The Fades: We Talk To Cast & Crew

Johnny Harris and Iain De Caestecker see dead people..
“Five years ago they brought me into a room at the BBC and asked me which show I wish I had written..” explains Joe Thorne as we sit in depths of the BFI on London’s Southbank. “I immediately said ‘Freaks and Geeks’ ..and as I was wearing a Ghostbusters T-shirt at the time, they then asked me what I thought of a cross between the two shows. ‘That sounds okay’ I said.”

And thus The Fades – the latest BBC3 ‘fantasy horror’ drama which no-one seems to be able to mention without comparing to Being Human – was born. Well not quite actually, because the shows creator explained that the meeting inspired him to write an ‘utterly rubbish’ show about a boy who investigated ghosts with his Granddad who lives in the pipes. “It was just s*t” explains Thorne, laughing at himself “..It should never be read or indeed spoken of again.” But if the man who helped pen episodes of Shameless, Skins and later This Is England ’86 had produced a dud first time around, then his next idea had execs at the Beeb very excited indeed.

Based in a nameless grey suburbia, the first episode introduces us to Paul (Iain De Caestecker) an awkward teenager with a bed-wetting problem and his best mate Mac (Daniel Kaluuya), a warm-hearted geek with an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop culture. Paul is useless with girls at school and has a predictably turgid relationship with his non-identical twin sister but his real problem is the fact that he’s haunted by apocalyptic dreams that his therapist can’t explain.

One man who apparently can provide some answers is Neil (Johnny Harris) a loner who explains that the figures he’s been seeing are ‘fades’ or dead spirits that haven’t ascended. Most people are utterly oblivious to these wandering spectres, but Neil explains that a particularly vengeful spirit has found a way to break the barrier between the dead and the living. Game on..

We get a couple of glimpses of this evil ghost in the first episode (imagine a Dementor 2.0 from the Harry Potter series and you’re not far off) but the production team explain that they wanted to establish this as a character drama before fully unleashing the monsters.

“There’s quite a lot of visual effects in there but we made a decision early on to try and do as much as possible in camera and let the effects enhance that,” said The Fades producer Caroline Skinner. “It is set in the real world – extraordinary things might be happening in the corner of your eye in that world, but we wanted to make sure it was all about the characters than the effects. The episodes get bigger and bolder and more bonkers as we go along and there’s more obvious CGI because the story really starts to takes off.”

Writer Jack Thorne: 'Not A Nobby No Mates'

Essentially this is an extraordinary story rather than a story about extraordinary people adds Thorne… “It’s trying to be an old-school fantasy. A lot of current stuff seems to be about extaordinairy people. As a kid I didn’t really read comics I read fantasy novels, Susan Cooper I think is amazing.. What I wanted it to be about was ordinairy people in extraordinairy situations.. Essentially Paul is a regular guy, they don’t have powers. The ordinairy things are what defines the show..”

“As a kid I didn’t really have a best mate,” laments the writer. “I wasn’t a ‘Nobby No Mates’ but I didn’t have that one person I could rely on 1000%. That thing of having someone who you care about and love and will do anything for is at the heart of the show – that’s the thing I want most. I don’t know if I’m Mac or Paul or Neil – although I do live alone in a house in Luton, so there’s elements of Neil to me, although I don’t kill birds. That best friend relationship is the real love story of the show..â€?

Skinner certainly understood the importance of getting the casting of Mac and Paul right and explained that after a long and drawn casting process, young Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker (who has Corrie and River City on his CV) and Daniel Kaluuya (Skins, Psychoville, Sucker Punch) turned up on the same day, read together the next and the rest was history. “There was a huge pressure on that casting process, but for all the monsters and effects, we knew that the whole show would stand and fall on that relationship and whether people wanted to spend time with Paul and Mac.”

Johnny Harris, who plays veteran fade battler Neil couldn’t speak highly enough of the young cast. It was a little unnerving to see the man who played one of the nastiest bastards on TV in last year’s This Is England ’86, talking so warmly (..when I clumsily bumped into him on the foyer beforehand he couldn’t have been nicer!) and he spoke with no little amount of wit about De Caestecker – much to the young actor’s embarrassment.

“He’s the hardest workling actor I know. Right up until episode six he was still seeking me out to go through scenes together. Sometimes you turn up at work and people are discussing their agents, or LA or how bad the catering is.. but Ian doesn’t take anything for granted and he makes it look effortless – sorry about this by the way mate.. (a smiling De Caestecker squirms beside him) ..he could have just gone in and got his lines out but he’s constantly trying to improve his performance and when you see this awkward lad who doesn’t know what to do with his hands on screen, you almost forget that he’s a young Scottish kid who’s actually quite cool in real life.”

“Me and Jonny had the same driver and I think he thought something was going on between us,” says De Caestecker through his embarrassment. “We’d sit in the back and just go ‘You’re the best!'”

“But that’s what being an actor’s all about,” continues Harris “When you’re learning and you’re pretending to be a tree or a piece of bacon under a grill its all about losing your inhibitions and getting out of your comfort zone. When the cameras are on, some actors just do what they’re comfortable with and end up just playing themselves, but this cast isn’t like that – they’re young, they’re brilliant and they really make the whole thing..”

The Fades begins on Wednesday 21st September on BBC3