Save Me Too was hailed by fans of the original 2018 series as a more than worthy successor when it launched in April, but viewers may have been left wondering what happened to two characters who played a major role in the show's first six episodes but were absent from the follow-up.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com to promote the release of Save Me Too and the Save Me 1 & 2 box set on DVD and digital, series creator, writer and star Lennie James revealed why he opted to leave out the characters of Marky Betts (Jimmy Walker) and Luke (Alexander Arnold).
The first series of Save Me saw James's character Nelly have a number of run-ins with Marky while in a relationship with his mother Teens (Kerry Godliman), while Luke was revealed to have orchestrated the kidnap of Nelly's missing daugher Jody (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness).
Of Marky's absence, James explained: "I ended up exploring Nelly’s relationship with Zita (Camilla Beeput), which kind of put Teens in a slightly different position and I wanted to explore with Kerry’s character the possibility of her moving on, of her having a kind of happy ending...
"That made it problematic for Jimmy’s character because, as he was established in the first one, he so much was part of looking after his mum and acting as a buffer between his mum and Nelly and that wasn’t so much the story in this second one. It’s one of the ones I most regret actually, because Jimmy was very much part of the family and there were a few phone calls I had to make to a few people.
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"Alexander [Arnold] was another one, to kind of say, 'I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it work the second time around'. So I mean, yeah, that was a tricky one and they were very, very much missed. But ultimately the story decided."
For the returning actors, James added that he "spoke to virtually all of the main cast" ahead of filming for Save Me Too to explain "what their trajectory was going to be through the six episodes" and to what degree their character would feature in the new series.
"I try and be as honest as possible with everybody to let them know what their commitment’s going to be," he explained. "To some of them it was saying, 'It’s not going to be as chunky as it was first time around but you are going to be there, and this is what’s going on’.
"So everybody came in kind of fully informed. The whole dynamic of Save Me is that although it is driven ultimately by one character – i.e. Nelly – it is very much an ensemble piece. So when I have the ideas, the ideas always incorporate more than just Nelly’s story."
Save Me Too arrived on screens two years after the first series, with James admitting that his commitment to US series Fear the Walking Dead, along with the busy schedules of his cast – including Suranne Jones (Claire), Stephen Graham (Melon) and Jason Flemyng (Tam) – made it tricky to coordinate filming.
"It helped that everybody wanted to come back," he said. "It helped that there was goodwill on both sides - we didn’t have to twist anybody’s arm. Everybody wanted to make it. Everybody wanted to make it work.
"I think once Suranne and Stevie G and Jason Flemyng are on board and they’re committed to be there, it made it a lot easier for everything else, but we were juggling – Susan Lynch [who plays Stace] was doing a play at the National Theatre at the time, Stevie G was actually commuting from the North Pole! He was doing something set on a fishing boat out above Norway, literally not too far from the North Pole, and he was commuting to South East London to be on the gig.
"And everybody knows how busy Suranne is and Jason just seems to be in everything that’s made! So I can’t figure out how we got it done really, but I cannot claim any responsibility for it whatsoever, that was down to the mastery of Jill Trevellick, our casting person."
One other contributor to Save Me missing from its second series was original director Nick Murphy, with Jim Loach and Coky Giedroyc stepping in to helm the six new episodes between them, a transition that according to James was "surprisingly easy".
"Coky and Jim were fans of the first series and kind of put themselves forward to be part of the second series - they wanted to pick up the mantle, they wanted to move on the blueprint of what Nick had laid down," he said. "Everything that they loved about it they held on to, and then they brought their own kind of unique perspectives to it and that was just a win-win for us.
"So it was surprisingly easy - there wasn’t any kind of huge things that we buffed up against whatsoever really. Nick was missed because he’s a fantastic director and he’s a great spirit and he’s a fantastic kind of guvnor but we lucked out with Jim and Coky because they picked it up and moved it on in the most fantastic way."