‘Dirk Gently’ Star Samuel Barnett on High Fantasy and Season 2

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Courtesy: YouTube/BBCAmerica

Following a very weird debut season, BBC America’s “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” returned last week. While season two, based on the novels by the late Douglas Adams, promises to be just as strange as its predecessor, it marks a significant change for the Max Landis-exeutive produced drama. Whereas the first season dealt with classic science fiction devices such as time travel and body swapping, the new one delves into high fantasy, via a magical realm known as Wendimoor.

Samuel Barnett, who plays the titular holistic detectective, spoke with Variety about the new season.

How would you say this season differs most from the first one?
Probably the emotional arc that you get from each of the characters in season two. Season one was very much about establishing the premise of how holistic detection works, establishing who the good guys are, who the bad guys are. I think season two, we don’t have to establish any of that stuff, so we get deeper into who the characters are, a bit more about their backstories, and their relationships with each other. And I guess the other major difference is while season one kind of dealt with time travel and body swapping and things like that, season two is about high fantasy and magic. We are an anthology show in that we keep the same characters but we take a completely different case each season, and a completely different genre each time.

Were you surprised to learn there would be a fantasy story this season after dealing with science fiction last season?
I was surprised only because we didn’t really know that we were an anthology show. We didn’t know that the long game is to do a different genre each season. And it’s not going to be a random genre. Each genre has to serve the needs of the characters. So each genre helps to flesh the characters and their arcs out. So this is a really good genre for season two. I love the high fantasy magic. I’m a huge “Game of Thrones” fan. I’m probably never going to be on “Game of Thrones.” I’ve got the next best thing.

Did you realize you were signing up for a genre show?
No. In a way, I had no idea what I was getting into. Although obviously Max has taken inspiration from the Douglas Adams “Dirk” books — and in this universe those are stories that have already happened to Dirk. We pick up where Douglas Adams left off. So I knew that this was going to be holistic detection and yes very much sci-fi. But I’m really happy that we’re going in so many different directions, because once you’ve done things like time travel, you can’t do that again. Where else can you go? I’m really pleased that it’s tackling many different genres because I think it keeps it really exciting.

What’s the relationship between Dirk and Todd this season?
It gets complicated for them this season. I think season one for Dirk was about trying to get friends, trying to build his detective agency, trying to convince people that the work he does is legitimate and real. But above all of that, he does want friends. I think season two he has friends and has no idea how to be a friend or how to be in any kind of relationship, or how to keep friends. So it gets complicated in that respect.

It’s overly simplistic to say that Dirk is an odd character, but he’s an odd character. How do you approach him?
He is an odd character. He is unlike anything I’ve played before and he’s actually unlike anything I’ve seen portrayed on TV before. The way Douglas Adams wrote him and the way Max is writing him, he’s really caught the spirit of the original Dirk. Dirk just keeps defying one’s expectations. As an actor, just when I think I can pin him down, Max writes something which completely defies my expectations and yet seems totally in character. And I love playing that.