The stars and creators behind BBC America’s new series, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, sat down with Fandom Friday to discuss the series and get everyone excited for its premiere on October 22.
Showrunner Max Landis is best known for his outlandish behavior and his unique take on filmmaking. Dirk Gently will be his first television show, though he was eager to get away from the Hollywood system.
“I was fed up with the studio system and I wanted to try TV, where you can have more control,” he said. “I wanted something weird and special and Dirk Gently was a match made in heaven.”
A longtime fan of Douglas Adams (who wrote the books the show is based on), Landis said the author shaped his worldview and the way he understood science fiction.
“I read the second book when I was twelve and I loved it. I went to the bookstore and asked if there were any other books and there was one, and I read it,” he said. “I asked if there was anything else by this author, and there was. Douglas Adams became a major influence on my style of writing, on the way I thought about science fiction. Really he changed the way the world thinks about science fiction.”
Executive producer Robert Cooper (Stargate) also loved Adams’ work, but wanted to stick with something with its basis more firmly in the real world.
“The thing that I really took to in Dirk was that it is a little more grounded. I mean, at least in this version, it’s full of absurd things, but it is still kind of about us. In Hitchhiker’s (Guide the Galaxy) – how many pages in does the Earth blow up?” he said. “That’s a different thing, you know, and I think it’s got its place but I’m more interested in stories that are able to in some ways illuminate something about us and our world and how we live and I think as odd and strange and different as Dirk is, it still does that.”
Landis said that they had to be careful with the bizarre qualities of their content.
“Trying to find a balance between so many different flavors of weird was really delicate,” he said.
A Crazy Cast of Characters
Dirk Gently stars Samuel Barnett (Penny Dreadful) as the titular character, a psychic whose only real power is to tell the connection between two things. He can’t determine exactly what connects them, only that they are connected. Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings) stars as his partner-in-solving-crime, Todd. They are surrounded by a strange cast of characters, including the murderous psychic assassin Bart (Fiona Dourif), security guard Farah (Jade Eshete), and Todd’s younger sister Amanda (Hannah Marks), who suffers from a rare illness that makes everything around her dangerous.
Dourif was drawn to the series but initially hesitant about her ability to play such a strange role.
“I got the audition and I read the character and was like ‘there’s no way I can do that’. It took me ten days to figure out her voice and ground it. I think of Bart as – she’s a lonely girl who happened to have been born as the delete key of the universe,” she said. “It sucks, kind of. I’m doing what I have to do and it’s fun, I’m supposed to do it, which is eliminate people that are supposed to be eliminated, but people don’t want to be around me.”
Fellow femme fatale Farah was a fun challenge for Eshete, who wasn’t used to the kind of physicality the role required.
“I knew she was this badass who was very good at fighting. She’s a mama bear,” she said. “As far as the physical violence, it was something I had to learn. What humanized Farah to me was her perfectionism.”
Barnett was fairly quiet during the group interviews, letting his colorful costars shine. Perhaps there is a bit of Dirk in him (and vice-versa), as the character seems to be fairly ordinary despite his extraordinary powers.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency debuts October 22 on BBC America.