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‘Trigger’ Star Maxim Matveev on Playing a ‘Provocative Therapist’

Moscow-set drama launches at Mipcom with Beta Film handling sales

“Trigger,” a Russian drama centering on a psychologist, Artem, who practices “provocative therapy” – a method that forces clients to confront their problems in a shocking, sometimes brutal way – had its world premiere at Mipcom on Sunday. Variety spoke to its star, Maxim Matveev.

Psychologist Sergey Nasibian acted as a consultant on the show, and as well as sharing past cases, he employed the same “provocative” therapeutic methods on Matveev as are shown in the series. “It was a nice experience because I had the opportunity to feel what Artem’s clients feel like when they have a conversation with him,” Matveev says. “This method is really cool and it works, and through this encounter [with Nasibian] I could understand why I became an actor.”

Matveev says there are some similarities between an actor and a psychologist as both have to get inside the mind of someone else, and adopt different personas. “With each client, you have to put on another costume, another role, and become another person, and that is similar to our profession,” he says.

Artem’s personal life is challenging, to say the least, and is not helped by his “very difficult” personality, something that Matveev says drew him to the role. Artem has recently been released from prison after he was wrongly convicted for causing a patient’s suicide. His estranged wife, Dasha (played by Svetlana Ivanova), has started afresh with a new boyfriend, and Artem is homeless.

Each episode of the first season – composed of 15 one-hour episodes – features a new client whose case Artem must handle, and each of these cases have been taken from real life, as conveyed by Nasibian. Throughout the season, the show follows Artem as he tries to put his life back together, working out of a makeshift office in an upmarket high-rise, and attempting to prove who killed the patient whose death led to his incarceration.

He only truly loves one woman, Dasha, and throughout the first season we see him trying to win her back, but he is attracted to other women, such as the glamorous widow, and one of his clients, Lera (played by Viktoria Maslova). His relationship with Lera begins as a professional relationship, but little by little he is drawn closer to her. “As a psychologist, you have to be like a mirror to your client – you try to understand their problems as if they were your own. When he does with this Lera he becomes increasingly interested in her, and involved in her private life,” Matveev says.

Matveev likes that – in contrast to most other TV shows – “Trigger” is not a piece of entertainment, but delves deep into emotional and relationship issues. He also loves that the cinematography of the series, led by director Dmitry Turin, is of a high standard, closer to that of cinema than most Russian television shows.

The show’s production company Sreda, which made it for Russia’s Channel One with Beta Film handling world sales, has been focusing on raising the quality of its series, as was seen with its historical drama “Trotsky,” which premiered at Mipcom last year, with Matveev also playing a leading role.

The Moscow shown in the show – with glamorous restaurants, gleaming apartment blocks and high-end stores, as well as the less appealing sides of urban life – has not been seen often by Western audiences, but nevertheless it is “the real Moscow,” Matveev says. “Now Moscow is very modern, with a lot of different people with their own problems, as well as the unromantic side – it is very industrial. A very big city with a crazy rhythm.”

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