Screenwriters Harry and Jack Williams set both series of The Missing in European countries, the first in France and the second in Germany – and now viewers are being whisked off to the Netherlands for the thriller’s BBC1 spin-off, Baptiste.
We spoke to Baptiste’s producer, John Griffin, as well as series star Tchéky Karyo, to find out about the show’s filming locations.
Here’s everything you need to know – from dodging dangerous bicycles in Amsterdam to seaside filming in Kent.
Why choose Amsterdam as the setting for Baptiste’s latest case?
Baptiste is investigating the case of a missing sex worker, so Amsterdam’s red light district was an ideal setting for the story, as producer John Griffin explains:
“We all know Amsterdam as a very beautiful city with a really seedy underworld,” says Griffin. “For what the story is, it’s absolutely perfect because it’s the most physical demonstration of that duplicity that society has, of living alongside a very murky world that is in plain view to us but we choose not really to look at.”
Griffin also reveals that Amsterdam served one of the drama’s themes – that nothing is quite what it seems – very well.
“Amsterdam is spectacularly beautiful and just having a city that’s built on water is so photogenic anyway and does amazing things to light and reflection,” he says.
“The director uses reflected image and looking through glass. A theme we talked about is ‘nothing is quite as it seems’: Edward is not as he seems, the red light district is not as it seems. We’re looking at the world through glass and seeing distorted images and reflections of ourselves – and it’s not quite what we have in our minds.”
Antwerp and Ghent stood in for Amsterdam
Although much of the series was filmed in Amsterdam – for example, the house boat sequences and famous canal bridges – for cost and practical reasons a lot of the scenes set in the Dutch capital were actually shot in the Belgian cities of Antwerp and Ghent.
“Architecturally, Antwerp old town matches very well with Amsterdam,” says Griffin. “There are no canals but there are narrow streets and cafés. The café where Tchéky meets Martha for the first time in episode one and the tram’s going by, that’s the centre of Antwerp but it looks incredibly like Amsterdam.”
Antwerp stands in for Amsterdam when Martha and Baptiste meet
“Amsterdam is very slow to film in,” he continues, “because it’s jammed with traffic and bicycles and you can film in a much more relaxed way in a smaller city.
“Then we would go to Ghent because Ghent has canals so when you see Sara’s flat where Tchéky is staying, he walks along the canal-side to get to the front door. That’s in Ghent, as are quite a few other canal shots.”
The sheer amount of bicycles in Amsterdam was a big challenge during filming
“There are just so many of them,” says Griffin, describing an incident in which he caused a huge pile-up on his way back from lunch.
“A bicycle hit my shoulder, he swerved and three bicycles went piling into each other. They were all fine and they all looked at me and started shouting and I just had to go, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’
“I heard the second assistant director in the background instructing everybody to pretend they hadn’t noticed, which was kind of more humiliating than if they’d actually stood there and laughed. I just looked a fool.”
Tchéky Karyo, too, warns of the dangerous bicycles of Amsterdam.
“It’s a joke. The people from the team kept telling us every day, ‘Be careful with the bicycles, be careful with the bicycles.’ I’m thinking, ‘Is the bicycle really so dangerous?’
“And when I start to walk in the streets of Amsterdam I realise that it’s a real – pow! – they don’t care about pedestrians. To belong to the place you have to buy a bicycle. Stop walking.”
Herman’s tulip farm
During the series we are introduced to a tulip farmer called Herman who discovers some strange items on his land.
Dutch tulips are world-famous and, for many, the flower is synonymous with Amsterdam.
In the spring, the Netherlands’ iconic flower fields transform into a blanket of tulips, and the country even has a National Tulip Day when 200,000 flowers are displayed on Dam Square.
There is also a tulip festival, as well as a museum in Amsterdam dedicated to the flower.
There were only two days in the whole year when the tulip farm scenes could be filmed
“We shot in a tulip farm north of Amsterdam,” says Griffin. “We had to wait until the buds actually opened so you get the full colour, but once they open they cut the heads off immediately [as they are only farming the bulbs]…
“The farmer said, ‘You’ve literally got two days to shoot it when those open, otherwise I have to take the heads off, otherwise you’re going to ruin my crop.”
The house in coastal England
Where is the house by the sea?
In the opening scene of Baptiste, a man is involved in a shocking incident in his coastal home. The house he lives in is located in Kingsdown, a small suburb of Deal in Kent.
“It’s the old lifeboat house,” explains Griffin. “When there’s a really bad storm and the waves hit the beach, the house shakes. They have these huge shutters they put on the window to protect from the storm, otherwise the rocks go through the window.”
Some other filming in the series takes place in the centre of Deal – and one shop in the English town even stands in for an Amsterdam café.
This article was originally published in February 2019