You can read the first two parts of our Special Interview here (Part One) and here (Part Two).

The first four stories of Hinterland are the beginning of a journey, but it is a journey that takes advantage of a platform built by Scandinavian foreign crime drama or ‘Nordic Noir.’ In the early stages of this journey the investigations have echoed Mathias’ identity and past, though that door has only been opened a crack to reveal a thin strip of light. Otherwise his past remains hidden in the shadows whilst Hinterland looks to both the past and the future; to events surrounding it of which it has become a part of a narrative crime wave, to the unfolding of Mathias’ story.

Discussions of Hinterland have touched upon contextualising it within the ‘Nordic Noir’ tradition, but Hinterland is forming part of a sub-label that Arrow are creating which drops the ‘Nordic’ to incorporate shows outside of the Scandinavian sphere. Whilst Hinterland may have felt the reverberations of the Scandinavian crime wave, it has created a world within itself that has a distinct sense of feeling of both place and character. “They’ve been refreshing from the perspective of language” observes Thomas. “Hinterland is made in middle England and it openly features subtitles, which is a good thing because the perspective of the market place for a long time has been that the UK and America don’t do subtitles. Of course that’s a myth.” But Thomas openly acknowledges the importance of these shows within the modern landscape of television. “The Killing, Wallander and The Bridge have created a platform for people to look at subtitled dramas in a different way. You can’t tweet, Facebook message, feed the kids and watch subtitles at the same time because you are going to miss something. That’s one thing. The second thing is that these stories have a certain feel. I have never lived in Denmark, but when I watch The Killing it just feels real. You can respond to it, and it doesn’t have some of the construction that some of the American drama has.”

From influencing the way drama is now experienced these shows have also served a more penetrating purpose – to open up distribution opportunities. “They have created a platform from which it’s been more positive to attract a distributor for both the English and the Welsh version of Hinterland, and so we’ve got the Scandinavians to thank for that.” But in speaking with Thomas the connection between his Welsh crime drama and the Scandinavian imports is a complicated one. If there is a connection within it lays the desire to be individual, but one that stretches beyond desire to become a belief in its individuality. “I suppose the irritating thing is that Hinterland isn’t a copy of the Scandinavian drama. Perhaps what they share in mood is a commonality of coming from a minority culture in a place which the mainstream doesn’t know too much about. Maybe that’s the similarity. But they have certainly helped us in getting distribution early on and a place on BBC Four.”

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Gracing the BBC Four schedule has seen Hinterland encounter a first, but also make a little history in the process. “From the Welsh language perspective it is the first Welsh language show that has aired on BBC Four” offered Thomas who then went on to explain the intricacies of the current scenario. “Whilst it’s helped enormously it’s made small possible rather than the one kind of generic cop style show whether it’s from America or the UK. What the Americans are doing brilliantly, and what they are the masters of because they have the budgets is producing an immense and revolving drama output. But what we can do is expose in the stories and with the budgets that you can still do a good show and attract a widespread audience. We’ve played on BBC Four which is regarded as a minority audience. We’ve played to the Welsh language across sixteen to fifty-five year olds on BBC Wales and BBC ONE Wales, or whatever the demographic is. So having a show that has played successfully to date on those three platforms, all of which are widely different to one another in their audience make-up, is something I’m really pleased about. I don’t know what makes it popular, but there is something there, and I’m humbled.”

Hinterland took the unusual route of shooting in two languages – Welsh and English. If it was time consuming from a production perspective, but one that was essential if the show was to play to an international audience, it would almost certainly test the endurance of the show’s cast. ”It’s tough for the actors because it is scene by scene, shot by shot” explained Thomas. “We start in English and then we do the Welsh version.” Shooting in the two languages did turn out to be an insightful process for Thomas however. “The main difference is English is a massive vocabulary, and because it is concrete and specific it is perfect for the procedural elements. So if English is classical music then Welsh which has less vocabulary is slightly more poetic. One might say it is a little like jazz, and so the actors found that they could sometimes swing a bit more.” Alongside the recent wave of Scandinavian crime dramas, the unofficial language of the crime drama may find itself tending to a dispute. “It is odd having a cop show in Welsh. Perhaps it doesn’t feel right because we all grew up on shows such as Morse and Columbo, and when you are in the English language it feels that this is what a cop show is, and that’s how cops should behave. But if you look at the Welsh language it’s got a lot more possibilities because there are none of the pre-conceptions, and so it’s freer.”

