×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Harlan Coben’s ‘Safe’ Builds on Red’s Reputation for Delivering Fine Drama

Michael C. Hall stars in Netflix's psychological thriller

“Safe,” which world premiered on Wednesday at Canneseries, is the latest drama series from Studiocanal’s Red, a British production company set up by Nicola Shindler 20 years ago, best known for Russell T. Davies’ “Queer as Folk,” Paul Abbott’s “Clocking Off,” and Sally Wainwright’s “Happy Valley” and “Last Tango In Halifax.” Shindler spoke to Variety about “Safe,” her company’s slate and its relationship with writers.

“Safe” is a show that was built to compete on a world stage: It was created by best-selling novelist Harlan Coben, written by award-winner scribe Danny Brocklehurst, and toplining Hollywood star Michael C. Hall. The series is with Netflix worldwide, apart from France where it’s on C8.

Shindler says the “big names” help the show stand out in a crowded drama landscape. Coben has a huge following from his books, and Hall has chosen his TV roles smartly with two commercial and critical hits, “Dexter” and “Six Feet Under,” under his belt. “[Hall] has quite high taste and I think the audience will trust him in that respect,” she says.

Red is not known for its star names but for its brilliantly crafted scripts, grounded in the messy lives of ordinary British folk. Its shows have picked up multiple awards, including BAFTAs for “Clocking Off,” “Happy Valley” and “Last Tango in Halifax.” The complicated characters are sharply observed and nuanced, and have spawned award-winning performances from the shows’ casts.

How does “Safe,” a psychological thriller set in a gated community where a girl goes missing, fit into Red’s body of work? “It is very much a Red production because there is a big concentration on storytelling, on pace, and on making sure the characters feel very real and grounded, while being in a slightly heightened world because it is more of a Netflix show,” she says.

This is the second time Coben and Brocklehurst have teamed up, having previously worked on Red’s “The Five.” A third outing by the three parties is planned, it was announced at Canneseries. Regarding Coben and Brocklehurst’s work on “The Five,” Shindler says: “It worked very well then and we found that their voices fit really well together. Harlan is all about the stories, the plot twists, keeping that feeling of forward momentum, and Danny is brilliant at that as well, but very much concentrates on dialogue and character and making it feel very real.”

The two writers were “100%” involved in every aspect of the production, from casting through to production design. “Both Harlan and Danny were sent every audition [tape], approved every head of department, watched the rushes every day, and attended every edit. They were both all over it. They were showrunners,” she says.

Regarding the deal with Netflix, she comments: “It is great to have another outlet, and they are very clear about what they want, which is big stories that will grab attention, will hook an audience, and bring them back every week. They are creatively involved and they are over each stage of production as a British broadcaster would be, but they are slightly removed because I guess they have so much more that they are working on. It feels like a really good relationship.”

It is five years since Red was acquired by Studiocanal. What does the French company offer Red? “They are international facing, and constantly looking for co-production opportunities with Europe and America. They have such good relationships with European broadcasters that they have opened all those doors to us. So suddenly we are talking to [international broadcasters] in advance [of production] rather than just producing something for a U.K. broadcaster.”

Expanding its output is not a given for Red, although the company is ready to do so. “It is all so dependent on broadcasters’ decisions and tastes,” Shindler says. “What you have to do is really make sure you have a healthy development slate that covers every kind of production and every kind of requirement, and when you hear what different broadcasters want you go to them. It isn’t that we are developing more now, it’s just that we are developing more specifically for a wider variety of broadcasters.”

In its home territory, Red is helped by the fact that “what the [main] broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky – want is different, which is always really healthy,” she says. “They are all commissioning all the time which, again, is really good for writers and producers, but it doesn’t appear to me there are lots more from just the U.K. market, but it does feel like it’s a really healthy market at the moment.”

Red has a reputation for building long-lasting relationships over multiple series with writers, such as Davies, Wainwright and Brocklehurst, but it is also keen to add to the fold. “There’s nothing like shorthand and knowing someone for years, and understanding what they want for a show,” Shindler says. “However, we are totally open to new writers. Writers with experience and without experience. All we look for is a good idea and a strong authored voice. It doesn’t matter who that person is.” Among additions to the Red writing team in recent years have been Dan Sefton with “Trust Me,” and Lee Warburton, who started with “Banana” and moved onto “Scott & Bailey.”

More TV

  • Barry Manilow illustration by Ben Kirchner

    Barry Manilow Reflects on Early Career, New York Talent Show 'Callback,' and Featherbed

    Barry Manilow’s place as one of America’s best-loved entertainers was secured decades ago, but the 75-year-old shows no signs of resting on his laurels, which include nearly 50 top 40 hits, beaucoup gold and platinum albums, sold-out tours, an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony and a Clio. His 21st century accomplishments include more SRO dates, [...]

  • This image taken from the Twitter

    HBO’s Reaction to Trump’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Campaign

    Everyone wants a piece of the “Game of Thrones” lemon cake. From Bud Light to Red Bull the world of Westeros is open to a lot of brand partnerships, unless you’re using that iconic typeface to push a political agenda. In November of 2018 President Donald Trump unveiled a “Thrones” inspired poster with the words [...]

  • Jeff Goldblum performs in a sketch

    Inside the High-Pressure World of Late-Night Talk-Show Prop Demands

    Television production is an area where “Hurry up and wait” is a common refrain. However, for the prop teams that work on late-night talk shows like “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden,” that’s not an option. They typically have only a matter of hours to deliver what’s necessary. Lou A. [...]

  • Series Mania Marks 10th Anniversary with

    Series Mania Marks 10th Anniversary With Star-Studded Return to Lille

    Series Mania will present a starry tableau for its 10th anniversary, as it returns to Lille for the second time at the end of March. Ava DuVernay and Greg Berlanti’s CBS anthology series “The Red Line” is set to open the French TV festival, and Amazon’s “Hanna,” featuring “The Killing” stars Joel Kinnaman and Mireille [...]

  • Gabrielle Union

    10 Things We Learned at Variety’s 2019 Entertainment Marketing Summit

    Variety’s 2019 Entertainment Marketing Summit, which brought top execs to Hollywood’s NeueHouse on Thursday, covered considerable ground. From cutting through the noise in an oversaturated media landscape to welcoming exciting technology like virtual reality, industry veterans offered insight into what to expect from the marketing world in coming years. Here are 10 things we learned [...]

  • H. Michael Croner

    H. Michael Croner Cast in Fox Comedy Pilot 'Patty's Auto' (EXCLUSIVE)

    H. Michael Croner has joined Fox’s multi-cam comedy pilot “Patty’s Auto,” Variety has learned exclusively. Inspired by Patrice Banks’ Girls Auto Clinic – an auto repair shop with all female mechanics – the project is described as an ensemble comedy centering on Patty (Carra Patterson) and the eclectic women who work for her. Croner will appear [...]

  • THE CONNERS - "Keep on TruckinÕ"

    'The Conners' Renewed for Season 2 at ABC

    ABC has renewed its highest-rated new show, “The Conners,” for a second season, Variety has learned. The show’s stars, including John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson, Ames McNamara and Laurie Metcalf, are all set to return to Lanford, after several of them signed a new deal with the network on Thursday. “We are proud to be continuing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content