The experience of filming The Widow on ITV was one of extremes, from temperatures so hot in South Africa that Kate Beckinsale actually fainted to the snowy peaks of the Brecon Beacons in Wales.
We spoke to The Widow’s producer, Eliza Mellor, to find out where exactly the mystery thriller was shot, and what the biggest challenges were during filming.
Here’s everything you need to know…
- Everything you need to know about The Widow on ITV
- Louise Brealey on playing a blind character in The Widow – and why a sighted person was cast in the role
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Did The Widow really film in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
Most of the story of The Widow is set in the jungle of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and its capital, Kinshasa, where Kate Beckinsale’s character Georgia goes to find answers about her missing husband.
However, Mellor said that the DRC was deemed “too dangerous” to film in, and therefore the crew filmed in South Africa instead.
Mellor explains that the crew did go on a research trip to Kinshasa to get a sense of the city, but they weren’t able to travel to the eastern part of DRC because it was considered too unsafe. The UK Foreign Office currently advises against travel to a number of areas of the country.
The production instead found jungles and rural areas in the KwaZulu-Natal province around Durban in the eastern part of South Africa to film in. Most of the interior scenes set in Kinshasa were filmed in Cape Town, while the riot scene was filmed in Durban.
Kate Beckinsale “fainted” from the heat
Cape Town was so hot that The Widow’s lead star Beckinsale “fainted because she got dehydrated”, according to Mellor.
Indeed, all the actors in the show have a constant sheen of sweat over their faces and bodies because the jungle was so humid and the city was also so hot.
”It was really, really, really hot,” Beckinsale told Extra. “That day, I think three or four people fainted, it wasn’t just me being weak.”
Beckinsale also revealed the crew didn’t even realise she had passed out at first.
”But I had this lovely actor, Jacky Ido, who is a huge man, and they all thought I’d just hugged him. He just caught me,” she said.
The crew filmed in a real shanty town
The shanty town where Georgia and Jacky Ido’s character Emmanuel Kazadi go looking for answers was a real township just outside of Cape Town, explains Mellor.
Both extras and people from the local community appear in the background of the scene. “It requires a lot of work because you have to get people on side and you have to do it very carefully,” Mellor says.
“The difficulty is also that it’s real poverty that you’re looking at: that’s where people live and that’s always very tough for a privileged western film crew coming in and filming that.”
During the production’s research in the real DRC meanwhile, Mellor says that she and the crew were a novelty for the local community: “People were curious; they were really scared of me when we went to the real one in Kinshasa because I’ve got blonde hair and I’m quite pale.
“They kept bringing all these kids to come and see me and the kids kept running away screaming because they were so scared, they thought I was a witch or something. Tourists don’t really go to Kinshasa so it was very odd for them.”
Filming in the Brecon Beacons, Wales
The scenes where we see Georgia living in a hut and a rambling over rugged terrain were filmed in Powys in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. “It was absolutely freezing,” says Mellor, who adds that on some of the days towards the end of the shoot, it snowed. “One day we couldn’t even get to location,” she says. “The plus side was that it looked amazing with the snow.”
Why place Georgia in the Brecon Beacons? Her character needed to be living somewhere that was a sharp contrast to Africa, in an unforgiving landscape that reflected the realities of life without her husband.
“We needed somewhere you could feel that Georgia had cut herself off from her previous life, and it needed to be somewhere harsh,” says Mellor.
Filming in Rotterdam
Beatrix (Louise Brealey) and Ariel’s (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) meetings at the international eye specialist clinic were set and filmed in the Dutch city of Rotterdam.
The couple meet at a clinic to apply for a medical trial to regain their sight. Mellor explains that writers Harry and Jack Williams were keen for their story to be set somewhere northern with “cool light”.
“It could have been Hamburg, Antwerp, Stockholm, anywhere – but it was Rotterdam in the script. It was absolutely freezing again. It gives that different feel to Africa we were looking for.”