It’s a bold assertion, but one that we feel it’s justified to ask. The 15-part thriller, debuting on Channel 4 in January, follows a family caught in the middle of “a grand political conspiracy” – one that sees the president’s surgeon Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) taken hostage in her own home just hours before she is due to perform a life-altering operation.
It’s a tense thriller that blurs the lines of morality, with FBI man and chief hostage taker Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott) doing anything he can to fight for his cause – whatever the costs.
Here Hostages stars Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott discuss the show, and why it’s tackling subjects that are on everyone’s lips.
What attracted you to this particular role?
Dylan McDermott: I always respond to material. Whether it was “The Practice” or “American Horror Story” and certainly “Hostages,” the scripts were all spectacular. And I really responded to Jeffrey’s writing. I thought that he did an incredible job writing it. This character is very special. He walks the line between good and bad, somewhere in the grey area. I was instantly intrigued. You also don’t know where it’s all going – you think you know, but all of a sudden your mind is blown.
Toni Collette: When I first read the script, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a real page-turner that’s subtle and smart. The character of Ellen I found interesting in that through her experience of this hostage situation, she actually grows and finds her strength. I found that really exciting. One of the things that drew me to the script is that all of the characters are so complex and three dimensional and relatable and real. Nothing is just black and white and as an actor that’s what you want. It’s really interesting dealing with characters that seem real.
Dylan’s character has a reason for doing what he is doing, and a good reason at that, but is there the potential of the character becoming too sympathetic?
Dylan McDermott: I think that I’m doing bad things for a good reason. Anytime you say that, you know that you are getting a mixed bag with a person. I think that there’s a lot of duality in this man…
Did you have to do a lot of special training?
Dylan McDermott: I met with the FBI in LA and we talked at length about everything, from dress code to terrorism. The FBI is really changing and I was really educated about it. I met with some really cool people that were really helpful.
The character of Ellen is a different person depending on whether she’s dealing with her family, the kidnappers, the President or the people at the hospital. How much was that a factor in your decision to take the role?
Toni Collette: I’m always drawn to characters that seem real, and by that, I mean complex. Here’s a woman who is wearing several different hats. She has a very high pressured job that she’s incredibly successful at. She’s a mum. She’s a wife. She’s somewhat compromised at home even though she’s successful at work. And the thing that I really love about her the most is quite simple: I think here’s a woman who, in a way, has been toeing the line her whole life and she’s put in a situation which makes her walk straight across that line and figure out who she really is and discover her true self and I love that. I think it’s about finding one’s strength and living authentically.
There’s a kind of understanding between Duncan and Ellen isn’t there?
Toni Collette: Yes. I loved the dynamic between Duncan and Ellen. It’s not overt; it’s a very subtle and strange understanding that grows unto something much stronger and more confusing. In a way, despite what he’s doing to her family, Duncan enables Ellen to grow and frees something up in her.
How will international audiences react to the show?
Dylan McDermott: One of the themes of the show is terrorism, and terrorism is on everyone’s mind. It taps into a global concern. There’s an emotional thread to the show that many people also have to deal with.
TV is doing really well in comparison with movies right now, would you agree?
Toni Collette: Yeah, there’s such great writing in TV at the moment, especially for women