Close to the Enemy: Why you should watch

Close to the Enemy premieres on BBC 2 this week and we think it’s definitely a TV drama you don’t want to miss, so in anticipation, we share some facts about the show.

The seven-part series is mainly set in a bomb-damaged London hotel in the aftermath of the Second World War, with Jim Sturgess leading a stellar cast that includes Freddie Highmore, Charlotte Riley, August Diehl, Robert Glenister, Alfie Allen and the legendary Angela Bassett amongst others.

The plot

Sturgess plays intelligence officer Captain Callum Ferguson, whose last task for the Army is to ensure that a captured German scientist, Dieter (Diehl), starts working for the British RAF on urgently developing the jet engine.

With the background of the emerging Cold War, it is clear to all that it’s crucial for British national security that cutting edge technology is made available to the armed forces as quickly as possible. Callum uses unorthodox methods in his attempt to convince Dieter to work with the British and eventually a friendship develops between the two men, but soon tensions arise as all is not as it seems.

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The production team

Close to the Enemy is written and directed by the multi award-winning Stephen Poliakoff and produced by his long-time collaborator Helen Flint.

She describes the experience of working with Poliakoff. “What makes Stephen is two completely different people. The writer is immersed in the story and series or single structure, and time is not important. Only at the end of prep and before filming are both his characters in the same room. As a director, he divorces himself from the writer and becomes pragmatic and constantly ambitious for highest visual standards in every department from acting through to sound. He treats every shooting second like gold, which means time is never wasted. Occasionally he surprises everyone by reverting to the writer when a beat is misunderstood or not noted in a scene”.

What makes the drama stand out from other similar stories?

Jim Sturgess explains: “It reflects a key moment in our history. It is the aftermath of the most horrific war our country has known – which is a very good starting point for drama. There are so many stories that haven’t come out about that period. Stephen has done a great job because it’s not a classic war movie. It’s a new way into it. We have all seen a lot of war films, but this is a very delicately woven story about what people are feeling after the war.”

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The set

Although set in London the majority of the filming was in Liverpool, producer Helen Flint explains why: “We filmed in Liverpool as we had access to an old bank in the centre of the city. The building size allowed us enough room to convert it into a hotel. Being able to base in one building brought us practical and therefore creative time which is everything as budgets reduce year on year. Nowadays, in London, we don’t have empty buildings that we can use easily for sets, so as an industry we are constantly searching for places to film outside the capital. Liverpool is a compact and accessible city and therefore outside of our hotel sets, moving locations during the day was refreshingly achievable”.

Why TV is no longer inferior to film

Poliakoff says: “The snobbery about movie stars doing TV has evaporated. Now everybody works across all media. What has made a huge difference is the ability to tell long form stories, so actors get richer parts on TV. And these days so many films are action movies. Do you want to spend your time being beaten up by a CGI superhero who might not even be there?”

The Golden Age of TV

Actress Charlote Riley who plays Rachel Lombord in the drama spoke about the greatness of TV today:

“Stephen creates classic pieces of TV that people will watch over and over again. You buy a box set now, and years later you watch it and it still stands up. That’s the kind of TV that we are making. I’m very proud to be part of it.”

August Diehl who plays Dieter Koehler also shares his opinion:

“Hollywood movies are not that interesting compared to what they’re doing on TV and everybody knows that now. It used to be so different when I grew up. Back then, doing a TV series for an actor was more like, “Fine, you’re doing it for money, but you’ll get a real part soon.” But now it’s the other way around – it’s really good to be doing a series like this.

“All the big actors are doing series now and there’s nothing bad about it – on the contrary, it’s really a new shape for telling stories. It’s also nice because you can slowly grow into a story, you don’t have to tell everything in 90 minutes. Your character can seem straightforward for two episodes and then slowly come into the foreground and change focus. This is only possible in a series because of the amount of time you have.”

Close to the Enemy premieres on BBC 2 November 10 at 9pm. Set your reminder now.

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