Hooten & the Lady: How they made Sky’s Indiana Jones-style drama

Leading man Michael Landes went around the world one and a half times – and even had permission to film in Moscow's Red Square


Forget Indiana Jones. There’s a new globetrotting maverick and he’s got a lot more stamps on his passport.


His name is Hooten and he’s played by American actor Michael Landes, who describes him as a “rogue adventurer”. In every episode of Hooten & the Lady, he travels to a different country in search of lost treasure, with a British Museum curator in tow (aka the lady, who’s played by Ophelia Lovibond).

And unlike most films and TV shows, many of the sights you’ll see are the real deal.

“That’s the good thing about this show,” says Landes. “It’s not fake. It’s not special effects. We didn’t lie. Sometimes it’s so amazing-looking that it almost looks fake but it’s not. I have the air miles to prove it.”

“I don’t know any other show that will travel the world like that. I had one flight itinerary that was hysterical, in 10 days it was: Cape Town, London, LA, Hong-Kong, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur, and then back to LA. So I went around the world one and a half times.

How was the jet lag? “I’m a keen traveller and I’m a nerd with planes and airports. So for me this was like being a kid in a candy store.”

Landes – who’s originally a New Yorker but usually lives in Los Angeles with his Scottish wife – is hoping viewers will also enjoy seeing the sights. “The travel element of the show is fun from an escapism point of view or as inspiration. If you’re having a bad rainy day in London in October, you can go home with a glass of wine and see Cambodia.”

They did have to cheat a couple of places, though. Below, Landes reveals which are real and which aren’t…


“As an homage to Roman Holiday, they towed us around with a police escort to every single sight. As a nerdy actor, it was very, very cool. People say: Did you get to see anything while you were there? Everywhere we filmed was where people would want to go: we were at the Vatican, the Pantheon, Saint Angelo Bridge. So not only did I see it, I spent 14 hours there.”

“We also filmed in a town 30 minutes from Naples, which is where my grandfather is from. It’s the home of mozzarella and the cheese there tastes like nothing you’ve ever had. I love Italian food more than anything so I was in heaven. So there I was, just starting a job where I have to be in shape, and all I want to do is eat. I was stuffing my face saying: ‘Will train tomorrow!'”

Siem Reap, Cambodia

“We ended in Cambodia, which was a nice way to end. I had never been there. We were at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, a complex of temples that were built in the 12th century. They’re extraordinary and they’re massive. They go on and on and on. People watch the sunrise there. You get up really early and walk into this place at dark and it’s a sight to see.”

“We also filmed in a little fishing village, which was amazing. Obviously the temples are beautiful but I’d never seen a village on stilts. All the kids and locals were watching.”


“It was touch and go whether we would be allowed to go to Moscow. They kept saying we might have to cheat it. Apparently we were one of the first crews that had been there in 20 years. We’re certainly the first drama that’s ever shot in the metro, which is extraordinary – full of chandeliers and statues. It’s beautiful. Shooting in Red Square was… We had to play it like it wasn’t cold but it was really freezing.” 


“We weren’t allowed to go to Egypt so we shot that episode in Namibia. We shot in Mad Max country with all that red sand, which is even more extraordinary in real life. And the stars at night – when it’s dark in that part of the world the stars are unbelievable.”

Egypt is episode three, but you’ll also be watching Namibia in episode five, when it stands in for Ethiopia and Hooten enjoys some camel action (pictured above).

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

As for the Amazonian jungle in episode one, that’s really South African jungle. “We were in KwaZulu-Natal, two hours into the jungle from the city of Durban. We were in there for two and a half weeks and our snake wranglers caught 42 snakes, including Black Mambas.” 

The last episode was also shot in South Africa, although this time around it doubles for the Caribbean. “When you go to the jungle in South Africa, it’s tropical versus the dry heat of Cape Town – it’s hard to believe it’s the same country.”

Hooten & the Lady begins on Friday 16th September at 9pm on Sky 1

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