“It was a really incredible shoot out there, a once in a lifetime experience,” says John Simm.
The actor’s character Professor Jonah Mulray takes his first-ever trip to Hong Kong in ITV drama Strangers – and it was the Life on Mar’s first time in China, too.
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The series is set between the UK and Hong Kong, and sees university lecturer Jonah take a rare trip abroad when his wife dies in an apparent car accident in the Chinese city. But he soon discovers that the woman he loved was leading a double life – and there’s more to her death than meets the eye.
Where is Strangers filmed?
Additional scenes, especially interiors, were shot in a studio in Ealing, London.
“What was really weird was that we would shoot shoot the exterior or Hong Kong, and then two months later we were shooting the interiors but back here in England,” says Emilia Fox, who plays the British Consul’s Sally Porter.
“So we had a scene where I arrived at the door in Hong Kong and we shot my side of it, and then we shot Katie [Leung]’s side in Ealing. I had to remember exactly what the mood was, exactly where we were standing, exactly what we were looking at – so that was quite a challenge throughout the whole thing.”
Simm adds: “There was a lot of knocking on doors in Hong Kong and walking through them three months later in London. Without a suntan, trying to look hot in London in the winter.”
Filming took place on the busy streets of Hong Kong, where camera crews battled the crowds and tried to keep passersby from “gawping” or wandering into shot.
“Some districts are really busy,” Anthony Wong, who plays David Chen, explains. “We shot on the streets… and that was very difficult. There are markets everywhere and the roads are crowded with people. Also, you can’t stop people walking into the shot to take photos, which is no good at all!”
Other scenes were filmed in more rural and peaceful areas, and the team also went to nearby islands and to Macau.
“It is such a beautiful place, and it is such an amazing place of old and new and East and West,” Simm says. “And it’s very crowded – it takes you a while to get used to, and then you go out to the islands and it’s just so quiet and there are no cars and you walk around the fishing villages.
“It’s such a place of extremities and that’s what makes it so exciting. And it’s now in this interesting fascinating politically changing time.”
Why is Strangers set and filmed in Hong Kong?
According to director Paul Andrew Williams, it was a no-brainer that Strangers had to be filmed in Hong Kong. “If you shot it here, outside, people would know,” he jokes. “It was so about Hong Kong, and Hong Kong is such a character in itself, that I think we had to go there without question.”
He adds: “Wherever you point the camera there’s lots of different types of life, it’s very – it can be either incredibly vibrant and beautiful and amazing, and it can also be kind of grimy and dirty and horrible, and I think it just had everything. So I’m very lucky to have been able to go out there.”
Writers Mark Denton and Jonny Stockwood explain: “Setting Strangers in Hong Kong provided us with a wonderful metaphor for the broken family that takes centre stage in this series; it’s a place that’s still working out its own identity, whilst also being an unfamiliar environment for our main character to navigate, much like his journey into his wife’s hidden life.”
This article was originally published in September 2018