and the competition around that. Sky Atlantic are about making quality – and I mean quality – drama and the ripple effect that that will have. It’s about changing television.”
In The Last Panthers Morton plays Naomi, a British loss adjustor charged with recovering a cache of stolen diamonds whatever the cost with John Hurt portraying Tom, her nefarious boss. Also in pursuit is a French-Algerian policeman, Khalil, played by double Cesar award winner Tahar Rahim.
“It’s the best thing I have ever been part of in regards to my personal taste, the subject matter, the content, the truth within that and the greater implications about Europe and the educational way it does that within a drama. There’s a ruthlessness in business and finance that has a knock on effect on everybody.”
Morton said that the final episode of The Last Panthers – which airs tonight – will be “shocking” and fascinating” and “heartbreaking”.
“It’s really clever. It’s highbrow. It’s not about patronising an audience. It’s saying you’re going to have to follow this guys, we’re not going to have to spell it out. I found it enlightening.”
Morton added that she would do a second series of The Last Panthers if it goes ahead.
“I would work with [writer] Jack Thorne in a heartbeat. He’s a very special creative force who’s very inspiring to work alongside.”
Filmed on location in London, Marseille, Belgrade and Montenegro, it drew on the “energy and vibrancy” of those places, says Morton.
“It was hard work but it wasn’t hard work without its rewards. We filmed for eight months and in all that time no one in the team dropped the ball. I think that shows.”
The final episode of The Last Panthers is on Sky Atlantic on Thursday 17th December at 9pm