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John Simm Talks ‘Cold Courage’ as Lionsgate Boards International Drama (EXCLUSIVE)

John Simm plays a rabble-rousing populist politician in “Cold Courage,” and Lionsgate has stepped up and taken international rights to the series.

Based on the series of novels by Pekka Hiltunen, the drama is billed as the biggest yet out of Finland and will bow on the Viaplay streaming service in Scandinavia. With a cast from all over Europe and a shoot spanning Belgium, Finland, Ireland, and the U.K., “Cold Courage” is international in scope and ambition.

That was part of the appeal for Simm, a familiar face on British TV, playing The Master in “Doctor Who” and starring in a host of other shows for British networks. “There was a point I was on BBC and ITV at the same time and that was a bit much,” he told Variety. “I thought it would be nice to step away from that for a little bit and do something I haven’t done, and this is an international show.”

He plays Arthur Fried, a businessman and firebrand right-wing politician. He is in the cross hairs of a covert agency that attempts to bring down powerful wrongdoers. Two young Finnish women are leading that effort with Pihla Viitala (“Deadwind”) and Sofia Pekkari (“Wallander”) playing the female leads. “They go after him and there are grey areas of morality, where good people do bad things with good objectives, and bad people sometime do good things,” Simm explained. “It’s set in the fake news world we are living in.”

Caroline Goodall (“The Dressmaker”), Jakob Eklund (“Johan Falk”), Arsher Ali (“Informer”), Peter Coonan (“Love/Hate”), and Matteo Simoni (“Call Boys”) also star. Agneta Fagerström-Olsson (‘Seppan”) directs alongside Kadir Balci (“Marry Me”).

“He’s a horrible character and that’s a challenge,” Simm said of Fried. “He’s charming, affable, urbane and he’s great company. That’s the interesting thing about him. With someone like The Master [in ‘Doctor Who’]… he’s just a made up character and it’s much easier to do. With this guy, there are real people like this.”

He added that he did not base Fried on any one particular real-life figure although there is no shortage of real-world inspiration. “I looked at lots of horrendous politicians,” he said. “I can’t get inside their heads because I don’t believe their philosophy, but you just have to go for it. I just have to serve the script, and the script is great.”

The show is produced by Markku Flink at Finland’s Luminoir. Belgium’s A Private View, Ireland’s Vico Films, and Sagafilm out of Iceland are co-producers.

Brendan Foley and David Joss Buckley wrote the series, which sets out to capture a reality in which fake news and populist politics hold sway. “One of the great challenges of writing such an up-to-the-minute series is the point at which our ever-changing rolling-news reality collides with drama,” Foley said.

Rights were previously with Global Road, which dropped out amid its well-documented troubles. Lionsgate is now across distribution. It has previously sold Scandi series “Swedish Dicks,” and recently took U.S. remake rights to Swedish comedy “Veni Vidi Vici.” It will take “Cold Courage” to market at MipTV in Cannes.

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