Now that fantasy epic The Undiscovered Country has finally concluded, what new developments can eager fans look forward to? And what really went on behind the scenes? Sophie Esterhazy caught up with staff writer Iain Coleman at Comic Con London to find out…
SE: Hi Iain, thanks for taking the time to speak to me.
IC: No problem.
So, The Undiscovered Country has just concluded. Looking back on it, what was your favourite moment?
Oh God, there’s so many to choose from. But I think I’d have to say the scene between Brond and Tuakiin way back in Season 1, where they debate the morality of killing. [Staff writer] Matt [Brennan] and I really worked that scene hard, and I think as soon as it was done, well that was when I at least thought this show’s going to be something special.
It’s interesting that you say it was you and Matt Brennan. Did the writers’ room generally work like that, with different people taking charge of different parts of the story?
Well, of course everything you do is in service to [showrunner] Piers [Beckley]’s vision, and he had a clear idea of the overall story and where it was going to end up, but within that there was a lot of scope for staff writers to reshape things with their original contributions, provided they made the cut. I mean, just take Lubash.
He was a central character and a fan favourite. Are you saying he wasn’t in the original plan?
He absolutely was not. But then we were in the writers’ room one day and out of nowhere [staff writer] Amanda [Bone] came up with this line about the Ogres’ Union. Well, we all laughed, in a good way, but she went off and came up with this whole mythology around it and this kind of evangelical socialist ogre and it just took off.
So that was nothing to do with Piers Beckley.
Not at all, although you have to give him credit for encouraging and taking on board other writers’ ideas. Showrunners aren’t always so open.
What about the controversies? At the end of last season there was a lot of upset about what happened to Anarië…
Oh well, look, the job is the job, and when you’re in the writers’ room sometimes you’re having to come up with solutions to problems that have happened completely outside your control.
Like an actor suddenly leaving.
Exactly. I’m not going to talk about the circumstances of that, except to say that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on Popbitch, right, but we were thrown a curve ball there and we just had to deal with it. In fact it was me who pitched the character of Illyria to Piers as a replacement, and I think Anarië’s departure actually ended up shaking things up in a good way.
You say that, but there are a lot of Gwenarië fans who are still up in arms.
You can’t please everybody, and as I say the circumstances were out of our control. But we approached it with two principles firmly in mind. First, give a meaningful end to that story. Second, never look on Tumblr.
Now several of the staff writers from The Undiscovered Country have gone on to helm shows of their own. Are there any more due to break out?
It’s been great for all of us, I think. Obviously [staff writer] Chris [Bird]’s Rome show is just wrapping up, and I’m talking to him about something new that I’m afraid I can’t disclose at the moment -
Oh go on.
No, seriously, there are NDAs and everything. It was great to see [Dark Sun: Into The] Belly of the Beast renewed, that’s a fantastic show, and of course Matt’s done some really interesting experimental short projects with more to come I’m sure.
What about you? If you’re planning something new with Chris Bird, does that mean The Lords of the Ring is going to stop?
Oh it always was, that’s a finite story that was always intended to last two seasons and then come to a definite conclusion.
Any news on an airdate for season two?
That’s up to the network, I’ve heard they’re looking at late summer but who knows?
Finally, I have to touch on your controversial episode of The Miss Fisher Mysteries.
Oh yes [laughs].
It caused quite a stir.
Look, I pitched this thing to the producers, expecting them to tell me to get lost, and they only went and commissioned it. Don’t blame me! I’ll tell you one thing though, and you’re the first to hear this, I have been contacted about a possible spin-off series based on that episode.
When will that be happening?
Who knows, it’s just preliminary talks at the moment, it may come to nothing. But you know, it just goes to show you it’s good to be controversial.
Iain Coleman, thank you very much.
It was a pleasure.