Looking ahead to the black clouds hovering ominously on the horizon, it is difficult to perceive any other forecast than a stormy future for Tom Mathias. “There is very little that I can reveal to you that you don’t already know” offered Harrington. “His back story is intriguing to say the least, and some terrible things have happened to him of which he is a victim. But he also has a lot of weaknesses that we are yet to uncover.” As for Thomas, “There’s redemption to be had, but first there are a lot of things to confront before we arrive at that point.”

Whilst Mathias’ redemptive journey is echoed by both creator and star, Harrington spoke specifically of the all-consuming confrontation Mathias faces with his past, present and hopeful but uncertain redemptive future. “Guilt and shame are useless emotions. You can carry it with you all your life, but it never does anybody any good. Tom Mathias is willing to confess and accept everything that he’s done in his life, some of which is awful. It’s not that he’s a bad man, but he’s made some terrible decisions and he’s also been the victim of some real tragedy. It’s other people in his past who are unwilling to accept those things. He’s waiting for redemption and until it comes he’s going to be haunted by his past. But I do believe that he respects that there is going to be moment when it will bite him on the ass. He needs to be ready for it, as it will be a moment that will arrive whilst he’s in Aberystwyth, and when it arrives it’s going to a whirlwind.”

The detective genre is an intriguing one in its structure. The detective knows his story but as an audience we are equally intrigued by him and the crime. Therein our journey is one of working out the story of the man we are following as well as attempting to anticipate the solution of each individual murder case. If this is true, then the intention is that we treat Mathias not only as a guide through whose eyes the world of these stories is revealed, but to also treat him as a crime scene. A certain onus is therefore placed on our shoulders to attempt to anticipate the eventual conclusion before either we or Mathias cross the finishing line. As Thomas explained, “When we get to those moments of redemption, when we get to the end of his journey the audience will be side by side with him, and we’ll all know whether or not he’ll do what he needs to do. The plan is for the audience to be with him at the end; to be ahead of him so that they can second guess what will happen.” If the first season is any indication Hinterland is closer to a marathon than a sprint, the journey set to unfold at its own pace. “At the moment his story is very peripheral, but as the series continues and as we near the conclusion which will hopefully be at the end of the third series if we get it, it’ll be very much at the forefront.”


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In any film or drama the intention is to take the audience on a journey, and one senses when speaking with Harrington that the audiences place as a part of Mathias’ journey is a consistent consideration. Never is the audience’s participation or interest taken for granted. “They have to be on this journey, and if he works as a character then there will be an element of watching with pity and fear. This is the same as in all drama where you hope he will make the right decisions in regards to his own life. This audience interaction is evolving within that. If we make three seasons, then during the course of that journey people would really like an happy ending. But happy endings aren’t always possible. But at least there will be some kind of redemption or some kind of justification to complete his journey’s circle from which he can move on with. But then again who knows.” Despite the uncertainty in Mathias’ future, Harrington remains confident in the wealth of stories to underpin his character’s journey. “There are plenty of stories and mileage in the character that we can present honestly to an audience in order to intrigue them as to what decisions he’s going to make.”

If a little gamesmanship exists between the storyteller and their audience, then Thomas has played one to a masterful effect. To create a detective drama that would not suffer an untoward fate of becoming lost in the crowd a strong lead character was paramount. But Thomas and Harrington went one step further to create a crime scene out of their detective that is resolving at a far slower pace than Mathias’ murder cases. With an assured patience the drama not only piques the interest but teases us with intrigue. “We’ve been amazed by the feedback we’ve received whenever it’s been on a platform in the Welsh language version or the largely English language version on BBC Wales or BBC Four of how interested people are in Matthias’ back story. There seems to be that desperate need to know more. Of course it was a conscious act because if the stories work and if he works as a character then we would slowly evolve that mystery. The journey has always been to try and mine the stories from that place which is grounded in some kind of truth. One of the producers Gethin Scourfield called it, “A love letter to a disappearing world.””

Offer the final word on our reflections of Hinterland series one Thomas brought us full circle to where we began in part one with the Birth of Hinterland. “Even though we are adopting the cop genre, Hinterland is very much focused on taking stories from a world that is changing rapidly – the pace of change and how that affects communities in the back of beyond and its impact on the rural poor. Those are the stories we wanted to mine in Hinterland; to bring alive through Tom Mathias’ eyes by not focusing on revealing everything about him. We hoped that people would take an interest in the stories and Matthias himself, as well as the pace of storytelling, and how he in particular and not any other cop would respond to the set of circumstances.”
Hinterland is available to own now on Blu-ray & DVD from Arrow Films