It’s been over two years, but ITV drama Safe House has finally reopened its doors. Except they’re completely different doors from the last series. And attached to an entirely new safe house. In a completely new setting. And, most importantly, there’s a different bloke inside: Stephen Moyer.
Shortly after production began on series two, the True Blood star took over as the lead when Christopher Eccleston suddenly dropped out of the project, a swap that left the show malleable to some other major changes. Then, after some well-reported rewrites and re-castings, fans were left with a fair few questions: will any of the characters from the drama’s first run reprise their roles? Will it draw any parallels with series one? Basically: how different will upcoming Safe House episodes be from the original series?
Answer: on the surface, very, albeit with some strong parallels at its core. Although the basic premise remains the same – an ex-copper runs a house to shelter vulnerable people for the police – there are going to be some key differences. But don’t just take our word for it – we sat down with Moyer to chat about the four key changes to expect…
Robert Carmichael is no longer. Well, no longer in the show at least: Eccleston’s series one character – a detective-turned-safe-house-owner, haunted by his failure to protect a witness in the past – has no bearing on series two. Instead, Carmichael has been replaced by Moyer’s new role: ex-police officer Tom Brook – a former detective, now safe house owner, plagued by memories of his police work.
Not a million miles away from Eccleston’s character but, yes, they are different people. “Chris’ character was a retired officer, but he interacted with the police on a regular basis and that was his way of being active. My character has run away from it – he’s not as involved,” explains Moyer.
“And a big difference is that Tom is running his house as a little sailing school. He’s got this other life that he’s completely invested in. He only uses it as a safe house to generate a bit of income and doesn’t talk to his old colleagues like Carmichael did.” So, whereas Robert was still on speaking terms with the police at the start of series one, Tom has outright rejected the force. Got it?
But apart from that, the two characters are incredibly similar, with even Moyer suggesting he’s playing an interpretation of the same man, with the backstory slightly tinkered with: “In my version, the character walks away from the police during a specific case where he almost has a breakdown. And that breakdown leads to him starting a new life.”
In other words, if you were a fan of Eccleston’s moody former copper last series, but wished he was more reclusive and obsessive about his old job then you’re in for a treat.
2 The supporting cast
Like Tom Brook, the characters of series two will all be newbies. Paterson Joseph and Marsha Thomason have also left the show, and we’ll now be following an entirely different complex supporting cast.
Foremost of these: Zoe Tapper. She plays Brook’s accomplished wife Sam, a woman who had to be highly competent to fit with the show’s realism. “She’s trained as a psychologist – a good one. And she would need to be in order for our characters to get the government credentials to run our little autonomous outfit outside the direct confines of the police,” explains Moyer.
Also joining the cast is Bafta winner Jason Watkins (as Simon Duke, whose wife’s murder Tom investigated nine years before) and Sunetra Sarker (a detective Tom previously trained).
It’s not miles away from the remote cottage from the first series. Well, literally it is – the setting has been moved from an isolated cottage in the Lake District to the rugged coastline of Anglesey, North Wales – but the new coastal house remains just as remote and ominous.
“It was filmed in Trearddur Bay, a beautiful tiny fishing village. But the house itself, it’s dark and it’s foreboding,” says Moyer. “Visually and tonally it stands on its own promontory. You can shoot it from many angles without seeing the rest of the village. It feels wild and slightly barren and removed – more exposed than the last house.”
Yet viewers won’t be solely confined to Safe House mark 2.0, with Liverpool also acting as a significant setting. “We actually start filming in the city: five weeks in Liverpool filming procedural police stuff in and around police stations, then we headed out to Anglesey for four weeks,” says Moyer.
So why were they filming in the city for so long? Well…
4 The plot
There’s a different crime at the heart of the new series but although the script has been reworked to take account of the changes in personnel and location, the subject of season two hasn’t altered from when Eccleston was cast: the story was always going to centre on a kidnapping.
The abduction of Julie Delaney (Lynsey McLaren) prompts Tom Brook to leave the safe house and head for the crime scene in – you guessed it – Liverpool.
“Ed [Whitmore, writer] had this story of a particular kidnapping and that was the plot that they were going to originally use,” explains Moyer. “Yes, it’s in a completely different place, with completely new characters. But the actual case we worked with was always there.”
The case in question? That of a killer known as ‘The Crow’, who is responsible for kidnapping and murdering women and then terrorising their widowers. Although Tom put one man in jail – James Griffin(Stephen Lord) – when he was a detective, he believes Griffin was merely a disciple of the real Crow, and that the ringleader is still out there. And after hearing disturbing details linking Julie’s kidnap to The Crow (details we won’t spoil for you here), Tom becomes obsessed with the case again and offers to take Julie’s husband (Ashley Walters) into his safe house.
“Tom is almost like a sleeper agent, when he hears about this crime – which is very very similar to the case that he was part of when he broke down – he’s activated again by it,” says Moyer. “He just can’t help himself. Yes, he’s super happy and content and in a relationship, but that’s put under pressure by his obsessive nature of needing to square the circle – to get closure on that case.”
So, this plot has absolutely no connection to the drug dealing network storyline in the first series. And although that means you don’t have to remember what happened two years ago, you will have to prepare yourself for a much nastier tale ahead. Consider yourself warned.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news