“It’s a police-procedural show that shifts and transforms from moment to moment so you never know what’s coming next, says Paul Tomalin, creator and lead writer of the series Bodies, based on the mind-bending graphic novel by Si Spencer.
“Doing justice to author Si Spencer’s incredible premise was seriously daunting, and in the end we just had to throw our hearts and minds in wholesale and get freaky together, staying true to as many of the maddening tentpoles and spirit of the graphic novel as possible,” says Paul Tomalin.
“With a show of this complexity, it was important not to get bogged down in fears of plot contradictions or ‘we can’t do thats!’, in the end it was the pulse of the story that defined our road map… Being on the other side of the show now feels like coming out of a three year trance. Luckily I didn’t fly alone. Moonage has a brilliantly creative script team, and we were lucky to have screenwriter Danusia Samal as my co-pilot. She was so game, so up for it, and brought her voice and pizazz to everything she touched. Without that team, I’m not convinced I’d be sane.”
“I think this series deals with a lot of bigger themes: what it is to be ‘othered’, how foolish it is to judge
someone for their religion, race, sexuality or physical ability. The point is, it’s who we are and how we
behave that sets us on the path,” says series Producer Susie Liggat.
When a body – the same body – is found on Longharvest Lane in London’s East End in 1890, 1941, 2023 and 2053, one detective from each period must investigate. As connections are drawn across the decades, the detectives soon discover their investigations are linked, and an enigmatic political leader – Elias Mannix – becomes increasingly central. Did he have a part to play in the murder? Or is something far more sinister at play? To solve the mystery, our four detectives must somehow collaborate and uncover a conspiracy spanning over 150 years.
Pictured Above: Top L-R 1890, Kyle Soller as DI Hillinghead, 1941 Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as DS Whiteman, Bottom L-R 2023 Amaka Okafor as DS Hasan & 2053 Shira Haas as DS Maplewood Cr. Matt Towers/Netflix © 2023.
Q & A with Paul Tomalin
What was the process like adapting from graphic novel to screen?
Intoxicating! Doing justice to author Si Spencer’s incredible premise was seriously daunting, and in the
end we just had to throw our hearts and minds in wholesale and get freaky together, staying true to as
many of the maddening tentpoles and spirit of the graphic novel as possible. With a show of this
complexity, it was important not to get bogged down in fears of plot contradictions or ‘we can’t do
thats!’, in the end it was the pulse of the story that defined our road map… Being on the other side of
the show now feels like coming out of a three year trance.
Luckily I didn’t fly alone. Moonage has a brilliantly creative script team, and we were lucky to have
screenwriter Danusia Samal as my co-pilot. She was so game, so up for it, and brought her voice and
pizazz to everything she touched. Without that team, I’m not convinced I’d be sane.
Each detective is a bit of an outsider in their own time. Can you tell us about some of the challenges
they each face?
The DNA of the Detectives was pretty much baked in to Si Spencer’s novel right from the get-go.
There’s great power in showing isolated outsiders in their own timelines oblivious to the fact that all four
of them are involved in a mystery that unites them all. Whether they come to realise that or not, and
what they do from there, you’ll have to watch to find out. But each of their own shadows become the
thing they have to confront to crack the mystery.
Tell us about the casting. How did you go about getting the right actor for each role?
With Hillinghead and Whiteman we knew who we wanted from the get-go and we got ‘em! Jacob
[Fortune-Lloyd] as Whiteman had such a matinee idol presence in The Queen’s Gambit. He’s got that
smouldering, dangerous Sean Connery vibe that’s rare these days, but he brings such tenderness to
later moments that we knew he’d have Whiteman nailed.
Same with Kyle [Soller], you could see the fear of his own secrets trembling behind his eyes, it’s all there
in the auditions. As a Star Wars geek myself, seeing him in Andor then seeing him in the rushes play this
complex Victorian character shows just what a versatile, nuanced, intelligent presence he is.
As for Hasan, we looked far and wide. She leads the modern-day timeline, so she had to fit such a
specific criteria for the audience of being the emotional anchor which would glue the stories together.
And just when we were beginning to get down in the dumps about not finding the right person, Amaka
Okafor showed up like a firework. In the end I wrote an audition piece especially for her, designed to
show not just the character’s temerity but also her humour and warmth. She killed it and by the end of
the tape I was whooping in my office… It was 2am, woke the kids up!
Detective Iris Maplewood is in the future, and with dystopias being the way they are, there was a risk
that the character could come across as sterile and cold… Then Shira [Haas] just beamed in this
perfect audition out of nowhere, bringing wit and stubbornness to the character that suddenly had her
jumping off the page. We just knew it had to be here – if she’d have us!
Then Stephen Graham, I mean… His name was up there from the get-go as a celestial pipe dream, and
we thought ‘yeah, but he’d never do something like this!’… and he read it [the script], and he did. I’m
still pinching myself really. The heart, soul, intellect and gravitas behind that guy’s eyes is something to
behold. Elevates every line, every frame.
Without spoiling too much, how will the stories in each timeline intertwine?
That’s a contradiction in terms! The fun for the audience is being the all-seeing-eye over the four
timelines in a way the characters aren’t aware of. The joy in writing it is seeing how the audience will
then put things together, sometimes ahead of the characters, but also sometimes there’ll be behind. It’ll
be a trip.
So, Stephen Graham. He plays a very mysterious character in the future, what can you tell us about
Elias Mannix is the beating heart that drives the story. How his actions and relationships with the
detectives play out will define everything. That’s all I’m going to say.
Would you say this is more than the average detective drama?
I bloody hope so! This is no airport paperback transplant, nor cosy crime 9pm terrestrial slot. In fact if
anybody calls this show cosy I’d be insulted. This is a kinetic, ambitious thrill ride, a wolf in detective
drama’s clothing. That’s what streamers should offer right? A binge that feels like a trip.
What are you most excited for audiences to see in Bodies?
It was critical to the team to do justice to Si Spencer’s ‘wham bam’ hook of a concept. I think we’ve
done that. But it was equally important not to run on fumes beyond it. We had to expand and develop
that premise, whilst staying true to its audacity. I believe that an eight episode limited series should feel
like three series boiled down to one. I grew up with movies not TV, so I like cinematic experiences and
actual definitive endings. This is a one and done… You’ll walk away with your heart wrenched, but
satisfied come the final curtain. There’s no drag in this fucker. A premise of such magnitude demands
an ending of the same nature… I hope we did that.